Partners in Health and Wholeness (PHW), an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches, is designed to bridge issues of faith, health, and justice. We partner with faith communities to provide the necessary tools for healthy, whole, abundant living. Through these spotlights, we will be sharing an overview of the programs and initiatives of some of our partner congregations doing great work. For more information on how to join the Collaborative, visit healthandwholeness.org.
FAYETTEVILLE, NC — After working as a Registered Nurse since she was 17 years old, Alean Love has countless insights to share when it comes to health. Alean serves as the PHW health lead for Bethel Christian Assembly in Fayetteville, NC. Over the years, she has worked with her church family to promote healthy habits: “We started off years ago in our church with something we called the Nurses Guild. We sort of took care of somebody if they started feeling bad at church, or made sure the pastor was taken care of. It really didn’t require anything of us but maybe give them a glass of water, but you know, it helped. We started from there and then migrated to our Care in Hands Ministry.”
At Care in Hands Ministry, the focus is on total wholeness through nurturing the connection between physical, spiritual, and mental health. “We have all kinds of health classes and screenings. We talk about poor eating habits, hypertension, diabetes, and absence of physical activity…we have had the police department come in and talk with us about how to be safe in our homes and when we are out shopping; the fire department has come in and spoken with us; we have had lawyers come in and talk with us about how we need to have a medical power of attorney and general power of attorney. We have just really tried to meet the total needs.”
Thanks to the growth and success of Care in Hands Ministry, faith and health has become a priority at Bethel Christian Assembly: “Every four months on the morning of the fifth Sunday is when we do our teachings. It’s during regular service time, so everyone gets to participate.” Head Pastor Jerry Swinney and wife Lady Frances Swinney also openly discuss the changes they have made, like working out regularly, and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, to promote healthy habits and support the mission of Care in Hands Ministry. As a PHW partner, they received a mini-grant and chose to purchase fitness equipment to expand and grow their fitness and exercise program.
Alean discussed some of the programs they have implemented that not only promote healthy habits, but encourage members to have fun: “About fours years ago, we had what we called ‘The Family Challenge.’ We went in on Saturdays and took beginning weights and measurements, then at the end of the year, we took final weights and measurements, and gave every participant a summary of their progress. Through this, participants could see the impacts of the changes they made. We did it again a year later.” Through involving families, the program teaches the importance of practicing healthy habits at an early age. Alean highlighted the importance of this in another program implemented for the youth: “We assembled healthy boxes for the children with nutritious snacks in them. We used low sugar, low sodium, natural foods like bananas, oranges, apples, and other healthy snacks; we loaded these boxes with a lot of different things. Total, it only cost a little over $100! We wanted to show families that it doesn’t cost a lot to eat nutritiously.”
For some members of the congregation, the health ministry has been a truly transformative experience. Alean reflected on a youth member that was deeply inspired by one of their health education classes: “One young man always bought breakfast on the way to school, and then he would eat a hamburger or cheeseburger on the way home in the evening. We were doing some teachings during that time, and we taught the older children about diseases that run in the family. When this kid heard that–he was a senior in high school–he said ‘my mama has diabetes, my grandma has diabetes, and my sister has diabetes.’ He got to thinking about all of his family that were diabetic, and he said ‘I’m going to get my act together.’ His grandmother came and said that class has had such an impact on him.”
We are proud to partner with Bethel Christian Assembly in their efforts to promote health and wholeness in their community. Thank you to Alean and everyone at Bethel Christian Assembly for all of your hard work!