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Church Health Ministries Leaders Network

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

On February 28 the Adventist Health Network will hold its first meeting in 2010. The network, open to Health Ministries directors from the 112 Seventh-day Adventist churches in the Washington, D.C., metro area, is led by DeWitt Williams, EdD, MPH, Health Ministries director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. He started the group as a resource for area leaders seeking information and because he wants to see more churches become active in Health Ministries. “I’m going to retire in August, and I want to know that we are motivated and united in impacting our communities,” he announced.

Williams convenes AHN meetings every other month at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md. At their last meeting, which drew 30 attendees, he invited four guest speakers—Joyce Nalepka, who advocates to keep America’s youth drug-free; G.W. Chew, creator of the Believe It’s Not vegetarian food line; and Greg Homan, whose company Test Medical, is marketing a cholesterol screening system called CardioChek, that provides instant results. Williams would like to see Adventists initiate a “Know Your Numbers” campaign in their communities and use this portable device to hold weekly screenings at their churches. With the help of Homan and his team, he demonstrated its convenience by providing free screenings for the leaders in attendance.

Barbara Smith, director at Potomac Conference’s Sheriff Road church in Southern Maryland, was glad to learn about this resource and more. “Each time I come, I learn so much that I can take back and share with my congregation,” she says. “We also get to report on what our churches are doing and talk about how we can help each other start or maintain a successful health ministry.”

Ray Nelson, a pastor who also coordinates Health Ministries for the Chesapeake Conference and the Columbia Union, agrees: “AHN provides our leaders with a wonderful opportunity to network,” he said.
First-time attendee Florence Silver, of the South Carroll company in Sykesville, Md., also found the gathering beneficial: “I appreciated the spiritual emphasis as well as the excellent materials and ideas to promote healthful living for ourselves and our community,” she said.

That spiritual emphasis was brought by Leah Scott, Health Ministries director for Allegheny East Conference, who shared a devotional for the meeting. “The devil would love to keep us depressed and sick so we can’t do the work God wants us to do,” she said. “So we have to be students for life. We have to be on the cutting edge of health.”