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Churches Use Medical Clinics to Serve Their Communities
by Stafford North
Churches in a number of locations around the United States, as well as in foreign countries, are using medical clinics as a way to serve their communities and to connect people with the church. This article tells the stories of three such efforts.
In 1995, in Duncan, Oklahoma, the Westside and Northside Churches of Christ merged into the Chisholm Trail Church of Christ and moved into the Westside building. This left the Northside building for sale, but they were not able to sell it. So, the brethren decided to put all their benevolent services under one roof—medical, clothing, and food.
Now, fifteen years later, that program, under the name of the Compassion Center, is still operating and doing well. The medical clinic is open each Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. Since they operate on a first-come, first-served basis, the church has built a facility adjoining their center where people can sit comfortably to get in line for service. Each Thursday, one or two volunteer doctors come to the clinic along with others who assist such as nurses and people to work in the pharmacy which is overseen by a registered pharmacist. Twice a month an optometrist comes to provide eye care. Other volunteers register people who come, input the information on a computer, and provide a print-out for the doctors or those dispensing the medications. An elder or minister is present to “work the waiting line” to visit and to pray with those who have needs. A lawyer is sometimes present to give advice to clients about legal matters about which they are concerned. In all, about thirty-five people are on hand to provide the various services needed each Thursday. On a typical day, if there are two doctors present, the clinic will serve about seventy needing medical care and another thirty-five who need prescriptions filled.
The church provides some funding for these services, but much of the support comes in other ways. Two large drug companies, many doctor’s offices, and sometimes even nursing homes provide the prescription drugs needed for distribution. Many individuals also support the work as well.
On Wednesdays from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. the Compassion Center is open to distribute food to those in need and on Wednesday afternoons, people may come to get clothing. Being able to provide medical, food, and clothing services in the same location has been a big help to this work in Duncan. Those wishing more information may contact the church at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another congregation with an active medical outreach is the Alpine Church of Christ in Longview, Texas. Open now for over a year, the Alpine Compassion Clinic handles dental emergencies and services for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and asthma/COPD. They believe that treating these particular diseases is a good way to assist people with their long-term health. They focus on serving those with no insurance or who cannot afford the co-pay for physicians.
They ask the patients to make a small payment for the medications given them in order to give them more incentive to take the medicines and to instill a sense of responsibility. Patients with blood pressure and blood sugar problems must keep a log and bring it to their appointment. Providing diabetic test strips is one of the clinics most expensive items.
Dr. James Woodson leads the work of this clinic. He gets volunteer doctors and nurses through his contacts in the medical community. Rooms in the Alpine church building have been remodeled and equipped for medical services. The clinic is open the first and third Wednesdays of the month from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The Wednesday time enables Woodson to get church volunteers who are willing occasionally to miss their Wednesday evening Bible class. This time also means that before and after classes, church members are available to come by and visit with patients who are waiting to be seen. The clinic also has free Bibles and other literature available for those who come for assistance. To contact Dr. Woodson, write to email@example.com.
Another church connected medical service is the Lighthouse Medical Clinic operating out of the building of the Capitol Hill Church of Christ, an inner-city work in Oklahoma City. This clinic, managed by Beverly North, operates each Thursday evening from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Patients begin coming to the church building about 3:00 p.m. to get an appointment for that evening. They are greeted by volunteers who sign them up for appointments, as well as the local minister, Pancho Hobbes who prays with them, offers them information about the church, invites adults and children to Bible classes and, when appropriate, offer Bible studies. Several of those who have initially come for medical help have eventually been baptized into Christ and continue as members of the congregation there.
The clinic offers both medical and eye care services and provides necessary prescription drugs through its pharmacy program. So each Thursday, there are volunteer physicians, nurses, translators (since many of those who come are Spanish speaking), registration clerks, pharmacists, lab techs and greeters. Each time the clinic is open, about twenty-five patients will see a doctor and an additional twenty-five will receive prescriptions. Since the church has its mid-week Bible classes on Thursday nights, those who come to the clinic can see the Bible classes meeting and sometimes become interested in attending.
When there are more serious problems that require specialists or even surgery, North locates physicians who are willing to provide these services at a small cost or, sometimes, even no cost at all. The clinic has received equipment, diagnostic testing, and lab work from hospitals, drugs from pharmaceutical companies and physicians, and donations from individuals, foundations, and churches.
This Capitol Hill congregation also provides food and clothing services, but has decided to link their services together so that, for the most part, those who receive medical help or who participate in other ministries of the congregation, are the ones who receive food and clothing. This way, the church seeks to narrow the number on whom they have an impact in order to make that impact greater, thus offering more results on the spiritual side.
The work at Capitol Hill is generally overseen by the Memorial Road Church of Christ. For information on the Lighthouse Medical Clinic, contact Beverly North at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesus and the early church helped people physically to show compassion and to find opportunities to bless people spiritually. The efforts described above show that this combination still works.