The pandemic, churches closing, and lockdowns took everyone by surprise. But while the churches were not completely prepared to do things differently, God had plans, as usual! New York Conference is thriving and blessed in spite of the way things are going around the world.
Almost overnight, the world changed. Especially in more developed, industrialized countries, people started thinking twice before doing something, going out, or even about their comorbidities, a new word to many! Our immune systems suddenly became more of a concern. And due to so much uncertainty and the rapidity of all the changes in the way we were accustomed to living, and of very real isolation for many, people have also been more open to spiritual matters than prior to COVID-19. Indeed, humans, in general, are thinking more serious thoughts than before. The coronavirus has been a great challenge for many people who have been infected with the virus and for many others who have seen loved ones dying, businesses closing, and a change in their income.
So, what have the New York Conference churches and individual members been doing with health ministries during this crisis? They are using all available individuals, staff, and resources to continue and even expand services for our fellow men and women to supply their great needs. One member, for example, decided to grow organic corn, set up a table with fresh-picked ears along with a sign saying “free,” and provided a selection of health and spiritual literature.
Another person sold unneeded items through Facebook Marketplace right from her back porch and included literature with the purchases. Still another was asked by friends in the local Methodist church, where she ministered in music, to have a cooking class. They knew that she was a vegetarian, and they wanted to improve their health.
Early on, materials for making face masks were not as readily available. One member saw a social media post requesting supplies on a local “helps” group and donated materials to someone who was making face masks. Though their church building was closed, the Buskirk church in Buskirk, New York, posted a Facebook address on their sign where people could find articles on COVID-19 and strengthening the immune system.
The Vestal Hills church’s fitness club, located in Vestal, New York, was working out together at the church for one hour every Sunday afternoon just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was a wonderful activity for many. When the lockdown happened, after canceling for a number of weeks, they moved outdoors utilizing the local hiking trails while following CDC guidelines.
During the cold months, they plan to workout using various preselected YouTube videos. They have also increased their health talks to be given every Sabbath, as Health Ministries leader Khieanne Dawson saw that, “this time in our lives called for more encouragement, motivation, and education on how to stay well as we experience more stress and anxiety.” This part of the Sabbath program, called “Healthy News You Can Use,” is also livestreamed so that others can benefit.
As their church reopened, others on the Health Ministries committee contributed to presenting the health talks. Topics have included: “how to stay mentally healthy,” “relieve stress,” “boost our immune systems,” “reminders to stay active,” and other topics related to coping through COVID-19. A representative from the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier of New York has agreed to do a virtual presentation on mental health awareness for Vestal Hills church, especially needed for the times in which we are living.
Camden church, in Camden, New York, which is always active in health ministry, is planning a seminar on building the immune system. Currently, they are presenting “Media on the Brain,” which documents the dangers inherent in all forms of media, both old and new.
The Kingsbury church in Hudson Falls, New York, decided to continue with their annual vegetarian buffet and transformed it to take out. As people pulled into the parking lot, a friendly masked person with smiling eyes would present the menu from which they would make their selection. The person would return shortly with a bag containing the food the people had ordered, as well as a health magazine, recipes for all of the delicious dishes, and information on enhancing one’s immune system with the eight laws of health.
New York Conference Health Ministries director Debbie Cox virtually presented via Zoom for a telephone prayer group’s annual retreat on the topic, “How the Health Message Can Help Us to Be Ministers of the Gospel.” This included much counsel pertaining to the work in the last days and practical resources.
Ellen White wrote, “The gospel of health is to be firmly linked with the ministry of the Word. It is the Lord’s design that the restoring influence of health reform shall be a part of the last great effort to proclaim the gospel message”—Medical Ministry, p. 259. As Seventh-day Adventists, every one of us is called to be, not only a health reformer, but a medical missionary. Ask God to show you what you may do today!
For resources, visit www.nyconf.org/health-ministries.