The Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church recently organized a virtual health symposium for more than 2,500 health professionals and health-care workers serving in the network of 14 hospitals and 21 clinics throughout the territory. The symposium became the first territory-wide event meant to help health-care professionals understand the philosophy, history, and particularities of Adventism’s comprehensive health ministry, as well as present an overview of health-care institutions throughout the IAD.
It’s important to keep a culture of promoting health and wellbeing on a systematic basis as an essential part of our beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists, according to Franck Généus, IAD health ministries director and president of Adventist Healthcare Services Inter-America (AHS-IA). Généus was the main organizer of the symposium.
The virtual symposium was also geared toward Adventist health professionals and their colleagues who work outside the church organization, teaching them practical ways to share the Adventist health message where they work.
Themed “Achieving God’s Mission through Comprehensive Health Ministry” and held April 7-8, 2022, the event challenged health professionals, church leaders, and members in general to be instrumental in their individual ministry as they demonstrate practical ways of sharing the health message through community impact activities.
Health Ministries Global Impact
Adventist Church health ministries director Peter Landless highlighted the global scope of the Adventist health message and that the church has been recognized as the leading faith-based network in the Protestant world. The church owns and operates 1,000 health-care institutions with more than 36,000 beds and 78,000 employees and sees 1.5 million admissions and 20 million outpatients each year, as well as providing US$1 billion in charity health work every year. “It’s not insignificant,” Landless said, and it has revolutionized the world.
Landless pointed out to the attendees that they should not only be medical missionaries in the hospitals and clinics but also in the home and community.
“Let’s never forget that there’s a link between healing and salvation, and God’s Spirit uses healing of people’s hearts to reveal His love and salvation,” Landless said. It’s a blended ministry, he said, of the comprehensive health ministry the church follows. “We must reach out to men and women and help wherever it is needed, to minister to the sick and the suffering, physically as well as spiritually.” It’s about meeting people’s needs while revealing God’s love to them. “We have a [health] message; we have a mandate; we have a method, and it’s important that we have a ministry and a mission,” Landless said.
Every Member, a Center of Hope, Health, and Healing
Every church member is a center of hope and health and healing — a wholistic approach, he said. Every church must be a center to provide useful health information related to stress recovery, healthful cooking, exercise, addiction recovery, and more, Landless added. “We have a message; we have an option; we have a tool; we have a ministry,” he said.
Landless appealed to health professionals to live a healthy lifestyle to better witness to those around them. “The more perfect our health, the more perfect our labor,” he said. “If you don’t have time to be well, you must make the time.”
Devoted to Christ-like Healing and Serving
Adventist Church former general vice president Lowell Cooper reflected on comprehensive health ministry and its role in God’s mission. He reviewed two of the six methodologies the church has defined for its work in the world: Christ-like living; Christ-like communicating; Christ-like disciple-making; Christ-like teaching; Christ-like healing; and Christ-like serving.
In Christ-like healing, Cooper said, it’s important to affirm the biblical principles of the well-being of the whole person, making healthful living and the healing of the sick, the poor, and the oppressed a priority in cooperation with the Creator in His compassionate work of restoration.
Just as in Bible times, there are people marginalized in our society, suffering from poverty, war, natural calamities, from abuse, brokenness, failure, fear of isolation, disease, pestilence, and hopelessness, Cooper said. “Our ministry in this work is not just in the realm of ideas and doctrines; it is also demonstrated in acts, acts of mercy, healing, justice, fairness, forgiveness, and compassion.”
He added, “In following the example of Jesus, we commit ourselves to humble service, ministering to individuals and populations more affected by poverty, tragedy, hopelessness, and disease.”
A Church for God’s Mission
Cooper challenged health professionals to think more about the mission as being God’s mission. “I firmly believe that God does not have a mission for the church as much as He has a church for His mission,” he said. Achieving God’s mission through comprehensive health ministries is about whole-person care; it’s a ministry, not simply a methodology. It is concerned with wellness, not just disease treatment. It’s about continuum of care for physical, social, spiritual and mental well-being, and is a collaborative ministry not only inside the church but with other organizations committed to community development, he explained.
“Let’s live the health message we have received, think carefully and thoughtfully about a theology of suffering, and grow in the practice of getting out into the community,” Cooper said.