When Crystal Horton accepted the position of coordinator of N.C. Baptist Men’s (NCBM) health screening ministry, she felt that it was an answer to prayer.
A former nurse at Duke University Hospital, Horton had spent years praying for an opportunity to serve God outside the walls of a hospital. Then, He opened the door for her to serve Him on a bus. This bus, also known as the wellness mobile unit, houses the health-screening ministry, serving uninsured and underserved populations throughout North Carolina by conducting screenings for cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and heart disease.
It was a new addition to NCBM’s already existing medical and dental mobile units in 2015. On this bus, medical professionals work to meet the physical needs of patients, but they also share the healing power of Jesus through the gospel.
To Horton, this ability to share the gospel is the most important part of the ministry – and the reason why she felt called to serve on the wellness bus.
“You are many times limited as to how much you can openly share within an institutional setting,” she said. “But I wanted to be able to share Christ with everyone I came into contact with.”
The bus typically offers clinics at community events and churches in underserved neighborhoods. Since the unit’s first outing in July 2015, there have been 33 clinics held on the wellness unit.
The goal of this ministry, Horton said, is to identify potential health issues and offer referral appointments from local health clinicians – all while sharing the love of Christ.
“It’s an awesome opportunity as a health care provider to go out and share Christ with people I don’t know,” Horton said.
“We know that we can’t fix all their physical problems, but we can certainly fix their spiritual problems.”
This ministry is possible because of the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). Forty-one percent of the funds received in the offering go toward NCBM, which is funded almost entirely by the NCMO. Its mission is to share God’s love with hurting people through word and deed. The 2016 NCMO goal is $2.1 million.
Horton said providing health screening free of cost meets a very deep need in many communities. “Many uninsured and underserved populations lack appropriate health care,” she said. “When you have to choose between going to the doctor for expensive screening tests or feeding your family, the choice will always be food.”
However, screening is only one part of this ministry – referring patients to clinicians is also a vital part of the work on the wellness bus. Horton said that after completing screenings, she has been able to immediately send patients to the hospital based on the assumption of heart attack or undiagnosed diabetes.
In addition, local health departments and clinicians are often on site to make appointments with the patients, which Horton said is the most effective way of getting patients post-clinic care.
“It serves no purpose to tell someone that they probably have diabetes and not provide a means for them to get treatment and education regarding their disease process,” she said.
Throughout the screening and referral process, Horton and the team maintain an emphasis on ministering to the spiritual needs of the patients. In addition to medical professionals, pastors and lay people also serve on the bus to offer prayer and encouragement to patients.
Since the wellness unit’s first clinical outing, 14 people have come to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Each patient on the bus hears the good news of the gospel – that Jesus transforms lives and that He is the great physician.
“Many people don’t understand what we are doing when we drive the brightly covered RV into their community,” Horton said.
“We just want them to know that we love them, and Jesus loves them.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Go inside the health screening bus with Crystal Horton and learn how N.C. Baptists are preparing the way for Jesus through this ministry. Watch the video at vimeo.com/channels/ncmo. To learn more about NCMO and ministries it supports, visit ncmissionsoffering.org.)