Attending to God’s temple

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace reached the culmination of its “50 Days to a Healthier You” initiative this weekend as it held a 5K fun run Saturday and a community health fair Sunday.

Pastor Neil Bernard said that while churches are not the usual hosting agencies for health fairs, he saw the fit as a natural one.

“Our bodies are God’s temple,” he said. “We address it holistically. We want to be healthy, mind, soul and body.”

Bernard said in the weeks leading up to the two events, the church conducted workshops on health and healing, with topics that ranged from skin care and diet to stroke and heart disease.

“Each week we had a different emphasis,” he said.

Additionally, the Sunday sermons during the program coincided with the week’s health topic, according to Bernard.

Bernard said a number of factors played in the church’s decision to create the health initiative. One of those factors is Louisiana’s rank near the bottom in most health categories.

“We currently have an epidemic,” he said.

Another factor hit a little closer to home. Bernard said his brother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December. Then, eight weeks ago, in what Bernard attributes at least partially to divine intervention, his brother was declared cancer-free. Bernard said the incident made him think about the role the church plays in healing.

“As a pastor, my role is to deal with the spiritual man,” he said, adding, “Spiritual conditions can lead to poor health. We want to see people made whole and well.”

Dr. Stacy Greene, who is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases and is a member of the church, helped organize the fair. As a physician, Greene is well aware of the health problems that plague the local community. What’s more, he knows that many of these problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, can be controlled to an extent with lifestyle changes, but the key to that is education.

Another troubling statistic for Louisianians is the state’s high rate of sexually transmitted diseases. According to Greene, the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas have some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation, and Louisiana ranks first in syphilis cases, second on gonorrhea cases and third in chlamydia cases. With that in mind, the church not only tapped agencies to perform blood glucose tests and bone density tests, but it also recruited the NO/AIDS Task Force  to come out and do free HIV screenings.

Keeping an open mind and casting a wide net are two factors Greene wants to keep in place as the church moves into the future regarding its health initiatives.

“This is really just the beginning of what we’re doing and what we’re going to do,” said Greene, who noted that the church not only wants to make the run and health fair annual events but also wants to provide health programs for its congregation year round.

“We didn’t want to just have church as usual,” said Greene. “In order to do God’s work effectively, you have to keep your body healthy.”