The sheer numbers of Pathway to Health events are staggering.
In seven mobile clinics run since 2014, the Seventh-day Adventist ministry has enlisted the service of 15,602 volunteers. They have provided free health care to 36,168 patients for a total value of US$164 million in medical and health-related services. The events have also distributed millions of clothing and basic needs items in places such as Oakland, California; Spokane, Washington; and Phoenix, Arizona.
But if you think Pathway to Health is just about providing free health care and other items for people in need, think twice, ministry leaders said, in the weekend before the official opening of the eighth Pathway to Health drive on April 17, 2022, this time at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States.
“The key question every one of you has to ask yourself is, ‘Why are you here? Why do you do what you do?’ ” Pathway to Health director and CEO Ivan Golubic said in his opening remarks on April 15, 2022. “I have asked myself that very same question.”
According to Golubic, it is essential to understand that volunteers are not at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis just to help people in need but also to show others the love of Christ they themselves have received. “Our purpose is to show the love of God to the cities and communities we serve,” he said.
United to Serve
Golubic acknowledged that in the world today there are a lot of divisions along all kinds of lines. Some of those divisions could creep into the church, he said. “But unity can come where there is unity of purpose, when we rally around one objective,” Golubic said.
North American Division (NAD) health ministries director Angeline Brauer agreed. Reading from the example of Nehemiah in the Bible, she reminded Pathway to Health volunteers that the unity of God’s people at the time of Nehemiah helped them to achieve their goals and fulfill God’s mission.
It is the reason, Pathway to Health leaders said, why the drive in Indianapolis is being carried under the motto United We Serve.
In a special recorded greeting to volunteers, NAD president G. Alexander Bryant said that serving others in the name of Jesus also transcends any internal difference we may have. “Even though we may disagree on different points, when it comes to doing the ministry of Jesus, and being the hands and feet of Jesus, our lives are united in ministering for Him,” Bryant said. “We are stronger together when we walk in Jesus’ name.”
Indiana Conference president Vic Van Schaik agreed, adding some practical implications of unity of purpose to serve.
“By partnering with others, we can do things that we couldn’t do individually. I think God wants us to work together,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful thing to work together as one,” Indianapolis Tabernacle of Hope pastor Tunde Ojewole added. “We belong to one church, and we are one people. It is the reason we are working together. This is not only about healing others but about healing God’s church,” he said.
According to Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) director Brian Schwartz, coming together to serve also helps followers of Jesus to transcend all kinds of barriers. “And when we unite, it impresses the world,” Schwarz said. “When we do this kind of work, whatever perception others may have of us Adventists changes.”
Lake Union Conference vice president Carmelo Mercado agreed.
“As [Adventist Church co-founder] Ellen G. White wrote, we must ‘press together,’ ” he reminded volunteers. ‘There is power in unity.’ ”
United for Indianapolis
Perhaps there is no other place where this idea of getting together to serve has been better reflected than in Pathway to Health Indianapolis, the ministry leaders said. In a panel session on April 16, leaders and organizers recounted how years of planning and development of partnerships have made the initiative in Indianapolis possible.
“It’s truly a miracle, what God has done,” Van Schaik said. “He has opened so many doors.”
Leaders shared how preparations for Indianapolis hit a hurdle when organizers came up with an estimate of the money they needed to make it happen. One of the biggest hurdles was the Lucas Oil Stadium rental, which was beyond the financial ability of Pathway to Health and other church entities. But then, through a city councilor, the mayor of Indianapolis got on board with the project, and the city eventually helped organizers to get what they needed.
“God moved the heart of our mayor,” Indianapolis Capitol City Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Kevin Rogers shared. “And the mayor said, ‘I want this to happen.’ ”
Rogers explained that the city eventually partnered with Pathway to Health and donated its resources. “And we got the venue for free.”
“There is no doubt about it,” Mercado emphasized. “We are here by the grace of God.”
The grace of God appeared again when plans had to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pathway to Health Board of Directors chair Kathryn Proffitt shared.
“Despite everything shut down, the relationship [with city officials] continued, and we made many friends,” Proffitt said. “We were eventually able to reschedule the event. God worked everything for good.”
Passion for People
Pathway to Health leaders emphasized that helping people in need should come with no ulterior motives. “We are helping people with no strings attached,” Rogers said. “But if we show them the love of God, doors will be opened.”
A follow-up plan will include classes for people who would like to learn how to make lifestyle changes related to body and mind. The city has also partnered with the church, offering free medical care for people that need it for follow-up treatment. Onsite, there will be information available about depression, mental health, and related topics.
At Indianapolis, health-related activities will be supported by evangelistic meetings led by Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson at the same venue. The special week of spiritual messages will take place May 21-28, organizers said.
In a spiritual message presented on the evening of April 15, NAD vice president for media Maurice Valentine reminded Pathway to Health volunteers what this drive is all about. Based on the Bible story of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda, he entreated volunteers to never see faces without a name. “I hope that we never reach the point where we lose passion for people,” he said.
Valentine explained that people walking through the door of [the Pathway to Health venue] are God’s sheep. “They are not just people with issues or pains. They face difficulties and problems. Many are just trying to make it from one day to the next,” Valentine said. “People who will come here are blind, limping, just as many of us were. Because without Jesus, we are just like anyone walking through these doors.”
We have a blessing of understanding the world we live in, Valentine said. It is a world where “only the fastest can be saved … only the smartest … only those with a silver spoon can survive.”
Every person who comes to this event will be coming with the same sense of brokenness, of pain, but just a question can turn their lives around, as Jesus did with the man by the pool of Bethesda, Valentine said.
“We need to learn to love just like Jesus … to love each other,” Valentine said. “When we love one another, then we will be prepared to love the world.”