Mega Clinic Volunteers Provide Health, Help and Hope to 1,700
Story by Valerie Morikone / Photos by Monica and Victor Zill
Carla, Mary and Tashawana spent the night sitting in chairs outside the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley, W.Va., drinking coffee, playing cards and reading books while waiting in the dental line. When the doors opened Wednesday, July 13, at 6:20 a.m., they were the first in a line that wrapped around the large circular building that had been temporarily transformed into a mobile health clinic called Your Best Pathway to Health (YbPtH).
Despite the early start, volunteers from across the United States, and as far away as Bermuda, Colombia, Mexico and Poland, warmly welcomed and began serving the eager crowds who gathered to take advantage of this free event, the sixth in the last two years, but the first in a rural setting. Carla said she worked 11 days straight in order to get Wednesday off. Others, like Frank, who learned about the clinic from a flyer and said he’s had the same pair of glasses for 15 years, came for the eye clinic. Diana said it had been six years since she visited the dentist. “I cannot afford dental care,” she admitted. “I’m not afraid of the drill; I’m afraid of the bill.”
It was 2014 when a Lela Lewis, MD, MPH, the CEO of Your best Pathway to Health (YbPtH), responded to an appeal for Seventh-day Adventists to make a difference for others using health, “the right arm of the gospel.” Since then, she and an army of volunteers have visited five cities – Oakland, San Francisco, San Antonio, Spokane and Los Angeles, to provide dental, medical, optical, and mental health care---free of charge---to people who are not insured, underinsured and willing to wait in line.
The idea to come to rural West Virginia to help the people of Appalachia was born in the Acceptance Sabbath School Class in Collegedale, Tenn., more than a year ago. Larry Boggess, president of the Mountain View Conference (pictured praying with people), welcomed them with open arms. “I cannot adequately express what it means to the Mountain View Conference to see so many volunteers come to West Virginia to help us minister to the people of Appalachia with love and compassion,” he said. “The people here face many health challenges and economic issues, and it is awesome to think that our Seventh-day Adventist Church family would come together to help us minister to them. It has made such a tangible difference and will go a long way in helping us to broaden our impact here.”
One who benefited was Leah, who says two of the youth volunteers participating in ASI’s Youth for Jesus summer ministry program, came to her door selling magabooks. She bought several books and received a flyer advertising the Pathway clinic. “I just want some glasses,” she said, holding her broken glasses with one badly scratched lens in the palm of her hand.
Diklar Makola, MD, a gastroenterologist from Ohio, and one of the 734 volunteers who came to Beckley, is part of the Kettering Adventist HealthCare network. “I had heard about the San Antonio and Los Angeles events, and since I live less than four hours away, there was no excuse,” he said. One of the patients he helped came because of abdominal pain. “We were able to spend time together, not only talking about his physical distress, but sharing about God.” During the conversation, Makola learned that his patient had traveled from Hawaii to visit his dying brother in Beckley. “I invited him to stay for the evening meal and thought he might like to attend the Sabbath meeting,” he says. “The patient’s ears perked up as he exclaimed, ‘I believe that Saturday is the Sabbath.’ “Before he left, the team working with me gathered with my patient to pray.”
Two brothers, Matthew, 15, and Joseph Dye, 17, (pictured), came from the Wytheville (Va.), church to serve with the communication team. They heard about the previous mega clinics from friends who volunteered in San Antonio and Los Angeles, and were amazed by the extraordinary accomplishments. When they learned a clinic would be held an hour from their home, their immediate thought was, Why not?
“I am impacted in that you don’t have to have a medical degree or a PhD to touch people’s lives,” said Matthew. “One word of hope, one touch of faith, can change a life forever.”
During the two-and-a-half-day Pathway clinic in Beckley, 1,722 people received $6.5 million in free services that included dental procedures, eye exams and medical services such as cardiology, radiology, pediatrics, podiatry, HIV tests and minor surgical procedures, etc. Patients were also offered healthy lifestyle counseling, massages, haircuts and styles, spiritual literature, a vegan lunch and supper, the opportunity to visit the clothing distribution center and prayer with a chaplain.
Virginia was in the dental line when a chaplain came by asking if he could pray with her. “My family and I took in a one-and-a-half-week-old baby girl,” she shared. “We are desperate to adopt her but it’s been months since we’ve heard anything [from the lawyer].” The chaplain prayed and then Virginia took advantage of a free haircut before heading to the dental clinic. One hour later, her phone rang and it was the lawyer, saying that in September, the adoption for the now 14-month-old girl would be final. Virginia was ecstatic and so grateful for the prayer that she wanted to thank the chaplain. That chaplain was James Volpe, Mountain View’s pastor for the Central Hills, Fairmont, Grafton district. They later learned that another pastor prayed with Virginia’s husband who was waiting for her outside in their truck.
Donna benefited from the two days and was planning to return on the third day. "This is amazing!” she exclaimed. “I can feel the love of God here!”
Naomi Tricomi (pictured), a Bible worker for Mountain View Conference who served as the coordinator for the Beckley clinic, began to pray and plan for the event in September 2015. When she walked in the convention center on the first day of the clinic and saw that it was actually happening, she was overwhelmed. “I just sat down and cried,” she says. “Everything was a miracle. God is so good.”
Each evening during the event there were free seminars on heart health, how to manage hypertension and anxiety, etc., and in the weeks afterward, organizers teamed up with Mountain View Conference to host a series of free health education seminars at the Beckley church, followed by evangelistic meetings with Richard Halversen.
Feature photo: Jericho Batista serves a visitor at the Pathway Clinic in Beckley, W.Va.