Adventists Bring Health Evangelism Training to Papua New Guinea
Historic summit to spark community outreach
By James Standish, South Pacific Division, reporting from Goroka, Papua New Guinea
At Goroka Airport in Papua New Guinea (PNG) there’s a large billboard for Milo, a chocolate and malt powder generally mixed with milk. The slogan? “Milo Givim Yu Strong.” The advertisement’s best feature? The gleaming clean, healthy tooth prominently displayed in the advertisement. There are a lot of good things you could imply about Milo, but a force for promoting dental health seems a little counterintuitive. And Milo’s just one of the many highly refined foods advertised heavily in this mountaintop town that is the capital of PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province.
It shouldn’t be surprising that, with an increase in the wide availability of high-calorie, highly refined foods, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart attack, and stroke are on the increase here. There’s also a threat from HIV/AIDS—particularly as men leave their families to work in mining sites and cities far from home.
Historically the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s emphasis in PNG has been on health problems such as maternal health, infant mortality, infectious diseases, and injuries. However, as PNG develops, the church is working to also address the threat of “lifestyle” diseases.
As part of this effort, the church recently organized a health summit at three sites—Port Moresby, Goroka, and Sonoma, near Rabaul. The concept was to provide practical training on health education, with the goal that every Adventist church, school, and clinic will become a center for health education. More than 1,700 Adventist pastors, teachers, and health workers were invited to the summit. In addition, some professionals from outside the Adventist community attended.
Many who presented at the summit are at the top of their field, including doctors Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, who lead an Adventist global effort in South Africa to stem the HIV/AIDS pandemic. There were also a number of presenters from PNG who added their expertise both on substantive issues and contextualizing programs and methods to the various cultures in PNG.
“This health summit was directly related to the ‘health promoting churches/schools/clinics and hospitals initiative’ that’s currently being rolled out Pacific-wide by the South Pacific Division’s health team,” said Kevin Price, an Adventist pastor and team director. “We are determined to address the double disease burden that comes from communicable and lifestyle diseases that so many are experiencing in the Pacific. We believe our health message needs to be loudly reproclaimed. There has never been a time when it has been more relevant.”
According to Joy Butler, leader of Women of Faith and Excellence who participated in the summit, “counseling services and health screening checks were offered throughout the program. The massive amounts of food (cooked on fires outside and in huge pots) provided by the school were both nutritious and attractive.”
The General ConferenceHealth Ministries Department awarded Sibilla Johnson the Health Ministries Medal of Distinction for her lifetime of service in health ministry. Johnson, director of Adventist health ministries in Victoria, received the award at a ceremony at Sonoma Adventist College during the health summit, with retiring world church Health Ministries Department director Dr. Allan Handysides and director-elect Dr. Peter Landless conducting the presentation. Johnson began her health ministry work in Papua New Guinea in 1982.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has long been commited to improving the health of the people of PNG. It operates 31 clinics there—many of them very remote—and recently acquired Komo Hospital. The health summit is the first phase of a rollout of “comprehensive health ministry” that has been encouraged by leaders of the movement’s General Conference as well as the South Pacific Division.
—with Adventist World staff