The Third Ministry
Enhancing healthful living in China
By Benjamin and Esther Lau
In September 2006 we accepted a request to help train the staff at the Adventist Mei Hwa Sanitarium in Gulangyu in medical ministry. The beautiful island of Gulangyu is located in Fukien Province, on the southeast coast of China. But as word of our arrival spread, church leaders from various regions of the country also came to receive training. Many of them told us that our coming to China to direct medical ministry training was an answer to their prayers.
Within four months we had taught more than 250 people the eight natural health remedies described by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White more than 100 years ago—nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, air, rest, and trust in divine power. Today these principles form the basis of a health program called NEWSTART, a phrase coined in 1978 by the founders of the Weimar Institute of Health and Education in California, United States. Many Adventists have embraced the NEWSTART program with enthusiasm and are eager to put what they have learned into practice in their home churches.
China today is suffering from the diseases of affluence: diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers. With fast-food restaurants springing up throughout the cities, children and young adults are now experiencing weight gain and various other diet-related health problems. A growing number of older folk who have adopted the Western fast-food lifestyle are suffering a myriad of chronic illnesses. But with the NEWSTART program, we have seen what we believe are many healing miracles at Mei Hwa Sanitarium.
A former surgeon and current CEO of a large company struggled with diabetes for 30 years. In spite of being on insulin, his blood sugar was out of control. Within 10 days of following the NEWSTART program his blood sugar became normal. After three weeks he was walking six miles a day and had lost 20 pounds.
An older woman who suffered from severe arthritis and chronic digestive problems came to us. She had difficulty walking. Often she would be confined to her bed for weeks at a time because of episodes of nausea and vomiting—but her spirit was undaunted. She loved to give Bible studies, and in her pursuit of those interested in hearing God’s Word, she would walk for miles on those painful legs, and in her deformed hands she would carry a large-print Bible and a magnifying glass to help her read. Barely five feet tall, she is a powerful witness for Jesus. When she first arrived at Mei Hwa Sanitarium she was suffering from another attack of nausea and vomiting, accompanied with pain in all her joints. We taught her how to alter her diet and helpful ways to use hydrotherapy. A few days later she was feeling so well that she wanted to go home to continue her witnessing. Her daughter told us recently that since learning the use of natural remedies, her mother has not missed a day of giving Bible studies.
A woman physician who had contracted rheumatic fever as a child also came to us for help. She had read about the sanitarium on the Internet. When we first saw her, she suffered from shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. Both her legs were swollen up to her hips. She also had a very high LDL cholesterol level and an irregular heartbeat. Four weeks after beginning treatment with us her cholesterol dropped significantly, and she was no longer experiencing breathing problems or swelling in her legs. The doctor returned home rejoicing because of her improved health, but she said she was even more excited about the fact that while in Gulangyu she had come to know the Lord. Now she attends an Adventist church each Sabbath and is preparing for baptism.
We have seen the use of diet, hydrotherapy, exercise, and prayer have a dramatic effect on numerous types of disease. Prayer, especially, is a vital part of the program. Sanitarium doctors, nurses, and staff get up early in the morning to pray for their patients. In the evening, they pray with each patient individually. Most of the staff members are young—many only in their 20s—but their strong faith is evident.
Visiting the Churches
During our monthly breaks we would visit Adventist churches throughout China. At each gathering we were privileged to share the love of Christ and the health message with the believers. One time we led out in five separate meetings during one weekend at an 8,000-member Adventist church. That church is shepherded by four very dedicated young female elders.
The Blessings of the Spirit
We see evidences of the latter rain being poured out in great torrents throughout China, especially among the youth and young adults. We met one young man who attended our health seminars in Gulangyu. He is 18 years old and a full-time medical student. On weekends, he “pastors” several small churches. He told us that when he was a student in first grade, he and many of his schoolmates were beaten for attending the Adventist church school. Later, the school was forced to close. Eventually he had to attend the government school, which created additional problems for him because of some classes and exams being held on Sabbath. But by God’s grace, this young man and his friends were able to keep the Sabbath, in spite of the threats. The Lord blessed them not only scholastically; He also granted them many official recognitions and awards from the government for their outstanding academic achievements.
One high school girl we met told us she forfeited her high school graduation and diploma because she refused to take the required examination on the Sabbath. But on her national entrance examination for college, she scored the second highest in the country. She received many offers of full scholarships from several top universities.
A personal poignant moment for us occurred one evening during a worship service. Students sang the beautiful hymn “Homesick for Heaven,” written by Esther’s late father, James D. Wang. He wrote it in 1978 and sent it to some of his former students. Now that hymn is printed in the Chinese Adventist hymnal. Wang longed to return one day to his homeland of China, but that dream never materialized. But he had an even greater yearning—a desire to see his heavenly home. At almost every church we visited, we noticed that same yearning on the part of the believers.
While in China we frequently witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We were indeed privileged to work, pray, and praise our Lord together with our beloved Chinese Adventist believers.
To learn more about NEWSTART, go to www.newstart.com.
Benjamin Lau, M.D., Ph.D., is emeritus professor, Loma Linda University Medical School; and Esther Lau, R.D., is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. The couple returned to the United States in January 2007.