INTERVIEW: CARLOS ALBERTO HEIN
Pastor Carlos is a fourth generation Adventist from Argentina. He is married to Graciela and has three children: Nancy, Billy, and Erwin. He worked with the missionary launch in the Amazon, Brazil, between 1980-1984, and he also directed the Northeast Argentina Mission for many years. At the present time, he is the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Director at the Austral Union, Argentina. Recently, he finished his doctorate in pastoral theology; the theme of his dissertation was "The Adventist Lifestyle." This is what he talks about with the readers of Elder's Digest.
Elder Digest (ED): What made you write about the Adventist lifestyle?
Carlos A. Hein (CAH): I had the privilege of working side by side with Graciela as a missionary with the Adventist Community Service Launches in the Amazon. There, I understood that we should teach the local people how to have a better quality of life. Years later, working as a pastor in the city of Rosario, Argentina, I accompanied two physicians from the National University of Rosario, who were doing comparative research between the health of the Adventists and non-Adventists in that city. Unfortunately, the research could not be done. It was verified that although there were seven Adventist churches, only three members followed a lifestyle different from the rest of the population. This fact bothered me a lot, and I decided to do something about it, so that my church could have a better lifestyle.
ED: What is your definition of lifestyle?
CAH: Lifestyle is an ensemble of habits that an individual puts into practice in his/her daily life, in such a way that it may cause the preservation of his/her health or for the cure of diseases.
ED: What is the lifestyle indicated by the Adventist Church?
CAH: Since the nineteenth century, Adventists, encouraged by Ellen White, have as an orientation the eight natural remedies: pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, and trust in divine power.
ED: What are the main causes of death in the world?
CAH: First of all, heart disease, followed by cancer, obesity, and diabetes. One third of deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases. Each year, nearly ten million people in the world develop some kind of cancer, and approximately six million die. For the year 2020, fifteen million new cases of cancer are foreseen. Since 1980, the number of obese adults has doubled. Today, eighteen million Americans suffer from diabetes.
ED: What are the main causes of these diseases?
CAH: Genetic predisposition, age, race, and family history. These causes are reinforced by the lifestyle, particularly by physical inactivity, sedentarism, poor diet, overweight, smoking, and alcohol.
ED: Do Adventists practice a healthy lifestyle?
CAH: In 2000, Dr. Allan Handysides, director of the Health Department of the General Conference, fostered a study with 3,500 Adventists who attended the General Conference Session in Toronto, Canada, among which fifteen percent were from South America. Analyzing the results, Dr. Handysides observed that church members are not practicing adequate physical exercise and are not eating enough portions of fruits and vegetables. He concluded that "Adventists should practice more what they preach."
ED: Talk about the life expectancy of Adventists compared to non-Adventists.
CAH: From 1945 until July 1994, 236 studies and scientific researches were done in relation to the lifestyle of the Seventh-day Adventists in countries like the United States, Canada, Poland, Netherlands, Norway, and Spain. Life expectancy has always been higher among Adventists than non-Adventists. Observe the following figures:
ED: Does the sun influence our disposition?
CAH: It improves our disposition and produces the sensation of well-being. People who suffer deep and chronic depression should take every opportunity available to get sunlight. Psychologically, sunlight strengthens the character, stimulates the production of endorphins that cause the sensation of well-being and neuromuscular relaxation. It has been proven that during the winter, when there are entire days when the sun doesn't come out, the occurrence of nervous depression increases. On the other hand, sunlight relieves the pain of inflamed bone articulations.
ED: Give us your opinion about rest.
CAH: The reposition of physical and psychological energies spent during the day's activities can only be obtained through rest. There is no drug or procedure that may substitute this disconnection of the conscience with the exterior environment, during which the nervous cells recover their functional capacity and develop physical and psychic vigor to the individual. The organism has been designed in such a way that it cannot function without adequate periods of rest. To keep an excellent level of health, it is necessary to balance activity with rest. This is the only way to restore body and mind. Infections like pneumonia, flu, or the common cold respond positively to rest. Rest reanimates the body's defenses and allows it to dominate the infections. It also helps to cure wounds and traumas like fractures and luxations.
ED: Is physical exercise really indispensible ?
CAH: The human body is a machine designed for movement. Contrary to what happens with any machine built by men, inactivity wears the body out. Studies show that inactivity exerts a higher risk of mortality than some diseases widely feared, like diabetes, heart disease, and smoking. A person with normal weight who does not exercise has the same possibility of life expectancy as an overweight person who does exercise.
ED: Is it possible to change eating habits?
CAH: Eating is a voluntary and conscious process, and therefore, teachable. It depends on a free decision by the individual. Exchanging bad habits for healthier ones requires profound conviction. The ideal diet recommended by most health organizations is low in calories, high in fibers, and characterized by the regular consumption of vegetables, fruits, and cereals.
ED: What are the principles of a healthy diet?
CAH: They are simple: eat regular meals, use whole foods, and avoid empty calories, fried foods, and fats. Obey the laws of a good diet as far as quantity, quality, balance, and suitability. Avoid the use of meat and excessive sugar. Eat a nutritious breakfast in the morning and a light meal at night.
ED: Is it really important to use water?
CAH: All chemical and electrical reactions of the body are produced in a liquid environment. Water is used each time something is swallowed, a box is lifted, the back is scratched, a tennis racquet is moved, or a letter is written. Water makes the muscles, tendons, cartilages, and bones more flexible. Besides that, water as a purifying agent does more than wash away sweat and perspiration: it stimulates the circulation, which clears the mind; helps the digestion process; and makes white blood cells circulate as a means of defense against microorganisms, thus increasing resistance against diseases.
ED: How does trusting in God's power bring therapeutic effects?
CAH: Trust in God provides something more than the mere fundament of a philosophy. It is a structure for the entire life, including a recipe for physical health. Studies of scientific validity confirm that prayer and faith in Cod are good practices for a faster healing of the sick.
ED: What are the aspects that worried you the most as you studied this subject?
CAH: Basically, two things: the first is the myth that temperance is not eating meat, ignoring the value of the balanced use of the eight natural remedies; and the second, which I also consider a cause, is to speak so little about the Adventist lifestyle. Forty-seven percent of the people interviewed in the research mentioned that leaders preach, at most, one sermon a year about health, and there is almost no stimulus or promotion in their churches to follow healthy lifestyle principles.
ED: Why do you believe this subject is so important?
CAH: If Adventists live the lifestyle proposed by God, the efficiency of the pastors will be doubled and the work of the lay members will be multiplied 100 times. As a result, the work for this time will be concluded more rapidly. Therefore, we not only should teach the people the doctrines, but we should also help them to have a better quality of life.