Interview

health ministry 

LRE:

Dr. Landless, when did you first develop an interest in medicine?

PNL: From my early childhood, my mother would always say to my

brother, “You’re going to be the doctor, and he will be the preacher.” So I was

going to be the pastor, and it was something I loved. I loved the church from

childhood. My mum would pray, “Lord, make him to be a missionary in the four

corners of the earth.” As time went on, and having read Ministry of Healing and Desire of Ages, I saw how

intricately and inextricably the gospel and healing are linked. Wherever Jesus

performed a healing miracle, mission came into it.

LRE: I

understand that you had a private practice for a number of years and completed

a number of specialties.

PNL: Yes. Our first appointment was in a church mission practice,

which was a private practice but which belonged to the church. We drew a

denominational salary out of the money earned and the balance went into church

work. We completed a family practice specialty and did family practice for 11

years. Later I did specialties in internal medicine, cardiology, and nuclear

cardiology. Internal medicine was part of the basic foundation in the medical

school where I took my training in South Africa.



Health is not a right. Health is a gift. Health is not earned. It may be preserved; it may be cared for; it may be nurtured, but it is not something that is an absolute right.

LRE:

What would cause you to leave an excellent medical practice and become a world

health educator?

PNL: It’s a question that many people ask. Within four years of our

first mission appointment, and shortly after medical school, I received a call

from the union, and they said, “The committee has voted to ordain you to the

gospel ministry.” This is something I didn’t expect. When one accepts that calling, it informs what you will do

in the rest of your life. When the call came through to join Dr. Allan

Handysides with health ministry at the General Conference, my initial response

was, “No.” I was at the peak of a wonderful medical career but my wife had been

praying, “Lord, give him focus.”

He showed us in no uncertain terms that coming here was His will.



LRE:

Why is it that you associate health ministries with stewardship?

PNL: Health is not a right. Health is a gift. Health is not earned. It

may be preserved; it may be cared for; it may be nurtured, but it is not

something that is an absolute right. It is natural to be concerned about our

own health. However, if we look at Ellen White’s visions of 1848 and 1863, it

doesn’t end there. The reason

health visions were given is so that we can be of service to others. The

revelations shown to her were not found to be palatable to her at first. She

found them difficult to implement but she personally took the instruction

seriously.

We often think that

this issue of health is for ourselves. The gift of health has really been given

for us to serve God. We are

stewards of that gift—a gift to be shared with the community. Psalm 139 reminds us that we are

fearfully and wonderfully made. Paul refers to this as the body temple. When

God spoke to the children of Israel, He gave them health instructions.

Interestingly, those biblical health instructions are still being validated

today. In the ministry of Jesus,

we see that He not only rebukes and encourages, but we also see a huge amount

of time devoted to healing. And that’s what we’ve been called to do. We have been created for His glory; we

have been created to reveal Him; and by definition, if we are Christians, we

are created to be conduits of His grace to a broken world.



When you get a new car, you get a technical instrument. We’d be wise to look at the instructions on how to use it and get the maximum, the best 'bang for the buck,' out of it, by following those instructions.

LRE:

Do we complicate spirituality by giving an emphasis to health principles?

PNL: We can. But God didn’t intend that to be the case. You will

recall that Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the

Pharisees, your right-doing…” They returned tithe to the very ounces of herbs,

and so on, and they prayed on the street corners. Yes, we can make it

complicated. However, that’s not the focus of a heart relationship with Jesus.

We can make the focus vegetarianism, for example, instead of realizing that God

has given us a recipe, as it were, a modus operandi. When you get a new car,

you get a technical instrument. We’d be wise to look at the instructions on how

to use it and get the maximum, the

best 'bang for the buck,' out of it, by following those instructions.



LRE:

Since you mentioned vegetarianism, “Is the church’s emphasis on the vegetarian

diet something of the past? Is it something we should minimize?”

PNL: Not at all. The church’s emphasis on the vegetarian diet should

be seen as a component of the health message. But by itself it’s not the health

message. Jesus Himself said, “It’s

not what goes into the body, it’s what comes out.” So we need to realize that

spirituality is related to how we practice health. The advantages of being a

vegetarian have been proven and become quite accepted in the scientific world,

but that hasn’t always been the case. Dr. Mervyn Harding, when he was trying to

get a paper published 40 or 50 years ago on this subject, had it refused by one

of the top medical journals in the world.

They said, “Vegetarianism will never be a feature in any scientific

journal.” Such is not the case anymore.

LRE:

Why the confusion about this in the church?

PNL: Unfortunately some within the church say, “It’s a list of do’s and

don’ts and so on.” But it was never intended to be a list of works. Jesus said,

“I am come that you might have life, and have it to the full.” It’s not only

about being vegetarian. It’s resting adequately. It’s having positive relationships. It’s about being

temperate in the amount of work or travel, the amount of water we drink, our

social connectedness. These are all crucial components of the health message in

the context of our relationship with Jesus.



It gives us energy, it improves our ability to discern, to understand truth, to relate, to do all these things. All of these are crucially important, but they need to be kept within the perspective of our walk with Jesus.

LRE:

Are you saying that it’s not important what we eat.

PNL: No. We’re expected to be stewards of what He has given to us. Our

health message was given to make a church happy, healthy and holy. That is why

it was given. The health advantages of the church teachings were noted by Time magazine, by National Geographic and CNN and, of

course, the scientific study on Adventists and their health has caught the

attention of many. While the world talks about it, we sadly don’t apply it very

consistently. The message was given not only to fit us for service. It assists us in having a close

relationship with Him as well. It gives us energy, it improves our ability to

discern, to understand truth, to relate, to do all these things. All of these

are crucially important, but they need to be kept within the perspective of our

walk with Jesus.



LRE:

From our earlier conversation I know that you believe we must not limit health

to diet alone.

PNL: Absolutely. Emotions, for example, are hugely important. There is

more to promoting mental health to a depressed individual than simply saying,

“Ah, pray more, do more exercise, eat more healthfully.” Chemical imbalances

are something that are real. They’re not fantasies or people’s imagination. It

is true, however, that a healthful diet, exercise, adequate sleep, trust in

God, water, optimism, sunshine—all play a role in how we feel and in our

emotions. Soon you’ll see in the mission book coming up in 2015, that there’s a

strong emphasis on mental and emotional well-being. It does affect our health.



LRE: What is the greatest challenge facing the church regarding our stewardship of

"God’s temple?"

PNL: I would love to see the church fully embrace this grace-filled

ministry. I’d love them to see that this is not a list of do’s and don’ts. I’d

love to let them see that we're not shackling ourselves by embracing the health

message. We're being liberated! It’s being fitted for service, it’s being

energized for living. We’ve been

given all the building blocks, as a gift. We’ve been told about it—the

nutrition, the exercise, the water, the sunshine, the trust in God, the air,

the rest, temperance. We’re encouraged to be optimistic. We’re encouraged to

make wise choices. We should look after, and be stewards of our environment,

and then we need to have social support. So what would I love to see for the

church? I’d love to see the church embracing this as the optimal gift that God

has given to us, not as a restrictive box that we’re being forced into, and, rather, hearing Him say, “If you

love Me, keep My commandments.” Then we shall experience a grace-filled and

joyful life, even in our brokeness.



Dr. Peter Landless, (PNL),

is interviewed by Larry

Evans (LRE).

Peter Landless M.B.,B.Ch.,

M.Fam.Med., MFGP(SA),FCP(SA), FACC, FASNC, is a medical doctor who trained in

South Africa, the country of his birth. During his first term of mission

service, he completed a specialty in Family Medicine. In this same period he

was ordained as a minister of the gospel. He subsequently specialized in

internal medicine and then cardiology. Throughout this time he worked in

mission outreach and pastoral work and also pursued an academic career in

medicine (clinical work, teaching and research). Since 2001 he has served the

global Seventh-day Adventist Church as an associate director of the department

of Health Ministries. From October 2013, he was elected to serve as the

Director of the Health Ministries department. He is also the executive director

of the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug

Dependency (ICPA), a non-governmental organization with a United Nations

Charter.

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