Culture 2 Go

Holy healing
The Adventists
10 p.m. Friday, April 9

With a clear view from I-4, locals and travelers are familiar with the towering constructions rising into the skies at Florida Hospital Orlando. From Mills Avenue, near Loch Haven Park, the buildings loom large over picturesque Lake Estelle. When it comes to healthcare, Florida Hospital, now with seven area campuses, is a big fish in Central Florida's healthcare pond.

What filmmaker Martin Doblmeier explains about the hospital's founding faith in his documentary The Adventists enlarges the scope of the perspective: Florida Hospital and other operations helmed by the Seventh-day Adventists around the country are a huge fish in the global healthcare pond. Among the many statistics espoused in the film, we learn that Florida Hospital's Cardiovascular Institute in Orlando, alone, greets more heart patients daily than any other medical facility in the world.

Other superlatives proffered throughout the film are as impressive as the jaw-dropping spread of food in Florida Hospital's popular cafeterias. Florida Hospital is, after all, the flagship of the parent Adventist Health System, which emphasizes health and diet as a means of fulfilling its mission "to extend the healing ministry of Christ to every patient."

To understand modern-day Seventh-day Adventists and their mission — so few people really do, even employees and patients — Doblmeier takes us back to the Great Disappointment on Oct. 22, 1844, when the world did not end as prophesied by the Christian Millerites movement, though believers rallied with new interpretations of the second coming of Jesus. Eventually a young acolyte named Ellen White, prone to periods of unconsciousness — possibly from an injury she received when she was hit in the head with a stone as a child — began to awake from her knockouts full of messages from God, which were transcribed.

White's heavenly visitations left her with a practical vision of how faith and healing were intertwined, and she was instrumental in developing ministrations relative to diet, exercise and prayer. It's at the health institute in Battle Creek, Mich., where the famous John Kellogg met White and her husband around the turn of the century. They funded his medical schooling so he could become, at age 24, the superintendent of the facility. After years of success — the health spa was enjoyed by the wealthy and famous — the Adventists and Kellogg parted over the boundaries of church control in medical science.

Coming back to the present, the filmmaker incorporates snippets of interviews with patients, practitioners and administrators who attest to the measurable success of treating the ill with science as well as Christ-like compassion. Particularly compelling is author and adventurer Dan Buettner, who explains how research for his 2008 book, The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest, led him to Loma Linda, Calif., the only U.S. location in his findings. The community is home to the Adventists' Loma Linda University and is populated by many practicing Seventh-day Adventists; they don't smoke, they eat more plant life than meat and exercise regularly, as well as commune with like-minded souls. The lifestyle has proven to add 8 to 10 years of life, compared to the average American.

The Adventists, which has already been released on DVD, strategically airs during National Public Health Week (April 5-11) on select PBS stations around the country, and no rebroadcasts are confirmed at this time. The spotlight on Florida Hospital in the film is particularly interesting for locals to watch in light of the healthcare crisis. Also, on a community level, The Adventists educates about the roots, function and future of the Florida Hospital medical facilities in Orlando.

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