The North American region is known for many things worldwide, but to Seventh-day Adventists it holds a special importance.This was the region in which the Adventist church was born. It was here that the Adventist message took its roots and developed into a global body of believers.
Recent statistics show that in the United States the church is growing at a faster rate than any other denomination. But another statistic shows that secularism is on the rise throughout North America. More people are not attending any religious services and less are likely to call themselves Christians. More than ever people are feeling out of touch with formal church services and programs. They want something more authentic.
They are looking for a real experience with Jesus.
Ellen White says, “Medical missionary work brings to humanity the gospel of release from suffering. It is the gospel practiced the compassion of Christ revealed.”
Let’s take a look at how health evangelism is bringing many to the fold of Christ throughout North America.
AIDS. Malaria. Tuberculosis. These words strike fear in the hearts of the countless millions living on the African continent and rightly so. Africa is known statistically for having the 13 percent of the world’s population with 24 percent of the global burden of disease. Sixty-seven percent of people living with HIV worldwide reside in Africa and 75 percent of annual global deaths from AIDS occur in Africa alone.
But more startling than this is the rapid increase in noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and chronic respiratory conditions. Diabetes cases in Africa were estimated at 10 million, a figure expected to rise to almost 20 million by 2025.
Something must be done.
Ellen White writes,”The world is a lazar house filled with victims of both physical and spiritual disease. Everywhere people are perishing for lack of a knowledge of the truths that have been committed to us. The members of the church are in need of an awakening, that they may realize their responsibility to impart these truths.”
Africa needs Medical Missionary Work.
The work in Latin America is booming! The Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist church has the largest membership in the world wide church, and for a good reason.
The church throughout this division is focused on developing local church leadership thus enabling the pastor to lead out in more evangelism. More than this, they focus on small group evangelism that builds relationship which culminate in eternal decisions for Jesus. But there is a large class of people that are not reached even through these patently successful methods. This group feels needs for many things which average models of evangelism don’t overtly succor. This group, while turning down an invitation for a Bible Study, would gladly accept an invitation to a cooking school or health program.
Let’s see how the work of health evangelism works to reach the unreached throughout Central America.
The global population of Christianity is at about 2.18 billion adherents. 36.8 percent reside in the Americas; 25.9% are in Europe; 23.6% live in Sub-Saharan Africa; Middle East and North Africa have 0.6%. Asia and the pacific have 13.1 percent of the worldwide Christian population.
The region where Christianity had it’s beginnings is today the place with the lowest concentration of believers. In its place, Islam has sprung up. About 20% of the world’s Muslim population can be found in Central Asia. A low Christian population is not the only challenging factor for this region. Religious persecution is a growing problem.
Religious persecution has increased by 400 percent over the last ten years throughout the 10/40 window. Hostility is at an all time high. In many of these countries proselytizing is a crime punishable by death.
How then is evangelism possible?
Ellen White says, “As religious aggression subverts the liberties of our nation, those who would stand for freedom of conscience will be placed in unfavorable positions. For their own sake, they should, while they have opportunity, become intelligent in regard to disease, its causes, prevention, and cure. And those who do this will find a field of labor anywhere. There will be suffering ones, plenty of them, who will need help, not only among those of our own faith, but largely among those who know not the truth”
East Asia is one of the world’s most diverse regions.
With hundreds of languages and thousands of cultures, it proves to be a challenging area to reach with the Gospel. This challenging area has been referred to by many missionary organizations as the 10-40 window – as it is located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator in the eastern hemisphere. The large majority of the population of this region are either Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or some other tribal group.
Let’s take a look at how health evangelism is making a difference in this challenging area.
Eastern Europe is territorially Europe’s largest region.
The majority of Europeans are Christian, of which nearly half are Catholic. The second-largest religion in Europe is Islam, followed by Judaism. Europe also has the largest number and proportion of irreligious, agnostic and atheistic people in the Western world.
A relatively small group of health conditions are responsible for a large part of the disease burden in Eastern Europe. Of the six WHO regions, the European Region is the most affected by noncommunicable diseases, and their growth is startling. The impact of the major noncommunicable diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental disorders) is equally alarming. Taken together, these five conditions account for an estimated 86% of the deaths and 77% of the disease burden in the Region.
“The world must have an antidote for sin. As the medical missionary works intelligently to relieve suffering and save life, hearts are softened. Those who are helped are filled with gratitude. As the medical missionary works upon the body, God works upon the heart.” A Call to Medical Evangelism p.12
Take a look at the work of Health Evangelism in this open field!
The Adventist Church in South America has seen significant growth.
“The Adventist Church in South America has a membership of about 2.7 million.Brazil has become the country with the largest number of Seventh-day Adventists in the world, with almost 1.4 million members. There are other populous areas within South America that have experienced tremendous growth; such as Peru, with 525,000 members; Bolivia, with 190,000 members; Chile, with 125,000 members; Argentina, with 115,000 members; and Ecuador, with 75,000 members. Between 1996 and 2005, church membership in South America increased 180 percent—a very good rate when contrasted with the growth rate of the Adventist Church around the world, which in that same period grew 54 percent.”
“Though many factors are involved in this growth, we consider the use of small groups as one of the most effective. In the Adventist Church in South America (SAD), approximately 65,000 small groups exist, and great effort has been made so that small groups become the basis of the church’s missionary outreach.”
“Throughout these years of experience with small groups, we have learned that traditional methods of doctrinal Bible studies and preparation for baptism did not bring the desired effect. Many church members, who had already been instructed in doctrine, considered these studies a simple repetition of what they already knew. Therefore, it was understood that the studies presented in small groups, including doctrinal studies, should have a greater Christ-centered and relational emphasis, more directly related to spiritual, social, and emotional needs.”
What if, when reaching out to the various needs of others, we focus on the person’s total health (Body, Mind and Soul)? Let’s see how health evangelism is reaching peoples’ needs in South America.
The South Pacific is a region full of contrasts. Some countries are continental land masses while others are dispersed coral atolls. Some have negative population growth rates and/or rapidly aging populations,while others have high fertility rates. Urbanization is occurring in most countries, although several are still predominantly rural. This region includes some of the highest per capita incomes in the world, but some of the countries in the region are still in the low-income category.
Health outcomes vary widely, with some countries enjoying the world’s longest life expectancies and thus ageing populations, while others have high rates of maternal and child mortality and relatively low life expectancy. Noncommunicable diseases are the largest part of disease burden, with 40% of the population diagnosed with a noncommunicable disease.
The South Pacific needs lifestyle education. The South Pacific needs medical missionary work.
Western Europe was the location of the start of one of the most powerful movements in human history – a movement known as the protestant reformation. This movement originated from a common desire to change the status quo, to part with traditions and customs that interposed themselves between the worshiper and his God. Europe needed a reformation. And Europe needs a reformation now.
This European Region has the highest overall smoking rate, the highest per capita consumption of alcohol, the highest proportion of dietary energy intake from fat, the highest rate of raised cholesterol, and the second highest rate of overweight and obesity. This region needs a health reformation. There has also been a drastic spiritual decline since Europe has become a bulwark for skepticism. This region needs a spiritual reformation.
“As a means of overcoming prejudice and gaining access to minds, medical missionary work must be done, not in one or two places only, but in many places where the truth has not yet been proclaimed. We are to work as gospel medical missionaries, to heal the sin-sick souls by giving them the message of salvation. This work will break down prejudice as nothing else can.”—Testimonies for the Church 9 p. 211