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Church transforms lives through healing hands of Christ

By Barbara Denman

August 19, 2013

The young man entered the door of the Westside Samaritans Clinic without an appointment. Having recently moved to Gainesville, he was without a job, any source of income and HAD no health insurance. Life had not been good in recent months and he looked somewhat battered, bruised and unapproachable—as if he carried the world upon his shoulders. 

After the volunteer physicians attended to his medical needs and gave him prescribed medications, volunteer Barry McEwen asked him for a moment of time. As they began to talk, McEwen shared the gospel with the younger man who accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior on the spot—one of four to receive Christ that night.

Leaving the clinic, the young man no longer looked downhearted or beaten by life’s battles, but with a smile on his face, his entire countenance was changed by the hope of the gospel.

McEwen gave the young man his phone number and invited him to church, promising to sit with him when he came.

In the past year, 41 new Christian believers have walked out of the Westside clinic, changed physically and spiritually by the healing hand of Christ.

Every Thursday night, members of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville literally transform the church’s dining room, hallways and library into a medical clinic. Stored equipment, examining tables and medical supplies are pulled from a set of closets in the Worship Center. Classrooms become exam rooms and the library serves as the pharmacy, complete with rows of medicines.

For four hours each week, volunteer physicians, nurses and dentists tend to the critical needs of Gainesville’s needy residents.

In the two zip codes surrounding the church nearly 40,000 residents are uninsured and cannot afford medical services, said Pastor Gary Crawford. The needs are critical.

The nearest medical facility to take care of Medicaid and indigent patients is about a 30-minute drive or longer on public transportation. As a result of the lack of medical care, many of the sick end up in the local emergency room, their condition made more critical than if it had been kept in check through routine treatments.

Crawford had the vision of developing a medical clinic for the community believing the “medical platform is a wonderful way to show the love, compassion and grace of Christ.” But he waited and prayed for God to bring it to fruition.

Clinic director Roy Klossner had been an emergency room physician in Indiana when a medical condition had knocked him off his feet. Moving to Gainesville, he soon learned he had pancreatic cancer. At that point he believed God was trying to get his attention. “It forced me to evaluate my life and realize that I had been fighting God for a long time and I was going to surrender.” Without any treatment his cancer cleared up.

Then God gave Klossner a vision, too. He began researching the need for indigent health care in Alachua County and necessary steps to set up a medical clinic. He approached Crawford who worked with him on the project and only recently shared that he had, in fact, had a similar dream.

In the very beginning stages of prayer and discussion, Klossner received a call from a plastic surgeon in town explaining that he was remodeling his office and had equipment. Could Klossner use any of it, the surgeon asked.

From then on, Klossner watched as God provided every need in the clinic. After a dental appointment, the dentist asked if Klossner needed any additional excess equipment. “We need a digital dental x-ray system,” he replied.

A funny expression came over the dentist’s face as she went back to her office and placed a digital system—worth $20,000—on the table. She had just purchased a new one, she said, and was wondering if she should throw away the old model.

“Just story after story, God kept providing,” said Klossner. Among those provisions were trained medical volunteers who began to sign up to work at the clinic.

Dean White was one of the volunteers. As the young physician looked over medical charts to oversee patient treatment, he paused to explain that he had a crisis of faith that led him to explore the Bible for himself. “I accepted Christ and was baptized here (at Westside) Dec. 18, 2011,” he said.

“Jesus is the great Healer,” said White, who serves as an emergency physician at the Lake City VA Hospital. I think all healing is done through Him. He works through us and we have done a lot of good already. We have touched a lot of people.”

In nearly a year of operation over 900 patients have been seen by the clinic medical professionals. Many of them have chronic, long-term medical conditions and make return visits. So the health care professionals get to know them on a personal level. Hugs and personal greetings are freely given by the medical staff.

Patient Cecilia Sims was sent to the clinic from the Alachua County Health Department. “In a way, I rather prefer it here than in the health department.

“I love the Christian attitude. And as a Christian myself, I feel the people are genuinely concerned.” With no health care and little extra money, the widow who is also caring for her elderly mother, does not know where else she would turn without the clinic. “So this has been a blessing.”

While Westside Samaritans Clinic began operation with a $50,000 grant from Alachua County, it also receives funds from the Maguire State Mission Offering, which provides subsidies to nearly two dozen church-based clinics across the state. Those funds help to purchase needed medicine and other supplies for the clinic. 

“I think Florida Baptists demonstrate the heart of God in giving to so many different causes through the offering,” said Crawford. “All in support of the Gospel of Christ.”

Klossner is in the process of requesting a federally funded grant that would enable the clinic to construct a building and see patients every day. Its hours of operation would increase by ten-fold from four hours a week to 44 hours.

But he is most excited that it would also “magnify the opportunity” to lead people to Christ; “40 times 10” in a year. “That would be huge. That’s Kingdom changing stuff.”

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