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SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, 2007
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Kenneth Dennison of Capshaw has his blood pressure taken by Laurel Jones during a health expo Sunday at Seventh-day Adventist Church on Beltline Road Southwest. 'We like to see people live well and be healthy,' said Jones, a registered nurse and fair organizer.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Kenneth Dennison of Capshaw has his blood pressure taken by Laurel Jones during a health expo Sunday at Seventh-day Adventist Church on Beltline Road Southwest. "We like to see people live well and be healthy," said Jones, a registered nurse and fair organizer.

Fair-thee-well
Seventh-day Adventist and other churches offer health fairs, screenings

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

In a church fellowship hall on Sunday afternoon, people were getting blood pressure checks, climbing up and down steps in timed sessions and sampling vegetarian dishes like pecan "meatballs."

Decatur Seventh-day Adventist Church's Health and Wellness Expo drew participants from Decatur, Athens and other cities.

"We like to see people live well and be healthy," said Laurel Jones, a registered nurse and fair organizer.

In a society beset by increasing rates of diabetes, obesity and other ills, churches are more often preaching a health message. Two more Decatur churches are holding health fairs Saturday.

The station at the Seventh-day Adventist expo that left all visitors smiling featured two massage chairs. Occupants got back and neck massages from students at a school in Wildwood, Ga.

At another stop, a visitor could learn his or her "health age." Volunteers keyed blood pressure, pulse rate and other data into a computer program, which calculated whether health factors made a person seem older or younger than they are. One 64-year-old was happy to learn that healthwise, she was only 58.

The congregation and the Wildwood Lifestyle Center and School of Health Evangelism partnered for the fair at the church on Beltline Road Southwest.

Seventh-day Adventists always have had a health ministry outreach, believing that a healthy body and mind help the Holy Spirit work in a person, Jones said. The message is needed in today's fast-paced culture because too many people don't get enough rest and don't eat what is good for them, she said.

The church, which has a membership of 88 and attendance of about 55, sees its health fairs as a way to give to the community, said Tony Pitts, pastor. He said preventive medicine is important to Adventist Christians because Scriptures teach that believers' bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

'Moral obligation'

Colorful room dividers provided by Wildwood touted the benefits of a good diet, exercise, rest, religious commitment and other lifestyle responsibilities.

Helping people physically first and then spiritually was the way Jesus worked, said James Hartley, Wildwood's director. He said it's a moral obligation for people to take care of their bodies. He gave 1 Corinthians' instruction to "glorify God in your body and in your spirit" as support for the belief.

Hephzibah Akunga of Kenya stopped to check out the expo while traveling from a convention. A graduate of the Wildwood school, she has established a health center in Nairobi. She said the center is going into the countryside to hold clinics and teach about disease prevention.

The Wildwood school trains lay people to do such ministry and mission work, Hartley said.

One Sunday participant, Kenneth Dennison of Capshaw, said he and his wife attended Decatur Seventh-day Adventist's health fair two years ago and followed up by going to Wildwood.

"It helped us improve our health," he said.

More interest

Other religious groups are recognizing the role they can play in helping members and others be healthier.

The United Methodist Church, for instance, is holding its third Congregational Health Ministries conference Sept. 23-27 in Wichita, Kan. Organizers said they draw inspiration from Methodism's founder, John Wesley, who advised people in his "Primitive Physick" to mind their health, a news release said.

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church is having a health fair with numerous free screenings Saturday. Planners said the idea is to help people in the community live healthier lives.

Greater Jubilee House of Prayer is also offering a free health fair Saturday. Member Charlotte Johnson said it's important for churches to help the "spiritual man and the whole man." Greater Jubilee's fair last year drew about 30 people, she said.

God's law

At the Seventh-day Adventist expo, Jones said she appreciates seeing positive results, especially because she works as a hospice nurse dealing with life's end. She said many people who make healthier choices can prevent or turn around diseases like diabetes.

Expo leaders did not describe poor health as evidence of sin. Hartley said that, according to Scripture, Jesus refused to characterize a man born blind or his family as sinful but as vessels for God's glory. Hartley said God does give natural laws, though, and "if we wrestle against them ... we reap what we sow."

Pitts said the church would follow up with those who asked for help, such as with weight loss.

Free church health fairs

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 1211 Westmeade St. S.W., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The fair will offer body composition analysis, glucose checks, stress tests, sleep disorder assessments, hearing screening and more. Also, Wesley's praise band will perform, and the church will have a barbecue chicken plate lunch as a fundraiser for the church's high school Peacemaker Awards.

Greater Jubilee House of Prayer, 2110 State Ave. S.W., 10 a.m. to noon. A family doctor and a chiropractor will be present, along with representatives of the American Diabetes Association of America and other health organizations. Resource providers include Hospice of the Valley and Bender's Gym. Call 308-9749.

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