The San Francisco Citywide Revival is an annual event in March that promotes health, wellness, and organ donation among African American communities of faith in the Bay Area. The event is a partnership between Donor Network West and the Baptist Ministry Conference and Adjacent Cities.

3,500 worshipers come together for nightly fellowship services in San Francisco. Attendees have the opportunity to register as organ donors and hear messages that focus on wellness, including organ and tissue donation, healthy meal preparation, diabetes prevention, overcoming obesity, nutrition, and environmental hazards.

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The History of the San Francisco Citywide Revival

The idea to join the message of faith and community health together at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church arose from the outreach and educational efforts of Donor Network West community development liaison, June R. Wallace in 2004.

The topic of organ and tissue donation is often shrouded in myths and misconceptions. Donation rates among people in the African American community were extremely low, further complicated by a profound lack of trust and education on the topic. Inspired to make a change in attitude towards organ and tissue donation, June began hosting a table alongside other health providers in the social hall of the church.

The information about organ and tissue donation was not embraced at first. However, over time, acceptance grew thanks to June’s passion and her ability to show how health issues like diabetes, obesity and cardiac hypertension often lead to organ failure. June also engaged pastors and ministers with messages that touched on overall health, which then led to discussions about organ failure and the need for transplants.

Support for the cause also grew from the fact that many in the congregation suffered from end-stage organ disease and were placed on the transplant waiting list – a fact that brought the message home through member’s testimonies. Another turning point came from the presentation of people who had received a transplant and were given another chance at life because of a donor’s gift of life.

A major turning point came when Pastor Robert Lucas himself stepped up and registered as an organ and tissue donor, signaling acceptance from faith leaders that donation is truly one of the most noble acts of kindness, and something that all of us can – and should – do.

Pastor Robert Lucas after registering to be an organ donor in 2005
Pastor Robert Lucas after registering to be an organ donor in 2005

In order to continue to bring an even stronger message of health and wellness to the 3,500 who attend each evening, June engaged the Black Nurses Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Kaiser Permanente, the San Francisco chapter of The Links, Inc., and the California Telephone Access Program. At this year’s Citywide Revival the National Kidney Foundation was on hand providing immediate and free kidney screenings to all.

There is still much work to be done, but the cause of organ and tissue donation has at last found acceptance among many in the faith community, and it is through the power of testimonies that it will continue to open hearts and minds to giving the greatest gift of all – the Gift of Life.