The opening of the Wytheville Hospital was made possible through the efficient and wise planning, vision, and sacrificial effort of Dr. W. E. Malin and his colaborers, and the executive committee of the Potomac Conference. The fine influence of this greatly appreciated medical unit established in the southwestern part of the Old Dominion State is rapidly extending throughout the entire mountainous area of southwest Virginia, where our work has not, heretofore, been too favorably known. The principles extolled and the standards maintained in the operation of this hospital, which is known everywhere as a Seventh-day Adventist project, is proving to be an opening wedge indeed for the proclamation of the principles of our faith.
With confidence in God's Plan for the extension of our medical work, the Malin medical group set in operation this highly appreciated medical service in a county with no hospital facilities, flanked on both sides also by counties with no hospital facilities. A large class of influential citizens in that part of the State of Virginia are now learning to know about Seventh-day Adventists and their health principles through the reports emanating from this successfully operated medical unit. Plans already approved for an evangelistic campaign in this same area will, we believe, yield large returns by the proclamation of the great message of truth entrusted to us.
H. J. DETWILER.
The instruction given in the Spirit of prophecy regarding medical missionary work is not new to Seventh-day Adventists. The blueprint from medical work reveals that when doctors and ministers unite their efforts, great gains may result.
In the mountain town of Wytheville, Virginia, on September 4, 1945, a hospital was opened for the purpose of carrying out the instruction given for the establishment and operation of small medical institutions. Suitable property was purchased at a price about sixty or eighty per cent below what it originally cost. The building was renovated and set up suitably for hospital and sanitarium work. On the opening day about fifteen hundred people, curious to see what a Seventh-day Adventist hospital looked like on the inside, went through the building, asking questions and inspecting the twenty-five beds and other facilities which had been set up. Suspicion and prejudice ran high for a number of months after the opening of the hospital. However, almost from the first the patient list was high enough to make the institution self-supporting.
Shortly after the hospital was opened, a farm was secured some distance from the town, on which a dairy and a commercial gardening project are being developed. Lumber for workers' homes is now being cut from the trees on a mountain nearby.
As the patronage of the hospital increased, it was necessary to move the medical group offices outside the building. Property was secured on a prominent corner on the main street of the town. In this building has been set up the medical offices, space for the charity clinic, and a health-food store, with its purpose being made plain to the citizens of the community—that it is operated as an educational project rather than a commercial project. Equipment is now being installed for opening a health cafeteria in connection with the food store. The lobby of the building will house a reading room or bookstore, where our literature may be put on display to advantage. As soon as the cafeteria is under way, we plan to open a bakery, for which some equipment has already been secured. There is no local bakery in the area for a radius of fifty miles or more.
The home missionary society of the local church has organized a charity clinic for the underprivileged in this area. The society gathers in the patients, and the hospital staff gives free services to these people.
In the room which is being set up for cafeteria purposes, motion pictures of a health or educational nature are shown following our vesper service on Saturday evenings, and also on Tuesday mornings at the time the charity clinic is held. Films on tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer, and other related subjects have been well received in the community.
The majority of the workers came from our local church. When this supply was exhausted, then local people not of our faith, but of good character, who agreed to abide by our rules and regulations, were accepted for duty.
We feel that the project shows signs of being successful financially. It has now been necessary, after eighteen months, to increase the bed capacity to fifty. An elevator has been installed to make it possible to use the third floor of the hospital building for the necessary additional beds. The hospital has operated within its budget, not going over the initial $5,000 which was allowed for operating costs.
The investment in property and equipment for the hospital will run about $too,000, which is $2,000 a bed. Within the next six months it will be possible for the institution to begin a program of reducing its initial indebtedness, and paying off its capital investment. The income from the medical group has made possible the extra activities, such as the bakery, cafeteria, health-food store, farm, and so forth.
It has been most gratifying to see prejudice gradually subside as the attitude of the people is changed from being critical to being solicitous for our welfare. Their commendation here in this community has resulted in many requests coming from other outlying communities for us to come and establish a similar institution in their area. There are six other communities known to us here in Virginia, right at this time, which are just as good opportunities as was Wytheville eighteen months ago.
After seeing the results accomplished here in this short time, it is hoped that other doctors, businessmen, nurses, and subsidiary hospital workers may be encouraged to take up a similar type of self-supporting work. We find that the church membership has doubled in this eighteen-month period, and the average income of our church members has also doubled since the hospital has been opened. The church income has increased markedly—in fact, so much that our per capita leads the conference. The Sabbath employment problem is no longer troublesome. Our members are now also completely free of labor union activities. Many homes have been opened and are receptive to Bible studies. Ninety people are now studying our principles.
The Seventh-day Adventist church is now known as being the leader in charity work for the underprivileged of this area and other surrounding counties, some of which have their own hospitals. Near-by counties have requested our assistance in caring for their needy people. Some of their welfare workers and officials have become our patients. The majority of the ministers of other denominations in the town have also been patients in our institution, either as hospitalized patients or as outpatients of the medical group.
At first we were considered most peculiar and, to many people, undesirable in the community, because of our dietary habits (not using tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, meat, condiments, etc.). Our principles of physical therapy were viewed with suspicion by citizens of the community, including the local physicians. But we have seen a decided change. The local doctors ask us for advice on how to handle stubborn cases. They wish to know whether hydrotherapy will help in the treatment of some particular problem. It is now stated that Wytheville Hospital food is the best to be had anywhere. Although we are still considered peculiar by some of the people, our principles are becoming recognized as factors which will aid in the return of good health to many who suffer from ills brought about by disregard of the principles for which we stand.
We, as Seventh-day Adventists, have had plans and principles in our possession which would no doubt have made us true leaders in the health field of this nation, in fact of the world, if they had been extensively carried out. We have neglected this knowledge, which could have been of great value not only to us, but also to those about us. It is now high time that we carry out this instruction so that this pioneer work of the gospel may aid in bringing to Christ many who have not yet found Him. Much can be accomplished by the establishment and operation of small medical institutions. Doctors who have graduated from the College of Medical Evangelists can find full and satisfying results from being true medical missionaries, and also our lay people who go out into the country to staff these small medical units and carry out the country-living program which has been encouraged among our people for such a long time.
In the short time we have been at Wytheville we believe we have seen a partial fulfillment of the message and prediction given in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah.