Baptists in Evans, Tattnall counties open clinic for medically underserved residents


CLAXTON, Ga. – People who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase medical insurance will be able to get the healthcare they need through a ministry launched this week by the Tattnall Evans Baptist Association.

Good Health Ministries – created for people who have fallen through the cracks in the nation’s medical system – is the latest in a statewide network of nonprofit ministries attempting to fill the gap.

“Our goal is to provide the primary care that people need so that they don’t have to put off treatment until it becomes an emergency and they have to rush to the hospital,” said Wendy West, a registered nurse who oversees the clinic that will serve Claxton, Glennville, Reidsville and surrounding communities in Evans and Tattnall counties.

Good Health Ministries offers a broad range of  other services as well, including dental assistance, behavioral counseling, health education, life skills classes, and crisis pregnancy counseling. All those services provide opportunities for staff and volunteers to share the gospel with the people they serve.

“What’s happening in the Tattnall Evans association will be life-saving and life-changing for people who fall into the healthcare gap,” said Ricky Thrasher, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s liaison to the Baptist associations around the state. “The associational missionary, Freddy Gardner, has championed this project from the very start, and his churches have gotten behind the initiative in a big way.  This ministry shows what can be accomplished when a group of Baptists work together to meet a critical need.”

Gardner secured a $225,000 grant from the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation that covered most of the construction costs. Locally, medical professionals have gotten involved, volunteering their time to provide health screenings and treatment to the clinic’s patients. And local organizations have donated the clinic’s heating and air conditioning system, examination tables and other items, including artwork for the walls.

Gardner’s association is made up of about 30 congregations that felt compelled to start the medical clinic as a means to show the love of Christ to the communities it serves.

“We felt like we were doing pretty well in helping to reach our state, nation and world, but we felt like we weren’t doing enough to reach our own city,” Gardner said. “When we realized that, we began to look for meaningful ways to do ministry here.”

It was during a mission trip to Haiti that the seed for Good Health Ministries germinated. Short-term missionaries from the Claxton area were helping patients at a Haitian clinic, providing medical care for people who otherwise would have gone without.

While working in the Haiti clinic, West told some of the other Georgia missionaries, “I sure wish I could do something like this back home.”

Now, she is doing it as the clinic’s medical director.

The largely agricultural economy in Tattnall and Evans counties has produced a growing number of people in the lower middle class, which is the sector that is most likely to be in need of Good Health Ministries.

“Too many of those people have had to go without medical care,” Gardner said. “Now, they have an option.”

The clinic will celebrate its opening with a ribbon cutting on March 14 at 1:30 p.m.