More than 450 Seventh-day Adventist health practitioners and pastors descended on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States, for the 18th annual Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) conference October 27-30. Under the theme “Life More Abundant,” professionals with a heart for mission met to reflect, get training, and network.
“There’s power when ministerial and health work come together,” AMEN outgoing president Brian Schwartz said. “The gospel gives power to the healing ministry. In the same way, the healing ministry gives power to the gospel.”
New features in this year’s conference included “Networking Walks,” in which small groups met every morning under one group leader to discuss and reflect on a specific topic as they strolled by the ocean. Topics focused on various aspects of “Living the Abundant Life,” including “Prioritizing Patients, Practice, and Parenthood,” “Seeing God Visibly in the Practice,” and “Spiritual Self-care and Your Attachment Style.”
“Our goal was to create a space where attendees could process together what they were learning and brainstorm ways of implementing ‘Life More Abundant’ in their practices, work situations, and home lives,” organizers said. “We believe providing an opportunity to cultivate closer relationships in small groups and giving you time to process and discuss the messages presented will greatly enhance learning.”
Videos for the Waiting Room
Another highlight of the 2022 AMEN conference was the introduction of a new initiative that seeks to produce meaningful short video presentations for waiting rooms in health care facilities.
The idea came about after an AMEN Adventist physician went to consult with an Adventist colleague who worked with other practitioners in a non-Christian setting. As he was waiting to be seen, he watched the questionable video being shown in his colleague’s waiting room. I am sure he would object if he knew what is being shown, he thought.
Out of that experience, AMEN leaders decided to invest in producing short videos with sound health information that patients can watch in their doctors’ waiting rooms.
“The idea is to include topics that are not usually discussed but that are important for a life more abundant,” medical oncologist and incoming AMEN president John Shin said. Shin is one of the AMEN members behind the initiative and was one of the professionals featured in the first video installment devoted to gut health. “It’s not often that you find a good video on gut health,” Shin said. “Certainly, not in a waiting room.”
AMEN leaders said they are earmarking funds to keep producing these videos, which can make an experience as inane as sitting in a waiting room a transformative one. “We want our patients to get trustworthy information about various health topics, with the ultimate goal of connecting them to the Source of life more abundant,” they said.
Connecting with the Spiritual
It is precisely this role of pointing people to the Source of health and salvation that God is waiting for His followers to embrace, Schwartz said in his keynote address during the opening program October 27. He explained how modern studies reveal a huge connection between the mind and physical disease. Therefore, he said, “if we only focus on [the] physical and leave the mental and spiritual unaddressed, all too often we don’t get to the root cause of the disease.”
Because of this, Schwartz said, if AMEN members are to be effective they must integrate both, regardless of specialty. “We are called to be chaplains. As we have been trained to care for the physical conditions of patients, we must be trained to care for their spiritual conditions,” he said.
This role of connecting the physical with the spiritual is at the core of what AMEN is, Schwartz emphasized. “That’s why God raised AMEN. He wants to use all of us.”
What It Looks Like in Real Practice
Schwartz, who is an interventional and structural heart cardiologist, explained that in his case, he has come to understand that his work as a physician doesn’t end when he puts a stent in someone’s heart. “I need to know Bible prophecy, and know the gospel, and live it in my daily life,” he said.
In the past, Schwartz confessed, he thought he was doing his part by praying with his patients. But since then, he has embraced a more encompassing view of his role as an Adventist physician. “I don’t want to just pray with my patients anymore; I want to give them Bible studies,” he said. “There’s nothing better than seeing one of your patients getting baptized.”
In that regard, Schwartz emphasized that it is time to fully embrace God’s ideal for Adventist health care practitioners, including AMEN members. For years now, AMEN has organized pop-up clinics to provide free health care to people in need. “But our AMEN clinics are not supposed to be humanitarian clinics,” Schwartz reminded his audience. “They are supposed to connect people with the truth of the gospel.”
A Powerful Combination
It’s all about harnessing the power of connecting the medical ministry with God’s message for the last days. “When you combine the two, you don’t add; you multiply,” he said. “This is really the secret weapon God has to empower the gospel to go to all the world in the last days.”
In a world where people will not be won by arguments but by example, it is key that Adventist health care practitioners embrace God’s call to be — in Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White’s words — “the right arm of the gospel,” Schwartz said. And it is in this context that AMEN has a key role to fulfill.
“God called AMEN to lead by example in making these connections,” Schwartz said. “Let’s do the work God has called us to do.”