Healing a Village

by Jay Wintermeyer

Hundreds of Spokane residents arrived long before sunrise each day to recieved free medical care. 
Many patients received free vision checkups and were fitted for free prescription glasses. Photo by Anthony White/NPUC
Free haircuts were just one of the many services offered to those attending Your Best Pathway to Health. Photo by Anthony White/NPUC
Children were not left out of the free clinic services. In addition to free pediatric services and immunizations, volunteers offered free child care for parents receiving treatment. Photo by Brendan Coon/UCC
Many patients were military veterans. Photo by Brendan Coon/UCC
Lab services provided basic blood testing as well as special tests as ordered by the volunteer physicians. Photo by Brendan Coon/UCC

For two brief days, residents in Spokane, Washington glimpsed what it might have been like as Jesus healed entire villages during the Your Best Pathway to Health mega-clinic August 3 and 4, 2015.

Your Best Pathway to Health, a service of Adventist-Laymen Services & Industries, partnered with Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 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, 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, Washington, that a mega-clinic would provide free healthcare. 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 men’s 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, president of the Adventist Church’s Upper Columbia Conference, whose territory includes Spokane, was volunteering as a chaplain. He said 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 said. “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 said. “I hope people can start a similar journey today.”

Adventists in Spokane are working hard to make sure patients journey 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; so many were 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, said, “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.”