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Relationships Are Key

We interviewed Pamela Williams, a working mom and church member in Southern California, about how she is able to use her professional skills in ministry ways.

Editor – Pam, you are passionate about helping people improve the quality of their lives, especially in the area of health and better nutrition. We want to hear more about that, but first please tell us about your background and what prompted you to become a dietitian.

Williams – My parents introduced me to a healthy lifestyle. My Mom studied nutrition and taught us about good health. Back then, she arranged our meals around fresh vegetables that she purchased at the local farmer’s market. She baked her own whole grain bread, made mayonnaise in the blender and even created soy milk from scratch. Back then, my brothers and I thought we were the only ones on the planet who ate dark brown bread and drank milk that actually tasted like soy beans.

My Dad jumped rope regularly to stay healthy. Even in his last years, he kept jumping and stretching to stay healthy. My Mom was also physically active. She would get up about 4:30 in the morning and go through her ritual of stretching, strength training and sometimes spent a half hour with a TV exercise instructor. She encouraged us to be physically active too. For example, even though we had bus passes to take the train, she insisted that we walk to school on warmer days. It was five long miles and we begrudgingly dragged ourselves through the streets of New York City.

Because of their example and diligence, I established a healthy lifestyle and chose to study nutrition. I thought what better way to contribute to society than to encourage others to live healthy lifestyles just as my parents showed me.

Editor – What do you do as a dietitian? What does your current job entail?

Williams – My overall job as a dietitian is to help create pathways for people to eat healthy. Today, there are so many food choices that make healthy eating tricky and difficult. My quest is to work with people to show them how they can minimize their chances of having a chronic disease. I accomplish this through presenting and teaching almost anyone who will listen. I also write for all audiences so I can encourage them to choose the healthy way of living.

I have three main objectives for my current job. First, I want to encourage and motivate individuals to eat more fruits and vegetables. These foods supply us with vitamins, minerals and other ingredients that help us fight chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Without these foods in our diets, we miss opportunities to improve our health. Second, I want to connect eating choices to healthy outcomes. Oftentimes, we eat according to how we feel. We yearn for a slice of pizza or we need some ice cream to satisfy that ice cream desire. I create opportunities for people to see that the culmination of these choices can impact disease outcomes and our weight. And lastly, I want to empower people with the tools to make choices. Sometimes, healthy choices can play a simple and small role but deliver a huge impact on overall health. Having tools to create this impact is a must for good health.

Editor – Interesting! Do you have any ideas for churches regarding what they can do for health outreach?

Williams – I think that outreach is done by building relationships. In order to build relationships, we must learn the community around our churches.

For example, do they speak the same language that the members of the church speak? What is the community’s perception of the church and how do the church members relate to the people in the community? What would it take to build a bridge between the two groups? What are the health needs of the community? Once information is gathered concerning the church and the community, then the plan for out reach can begin.

Sometimes, a good place to start might be holding a community health fair. This may mean that health professionals in the church can come together and provide a health fair. Establishing a walking club within the community is another way to build relationships with them. Cooking classes or nutrition classes that are held at a convenient time for the community members can also be effective.Working with local schools, community centers, and community leaders to meet their health needs is important to be successful.

The bottom line is to build relationships, and within those relationships the church can discover the needs of the community. Once relationships have been established and church members have established trust within the community, then the real work can begin. But until we have that kind of platform, it is difficult to reach the community with a health message.

Editor – I agree 100% with your comments about the importance of relationships. This is the biggest challenge we as individual members face today. How many of us know our neighbors, or have friends outside of the church? I’m not referring to making friends with people for the sake of trying to convert them. I’m talking about what Ellen White referred to as “disinterested benevolence,” where our friendships and deeds of kindness are prompted by love and manifested without any strings attached. We simply love others because they are human beings who are in need, or who are open to being friends with us.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and passion for ministry with us!

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference

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