Call Shirlowe and Frances Powell “bus people” and they’ll count it a compliment.
About 80 days a year they work with one of the two medical-dental buses operated by North Carolina Baptist Men. Shirlowe wheels the Greyhound-size bus like it were a shopping cart and knows enough about diesel engines and components to keep the vehicle running well.
No surprise there — he retired after working as a professional truck driver for more than 40 years.
Frances, who has her CDL license and also drives the bus, helps get patients in and out of the bus, and does other support work.
“We were counting up the other day and I would estimate we have driven this bus more than 100,000 miles in the last few years,” Shirlowe said.
In recent months they took the bus to a migrant farm camp in a rural farming area near Wilson; another week they drove it to a church in downtown Charlotte for a week long medical-dental clinic.
The Powells don’t do the dental or medical work, of course.
They get the bus to a site and get it set up to operate; usually local dental or medical workers meet the bus and walk into a fully-equipped clinic ready to start work.
Joanne Honeycutt, staffer in the N.C. Baptist Men office in Cary, coordinates the constantly changing schedules and staffing needs of the buses and also makes sure the buses are fully stocked with supplies before heading out.
“With the economic problems in North Carolina right now, we’re keeping the buses on the road almost non-stop,” said Honeycutt.
“There are big needs everywhere and it’s a joy to be able to meet some of those needs.”
The medical-dental bus ministry is one of North Carolina Baptists’ largest volunteer efforts, involving more than 1,100 medical/dental professionals and more than 1,000 other support volunteers like the Powells, plus 176 translators and 240 pastors/counselors each year.
This carefully choreographed effort helped almost 4,000 patients receive free treatment last year.
That included 3,460 dental patients, 298 medical patients and 137 eye patients.
Clearly, the Powells are just examples of the many North Carolina Baptists working together to deliver care to hurting people.
“I enjoy the work,” said Shirlowe. “You meet the cream of the crop, sometimes among the patients, but especially among the workers. Most volunteers are Christians and they like to share Christ with the patients. It’s just a good ministry,” he said.
He and Frances are convinced that staying active in ministry has helped keep them healthier than just occupying retirement rockers. “Anyone looking for something to do can surely find a place to serve and get involved in one of the 13 ministries of North Carolina Baptist Men. They have all kinds of work going on,” Shirlowe said.
The Powells are members of Athens Drive Baptist Church in Raleigh, a church which was very involved in disaster relief back in the 1980s. Shirlowe and Frances worked as volunteers in disaster relief until they started driving for the medical-dental bus ministry.
To see a video report on the medical-dental bus ministry, go to: www.ncmissionsoffering.org/index.php?id=1258.
For more general information on the medical/dental bus ministry of Baptist Men, go to: www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/medicaldental.aspx.
For more information on the North Carolina Missions Offering, go to: www.ncmissionsoffering.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5547.