Adventist Health Evangelism Today

HEALTH has been emphasized as a cardinal feature of Adventist theology for more than one hundred years. The first health message of the church was given by Inspiration in 1848. By 1893 our founders' interest led to the development of the International Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association. . .

-secretary of the General Conference Department of Health.

HEALTH has been emphasized as a cardinal feature of Adventist theology for more than one hundred years. The first health message of the church was given by Inspiration in 1848. By 1893 our founders' interest led to the development of the International Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association. Experience gained by the turn of the century prompted the formation of the General Conference Medical Department. This new department became a functioning organ of the church at the time of the 1905 General Conference session.

The staff has grown from two to four times its original size, reaching out into all aspects of health ministry. Recognizing the need for renewed emphasis on health, the General Conference during its Autumn Council of 1968 voted to change the name of the department to the Department of Health.

At the present time the church is operating 329 health-care facilities around the world. These institutions employ 25,465 health workers, admit 424,- 256 inpatients annually, and provide for 3,841,707 outpatient visits each year.

The church operates hospitals, sanitariums, leprosariums, clinics, and dispensaries as a means of bringing renewed health to people who have lost it. Adventists contribute to the health needs of the world through the operation of schools of nursing, medicine, dentistry, and of other health sciences. It cooperates with overseas medical schools in India, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Peru, and Greece as a means of providing other lands with additional health personnel.

Adventist medicine is appreciated wherever it is known. Requests are constantly being made for Adventist involvement in the operation of hospitals in many parts of the world. An excellent 200-bed Catholic hospital in Missouri was recently offered to us. The sisters are willing to give it to us lock> stock, and barrel absolutely free, for they see in Adventist health care an exemplification of the work of Jesus Christ.

Last Monday night we received a telephone call from Saigon, Vietnam, stating that a contract had just been signed that gives to Seventh-day Adventists the Third Field Hospital, a 250-bed institution, loaded with equipment and supplies. Other organizations were begging for it, but the government insisted that it go to the Adventists.

Yesterday afternoon I returned from Colorado, where the brethren had called a meeting to discuss a proposition recently made by the Boulder Community Hospital. They proposed to turn the excel lent Community Hospital over to the Adventists in order to provide the people of that university city with the compassion, love, concern, and superior care found in our Boulder Memorial Hospital.

Health education and health evangelism are the vanguard of community acceptance and effective soul winning. Dr. J. W. McFarland and Elder J. R. Spangler have just returned from a successful semi nary extension-school program in Australia. Medical-ministerial workshops are planned for California, Michigan, and Hawaii in 1973. A number of nutrition instructor training programs have been authorized for this year. They will be held in various parts of North America as preparation for the health emphasis to be given to MISSION 74.

Renewed emphasis is being given to the promotion of health careers ideal callings for Adventist youth. In cooperation with the Review, 145 health workers have been offered to our institutions during recent months. The staffing of our health-care facilities with Adventist personnel is a challenge that somehow must be met.

The attention of the world is being focused more and more on coronary heart disease as one of man kind's most potent killers. Adventists have found that communities, industry, and governments are most appreciative of our newly developed Heartbeat program. The next few months will see this program sweeping across our nation with the eyes of thousands upon thousands directed to Seventh-day Adventists as people who care.

The health message of the church is a dynamic program of optimal living. It has brought the attention of the press, scientific investigators, and the Igeneral public to the work of Adventists. We find favor with man when we seek the favor of God. However, along with our acceptance we have encountered problems, problems that you share. Many of them come as challenges, others as indictments.

1. Tremendous changes are taking place in the health-care industry. Previously emphasis was placed on institutions, but now it is being directed toward community services. Health is the goal, best achieved by prevention of disease. Adventist health care emphasizes prevention. Healthful living is the key

2. Increased nationalism has taken its toll, with the loss of all our hospitals in China, others in Burma, Iraq, Libya, and Algiers, and more recently in; Nigeria. With the upsurge of government control in; .many freedom-loving countries it could happen here.

3. For many years mission hospitals were the fittest health-care institutions in many underdeveloped countries. Times have changed. Developing countries have directed their attention to the health of their citizenry. Foreign aid has made new and modern hospitals possible. Excellent universities have graduated competent clinicians. Now Wany mission hospitals have been relegated to second-, third-, and fourth-rate positions. And the end is not yet.

National health-insurance programs, the philosophy of "health is a right," and the emergence of third-party payers have all brought about vast changes in the health-care business.

4. The National Labor Relations Act, commonly known as HR 11357, is designed to remove the exemption for nonprofit hospitals. Labor boards have demonstrated their inability to respond quickly Wien a union engages in an illegal strike or in picking. Whereas other employers may be able to 'Withstand such illegal activity during the intervening Period, health care to patients cannot wait on such delays. The public, the ill people of our communities, are the ones who suffer most.

5. The recruitment of SDA professional personnel for our Adventist institutions is one of our most critical problems. Many ask why, particularly in view of the fact that

a. our schools of nursing round the world are graduating annually approximately 1,000 registerable nurses;

b. LLU School of Medicine is admitting larger classes each year; this year it has a total enrollment of 479 (and, may I remind you, of that number 95 per cent are Seventh-day Adventists, the highest percentage of any school in the university);

c. it is generally recognized that the dedication and loyalty to the church found in today's professional graduates are greater than in previous years; motivation or lack of it is not our problem.

The Christian ethic emphasizes the reward system as a way of life. We are taught, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," and "What doth it profit a man?" as well as, "great is your reward in heaven." We are all reward seekers; Christ taught reward seeking. The reward or profit motive gives meaning to life, helps to establish goals. It demands priorities. This matter of rewards and priorities is actually our problem.

Our health-care personnel our physicians, dentists, administrators, nurses, and technicians are all reward seekers. At any time a reward seeker finds that his profit is not equal to the effort required to obtain it he drops out and abandons the pursuit. Here is the kernel of the problem it is not the reward seeker, it is the reward we provide.

I hasten to explain the reward to which we refer is not money. Money is a poor substitute for high-priority rewards. Unfortunately, it is one we have been guilty of offering as a substitute for the far more valuable reward of a sense of self-worth. Our health workers are not about to become pawns or to be bought and sold. They are human and wish to be recognized as dedicated Christians who are ad dressing themselves to finishing the work of God.

If we fail to provide them with a sense of self-worth, with the satisfaction of identity, and an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful manner to the fulfillment of human need, it is the church that has failed and not the worker. Too often we think that by offering financial gain we can attract, but, brethren, when we do we are providing a poor substitute reward. If we attempt to compete with the world's wage scale as a means of providing re wards, we shall continue to find ourselves hopelessly outbid.

The success of our church health program depends on our ability to provide our employees with opportunities to realize soul-satisfying rewards and not on jacked-up wage scales. The prayer of each member of the Department of Health staff is that God will give us the church the vision we need to provide our 25,000 health workers with opportunities and challenges comparable to the dedicated efforts we expect them to make.


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-secretary of the General Conference Department of Health.

July 1973

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