To your Health
Walking the Path Together
From my initial years in healthcare to the present, I have been more interested in how to stay healthy than in after-the-fact treatment. ASI has been an important part of my journey, which has included work at Weimar’s NEWSTART and Harland Institutes health programs, as well as establishing a Lifestyle Medicine department at a hospital in Paradise, California. I now serve as the volunteer Health Ministry director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Over the years, I have become increasingly convinced of the powerful influence that we as Adventists can have in our communities in the area of health. But we must get it right, and “getting it right” must begin within our own church communities.
When I ask people in the churches I visit, “Who wants to be healthy?” everyone raises their hands. Everyone!
I started wondering, Why isn’t health a topic of unity in our churches rather than a topic of division? I’m convinced that it isn’t the topic of health that is the problem, but rather the approach we take with regard to health.
I personally believe that taking care of our bodies is a serious Christian duty, but I also believe that how we relate to one another with regard to that duty is of even greater importance. As one of our church health leaders said recently, “We need to love people more than we love the health message.” This does not lessen the importance of the topic of health. Loving people without reservation is the very foundation of the health message. Reflecting Jesus as we present that message is our highest calling.
A concept that embodies this approach is what I call the “health path”—that is, the understanding that, since everyone wants to be healthy, then all are potentially willing to get on the path toward health. That path includes making small choices, taking small steps toward gaining and maintaining health. Each of us is capable of encouraging one another, supporting each other in our health-related efforts and recognizing that we are in different places on the same path toward health. Instead of focusing on the final destination, which overwhelms many, we can help others start where they are and take one small step at a time.
Yes, we can teach the benefits of a plant-based diet, but we might also include classes on how to improve health for those who are still eating meat, sharing ideas they can incorporate into their lifestyles today that will introduce them to the benefits that accompany healthful lifestyle choices.
The health path approach is a catalyst for beneficial change, both in our churches and in our communities. We can better reach our communities when they see how we “love one another.” They naturally want to be part of a church family that walks the path of physical and spiritual health together.