July 8, 2015

Free Health Care Paves Way for Headlines

Adventist Review/ANN

San Antonio’s press corps was writing and filing stories about the Seventh-day Adventist Church months before delegates to the General Conference (GC) session showed up in the city.

It started in April, when more than 1,700 Adventist volunteers provided free health care to nearly 6,200 individuals at San Antonio’s Alamodome stadium. The value of the treatment, estimated at more than US$20 million, received front-page coverage at several media outlets and was recognized by San Antonio mayor Ivy Taylor.

That event broke the ice with the local media and created lasting connections with city authorities that have paved the way for a wave of news reports that go beyond free health care to include the General Conference session, said Costin Jordache, media director of communication for both the session and the free clinic in April.

Coverage of the GC session and related health events has appeared in many local media outlets, including television, radio, and newspapers, in addition to The Washington Post.

Following up on the value of the April free clinic to heighten the church’s image, Health Ministries leaders at the GC session organized four other one-day health events to coincide with the business session throughout San Antonio. The San Antonio Express-News reported on three people at a fun run last Sunday who received advice about how to improve their health. The newspaper quoted Katia Reinert, Health Ministries director for the North American Division, as saying: “We care for our communities, and we believe that we should do all we can to extend the message of hope and wholeness.”

The San Antonio Express-News has published multiple reports about Adventist-organized events, including one about the GC session’s opening that mentions the church’s history, some of its doctrines, its education and community service activities, and some of the issues expected to be addressed during the session.

On the eve of the session’s opening, The San Antonio Business Journal ran a story with the headline “Historic Convention Epected to Pump More Than $40 million Into San Antonio Economy.” It highlighted the economic benefit to hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that would accompany the presence of more than 65,000 visitors to the city. The event was billed as the “largest and longest” ever to be held in the city.

News accounts also reported on efforts to prepare the city for its thousands of guests. The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, where the session’s exhibit halls are located, is in the final stages of a major construction project. The San Antonio Express-News published a front-page story about a scramble to build a pedestrian bridge from the convention center to the Alamodome stadium, where the meetings are being held.

Jordache, who is also vice president of communication for the Central California Conference, said the Adventist Church is pleased to play a role in San Antonio’s development.

“Because our session—the largest and longest the city has ever hosted—has been successful, the city of San Antonio is now able to bid on large global events,” he said. “We’re glad to be able to contribute to the city’s future in that way.”

He also said that connections established with local authorities were leading to new joint health events.

“We’ve been able to contribute to the city’s health-related goals,” he said. “These initiatives have developed partnerships between local Adventist churches and city health officials that will result in ongoing health-related events.”

One of the benefits of center-stage media coverage is an opportunity to draw public attention to the church’s primary message, said Garrett Caldwell, spokesperson for the Adventist world church.

“Throughout the week, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been emphasizing the fact that ‘your whole life matters,’ ” Caldwell said. “We hope and pray that this message of hope remains in the hearts and minds of San Antonio residents.”