Two-hundred and twenty-six Seventh-day Adventist leaders, health center managers, and health advocates met in Coimbra, Portugal, for the European Congress on Adventist Lifestyle Centers, May 30-June 3. Participants spent this international event networking and discussing the role, function, and mission opportunities of lifestyle centers driven by the Adventist health message.
During the 4-day event, they had the opportunity to attend presentations on the Adventist health message and the role of lifestyle centers as well as participate in panels and workshops on more practical aspects of founding, developing, and operating these facilities.
Lifestyle centers are an invaluable tool for the Adventist health message and practice, leaders said. “Besides providing treatments tailored to each person, they teach and promote healthy habits to all who benefit from them,” they explained.
Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, emphasized the missionary role of these centers in fulfilling the purpose of highlighting health within the framework of the three angels’ messages. He specifically focused on the third angel’s message as presented in the Bible book of Revelation, chapter 14. “Lifestyle centers are one of God’s methods to reach the large cities of the world,” Wilson said. “People can come for a renovation, a complete lifestyle change. It’s an important way that people can see Seventh-day Adventists, in a supporting, caring setting, who are helping them through the challenges they are facing, especially in the area of health,” he added.
Lifestyle centers are very useful tools for health promotion and as a form of first contact with the people and the communities in which they are located. For this reason, in a secular environment such as Europe, the Inter-European Division (EUD) of the Adventist Church is committed to supporting these centers as well as the support ministries that bring them into existence, church leaders said.
“Our aim is to make people’s lives better and lead them to know our whole message,” EUD president Mário Brito said. “People’s health is getting worse. People are searching for solutions. Now is the time to come and help people.”
EUD treasurer Norbert Zens agreed, as he highlighted the impressive work of the event organizers. “I am amazed at seeing how many people are here. It shows there’s interest. We are very happy to see the great response we have had.”
Zens also highlighted the assistance of supporting ministries to the health message of the Adventist Church. “We want to help [lay] church members to improve their contributions and to work together with them,” he said.
The European Congress on Adventist Lifestyle Centers took place in the Convent of St. Francis, a 17th-century historical building located in the city of Coimbra, in central Portugal. Just over 30 kilometers (about 20 miles) away is the VitaSalus Wellness Center, an Adventist lifestyle center that has served the population of Portugal for two decades. Event participants had the opportunity to visit the center and get to know the facilities and its working methods and learn about the practical results in the lives of hundreds of people served.
VitaSalus director Viriato Ferreira, also an Adventist health ministries leader, explained that “the role of a lifestyle center is to give people, church members, and non-members alike an opportunity to come back to an experience of strength — first of all, of their relationship with God; second, of their relationship with others; and finally, of their body. It involves diet, exercise, sunlight exposure, and also the healing of relationships,” he said.