April 12, 2019

Church that Vanished Is Expected to Reappear Thanks to Health Ministry

tedNEWS with Caleb Quispe, and Adventist Review

Mostar Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, totally disappeared during the Balkan crisis of the 1990s. Now two young church planters, with the support of the local church conference and church members, are aiming to replant a congregation in this historic city in the center of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

To achieve their dream, regional church members launched “Život Plus” (Life Plus) — a weekend of lifestyle medicine lectures and a health fair that caught the attention and participation of both Croatians and Muslims.

Mostar is a city with 100,000 inhabitants but no Adventist church and only four Adventist members in the area. Only one church member lives within the city limits. A highly traditional city, Mostar has proven to be an evangelistic challenge for Adventists.

Promoting Health

Those statistics, however, should not be a distraction, local leaders believe. Following Jesus’ method of mingling with people and helping them with their needs, the church planters worked on “Život Plus” for more than a year to implement a program that promotes wholistic health — mental, social, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Their aim was to provide a variety of activities, seminars, and workshops that would catch the interest of the community.

After months of planning, a health weekend took place March 22-24, 2019, with lectures about lifestyle medicine at the city hall, along with a health fair on the final day.

Chidi Ngwaba, a United Kingdom-based expert in lifestyle medicine, presented on diabetes, depression, and heart diseases. He explained how lifestyle changes could improve and reverse these conditions.

At each presentation, the hall was filled with people who listened but also had the opportunity to ask questions and get personal answers to their issues. It was an encouraging sign, the organizers said, something that has raised expectations for future lectures and events in the city.

A Successful Health Fair

The health fair was held in a large shopping mall that attracts hundreds of people every day but even more on a Sunday, the day that the event took place.

Visitors came to the fair after listening to advertisements on local media outlets and attending the health talks. They got their blood pressure tested and participated in other tests to find out blood sugar and cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI), and lung capacity. They also received professional advice from doctors who volunteered for the event.

At the same time, medical students from the University of Mostar and Healthcare Studies students from the University of Džemal Bijedić in Mostar were volunteers who helped with screening the attendees and guiding them through the check-up process.

Even though the 25 health fair volunteers were not church members, they had been inspired to join Adventist leaders in helping Mostar’s population to understand and care more about their health, organizers reported. “Results were positive as people became more aware and willing to learn how to take better care of their health, and every single participant left their contact details to be invited to future seminars,” they said, adding that 220 people participated.

As for the volunteers, both doctors and students still felt cheerful after a long day. They said they appreciated the experience and were ready to repeat it.

“We are ready to cooperate anytime again,” said Josipa, a nursing student who spent the day helping in the health fair. Andjel Pupic, a physician, added, “We are interested in the condition of our citizens; it was a great idea, and I am happy I helped.”

Main organizer Anita Ördög said she was satisfied with the results. “This weekend took a lot of time and resources, and I am amazed seeing how God has led us so far,” she said.

Both of the weekend events received coverage in local news outlets, organizers noted. “Reporters showed interest in the Adventist emphasis in preventive and wholistic health,” they said. “These are topics that can help Mostar’s population develop a better, healthier, and happier life.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.