November 6, 2018

In Antigua, Government Officials Praise Adventists, Call for Help

Theresa Gordon, South Leeward Mission, and Inter-American Division News

Top government officials praised the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Antigua and Barbuda and called on leaders and members to assist with combating the scourge of non-communicable diseases, during the celebration of the Church’s 130-year presence in the island nation, on October 20, 2018.

Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams and Prime Minister the Honorable Gaston Browne spoke to dozens of church leaders and church and community members gathered at the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development (GARD) Center.

Combating Non-Communicable Diseases

During his brief remarks, Williams congratulated the church for its contributions to Antigua through the training of teachers and musicians. He went on to commend the church for its health message.

“As you recount the positive results of the healthy lifestyle practices of the early founders and members, there is more than sufficient evidence to declare the effectiveness of such a way of life,” Williams said.

Prime Minister Browne also gave congratulatory marks and indicated that in his estimation, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as a religious organization, has made a significant contribution to the economic development of the nation. He also offered an appeal to the church leadership to assist in combating the scourge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Browne said that Adventist church members are strong proponents of a healthy lifestyle and they could play an integral role in the public education process.

“Seventh-day Adventism places restrictions on consuming meat or flesh foods. Flesh food is harmful to health, and whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and the soul,” he said. “Those are the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Your [positioning] for a wellness culture will lead to a reduction in the number of those who lose limbs by amputation and who suffer an early death.”

Non-communicable diseases are mainly cardiovascular diseases that lead to heart attacks and stroke, cancer, respiratory diseases, and asthma. For Antigua and Barbuda, diabetes is one of the main diseases plaguing residents, according to island statistics.

The government of Antigua is currently adopting proactive approaches to tackle the problem. One of those methods is taxing sugar-filled beverages and incentivizing the use of nutritional foods, government officials said.

In response to Browne’s call, South Leeward Mission Health Ministries director Silvia Ham-Ying indicated that addressing and battling NCDs is one of the objectives of her department.

“We can target the community and also our members in the battle against NCDs,” Ham-Ying said.  “What may be effective is to develop active groups in each community where the church serves that would focus on educating the community about healthy living.”

Ham-Ying went on to say that there is a significant need for persons to “do good health and not just hear about good health,” referring to a negative practice among large numbers of the population who appear to regularly check their health status but fail to adopt healthy practices that could improve their situation. It is evident in the number of persons who die as a result of an NCD, she said.

Looking Back, Pressing Forward

Under the theme, “Looking Back, Pressing Forward,” the Seventh-day Adventist church in Antigua organized the celebration of 130 years of Adventism on the island. The earliest records available reveal that in December 1888, a colporteur named William Arnold visited the island with the Seventh-day Adventist message.

From these early beginnings the movement mushroomed into the organization which today includes 31 congregations, one early childhood education development center, two primary schools, one secondary school, one satellite extension campus of the University of the Southern Caribbean, one radio station, one senior citizens’ home, one retreat-style camp, one credit union, and more than 11,000 members in a population of approximately 90,000 people.

South Leeward Mission president Carson Greene, speaking about the chosen theme, “Looking Back, Pressing Forward,” said, “As we look back, we know that we did not get here by our strength. As we look back, we see clearly that God has indeed led. As we look back, we see imperfections and failures. But we also see God’s mercies and grace towards us. As we look back, we are reminded that we have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way God has led us in the past,” he said.

Activities of the 130th anniversary celebrations continued on October 21 with a health fair at the GARD Center. More than 200 visitors benefitted from specialized services such as prostate exams, PAP smears, breast examinations, and vision checks, as well as more common services such as blood pressure and cholesterol checks and Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations.

The celebrations in Antigua and Barbuda continued for the entire week with mini-exhibitions, nightly meetings, a short cruise around Antigua, and a convention and final gala banquet on October 27.

The original version of this story appears at the IAD News website.