By Shawn Hendricks
DULUTH — For those who volunteer at the J.O.Y. Medical Clinic, the “joy” of their work comes through seeing people receive the physical and spiritual care they need, said clinic director Rita Green.
And sometimes it’s the simple things that brighten Green’s day at the clinic in Dublin. She recalled the smile of a young woman who received dental care from the clinic. The woman looked at Green and said, “Look Miss Rita, look at my teeth, how good they look.’ And she smiled.” Green had never seen the girl smile before. “What a joy that was for me.”
The J.O.Y. clinic, a ministry of the Laurens Baptist Association, received a $50,000 grant from the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation during a banquet on Feb. 6 at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth. The clinic, which provides free medical, dental, and eye care, was one of 56 “hands-on” healthcare ministries that received a total of $4,060,683 in awarded grants. Last year, the foundation presented a total of $3.7 million to these non-profit healthcare providers statewide. Since 2005, the foundation has given away $50 million.
Robert White, president and CEO of the foundation, said the grants are about honoring organizations that are living out Christ’s example and helping those in Georgia who have been “forgotten medically.”
“They are underserved, underprivileged, many are without jobs or without insurance,” White said. “No place to turn. Those are the people that we want to minister to.”
He noted, “When you study the life of Christ, you find He often ministered first to the physical needs of the individual and then ministered to them spiritually,” he said. “And we think that is an excellent pattern for us to follow.”
Noting the rising increase in those lacking dental care in Laurens County, Green, a registered nurse who began volunteering at the clinic in 2018, said the money from the grant will go toward purchasing new dental chairs and other dental equipment. The clinic has 243 approved dental patients and a list of 45-80 people on a waiting list.
Without volunteers, Green said, “there’s no way that these clinics could run” and many people in the area would have nowhere to go.
“A lot of our patients have never received any type of dental care,” said Green, noting the ministry helps provide comfort to those often dealing with severe issues such as an abscessed tooth. “They don’t have routine checkups, routine cleaning, so they don’t seek care until they are in excruciating pain.”
But the biggest reason for the clinic, Green said, is to be able to “share God’s word and to spread the Gospel. And we do that at every clinic. That’s the most important thing.” According to the clinic’s website, each patient receives spiritual counseling.
“We try to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said.
Since the foundation began, White added, they have seen approximately 20,000 people come to faith in Christ through the health care ministries they have supported. He noted the crisis pregnancy centers they support have seen 18,000 babies being carried to full-term.
“These centers have done an amazing job in helping women understand how important it is not to abort but to carry their babies to full-term,” he said. “That’s about 18,000 lives that these clinics have saved. It’s just an incredible blessing to see that happen.”
White said he hopes more associations like the Laurens Baptist Association will move into healthcare ministry “anyway they can.”
“It’s a total package of physical ministry and spiritual ministry,” he said, “that we believe is making a very big difference in Georgia.”
Shawn Hendricks is a writer, editor, and communications strategist who has covered Southern Baptist missions and ministry for 20 years. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Nashville, Tennessee area.