It took just a chance encounter in a local grocery store to dramatically change Kathy Offutt's shopping, cooking, eating and overall health.
The 63-year-old met Iris Eastwood more than three years ago in the health-food section of Food 4 Less. Eastwood asked Offutt if she knew where to find gluten-free flour, to which the latter asked what she planned to make. Soon, Offutt heard all about the vegan potlucks Eastwood hosts at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Central Point and the free, private cooking lessons Eastwood offers by request.
"I said, 'I really need to learn to cook like that,' " says Offutt.
Eastwood arrived at Offutt's Medford home the next day to demonstrate recipes and techniques for whole-foods, meat- and dairy-free cooking and to promote the diet as a pathway to health. Offutt adopted the new regimen immediately and abstains from all sources of gluten and dairy, as well as eggs. Occasionally eating a small piece of organic chicken or wild salmon, Offutt no longer has gastrointestinal distress or chronic candida and is able to maintain her ideal weight with ease.
"It has made a huge difference in my life," she says. "I wouldn't have had the support."
The story is repeated scores of times among clients of Healthy Living Ministries, an arm of the Central Point Seventh-day Adventist Church that aims to spread the gospel of wholeness and health to communities outside its own congregation. Every month, the church holds a free, vegetarian cooking class, followed by a vegetarian luncheon and 30-minute lecture on health and well-being by Dr. Jim Said, a Medford naturopathic physician, chiropractor and counselor.
A member of the church for 11 years, Said was a "medical philosopher" before his wife, Ronda, introduced him to a scriptural model for health care. Adventists have spread their health message since the Protestant denomination was established in the 1860s in the United States. They cite the Bible's characterization of the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
"We were designed to live in a garden, literally," says Said, referring to the creation story from the biblical book of Genesis.