New John Wesley Health Center, Model Mission


By Jasmine Haynes, Web and Social Media Specialist


According to the 2012 America's Health Rankings, Mississippi holds last place for the healthiest states in America, but the Ribbon Cuttingmembers of John Wesley United Methodist Church in Durant decided to take action at 'ground zero' of the state's health epidemic. Representatives from the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), local and state government and the surrounding community gathered to celebrate the unveiling of John Wesley UMC's Health Education Center (HEC) headquarters with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Friday, July 26.


Organizer of the Greenwood District UMC Health Alliance and

Abraham and Bishop
Rev. Cynthia Abrams and Rev. Dr. Detra Bishop at HEC Ribbon Cutting Program.
senior pastor at John Wesley and Walden Chapel UMCs, Rev. Dr. Detra Bishop spearheaded the project. She partnered with many local and national groups a little over a year ago to create what is now the HEC. "I envision the HEC being a nation-wide, grassroots initiative whereby the congregation and the community can work together to take command of their own health," said Bishop. "Obesity being such a nation-wide problem, we are hoping that pastors and community leaders throughout the country will collectively aim to improve the health of the people they serve."


The John Wesley UMC HEC opens its doors to the community every Tuesday and Thursday and is available by appointment only on any other day. Those attending enjoy prayer, a brief Bible study, a nutrition discussion, snacks, exercise and a game centered on enhancing brain activity and Alzheimer's prevention. The HEC has an average attendance of 12 but the program has seen a total of nearly 500 participants since March 2013. Bishop explained that those who frequently come to the HEC are single and retired.


Durant native and John Wesley UMC member, Phelix Logan, now teaches school in Dallas, Texas but shared that he first realized what impact the HEC was having on his hometown when he called to check on his mother one day. "I asked my mom 'why are you so excited?' and she said 'well, they have this Health Education Center at the Church,'" commented Logan. "After it opened I would call her and she would say, 'it is Tuesday' or 'it is Thursday, I can't talk, I have to go!'"


This intrigued Logan who made a special trip home to see what was happening at the HEC. Shortly after, he decided to use his talents to aid HEC facilitators in their grant writing efforts to maintain funding for the center.


Currently the HEC is funded by a partnership with the John 10:10 Challenge, a campaign launched by the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. The purpose of the challenge is to build a faithful movement for health care justice by engaging a national network of John 10:10 teams. The teams will promote, preserve and implement affordable health care for all people on local, state and federal levels.


Rev. Cynthia Abrams, the director of GBCS's Alcohol, Other Addictions and Health Care, has worked with the Greenwood District UMC Health Alliance John 10:10 team from its inception. Abrams traveled from Washington, D.C. to take part in celebrating the momentous occasion. "When we trained them last year, we never imagined how great the possibilities would be and how God would work His vision through this church so it is very exciting to watch it transform this community," explained Abrams. "I truly believe the team can turn around this ranking of Mississippi as the state with the poorest health into a state that can be a model for other states, especially if United Methodists get behind it."


There are several churches in the Greenwood District and in Georgia preparing to organize health education centers modeled after the Greenwood District Health Alliance. Abrams and Bishop are working on plans to share their training with others in hopes of creating more HECs across the state and the country.