Volunteering to Heal a Village

September 30, 2015 | Jay Wintermeyer

For two brief days during the Your Best Pathway to Health mega-clinic Aug. 3 and 4, residents in Spokane, Wash., glimpsed what it might have been like as Jesus healed entire villages.

Your Best Pathway to Health, a service of Adventist-Laymen Services & Industries, partnered with Upper Columbia Conference and the city of Spokane to host a free clinic in Spokane, the third held in the United States in the past two years. More than 1,300 Adventist volunteers from around the world provided free medical, dental and eye care to 3,111 people, including some who began lining up two days in advance of the clinic.

Grateful patients treated the volunteers like heroes. When buses pulled in to offload the volunteers at 6 a.m. on the first day of the clinic, the waiting crowd spontaneously erupted in loud applause.

Justy Jenkins, a disabled U.S. military veteran, heard at the veterans hospital in Spokane that a mega-clinic would provide free health care. She was sitting in a lawn chair at the head of a crowd of about 500 people when the clinic’s doors opened at 7 a.m. on the first day.

“I can’t believe that they are doing this for us,” Jenkins said several hours later as she took a break during a dental procedure for a much-needed crown in the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

Jenkins, a former military specialist in Germany, said she hadn’t slept since her arrival to the fairgrounds on Saturday and was exhausted. But she said the wait was worth it. She spent several hours alone, but the line had swelled to about a dozen people by Sunday afternoon.

“They brought us water and food,” she said of volunteers who were setting up the clinic. “They are so nice.”

Doctors, nurses, dentists, massage therapists, chaplains and other volunteers assisted 1,485 people on the first day of the Your Best Pathway to Health event. The mega-clinic originally aimed to show Jesus’ love in action to 3,000 Spokane residents. However, by the end of the second day, volunteers ministered to 1,626 additional patients, surpassing the initial service goal.

The expo center was humming as arriving patients filled out forms before being directed to chairs in waiting areas. In curtained booths, volunteers provided a range of services, including primary medical care, minor surgeries by appointment, dental care, vision, mental health, women's health, physical and occupational therapy, nutrition and lifestyle coaching, haircuts, and free clothing, including suits and wedding dresses. Once patients were ready to leave, chaplains and volunteers offered prayer. Early on, touching stories began to emerge from these prayer sessions.

One patient requested prayer. The counselor visiting with him prayed for Jesus and God to send angels of comfort. The man broke down weeping.

“Why are you crying?” the counselor asked.

“I’m crying because of all the people I met today,” the patient said.  “When I see people like this, I want to be a part of a people like this.”

Paul Hoover, Upper Columbia Conference president, was volunteering as a chaplain. He says the sight of so many people in line was wonderful and tragic at the same time. “We are hoping that the healing ministry of Christ will impact them,” he says. “We hope this will be the beginning of something that will truly alter their destinies."

The clinic’s effort to provide both physical and spiritual healing struck a special chord with Hoover, who accepted Jesus and became an Adventist about 30 years ago as he struggled with addictions to alcohol, tobacco and other substances.

“God began a process of healing me,” he explains. “I hope people can start a similar journey today.”

Adventists in Spokane are working hard to make sure patients' journeys to physical and spiritual wholeness didn’t end with prayer at the clinic. Each person was personally invited to visit health information centers at local Adventist churches to pick up their free prescription glasses, lab reports and other follow-up work. Those that came to the health information centers were invited to attend health and lifestyle courses taking place this fall in Spokane Adventist churches.

Those visiting the mega-clinic, both volunteers and patients, said it was hard describe everything going on due to so many people helping and being helped. Perhaps it can best be summed up by the words of one patient, Craig Meissner, who drove with his wife from Sandpoint, Idaho, to the clinic: “It’s amazing to see all these people being helped. It reminds me of what it must have been like when Jesus healed an entire town.”

View additional photos on the North American Division Flickr and videos on the GleanerNow Vimeo.

3,111 persons served 

7,500-plus services provided, including:

  • Primary care visits
  • Women’s health services, including Pap smears
  • Medical specialists consults, including heart evaluations, gastroenterology, neurology, pulmonology, rheumatology and infectious disease
  • General and orthopedic surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Podiatry services
  • Adult and child immunizations
  • Comprehensive dental care, including root canals, crowns, fillings, extractions and cleanings
  • Pharmacy
  • Eye care, including eyeglass fittings and examinations
  • STD screenings
  • Medical massage
  • Physical therapy
  • X-rays
  • Laboratory services
  • Haircuts
  • Hydrotherapy 
  • Clothing
  • Chaplaincy services