At best the work of the faithful minister imposes a severe and more or less constant strain upon his reserves of physical and nervous energy. He is not only a Seventh-day Adventist, but also a "seven-days" Adventist, and his seven-days-a-week service sometimes includes a considerable portion of the nights as well.
While this may also apply to many of our evangelists, physicians, and conference and other institutional executives, it seems to be particularly true in the experience of many of our General Conference men. Their stay in a place is necessarily brief, and the growing work presents many problems. In order to secure all possible assistance and counsel from the visits of these General men, the local brethren plan a strenuous program of commit. tee meetings, sermons, etc., and often the meetings run late into the night. Then the brethren pass on to repeat the program at the next place.
Surely this is not a wise economy of time, of money, or of men. There is a limit, which may not be safely exceeded, to the incessant strain upon the human machine, and the speed at which it runs. Continuous overdrafts upon its reserves must result in the weakening of its powers and a premature breakdown in health.
The human body is so constituted that it will bear up under a heavy burden of mental and nerve strain, provided always that such strain is punctuated at regular intervals by proper periods of relaxation, rest, and sleep, and also by regular periods of physical exercise.
In the physiologic mechanism, there Is a very definite co-ordination of function and interdependence of action between the brain and nervous system and the muscles or motor system. which includes also such important muscular structures as the heart and blood vessels.
One of the leading causes of high blood pressure is long-sustained, high nerve pressure, unrelieved by that efficient adjuster and balancer of the circulation—vigorous exercise of the muscles.
This constant overwork of the nerves of emotion and underwork of the nerves and muscles of motion induces an excessive flow of blood to the brain. Such prolonged, active cerebral congestion may also induce structural changes in the walls of the cerebral blood vessels, and may pave the way for a stroke of apoplexy or produce partial occlusion of the blood vessels with brain softening.
Our work in the Medical Department of the General Conference and in the Washington Sanitarium has brought us into close touch with the physical and health status of many of our leading workers, and with many of our ministers and mission appointees, and we feel a justifiable concern.
During the past two years, death has levied a heavy toll among our workers. In this brief period the cause has suffered a severe blow in the loss of almost half a score of General Conference men whose counsel we miss and whose service is greatly needed. Few of these were old men. While there is comfort in the scripture, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints," is it not also true that their lives and service are even more precious in His sight? Is it not possible that some at least might have been saved longer to the work and to their families?
There are a number of other men whose service this cause can ill afford to lose, who are working on a slender margin of physical capital, and who are in serious danger of breaking prematurely. The question is, What can be done to improve the situation, and to place additional safeguards about the lives and the health of our ministers and other workers?
Perhaps the least worthy motive to increased effort in this direction is the financial one; but this alone is of suffident importance to justify careful study of our health problem in these times of pressing need for economies.
Good health is any man's greatest financial asset, and is essential to efficiency in service and to continued earning power, without which gifts to missions would cease. Ill health is one of the chief factors of economic loss in the business world and to this cause, both in the direct expenditure of money necessitated by sickness, and by the inefficiency of workers who are half sick.
There is in the United States an annual loss of 300,000,000 days to sickness, and the average family expense per year occasioned by illness is $80. Dr. Homer Folks estimates the total economic loss due to illness in the United States to be $15,000,000,000 annually. What is the annual cost of sickness to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination? Herein lies a vast and rich field in effecting true economies. "There is sickness everywhere, and most of it might be prevented by attention to the laws of health."—"Ministry of Healing," p. 146. "Save the 750,000 lives lost annually in the United States due to preventable disease," is the advice of the William Gorgas Memorial Institute. '
We would emphasize the great value of a periodic health audit, not to determine how sick you are, but how well you are, and to detect early any slight changes in the physiologic state which, if allowed to go unrecognized and uncorrected, might eventuate in serious organic disease.
If you contract pneumonia or diphtheria or smallpox, you very soon know you have it and that it has you, but the more common and possibly more serious degenerative diseases of the kidneys, pancreas, heart, and blood vessels are so insidious and stealthy in onset that for many months their presence may not be suspected, and their--- discovery is often but an incident in a routine physical examination. This is particularly true of Bright's disease, incipient tuberculosis, diabetes, arteriosclerosis with increasing blood pressure, certain heart affections, and it may be true of cancer. The earlier these are discovered, the more amenable they are to effective treatment.
Railroad bridges, rolling stock, steam boilers, elevators, and impounding dams are systematically inspected—and what would be the result if they were not? The only early symptoms of high blood pressure are full or over weight, a florid complexion, excellent appetite, and superabundance of energy. Individuals with high blood pressure are hard drivers. They never take a vacation, for they think to do so would be a needless waste of valuable time.
The disciples had made but one missionary tour when the Saviour bade them, "Come ye yourselves apart, . . and rest awhile."
"When Jesus said to His disciples that the harvest was great, and the laborers were few, He did not urge upon them the necessity of ceaseless toil, but bade them, 'Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest.' " --"Ministry of Healing," p. 58.
"In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Saviour found it necessary to turn aside from ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father."—/bid.
Our workers should spend more time out of doors, as did the Master. The sermon on the mount was not preached in a synagogue. There is, in contact with the beautiful things of nature, a mysterious something by which the physical, mental, and spiritual energies are renewed, and the heart is drawn out to God.
"The Saviour's life on earth was a life of communion with nature and with God. In this communion He revealed for us the secret of a life of power."—Id., p. 51.
There is no substitute for obedience to God's laws, whether physical, mental, or moral. In view of the issues at stake and the light which has shone across our pathway, can we afford to fail to make effective that highest form of health insurance,—obedience to all of God's laws? Shall not our ministers heed the command of Jesus to His disciples, "Come ye yourselves apart, . . . and rest awhile"?
Washington, D. C.