Inside, the clinic is buzzing as dentists, hygienists, doctors, nurses, students, and other volunteers pray and prepare for a day of service. For the next two days, we will reach our patients from every angle we can: dental care, lifestyle coaching, prayer, encouragement, children’s programs, music, and massage. It’s a team effort to reach a community’s real needs.
This is an AMEN free clinic, a living example of comprehensive medical ministry.
For several years, AMEN has served internationally through medical mission trips. But last year, a dream was born to reach underserved people in our own communities.
Danny Kwon, AMEN’s executive director, noticed an opportunity that he believed could become a modern day miracle. He learned about a group called RAM (Remote Area Medical), a volunteer organization that provides free dental, medical, and optical services to thousands of uninsured or underinsured Americans. Danny encouraged AMEN leaders to volunteer at a RAM clinic, hoping that they too would see a great opportunity for AMEN.
And that’s exactly what happened. Dr. Mark Ranzinger, the president of AMEN at that time, as well as 4 other Adventist healthcare professionals attended that clinic and agreed that AMEN should find a way to witness through free clinics.
As the idea materialized, AMEN leaders began to realize the incredible potential this model had to reach people for Jesus. The vision for AMEN Free Clinics was born. Free clinics provide the opportunity to connect Adventist dentists, doctors, and other healthcare professionals (as well as non-medical volunteers) to the very communities the church wants to reach.
With 40 million Americans lacking medical insurance and 100 million lacking dental insurance, what better way to follow Christ’s method of healing than to actively meet this need? “For many Americans, the western diet combined with a lack of dental insurance (even in the working community) compounds the dental need. Modern technology allows us to provide most dental procedures, even tooth replacements, in quick-turn around times. What a wonderful way to relieve suffering and reveal Christ’s love” says Danny.
The vision for stateside ministry caught on. Steve Chang, an AMEN member, donated the use of his portable dental equipment. It was used for the first AMEN Free Clinic in Page, Arizona in July of 2013. Donations for AMEN’s own basic equipment came in time for the second clinic in San Francisco, where AMEN partnered with the Chinese church and several Central California Conference Bible workers.
AMEN returned to San Francisco, in March 2014, for a free clinic at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center after community leaders enthusiastically offered the use of this public venue. Patrick Alan, a clinic volunteer and the administrative assistant of church ministries for the Central California Conference, recognized the potential free clinics would have to reach influential leaders in the city.
“In addition to the relief that AMEN has brought to the needy,” he said, “they have earned a trust among the community leaders of San Francisco. For this reason and others, AMEN is of crucial importance in the development of ministry in this city.” Through free clinics, community leaders actually support AMEN in evangelistic outreach.
Later in April, AMEN returned to the bay area once again to partner with Bridges to Health, the ASI-sponsored clinic that reached thousands in San Francisco & Oakland. AMEN coordinated the dental component of the clinic. The hard working dentists and hygienists treated nearly 500 patients in just a few days. Unemployed people, students, and uninsured workers lined up for hours for a chance to get much-needed dental care.
One patient, Chris, is a single father who recently moved from a small town farm to San Francisco to start a new life for his two young kids. He was extremely grateful to have a bridge made for his front tooth. “I know that having my front teeth fixed will give me a better chance of getting a good job,” Chris said.
One of the highlights of the clinics is watching dentists and physicians take the time to pray with their patients. For some, this is a new practice. Volunteers often express motivation to be more intentional about sharing Jesus with their patients when they return home. It’s also a blessing to partner with churches to reach their local communities. Church members who volunteer build connections with the patients. This model has tremendous potential to connect churches with the very people they want to reach.
In August, AMEN partnered with the Yorba Linda SDA church and the Lakeport SDA church to hold a free clinic in Lake County, one of California’s poorest regions, serving three hundred patients in 2 days. One grateful patient left this comment on AMEN’s Facebook page: “I want to THANK all the volunteers that held the clinic at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Lakeport yesterday… I have never seen such a large organization of volunteers where absolutely EVERYBODY went above and beyond the call of duty to help me!! They did excellent dental work, had a wonderful chair side manner and prayed with you if you wanted it!! God bless and thank you to all of you!!!”
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the AMEN conference. In conjunction with our annual conference, AMEN leadership decided to host a free medical and dental clinic in San Diego, California on October 25 & 26, the weekend prior to the conference. This year’s conference was held across the San Diego bay on Coronado Island. Partnering with a ministry of the Paradise Valley SDA church, AMEN served 264 patients at this clinic, including many refugees. For two days the San Diego Adventist Academy gym was buzzing with the sound of dental drills, medical counsel, prayers, and words of gratitude. Reflecting on the clinic, Pastor Mark Finley said: “These medical/dental clinics are a lot more than simply providing needed treatment. They are about praying with people and ministering like Christ did. He ministered to the poor and the disadvantaged. Many people that came through the San Diego clinic were refugees. They are away from their homes and are in need of medical and especially dental treatment. At the free clinic not only are their physical needs met, but beyond the physical they find kindness, compassion, and love. I praise God for committed physicians, dentists and medical personnel committed to ministering to human needs, and I praise God for the way Jesus is still touching lives in the 21st century.”
Free clinics are made possible through the sacrifice and support of hundreds of volunteers- dentists, physicians, nurses, dental students, church members, donors, etc. We are tremendously grateful to all the people who have made these events possible.
AMEN Free Clinics continue to expand AMEN’s integrated mission of restoring the body and reclaiming the soul. Our goal is to join together with churches to provide skilled service, compassionate care, and spiritual hope to those who need it most, both locally and internationally. Plan ahead and be part of the blessing during one of our upcoming clinics!
To learn more, visit amenfreeclinics.org