By now, we are probably familiar with the quote from the book Ministry of Healing by Ellen G. White, where we read that “Christ’s method alone will give success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with them as one who desired their good” (1). Another similar passage in a different book says that to reach people where they are, “we must do something out of the common course of things” (2). Seven churches in the South-East of England have come together to follow that advice and to apply the method of Jesus in reaching out to those who would not engage with us on our church premises.
Since 1923, with only a few exceptions, thousands of people have come every year to Detling, near Maidstone, to attend the Kent County Show. This year, the organisers expected 70,000 to 80,000 people to attend over the three days of the show – the 8th to the 10th of July. Given that, the Seventh-day Adventist churches in Ashford, Canterbury, Chatham, Folkestone, Margate, Maidstone and Riverway have decided earlier this year to come together to offer the public our signature free health checks and increase the visibility of the Seventh-day Adventist church and our programmes. During the planning process, we aimed to make a significant impact and hire a larger pitch than we initially thought. After many planning meetings, appeals for volunteers, and negotiations with different entities, we were finally ready to set up on the 7th of July and start offering our ministry of healing to the members of the public on the 8th of July.
Among almost 400 other exhibitors, the 12m x 9m pitch allowed us to offer free water bottles for people on what was a sweltering weekend, to provide height, weight, waist and BMI measurements, a science-based NEWSTART test that evaluates a person’s risk of developing a lifestyle-related disease (3), blood pressure checks, testing for glucose and total cholesterol levels, evaluations for lungs health through peak flow and carbon monoxide tests, professional advice from healthcare professionals based on the results recorded at the previous stations, discussions about spirituality and faith, counselling through the representatives of the SEC’s Cornerstone Counselling Service, children activities, massage, and even books were sold through the stalls of Stanborough Press. Sabbath was also enriched by the attendance of the Chatham Pathfinders’ Drum Corp, who performed for the public every 30min and drew large crowds, including a person who wanted them to attend an event she is organising later in the year.
The feedback from those who engaged with us over the three days was excellent. Everyone was very grateful for what we did, asked questions about who we are and why we are doing this, accepted books and leaflets and even left their details for more information about future programmes. Our health advice, faith station, counselling area and massage chair were particularly busy with people opening and interacting with the volunteers as if they’ve known us for a long time. Our tens of volunteers who interacted with people at different stations shared many stories, and we are truly grateful for what we were able to see and do. This was a refreshing experience for us as it was a blessing for the public.
Special thanks go to the volunteers from the seven churches or groups who made this possible, to the Chatham Pathfinders’ Drum Corps, and to the different entities that provided support in various ways: the Area 4 Lay Advisory, the South England Conference, Cornerstone Counselling, the British Union Conference Personal Ministry and Health departments, the Adventist Discovery Centre, ADRA UK, and the Stanborough Press.
(1) Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, p.143
(2) Ellen G. White, Evangelism, pp.122-123