It is the worst of times, it is the best of times. Quo Vadis (Where are you going). This paraphrase of Charles Dickens’s famous novel is a solemn description of the COVID-19 pandemic era. This public health crisis has overshadowed but not replaced the mental health, loneliness and non-communicable disease pandemics that were brewing long before the SARS-Cov-2 virus was known. The vital importance of adequate health and healthcare to our global society and therefore to the Adventist ministry has been laid bare.
Underlying health status has emerged as the issue around which the severity and lethality of COVID-19 revolves. The world leaders sat on potential solutions before the problems were known and affirmed that healthful living is helpful living. Health behavior, the main focus of health ministry currently, accounts for less than 50% of the actual determinants of health; so, should we additionally address social determinants squarely as risk-reducing strategies?
COVID-19 has disrupted facilities-based healthcare, uncovered the usefulness of digital, social media, and communication technology to all things health: from information-promotion to delivery (except for places challenged by resources or access). The post-COVID landscape includes telehealth, and the home and “trusted” community settings are emerging as optimal sites for health care. Artificial intelligence, point-of-care diagnostics, and wearable biometric monitoring are decentralizing care delivery. Should health ministry of tomorrow not intensely invest, embrace and innovate in the digital space for in-reach and outreach?
Eschatologically, peace and safety will be just façades. Worldwide catastrophes involving the earth, heavens and the seas; microscopic and macroscopic pestilences; human-inflicted and environmental aberrations are on the prophetic horizon. Surely health ministry at every organizational level plays a part in building awareness and resilience in preparation for the final onslaught. Could not Health Ministries actually be effective agents in preparing people inside and outside the church for upcoming catastrophes, and serve them when the only work along ministerial lines is “medical missionary work?”
Prayer, preparation informed by study and inspiration, power from on high, and perseverance despite the odds are needed if we are to prosper in fulfilling our divine purpose. Let us not grow weary in doing good and doing well better, by God’s grace!