American writer Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, described medical missionary service as essential for the spread of the teachings and values of the church.
Today, this kind of evangelization involving medicine, lifestyle, and Christian literature is attracting millennials, members of a generation born between the mid-1980s and 2000, concurrent with the rise of the internet. A group of them recently took part in a Family Health Consultancy Project session, an event that gathered about 60 health professionals for a training course in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia, Brazil, February 24-26, 2019.
Doctors, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, nutritionists, and other professionals took part in an activity that Adventists know as canvassing or colporteuring, selling Christian literature door to door.
Now these health professionals are visiting homes to introduce people to books that can promote lifestyle changes.
Health Consulting as Evangelism
Psychologist Priscila Siqueira da Silva Duarte, 37, a family health consultant for three years, is a coordinator of a 15-people team of mostly nursing professionals. Duarte wanted to use her training to increase a connection with the Christian message. Through the consulting project, she saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between psychology and missionary action.
“Consulting activities make me look into people’s eyes and get to their essence. From then on, I can help them improve their lives,” she said. Duarte shared the story of a client, a 19-year-old mother, who suffered abuse during childhood.
“Many people are in a very bad emotional state,” Duarte said. “In this sense, consulting is something that comes from God, because it allows such people to be emotionally embraced by consultants and work toward overcoming their trauma.”
Peruvian nurse Gloria Cari Guaca has been working as a family health consultant for 18 months in Salvador. Guaca said she found that helping people to improve their lives is a reward that exceeds the financial gain of selling books.
“My reward is when a person changes his life and finds happiness,” she said, recalling the case of an overweight woman who was ashamed to leave the house but managed to lose 35 pounds after getting in touch with her. “Today she feels good about going out,” Guaca said. “She sees her husband is happy and her daughter admires her; it’s something that makes me very happy.”
A Win-Win Situation
South American Division health director Rogério Gusmão believes people serving as health consultants are the first who benefit from it. “Those who work as health consultants bless other people and are also blessed through this activity,” he said.
Gusmão, one of the speakers during the February training, said that health consultants need to believe, live, and share the church’s health message. “We want to help people experience the impact of living out the Adventist lifestyle,” he said.
Bahia and Sergipe health director Luciano Salviano adds that health consultants have an evangelistic role to play. “Family health consultants fulfill what Adventist prophetic literature says when it advises using health principles to reach people,” he explained.
South American Division publishing director Tércio Marques agreed. “We have been directed to get involved in medical missionary work,” he said. “In the past, there was a lot of prejudice about the way the [Adventist] health message was conveyed. But now we understand [a healthy body] helps us to clear the mind for the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.”
As one of the trainees, 34-year-old Evelys Martha Gomez Castillo, did not hide the joy of taking part in a program that would help her do what she likes: take care of people's health and convey a message of hope. “Health is my ministry; my day-to-day life is meeting people,” said Castillo, a medical doctor. “Every day I get acquainted with the suffering of families, and I know that God has the solution. That’s why I love our health message.”