SENSING a need for a more personal contact with people, and alarmed by the news released by the U.S. Health Department that 25 million Americans suffer from hypertension and are not even aware of it, the Florida Conference has developed several Adventist Community Services centers and eighteen Mobile Screening Units.
The conference is divided geographically into five federations, with each federation operating one, two, or three vans, depending upon its ability to utilize and provide the trained personnel to perform the duties connected with the screening process. Personnel for this work are trained at the Adventist Community Services Clinic in Orlando.
The function of the vans is to move into a shopping center or a mall, or where large groups of people meet, and do hypertension screening. Several industrial plants have requested us to come to their plants and screen their employees. Permission for the project has been granted by the State Health Department, and all screening is being done according to their guidelines. County Health Department secretaries and medical associations are in formed of our services, and the cooperation of physicians has been gratifying.
During the past thirty months, 250,000 contacts have been made, and a follow-up program with the physician is working very smoothly. One in twenty-five individuals screened is referred to his physician for further checking.
The vans were purchased from a bakery company that had discontinued its operation. Our original investment was around $11,000. We painted these vans blue, white, and yellow, to correspond with the church road signs used throughout Florida and the Southern Union.
The vans are also equipped and stocked with materials that enable us to work closely with the Red Cross and Civil Defense during a disaster. Clothing, water, and food can be dispensed from all of our vehicles. Among these vans is a communication van, operated by our conference communication secretary, Roy Ulmer, so that we can keep in constant contact with all vans working in a disaster area.
We also have a large 33-foot van that was purchased from the Orange County TB Association and converted into a multiphasic mobile unit. All personnel working with this van are given special training in their particular field of screening, and they work in all five federations throughout the State. They do hypertension screening, glaucoma testing, diabetic detection, hemoglobin testing, and urinalysis checks. Specialists in ophthalmology and internal medicine, and general practitioners throughout the State have given excellent counsel and encouragement.
When the vans are working in the field, they usually receive about $40 a day in donations. Many people insist on leaving something in appreciation for the service.
In order to train the personnel to work on the vans and to carry on the screening program in the local churches, which have been designated Community Services Screening centers for this purpose, we have established the Adventist Community Services Clinic in Orlando. From time to time seminars are conducted in which volunteers are trained in the proper procedures of screening and nutrition.
The Heart Association is granting us $1,500 this year for literature to be used in our vans and clinics. The Diabetic Association has given us $1,900 for diabetic materials. Miscellaneous contributions have amounted to $3,000.
We have distributed 720,000 pieces of health-related literature in this program, using mainly Life and Health, Your Heart Health, and the offer of the gift-Bible enrollment.
In order to tie this entire pro gram into our over-all evangelism, we have established a five-point program:
1. The vans circulate throughout the State in shopping centers, malls, industrial plants, et cetera doing hypertension screening and urinalysis checks. The vans are really the "bird-dogs" in that they are the point of contact with individuals. We offer a simple service of love and concern to anyone who cares to take advantage of it.
2. Those receiving this service are then invited to obtain such service on a regular basis at the local Seventh-day Adventist Community Services center. (We now have thirty churches operating these screening centers in their churches. They usually operate one day a month, from 10:00 until 2:00. We have one woman in Boynton-Beach—a retired nurse, 80 years young —who is operating a clinic with as many as 100 people coming to her church for this service.)
3. Then a cooking and nutrition course is announced. Those taking advantage of our program are already coming to the church and are acquainted with the fact that our church is health-oriented. Recently a cooking school was conducted in Orlando Central church, with 100 registering, 52 of whom were non-SDA's. Forty-eight of these enrolled in the gift-Bible program upon the completion of the cooking school. In Brooksville, Florida, five persons were baptized as a direct result of attending a cooking school.
We conducted eighteen cooking schools during the first quarter of 1974, with 779 in attendance.
4. Following the cooking school, a Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking is announced. Many who have attended the cooking school attend this program and bring their friends.
5. The program, of course, is not complete without an evangelistic thrust. This may be accomplished in a variety of ways. For instance, an evangelist may be sent into an area where the above programs have been carried on and an interest established, to conduct regular evangelistic meetings. Another approach is to begin Bible classes, drawing on those who have enrolled in the gift-Bible program. Sometimes a pastor or active layman may wish to conduct regular evangelistic meetings. Since the people involved have been coming to the church for a number of months, much prejudice has been broken down and confidence has been established. They are eager to know what motivates Adventists in their work for others. One layman in Sanford, who operates a van, has been responsible for eighteen baptisms in his church.
This kind of community service, which serves as an opening wedge, was called to our attention many years ago by the pen of inspiration:
"We have come to a time when every member of the church should take hold of medical missionary work. . . . Henceforth medical missionary work is to be carried forward with an earnestness with which it has never yet been carried. This work is the door through which the truth is to find entrance to the large cities. ... In every large city there should be a corps of organized, well-disciplined workers; not merely one or two, but scores should be set to work. . . . Medical missionary work should have its representative in every place in connection with the establishment of our churches."— Welfare Ministry, p. 138.
Not only have our laymen and medical personnel responded to this program beyond our fondest expectations but we have found that the general public has been made aware of Seventh-day Adventists and their vital interest in the health and welfare of their fellow men.
Recently, Walt Disney World in its annual Awards Program presented Adventist Community Services with a beautiful trophy and a check for $1,000 in recognition of general community services rendered.
We have learned that when we offer these kinds of community services and health-related programs, we not only break down prejudice and build confidence in our message but our own members catch a new vision of what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.