From Australia to Malaysia to Kenya, new mission-driven chapters are springing up.
Published on: 11-05-2022
Seventh-day Adventist obstetrician Danae Netteburg was called in the middle of the night to the Adventist hospital in Chad, where she and her husband have been serving for 12 years.
A young woman named Mercy had been brought in by relatives. The woman, eight months pregnant with her first child, had been comatose for several days. Netteburg could tell right away that she was suffering from malaria. And the Adventist physician could also see that the woman was suffering from hypoglycemic episodes. But the hospital had run out of dextrose.
When the family realized that no instant magic cure was possible, they said they would just take the woman back to the witch doctor. But Netteburg wouldn’t allow it.
“It soon became a shouting match between them and me,” she recalled, “which is not the best image you want to portray as a missionary.”
Finally, Netteburg stepped outside and looked up at the starry night. Lord, what should I do? she asked God.
Netteburg decided to go back and sit and talk with the family. She found out the source of their concerns. They were worried the woman had eaten stolen food and now was cursed. Eventually, Netteburg prayed with them. And then she had an idea.
“I remembered that at home, I had some frosting that I used to decorate my kids’ cakes,” Netteburg said. “So I went home, brought the frosting, and told a nurse to give the woman a small spoonful of the frosting at regular intervals.”
Two days later, the woman woke up, and a day later, she delivered a premature but healthy baby.
“In some of those places, the veil of the great controversy is very thin,” Danae’s husband, Olen, also a medical missionary in Chad, says. “You can see the conflict with your own eyes.”
Whether across the ocean on another continent or in North America’s backyard, members of the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) are making a difference and helping to bring people to the One who can give them enduring physical and spiritual health.
During AMEN’s 2022 annual conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States, held October 27-30, several members shared how the ministry is inspiring other Adventist professionals around the world to partner for medical missionary service. In the past couple of years, AMEN chapters have been established in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. Here are some of the latest developments.
Partnership with Pathway to Health
AMEN has partnered with Pathway to Health, a lay-led Adventist humanitarian nonprofit organization that organizes massive clinics to provide free medical, dental, vision, and surgical services, especially to underserved populations across the U.S.
“It takes a whole community to do Pathway to Health,” president and CEO Ivan Golubic said in his brief report. On October 29, Golubic and board chair Kathryn Proffitt briefly reviewed the latest effort in Indianapolis in April 2022. The effort not only provided free health care to thousands of people but also implemented a follow-up and referral program that included physical and spiritual support.
A month later, an evangelistic series led by General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson in Indianapolis connected many of the people served at the clinic with the chance to continue studying the Bible and learning more about God’s truth.
“There are new Pathway to Health initiatives in the works,” Golubic said, “and it is expected AMEN will continue being an integral part of these missionary efforts.” Among them, leaders are planning a major event for Washington D.C. in the spring of 2024, and another one in May 2025 in St. Louis, Missouri, ahead of the 2025 General Conference Session in that city.
In the Philippines
The AMEN model of connecting and energizing Adventist health care practitioners has found receptive ground in the Philippines, where medical missionaries also decided to organize an event with a focus on mission. In 2018, 200 people attended the first AMEN Philippines event.
A year later, a full-fledged four-day event brought hundreds of Adventist professionals together for lectures and workshops and also included a medical mission project in the community. After COVID-19 struck, a 2020 virtual conference allowed more than 300 professionals to attend and included a larger roster of international speakers.
The 2021 event in the Philippines featured testimonies from missionary workers, devotionals, and moments of united prayer. Concurrently, the organization launched a Students’ Network in December 2018, getting students and young professionals involved. In November 2021, Adventist World Radio, the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and AMEN Philippines partnered to hold a free clinic that served more than 5,000 patients. AMEN free clinics include not only free consultations but other health-promoting activities, such as free cooking demonstrations, leaders said.
Leaders have also launched an Adventist Medical Students Network. Its goals include providing spiritual support for medical students taking the physician licensure exam and raising funds for hospitals, churches, and disaster victims through the Good Samaritan project already in operation.
In Malaysia, Adventist health care providers organized an AMEN chapter a few years ago to network and get training. In the summer of 2022, the first in-person conference after the pandemic took place in Kotah Kinabalu, Sabah. It was AMEN Malaysia’s sixth annual meeting.
Guest speakers included former Adventist Church associate health ministries director Fred Hardinge and incoming AMEN president John Shin, who attended with his family.
“We unconsciously think we are taking something to benefit them, but it was just the opposite,” Shin shared as he remembered his visit.
Shin reminded AMEN members at the Myrtle Beach conference that traditional evangelism is not allowed in Malaysia. “You can’t proselytize,” he said. In that context, it’s a great opportunity for Adventist health ministries and medical missionary work. “As medical missionaries reach the villages, people start asking questions, learning more about the Bible, and many eventually request Bible studies,” Shin said.
The AMEN Kenya chapter was established in 2019, just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic began. Over the weekend of October 7-9, 2022, the first local AMEN conference took place on the campus of the Adventist University of Africa in Nairobi. More than 200 people registered, many of them medical students who attend secular schools and came with friends.
The 2022 event included times for testimonies. Several Adventist health care practitioners shared how they combine their personal faith in their daily practice. The conference also included workshops on topics of interest for future trainers, such as workshops on burnout and free cooking demonstrations.
“Many people suffer from Western diseases such as diabetes,” AMEN members who attended the Kenya conference said. “There is a wide range of opportunities as we try to apply healthy living principles to the local context.”
Husband and wife Adventist health care providers Dawit Adugna and Gohalem Felema grew up in Ethiopia before coming to study, live, and work in the U.S. Now, they are the driving force behind the organization of recent mission trips and health initiatives across that African country.
In 2022, in three weeks and in three different venues, teams of Adventist physicians and others provided free health care to more than 15,000 people in Ethiopia, organizers reported. Health-care clinics were combined with evangelism initiatives. At the end of the three weeks, in the capital Addis Ababa alone, 317 people were baptized.
All these efforts demanded a coordinated effort of local workers even before the foreign missionaries arrived. “Health expos started four months before the main event,” Felema said. “It was the most effective way of reaching others. When the time for the evangelistic meetings arrived, people were ready to attend. At the same time, the church was galvanized, they were on fire when we were there.”
Now, Adugna and Felema think that the greatest need across the country is to train Adventist professionals, so they can train and equip others. It is the reason they are requesting AMEN’s help. “AMEN would be the best fit to supply what Adventist health care providers in Ethiopia need,” they said.
Additional AMEN meetings are being planned in Europe, Australia, and other places.