Every Wednesday night, the dining room of the Andrews House in Delaware, Ohio, is transformed. At 6 p.m., a whirlwind of volunteers bustle around as an assortment of propane tanks, chairs, trash cans, poles, green and brown curtains, treatment tables, and medical supplies are set in place. Twenty minutes later a small cluster of people bow their heads and pray for the night’s procedures. By 6:30 p.m., Grace Clinic is in full swing.
This unique medical care facility, assembled from scratch and manned by professionals, is a ministry of Grace Church, a Grace Brethren church in Powell, Ohio. Since October of 2006, approximately 150 volunteers have faithfully served the free clinic, whether through professional medical expertise or simply setting up and tearing down the operation.
While it bustles now, the first night didn’t seem so promising. Yet it stands out as one of the most memorable.
“The volunteers were ready,” remembers Tim Farner, pastor of missions at Grace Powell. “We prayed at about 6:15 p.m. and the clinic officially opened at 6:30 p.m. There was one patient, Jerry. He had recently been released from prison. He was young and ready to begin life once again. But life on the outside was so different – it had been several years. He faced formidable health issues and came that night with just enough insulin for a couple more days. His parole officer had somehow heard about this new clinic that was opening and sent him. And Grace Clinic opened just in time.”
Farner tells how Jerry was able to see the doctors, receive prayer from the volunteers, and even work alongside the staff until the night was finished.
“It didn’t matter that there were no other patients that first night. Jerry’s enthusiasm more than made up for it,” said Farner. The young man has since moved on to find a job, coming back to the clinic, not for treatment, but to show off pictures of his wife and little girl.
“[Jerry] may have been the only patient that first night, but there is no doubt that it was a divine appointment,” said Farner.
Greg Porter, the clinic’s chief financial officer, who is also in charge of patient flow on Wednesday nights, emphasizes that the fuel for this operation is not money, but providence.
“Many evenings it appears that we will be short nurses, doctors, or set-up crew members. However, before we know it, someone unexpectedly shows up to fill the gap. This is one reason why I believe that this is a ministry which God has blessed,” he says.
Over time, the dream of a free medical clinic to serve a needy community has come true. Now, an average of 25 patients are seen each week. In 2007, 826 patients came through the doors, with 1,139 being seen in 2008. Last year, volunteers treated an average of 24 patients every time the clinic opened its doors.
Growth is on the horizon as the clinic looks to expand, and possibly even build its own facility in the future. But for Grace Powell and all of the supporters of this ministry, the goal isn’t a big building or a professional staff; the goal is people.
“We are encouraged when we see how God can make a difference in lives when we are just willing to be Jesus to these people,” says Farner. He stresses that the ministry has taught the volunteers to be more compassionate and to serve the needs of their patients with willing hearts.
“Good health, a stable marriage, loving children, and a steady job are much more precious to me than they were before I began to volunteer at the clinic,” says Colleen Pavarini, the clinic’s operations manager. She says that not only has the clinic brought a spirit of thankfulness to each member of the team, but it has taught them to give glory to God while realizing that the blessing comes from serving others.
As the patients continue to seek treatment at the clinic, needs for more doctors, nurses, and general volunteers continually present themselves. Donations help to foot the bills, but Grace Clinic begs more than anything for prayer – for the hearts of the workers, for the skill of the doctors, for God’s guidance, and most of all, prayer for each and every person who crosses the threshold of the Andrews House in need of medical help, a better life, and an introduction to the ultimate healing power of the gospel.
To learn more about Grace Clinic, see graceclinicweb.org or e-mail Colleen Pavarini at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive updates on the clinic’s progress and prayer requests, e-mail Tim Farner at email@example.com.