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Faces in the Crowd
They come from all over Europe, and they all come with a story. (Posted May1, 2013)
CLUB MAN: Bohumil Kern, Health Ministries director for the Czechoslovakia Union, helped develop “health clubs” throughout the Czech Republic and Slovakia. “They’re not just exercise clubs,” he says, “they’re about disease prevention.” [PHOTOS: S. Chavez]
he European Health Conference (EHC) now underway in Prague is the perfect place to experience the Adventist Church in all its diversity. Participants at the conference all believe that healthful living is an essential part of what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. But there are almost as many ways to demonstrate the message as there are participants to the conference.

Bohomil Kern is Health Ministries director of the Czechoslovakia Union. He’s honored that Prague was chosen as the site of this first all-European health conference, and he attributes this honor to the role Prague has traditionally played as a gateway between eastern and western Europe.

Kern describes a ministry model that has for many years now served to break down barriers and make friends in communities the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They’re called “health clubs,” and they are neutral venues where people can come to stop smoking, learn to cook more healthfully, reduce the health risks associated with obesity, discover how to come to terms with their addictions, and receive counseling for depression.

The concept has been so successful that it’s been exported to many countries in Eastern Europe. In the Czechoslovakia Union alone more than 260 teachers in nearly 90 health clubs “teach secular people about the Adventist lifestyle.” The clubs meet in community centers, schools, civic buildings, and church social halls.

EARLY TRAINING: Fourteen year-old Flynn Bosch from Coimbra, Portugal, visits neighbors and helps with health expos as part of his healing ministry to his community. 
In a partnership with Loma Linda University, teachers in these health clubs twice a year receive intensive training in specialties such as nutrition, physical therapy, addictions, and counseling.

These health clubs are augmented by “Reconditioning Camp Meetings,” where small groups of people spend up to seven days in a natural setting. The daily schedule includes outdoor activities appropriate to both summer and winter, and features lectures about health and wellness. The evening program includes lectures with a spiritual component. Kern, who pastors three churches in addition to his role at the Czechoslovakia Union, says that many of those who join the church have had contact with one of these health clubs at one time or another.

Flynn Bosch, 14, is attending the conference with his mother, Edith, from Coimbra, Portugal. What does a 14 year-old want out of a conference that features such topics as “Biblical Views on Disease and Healing” and “Hope, Healing, and Diversity”?

“I’m interested in all kinds of health and disease,” he says. Not surprisingly, he’s considering a career as a medical doctor. His mother says that one of his favorite books is about anatomy and physiology.

PRAYER PARTNER: Carol Squier, attending the conference from Berrien Springs, Michigan, is a walking testimony of the power of prayer to heal both physically and spiritually.
In his local community Bosch is active in his church’s health ministry outreach. At Health Expos he and others take blood pressure, help measure body mass, take blood samples to be screened for diabetes and cholesterol. What does he consider the most important thing to share with others regarding the Adventist health message? The eight natural remedies: nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in divine power.

If you’ve ever been part of a prayer chain, perhaps you know the name Carol Squier. For years her prayer requests have been shared around our table at Adventist Review staff meetings. After hearing her introducing herself to someone at the conference, I was finally able to put a face to the name.

Squier, who lives in Berrien Springs, Michigan, is a sincere and devout believer in the power of prayer. Her experience with prayer over the last year perfectly reflects the purpose of the EHC to explore “perceptions, expectations, and facts; an exploration through science, faith, and culture.” She lost both her husband and son to cancer last year, but not before they both accepted Jesus as their Savior. They may have lost their battle to cancer, but they received something far more precious.

Squier, herself a cancer survivor, makes sure people who experience the trauma of that diagnosis don’t go through the struggle alone; not if she knows about them.

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