By Gladys P. Mangidoyos*
Talking about health and wholeness is essential. Doing something about it is even more important, United Methodists meeting in Manila, Philippines, learned recently.
Gathering July 3-4 for the Pan-Asian Abundant Health Forum, laity and clergy participated in Hulapalooza, a joyful celebration of healthy living centered on a hula-hoop theme. This event officially launched the Abundant Health initiative in Asia and sought to explore how The United Methodist Church and its partners on this continent can engage in health ministries that transform their communities. After watching a demonstration of the skill, participants had fun hula-hooping and designing their own hoops at a hoop-making station.
John Wesley was a strong proponent of preventive care and healthy living, so Methodism has a long history of engaging in ministry that supports mind, body and spirit.
“Spiritual, physical and emotional health is in our DNA,” said Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries’ general secretary in his opening remarks to more than 59 people from 10 countries including Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and the United States. Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco of the Manila Episcopal Area welcomed participants.
Medical practitioners, health workers and clergy and laity focused on current health ministries, health needs and challenges, networking and partnerships.
“Why is a church involved in health?” asked Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director of Global Ministries’ Global Health unit. “We believe health is a mission of God. … How can we engage in a transformative mission if we are not healthy?”
Promoting abundant health for all, Ige said, is a missional focus. “Abundant health,” she said, “is vibrant mental health to live a quality life, bountiful physical and spiritual health. Hulapalooza will get us moving, laughing and coming together, all in line with our emphasis on mind, body, spirit.
Dr. Glenn Roy Paraso, executive director of the Mary Johnston Hospital, said Hulapalooza will be the hospital’s communications and dissemination mechanism for its programs.
“It will be either stand-alone or simultaneously in annual conferences and districts in upcoming meetings and special events,” he said. “It will launch different health initiatives and be an ‘invite’ mechanism.”
‘Jesus … our hope and life’
In his opening homily, the Rev. Nezer A. Soriano inspired participants with his words on healing and restoration.
“Wouldn’t that be nice,” he asked “if all those who are sick, lonely, hopeless, imprisoned, living in the dark will find a life of abundance in Jesus?
“Any place of healing and restoration should be a place of hope and life,” he continued. “Jesus is our hope and life. Christians should … reflect the hope and the life that comes from Christ. When we minister to the sick and the dying, are we just able to address their physical ailments without restoring their mental, spiritual health? We provide holistic healing of the mind, body and spirit just like Jesus did.”
Katherine Parker, a Global Ministries missionary from the health team of the United Mission to Nepal, said, “I really appreciate this emphasis on the Abundant Health initiative that seeks to engage and celebrate unique local health ministries as we work in a connected global network for abundant health for all.
“Our vision at the United Mission to Nepal,” she added, “is ‘fullness of life for all in a transformed Nepali society’ which closely matches The United Methodist Church mission to make disciples (of Jesus Christ) for the transformation of the world.”
Parker said the health priorities in Nepal relate to major childhood illnesses and safe motherhood. She noted it is helpful to hear, especially from friends in the Philippines, about the important outreach ministries of the church as the country has moved from a least-developed nation to a middle-income nation.
“We are excited to continue to be a partner with Global Health on maternal, neonatal and child health,” she said. “We will take home some specific interventions modeled in other contexts that we can add to how we are working with the population, especially around integration of various nutritional components.” In addition to child and maternal health, Global Health provides funding for the UMN project, the Mary Johnston HIV project and China’s HIV project.
Dr. Naomi Equila, Paraso and Soriano shared the country’s current health status along with ministries and initiatives in the Philippines.
“HIV and AIDS incidence is increasing at a furious rate,” said Equila. “These should jolt the church from complacency and apathy.”
Networking for abundant health
Paraso said the Manila area health board will look at three priorities:
- Institutionalizing a health-maintenance program for physical health with ministers and families as primary spiritual health warriors;
- Tackling HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in communities with the United Methodist churches as intervention partners, advocates and counselors; and
- Tackling substance abuse in communities through family counseling and support.
Nancy Caluya-Nicolas, executive director of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, expressed confidence in Hulapalooza. “Hula-hoop,” she recalled, “(was) a popular children’s game during my childhood. It’s a matter of reintroducing it at this time of the young people’s obsession with gadgets. It can be enjoyed by all, and it is a fun exercise for the family and the church community.”
Hearing inspiring stories of health programs from different countries, she said, reinforced her belief that “success can be reached through perseverance and faith in what we do. At KKFI, we work with the poor in communities by providing education, nutrition, traditional healing and spiritual nurture. Through the inputs, I have realized room for improvement in what we are doing today.”
Paraso commented that hosting the forum has “put us on the map of health initiatives and action plans, not only for the conference, but also for the regional Methodist-affiliated countries with health programs.
“The impact of the network on abundant health shows a greater consolidation of health efforts in the region, which is an expression of the ‘UMC Body, Mind, Spirit’ approach of Global Ministries, holistic health translating to holistic salvation and abundant life for all.”
Poonam Patodia, chief marketing officer for United Methodist Communications, challenged church leaders to educate congregations that health and wholeness are spiritual concerns, and Ige called on participants to “secure the next generation with health intervention.”
Abundant Health is a global initiative of The United Methodist Church through Global Ministries in partnership with United Methodist Communications. Churches are encouraged to use Hulapalooza to celebrate current health programs or to start new ones centered on the passions of the congregation. (http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/hulapalooza-celebrates-abundant-health-around-the-world)
*Mangiduyos is a correspondent for United Methodist News Service.