Topping Expectations, 3,111 Patients Get Free Adventist Healthcare in Spokane
The Your Best Pathway to Health event is declared “a true miracle.”
, news editor, Adventist Review
A two-day mega-clinic ended up providing free Seventh-day Adventist healthcare to 3,111 people in Spokane, Washington, well above its goal of 3,000.
Organizers were elated that the more than 1,600 volunteers, weary but happy after the Your Best Pathway to Health event on Aug. 3 and 4, had had the opportunity to make a difference in so many lives in the city of 207,000 people.
“It’s a true miracle,” said Costin Jordache, the event’s communication director.
Organizers initially had hoped to sign up 800 doctors, dentists, nurses, massage therapists, barbers, and other volunteers, but the free clinic opened with twice the number, creating more capacity than demand by the afternoon of the first day.
Local news media, which had been covering the event closely, were alerted quickly and asked to let the community know that vacancies for treatment remained. More than 40,000 text messages were sent out to Spokane residents in the evening.
The extra push seemed to work. While 1,485 people sought healthcare on Monday, slightly shy of the goal of 1,500, the figure was easily made up with 1,626 people on Tuesday.
“We were pleasantly surprised to have made the 3,000 goal,” Jordache said. “At the beginning of the day we weren’t confident that we were going to reach the goal, but steadily people kept coming in.”
Waiting in Line
Hundreds of people stood in the dental care line outside the expo center for a second day before the free clinic opened early Tuesday. People at the front of the line said they had waited all night, desperate for crowns, root canals, and other procedures.
Two other lines — for medical services and vision care — were noticeably shorter at 6:30 a.m., a half hour before the doors opened, with fewer than a dozen people in each.
Evangelist Mark Finley, who worked as traffic flow manager at the event, said the dental, medical, and vision departments saw similar numbers of patients throughout the day but the dental line started off long because of pent-up demand for a service that many insurance policies don’t adequately cover. Organizers capped the number of dental patients when daily capacity reached the limit.
Grateful patients treated the volunteers like heroes. When buses pulled in to offload the volunteers at 6 a.m. on the first day of the clinic, the crowd of waiting patients erupted in loud and sustained applause.
Your Best Pathway to Health, which is both an event and the name of a service of ASI, a membership-based organization of Seventh-day Adventist laypeople who actively participate in the church’s worldwide mission, co-organized the free clinic as a way to say thank you to the city of Spokane for hosting the annual ASI Convention, which opens Wednesday and runs through Saturday. The free clinic, the third to be held in the United States in the past two years, seeks to show Jesus in action.
A patient tells how she learned about the Spokane free clinic — and how she couldn’t refuse to visit. Video courtesy of GleanerNow
More Than Free Services
Volunteers provided a total of 7,757 services, including 319 surgeries and 1,164 dental procedures, as well as physical and occupational therapy, nutrition and lifestyle coaching, haircuts, and free clothing. Chaplains prayed with patients before they left.
But the volunteers went a step beyond offering physical and spiritual healing. They also sought to make patients feel comfortable.
In the dental section, for example, patients were ushered to rows of cushioned chairs to wait their turn in line. Newcomers sat in the last row and made their way to the front row.
A reporter saw a mother and two preteen daughters take their places in the last row. As soon as they sat down, a female volunteer walked up and asked the mother, “Would your daughters like a muffin?”
One girl smiled shyly. “Yes, please,” she said.
The girls each received a wrapped, healthy-looking muffin, which they seemed to enjoy. As the girls nibbled on the muffins, a young male volunteer approached the family and offered bottles of drinking water.
A nutritionist spoke from a stage near the front row about the health advantages of replacing meat with beans. She told of a man who lost about 150 pounds (68 kilograms) by doing just that and showed a photo of him on a large video screen.
Patients will be invited to visit health information centers at local Adventist churches to pick up prescription glasses, lab reports, and other follow-up work. They also will be invited to attend health and lifestyle courses at the churches.
Your Best Pathway to Health followed the same model in San Antonio, Texas, where 1,700 volunteers provided $20 million in free healthcare to nearly 6,200 patients over two and a half days in April 2015.
The first free clinic saw 3,100 people in San Francisco and Oakland, California, receive $5.2 million in free healthcare over three days in April 2014.
Some $8 million in services were expected to be offered at the Spokane clinic, but Jordache said the value was still being calculated late Tuesday night. He added, however, that the retail price alone for 170 new men’s suits and four wedding dresses that were given away — including to an engaged couple — was $42,000.
Making Jesus Real
Dr. Peter Landless, director of the Adventist world church’s health ministries department, praised Your Better Pathway to Health volunteers for making Jesus real to so many people.
“They indeed reflect the grace-filled, empathetic and life-changing example of the great Master Physician, Jesus Christ,” Landless told the Adventist Review. “Through the lens of unselfish service, recipients of this care may more clearly discern the love and compassion of the loving Savior, who is the path that ultimately leads us to wholeness.”
Even more volunteers will be needed for the next free clinic — the biggest yet for Your Best Pathway to Health — that is being prepared for Los Angeles next March. At least 3,000 volunteers are being sought to care for 4,000 patients per day, or a total of 10,000 patients during the two and a half days of the event.
“We are going to need a lot more volunteers,” Dr. Lela Lewis, president of Your Best Pathway to Health. “This was wonderful for Spokane, but we’re going to need a lot more for L.A.”
Volunteers are invited to register at Pathwaytohealthvolunteer.org.