By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MORRISTOWN — The man who visited the church’s clinic shocked those present. The growth on his neck was as large as a melon.
He also had some trouble walking because he had multiple sclerosis but the concern that day was his struggle to breath.
A physical therapist who had been laid off, he couldn’t afford medical insurance, he told Boni Frazee, director of First Love on Main, the clinic of First Baptist Church, Morristown. His wife couldn’t work because she needed to stay at home with their children.
Frazee immediately was worried, she admitted. “We were very limited in what we could do in this kind of situation,” she recalled.
The physician seeing patients that day soon called a surgeon in Nashville. Amazingly, the Nashville doctor who was “the premier neck specialist in the United States,” according to the Morristown doctor, agreed to do the surgery and arranged for it to be done free of charge.
Another comfort to the wife of the ill man occurred just prior to the surgery, reported Frazee. She was in the waiting room reading her Bible when a health care worker came in and commented on her reading the Bible. Amazingly, it was her husband’s doctor and he was a Christian! He led her in a prayer for the surgery.
The ill man is doing well today, reported Frazee.
On another day at the clinic a man came into the clinic for tests the staff regularly does, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. The person helping the man noticed that he only had one arm and his other “arm” was a rudimentary contraption constructed of PVC pipe with cardboard “fingers.”
Of course, the arm didn’t work but it made him feel more normal, explained the man who was originally from the Philippines.
He said that he lost his arm when, as a 7-year-old child in his native country, he picked up a land mine which exploded.
Amazingly, through contacts of clinic workers, the man not only received a prosthetic arm, which had just been given to a company after a person who used it died, but another company added robotics to the prosthetic, reported Frazee.
When the man, who was now about 70 years old, received his new arm, he began crying, recalled Frazee. He said he had been praying to God all of his life for a hand. Another part of the story is that in just a few days, he and his wife would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. He told Frazee that he would tell all of their friends and family “what God had done,” she reported.
Finally, Frazee told of the man who came into the clinic after being a recluse in his house for three years.
A dentist at the clinic helped the man with dental problems and a doctor helped him with a few other things but “what we really did was love him,” recalled Frazee.
The man started going out for other reasons, bought a car, and had some work done in his home. He even started going to church.
A few years later Frazee met the man’s sister who told Frazee how the church “had changed” her brother’s life.
What she has learned
Frazee said she has learned a lot over the five years of directing First Love on Main.
“Who but God, who but God orders these things?” asked Frazee.
“It’s not anything that First Love or First Baptist Church, Morristown, does. It’s being willing to do something. …
“You don’t think about what impact you can have just by fixing someone’s teeth or cutting their hair,” she said.
Often “fixing a smile” helps a person think about other things than their problems, she added.
What she sees daily at the clinic is that somebody’s “life is not the same because of coming into contact with a church member. … All of us can do something to change a life.” Sometimes it does require leaving “normal society or normal church atmosphere,” said Frazee.
“As a Christian, as a Baptist, I see that if we impact one life, we have no idea what the ripple effect will be from that.”
Pastor Dean Haun’s vision
Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist, initiated the clinic which has expanded to house other ministries such as a veterinary clinic and a foster care ministry office of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
Amazingly, when he presented his idea to the congregation, and then discovered the building in downtown Morristown which had been a doctor’s office, a church member bought it for the clinic and gave it to the church.
One result of the ministries of First Love on Main over the past five years is that about 2,000 patients have been served and dozens have made professions of faith, reported Haun.
God worked out other help for the ministry, said Haun. About a year after First Love opened, Haun learned about funds available through grants from the Baptist Hospital of East Tennessee Medical Missions Fund (see article on fund). Last year First Baptist received $20,000 for medicine, medical supplies, or medical equipment for First Love. Of course, the church also funds First Love. FBC draws about 1,200 people to its three Sunday morning services.
The clinic, which is “state of the art,” described Haun, couldn’t operate without the dentists, physicians, nurses, dental hygienists, chiropractors, and lab technicians who volunteer their time there. About 10 dentists or hygienists and about four physicians currently serve at First Love. Many of the health care professionals are members of First, Morristown, though some are members of other churches.
Other volunteers include a witnessing team, greeter team, and cleaning team, added Haun.
For years, Haun thought, maybe the church could set up a clinic in its church facility every quarter to help the many needy people in this part of Appalachia. He also wanted the church “to get outside of the four walls of the church to reach people who won’t come to First Baptist. …
“I thought this was not going to be everything I thought that we should do, but today First Love is more than I ever imagined,” said the pastor.