DISCIPLES HEALTH/SOCIAL SERVICE MINISTRIES, STORIES

To Heal and To Save

Rev. John Rich   |   April 25, 2016

The Sozo Health Ministry offers a holistic approach to health and wellness for individuals and the community in Evansville, Indiana. “Sozo” is a New Testament Greek verb that means both “to heal” and “to save.” The Health Ministry conducts weekly health screenings, provides non-emergency medical transportation (to doctors’ appointments, pharmacies, physician-ordered lab tests, etc.), advocates for individuals and families in the health care system, accompanies individuals to healthcare appointments, educates people about their health, conducts healing rituals, and provides individualized health and spiritual counseling from Rev. John Rich, a registered nurse who is also an ordained minister (the “Health Minister”).

The Health Ministry’s work exposes the limits of the healthcare that is available to impoverished people in the United States. Medications require extra levels of approval; specialists’ instructions are difficult to understand; clinics are located all across town; doctors’ orders are impossible to keep while living on the street. When individuals do not get the care they need, when they cannot get transportation to their clinics and pharmacies, when they are intimidated by the system, they live with their illnesses while their problems are compounded.

Sozo Health Ministry works to intervene on behalf of this underserved population. Here are a few stories to illustrate our work and the needs we meet.

One new client was recently released from incarceration and had a plethora of healthcare needs. We helped him establish care with a Primary Care Provider (PCP), transported him to his appointments, helped him fill his many new prescriptions, and advocated for him with the pharmacy and insurance company.

Another regular client is a homeless individual who uses our transportation and advocacy services regularly. His doctor ordered a particular kind of medical monitoring that was complicated by his living in a homeless shelter. The Health Ministry not only provided transportation, but also coordinated between the doctor’s office, monitoring center, and homeless shelter to ensure that the monitoring could be done effectively with the least disruption to the client or the shelter.

Our screenings on Monday mornings have been busy, too. Recently, we identified two individuals with dangerously high blood pressure and transported them to the ER. Who knows how long they were walking around with this condition that could have led to a heart attack, stroke, or other major health problem. We also had a client showing symptoms that were very concerning, so we transported him to the ER, where they admitted him to the hospital and got his condition under control in about 48 hours.

In addition to basic nursing care and advocacy, John also offers spiritual counsel and healing. In one case, the client talked with John at length about her health issues. She had physical/medical issues, mental health issues, relationship issues, and spiritual issues. All of these issues were interconnected. John listened to her, bandaged her wound, and offered cold medicine for her sniffles. He also provided pastoral care and prayed with her. At the last minute, John felt moved to perform an anointing, an ancient ritual of spiritual healing. Later, both John and the client said to each other that they felt a tingling during the ritual and a strong sense of peace. They agreed that the Spirit was moving in that anointing.

John recently took another client to a doctor’s appointment and advocated for the client during the visit. At the end of the visit, the doctor shook John’s hand and said, “I honestly think [this person] would be dead by now if it weren’t for you.”

On March 10, 2016, the Sozo Health Ministry was recognized at Leadership Evansville’s annual Celebration of Leadership as the Project Award winner in the Health and Social Service category. We look ahead as we continue to support health and healing in our community.


Rev. John Rich is the health minister for Sozo Health Ministry, Patchwork Central, guest blogging as part of the Disciples Care Exchange. In the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the ministries of health and social services have been core to our Disciples identity and faith. The National Benevolent Association (NBA) and Disciples Home Missions (DHM) collaborate to support a network of care providers - the Disciples Care Exchange. Learn more at www.nbacares.org/connect or contact mkilpatrick@nbacares.org.

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