By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CLARKSVILLE — Racial animus in Ferguson, Mo., was long forgotten as African Americans and Anglos enjoyed a block party prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in nearby St. Louis, and some Tennessee Baptists were a key part.
Medical professionals mainly from First Baptist Church, Clarksville, manned the Send Relief medical/dental mobile clinics of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. The clinics were premiered at the pre-convention Crossover St. Louis activities June 11 in Ferguson, the site of protests and riots after the fatal shooting of an African American by a white police officer two years ago.
The mobile clinics operated from the parking lot of First Baptist Church, Ferguson, which is located just about two blocks from the site of the infamous riots.
About 1,500 people attended the block party at the church on that Saturday, reported Bill Graham, minister of member care, First Baptist, Clarksville, who led the Tennessee team of 13.
Graham said six health care professionals coordinated by the church served along with a pharmacist and a three-member evangelism team.
The church also sent a different set of health care professionals to Ferguson June 3-5 to prepare for the clinics. To meet legal requirements, the doctors and dentists from Tennessee practiced under the supervision of a doctor and dentist from Missouri.
Graham said his church was tapped for the ministry because it is well-known for its medical missions work overseas and at home. In the 1980s the church developed a free-standing clinic ministry out of which a doctor was called to medical missions overseas. Currently, First, Clarksville, regularly operates Good Samaritan Medical/Dental Ministries and sends medical teams to East Asia, Africa, and Brazil.
Also Graham’s contacts at NAMB, including Mickey Caison, who is with disaster relief, helped. Then God arranged for Larry Riley, pastor of the Clarksville church, to be in Atlanta for another meeting so he could meet with NAMB officials when they were planning the project, added Graham.
On the day of the operation, Graham and the other two members of the evangelism team manned one of five stages for patients of the clinics which was for sharing the gospel. He said he used the “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide” plan of NAMB. Though he didn’t see any patient make a profession of faith, he heard several people did that day. Of course, there were many more opportunities at the block party activities for Baptists to share the gospel, he added.
He also was glad to see the ministry of First, Ferguson, said Graham, whose multi-cultural congregation is making an impact.
The team from Tennessee said they enjoyed the missions trip (both weekends), he added. The church plans to arrange to use the Send Relief mobile clinics, of which one is for medical and one is dental, in the future.
“It’s what we’ve done before. The difference was we were in the United States and not in a foreign country,” reported Graham.