In a teaming Irish city of more than half a million people, a quiet center of respite just south of downtown Dublin is rapidly becoming a hub for the local community.
The Cuisle Center, whose name means “pulse” in Irish, is open most days in the newly refurbished Ranelagh Seventh-day Adventist Church and offers the community a selection of healthy snacks as well as health screenings, massage, counseling, and simply a safe place to chat and relax.
Its core volunteer staff of doctors, therapists, and counselors say they are surprised at the difference the center has made in just a few short weeks and are delighted to give freely of their time to support the initiative.
“This is a gift to the community,” U.S. evangelist Mark Finley said as he officially opened the center last Thursday, Sept. 10.
“Jesus was concerned about the physical, mental, and spiritual connections of human beings,” Finley said, noting that such centers are, in fact, “the arms, the feet, the eyes, the heart of Christ, to bless others in our communities.”
The Cuisle Center is among some 350 Life Hope community centers being established in Adventist churches around the world, including in a church and evangelism training center that Finley and his wife, Teenie, are helping build in their hometown of Haymarket, Virginia.
The Dublin center has its roots in an evangelistic program that Finley and the Adventist Church’s Irish Mission began to implement in the city about two years ago.
It’s also a dream come true for the Ranelagh church’s senior pastor, Gavin Anthony, who is convinced that ministry needs to encompass the mind, the body, and the spirit.
“I feel increasingly convicted that we need to approach each person using that multifaceted approach,” he said.
Watch a news report by the British Union Conference about the opening of the Cuisle Center.
Anthony, who spends several hours a week at the center, said he has been astonished at its simple effectiveness.
“As long as we have the doors open and are available to the community, people really do come through the doors, and they come to church,” he said.
Church leaders couldn't help but notice the stream of well-wishers who passed through the building during the opening ceremony. Those included a man who initially had been referred to the center for a health check by a nearby physiotherapy practice, a woman who has re-established her connection with the church after many years and is now attending church and developing new friendships, and a middle-aged woman who first came through the door just two weeks ago and, while puffing on an e-cigarette, remarked how much she loved the friendliness of the people in the center. It turned out that she also enjoys a good massage.
The friendliness has made an impact. The local florist refused payment for the attractive ribbon and bow she put together for the official opening. She told Irish Mission president David Neal how delighted she was at how the center was bringing the community together and providing hope.
Nomsa Maphango, a children’s doctor working at the center, said she volunteered her time because she liked the more relaxed environment where people could open up more than at the hospital.
“It’s a blessing God gave me to work as a physician,” she said. “It is a responsibility for me to be able to give back to serve the community and help people get better health.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by the other volunteers, including the center’s manager, Edith Samambwa, a health educator who took a sabbatical from the Irish health service to help establish the center. She was planning to go overseas as a missionary but has instead found a mission field in Ireland. Her initial expenses are being paid by a donation from the Emerald Foundation, a group of Adventist philanthropists in the United States.
The official opening is a step in the journey. Finance will always be an issue, but generous donations are helping, church leaders said. More volunteers will be needed as the center becomes an increasingly greater part of local life.
“This is an extremely exciting program we are starting, and it is very exciting to see where it will be heading in the future,” Anthony said.