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Old Town clinic meets medical, spiritual needs
Dianna L. Cagle_ь, BR Asst. Managing Editor
September 22, 2010

Old Town clinic meets medical, spiritual needs

Old Town clinic meets medical, spiritual needs
Dianna L. Cagle_ь, BR Asst. Managing Editor
September 22, 2010

WINSTON-SALEM — Shade

beneath the oaks did little to stop the sweat trickling down the forehead of a

woman seated outside Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem on a recent

Monday night in August.

She had come for a free eye

check at the church’s medical clinic. Another came about her blood pressure.

The first 10 people or so arrived almost two hours before the clinic opened to

make sure they were seen. The line grew behind them.

A woman who works in fast

food said her income does not cover expenses. “(The medical clinic) means a lot

because we have no work,” said another.

For four years, Old Town has

run this clinic — each first, third and fifth Monday – from 7 p.m. until all

are seen.

Missions pastor Mark

Harrison loves this ministry and the volunteers who range in age from youth to

seniors.

“There’s something for

everybody,” Harrison said. “It’s an avenue for service … whether you have

medical skills or not you can make a difference.”

“The coolest thing about

missions to me is it’s one of the greatest opportunities to do

multi-generational ministry,” Harrison said.

The church offers evangelism

training members can apply while serving in the medical clinic and other church

ministries.

Coordinating volunteers

Debbie Parker serves as

volunteer coordinator. A retired registered nurse, Parker communicates with

around 100 people via e-mail and phone. Most volunteers are from Old Town but

some come from other churches and the medical community. The clinic needs 35 to

40 people to operate.

“We have a core group (of

about 10) who are just always there,” Parker said. “Without them it would be

hard to run the clinic.”

With that baseline she feels

comfortable that the rest will fall in place.

“There are nights I ride

down the road (toward the clinic) and I’m not sure how it’s all going to come

together … but we’ve never had a clinic that hasn’t been balanced. God always

provides enough people,” she said.

The beginning of the school

year is a busy time because of physicals.

“I think the clinic was one

thing God had in mind for me when I retired,” said Parker, who retired in 2006,

several months before the church held a mock clinic to test the idea.

Until she broke her ankle

recently, Parker only missed one or two clinics a year.

“For everybody that

volunteers I think they enjoy being able to use the skills and abilities that

God has given them to serve the community,” she said. “I know the patients that

come are so grateful to be able to have free care.”

Some patients come for

ongoing medical needs like hypertension or diabetes.

“If it weren’t for our

clinic they would have a chronic disease that would kill them,” she said.

Eye care

Dr. Van Teague sees “a ton

of folks” each clinic. Old Town’s clinic is unique in offering eye exams. On a

recent clinic Teague and his colleagues saw 17 patients within a couple of

hours.

Teague said the clinic

relies on nonmedical volunteers like the translators, file runners and child

care workers.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Dr. Susan Yee prepares for another eye exam at Old Town Baptist Church’s medical clinic. Yee, along with Dr. Van Teague, background, volunteer regularly to help people in the community. They check eye pressure and vision before writing prescriptions. See photo gallery and video.

“Without our translators we

are dead in the water,” Teague said.

“A lot of people that come

here have jobs but (don’t earn enough) for insurance.”

For the number of people

served each year, the budget is “ridiculously low,” Teague said, calling it a

loaves and fishes ministry. “We always seem to have enough.”

“What I would like is for

other churches to do the same,” Teague said. “They have the resources. Let’s

look at what Jesus did. He met physical needs.”

Teague said Christians are

to be the “salt and light of the world.”

“If you have the capability

and the means and don’t do it,” he said, “you’re missing out on a blessing.”

Hearing test

Linda Mock, an audiologist

for 25 years at Baptist Hospital, doesn’t come to every clinic. Her main job is

to come in the fall when children need hearing tests for school.

A member at a nearby

Methodist church, she says her clients are about four or five years old.

She tests various decibel levels and frequencies to make sure they are ready

for school.

“There were a lot of kids

not getting services anywhere else,” said Mock, who is in her third year

volunteering at the church. “It’s an opportunity to give back to the

community.”

“This church has really

supported this ministry,” she said. “They’ve really done a lot of work.” People

at the clinic are the “nicest people to work with … They all have big hearts.”

How it began

Old Town’s medical clinic

began in the mind of member Jim Johnson, a physician assistant. He was inspired

after reading Robert Foster’s The Sword and the Scalpel about a missionary

physician in Africa.

Johnson wondered “why people

don’t get excited about local medical missions.”

He began praying and

planning with several people. They made a list of people with talents that

could help at a medical clinic — from medical training to administrative. For

three to four months they planned and asked other free clinics to share good

and bad experiences.

“We wanted to use medicine

as a ministry tool,” Johnson said. “People who came through would also hear the

gospel.”

Johnson’s wife volunteers in

the church pharmacy, which she helped get licensed in North Carolina as a fully

functioning pharmacy. Of course, their stock is low compared to your average

drug store.

“Probably the most important

thing to me is seeing God work in so many aspects,” Johnson said. “We try to be

open, to be obedient.”

The very first clinic they

saw one patient … and it was a church member. But soon their numbers began to

build. Now they average 25 each clinic.

Initially the clinic shared

space with Sunday School rooms so set up and take down for each clinic was

laborious. Now, the clinic has its own space in the church’s former children’s

wing.

They started with

commitments from two physicians and five to six physician assistants and nurse

practitioners. That pool has expanded.

“Seeing so many people

getting to use their skills” in ministry is exciting, Johnson said. “They

register the people to the glory of the Lord. They feel like they are

fulfilling their call.”

Clinic medical director

Landon Weeks looks forward to each clinic, in which sees six or seven patients.

Some come for routine refills.

“So many folks work but

don’t have money for a doctor,” Weeks said. “We see many working poor.”

Weeks said that even if

access to health care becomes mandatory, there will always be people who will

fall through cracks of the system.

Weeks said he had been

involved in free clinics before his church started this one. They “petered out”

fairly quickly. “These are dedicated people,” he said. “I just really love

them.”

Acts 1:8 challenge

The clinic’s budget is

handled through a special offering through the church — Acts 1:8 offering.

Harrison calls the offering the church’s “commitment to embrace all the mission

fields … and to do it simultaneously.”

Last year this offering

collected more than $100,000, part of which went to pay for the clinic. The

rest goes to other ministries like Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

and Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.

The offering is above the

people’s regular gifts and is separate from other offerings.

The church not only focuses

on its immediate community but works in other areas as well. Harrison said they

have partnerships with villages in India, Brazil and West Virginia. Members

also recently spent time in Myanmar and Ukraine.

“God can use whatever skill or abilities you have

to demonstrate His love and passion for people,” Harrison said. “People are

motivated to be a part of this (because they) get to see the difference it

makes.”