April 15, 2002

Church clinic offers hope & healing
___By George Henson
___Staff Writer
___DALLAS--Once he saw the figures, Elmin Howell could do the math in his heart. The 40,000 people from nine ethnic groups who live within 5 miles of Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church added up to one thing--ministry.
___When a closer look at the numbers revealed that more than 50 percent of those 40,000 people had no health insurance coverage, Howell saw more clearly the type of ministry needed --a neighborhood clinic.
___Something like that took a special person to lead the way, however--a person with a head for the health-care field but also a heart for minist
WORKERS at Mission East Dallas County Health Ministries include Sharon Tucker, a physician; Jenny Williams, a registered nurse and executive director of the ministry; Dora Bradford, a licensed nurse; and Debbie Brannon, a registered nurse. The volunteer-staff clinic sees patients every Tuesday evening.
___Jenny Williams fit both those criteria perfectly. For more than 25 years, she had been working in the health-care industry as a nurse and in numerous administrative capacities, often setting up and coordinating new programs. Recently, she had sensed a calling to do more in the way of ministry, so on Oct. 4, 2000, she retired from Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas with plans to attend Criswell College.
___But she still wasn't sure what direction her ministry would take.
___Then the day after her retirement, she received a telephone call asking if she would like to head Mission East Dallas County Health Ministries.
___"I hung up the phone and said, 'This is what I'm supposed to be doing," Williams recalled. "And I know that better today than I did Oct. 5."
___The ministry was nothing more than a concept when Williams, a Shiloh Terrace member, received the call. Since then, an old Nazarene church has been completely remodeled to provide examination rooms, a reception area, counseling rooms and a pharmacy.
___Shiloh Terrace volunteers did 95 percent of the remodeling, said Bryan Houser, minister of missions at Shiloh Terrace.
___Now that the clinic has opened, Shiloh Terrace members volunteer as nurses, front desk personnel, counselors and pharmacist.
___"It's something that has really captured the imagination of our people, because this is one of the first things we've done that has _targeted our immediate community," Houser said. "I see this as a very incarnational ministry where we can show the people in our community we care about them, and we do."
___Howell, chairman of the non-profit board that owns the clinic and a member of Shiloh Terrace's missions committee, agreed that the missions opportunity has created a buzz in the church. "The awareness of the community has energized the church, and it's what the people are talking about on Sundays."
___Setting up a building for a medical clinic is not cheap, but Houser said it was worth the effort and expense.
___"Any investment is a small one as long it is a financial one that will yield eternal spiritual benefits," he said. Lakeside Baptist Church and Casa View Baptist Church in Dallas also have contributed financially to the venture and have provided volunteers as well. All three churches have representatives on the nine-member governing board.
___Plans call for the clinic to include dental care as soon as May and then later to expand into after-school care and ministries to the aging.
___The clinic is only the beginning, Howell said. "We have not even touched the hem of the garment as far as reaching out to these people, but we're already looking to see what we can do next."
___The clinic already is making a dramatic impact on many families. It operates primarily on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Four doctors see from six to 10 patients per hour. If medication is administered, a pharmacist counsels them on how and when to take the medication.
___Medication is provided free, which is important because many of the clinic's patients couldn't afford medication. Williams told of one woman who had hepatitis and whose medication cost $1,500 a month. She had no insurance, and the household income was only about $1,000 a month. Now she gets the medicine at no cost to her.
___Diabetes is another common ailment seen in the clinic. Those diagnosed are matched up with one of three certified diabetes educators on a different night so they can have more in-depth training on the management of their disease. In addition to diabetes, special education appointments also are set up for those who need instruction in wound care.
___After the patient is seen, diagnosed and medication is dispensed, a time of spiritual counseling takes place. While other ministries do the spiritual counseling before treatment, Williams believes afterward is better. That way there is no perceived coercion to give "the right answers" to get treatment.
___"The people know we are treating them because we care about them, and that will be better in the long run."
___Six doctors help out at the clinic and all said they are impressed with the orderly manner in which the clinic is run. "We haven't had a doctor yet that hasn't come back," Williams said.
___As executive director, Williams is the clinic's only paid employee. Sharon Tucker, a physician with Baylor Family Health Center in Mesquite, is medical director. Mike Cooney directs pharmaceutical services, and Byron McKnight will coordinate the dental services.
___The clinic is such a success that even though it only opened in January, plans already in place to move the intake procedures to an adjacent building to open up more space for patient care.
___"This has been a challenge," Williams said, "and we're still refining it and developing training programs for our volunteers, but things are going pretty smoothly."
___While the scope of the venture is large, God has paved the way, she testified. "Yes, it's been a huge undertaking, but it's been made easier because the people and resources have been there."
___Sometimes people forget that missions begin at the church steps, Houser said.
___"It's easy to focus on foreign missions and write a check to Lottie Moon and even go and do missions overseas," he said. "I think the more difficult thing is to be heavily involved locally."
___Around Shiloh Terrace, though, live Puerto Ricans, Indians, Cambodians, Koreans and a number of other Asian people groups. Members of Shiloh Terrace see that as foreign missions in Dallas.___

Get printer-friendly version of this story

Send this story to a friend

News of religion, faith, missions, Bible study and Christian ministry among Texas Baptist churches, in the BGCT, the Southern Baptist Convention ( SBC ) and around the world.

Contents/ Masthead / Why We're Here / Links / Archive / E-mail us/ SUBSCRIBE!/ Signup for FirstLook