JACKSON — Madison Baptist Church, a rural Southern Baptist congregation near Jackson, saw a need in the community and decided to make a difference.
The church opened a free health clinic in 2015 and serves a mixed community of Hispanics, African-American and Caucasians, said pastor Greg Gilbreath.
After Gilbreath received a letter on how churches could start a free health clinic as a mission, he passed the information on to Nancy Mikkelson, a nurse practitioner in the church.
Mikkelson attended a conference in Nashville and realized it could work for Madison. Already a seasoned mission volunteer, she had equipment to begin the clinic.
The rural community near the church is a low income area consisting of unemployed, uninsured and those who can’t afford a co-pay or expensive medicine.
Plus, many elderly people live in the community and do not have transportation to travel to the nearest city, Jackson, which is about 20 miles away.
“Fortunately, we have medical professionals in our church and community who volunteer their time,” Gilbreath said.
No one receives a salary. A retired and licensed pharmacist and two nurse practitioners can dispense medicine, he noted, In addition to taking vital signs, the clinic helps people with their meds, dispenses diabetic, blood pressure, and antibiotics and provides free reading glasses. No narcotics are provided. And, for those who need food, a pantry helps with that need, Gilbreath added.
Church members help with registration, paperwork and other necessary information.
An unused classroom has become a safe storage place for supplies. This room is locked and secure for keeping medicine and other items.
Gilbreath is often asked how a small church, which averages between 75 -80 in Sunday School can afford to provide a free health clinic for the community.
He acknowledged that it takes money. Supplies and equipment seem to increase annually, but funds are provided through grants, donations and designated memorials, he said.
The pastor noted that members may give a love offering for the clinic to honor someone’s birthday or anniversary. Instead of sending flowers to a funeral, they may honor the deceased by making a contribution to the clinic.
A member, who was a retired missionary, requested in her will that, after her death, all of her assets go to a health clinic for the church.
When the church initiated the clinic, Gilbreath and the church staff used social media, newsletters and word-of-mouth.
People told their friends that if medical care is needed, simply show up between 9 a.m and Noon on the third Saturday of each month to be seen by medical personnel, he said.
One-on-one evangelism is best
The clinic is designed to provide much more than health care.
When the people come and sign in, they are invited to go into another room and talk about Christ. “We have a retired missionary and another gentleman who shares Scripture. No one has objected. They want to hear about Jesus. Returning patients go directly to see the medical team,” he said.
“The community needs health care,” Gilbreath affirmed. “But what they need more is Jesus in their life. So, the focus of the clinic is evangelism. We share the gospel. We pray for and with the people. People need a Savior.
“They need a personal friend like Jesus. At this time, 25 people have received Christ as their Lord. We have many Spanish-speaking people in the community and the church is building a relationship with these men, women and families.”
He noted that by first coming to the clinic, the people make friends with Madison members. “They feel welcome and they begin coming to our services, become Christians and place their membership at Madison.”
This past month, a mother and her son came and prayed to receive Christ.
Larry Murphy, Director of Missions at Madison-Chester Association in West Tennessee reports that Madison is a small church doing great things for the Kingdom.
Christians are called to be the “hands” and “feet” of Jesus, he said. “This means that followers — past, present and future — are obedient in their commission to preach the gospel and colabor with Christ to love, serve and heal the broken, hurting and hopeless of the world.”
Gilbreath is convinced the clinic has reached people that otherwise would not be in church and he is available to talk with churches interested in beginning a health clinic in their area. Gilbreath can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com or by contacting Madison Baptist Church, 930 Steam Mill Ferry Road, Jackson, TN 38301. B&R