After a two-year wait, Pathway to Health, a humanitarian ministry of the North American Division that provides free clinics, held a free mega-clinic in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, at the Lucas Oil Stadium, April 17-21, 2022.
The clinic served more than 4,200 people in the metropolitan Indianapolis area. The goal of the event was to show God’s love by serving as many people as possible with free medical, dental, vision, and lifestyle care.
Dental services ranging from dental cleanings to partial dentures were offered, as well as vision services such as optometry and eye glasses. In addition, medical services including primary care, cardiology, dermatology, radiology, and podiatry were offered. No identification, documentation, or remuneration were required for these services.
Organizers accomplished the clinic event by working together in harmony with the theme, United We Serve. “We know that we could never have done this on our own,” Vic Van Schaik, president of the Indiana Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said. “By uniting together with the Lake Region Conference and the Lake Union Conference and other ministries, we were able to do something that only God could have brought about.”
At a volunteer appreciation dinner where various partners were thanked for their involvement, Pathway to Health president and CEO Ivan Golubic said, “We live in a divided world, but here we’re united. You don’t vote the same or speak the same language, but we all came together to serve the people of Indianapolis.”
AWR president Duane McKey echoed those sentiments, saying, “As we unite, we come together, and we tell people God loves them.”
Virginia Caine, health director for the Marion County Department of Health, told the volunteers and organizers, who were gathered in a space surrounded by Indy 500 race-car memorabilia, that it was a wonderful sight to see thousands of volunteers help people who need it most. “Thanks for having the compassion to take time out of your busy lives,” she said. “What an incredible resource. You’ve raised the bar for others. The city loves you. We will always be there for you.”
The mega-clinic’s arrival had been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Volunteers were required to wear face masks and other protective equipment, and depending on when they arrived, to be tested for COVID-19 up to two times. “This is of course a very controversial issue, but we have to answer to a number of entities,” Julie Bryson, Pathway to Health medical director, said. “We had to work on really good safety protocol.”
‘That Was Me!’
Weeks before the mega-clinic, volunteers from local churches in Indianapolis laid the groundwork for the clinic to begin. One of their responsibilities, among others, was making sure the community was aware of the clinic. Nora Sackett, a triage nurse and one of the volunteers, was passing out flyers with others from the Chapel West church. “We were not having any luck,” Sackett recalled. “Nobody even wanted to open their doors.”
She called her pastor, and they decided to leave the flyers even if people weren’t opening their door. But then it started raining. “I still had a lot of flyers left. So, I went to Walmart.” But the local Walmart, and later Meijer grocery story, would not allow her pass out the flyers on store property. As the rain poured down, she still had flyers left to give away. Sackett decided to go home. As she was driving, however, she saw a Mexican grocery store and went in and passed out the remainder of the flyers.
This is where Sackett met Saroj Patel. Saroj immigrated to the United States from India with her disabled 24-year-old son some years ago. Her husband was not issued a visa, so that left her alone to provide care to her son. “I care for my son a lot,” she said. Saroj, who works in a warehouse for a few hours every day, had been fasting for nine days when she decided to go to the grocery store. “I was shopping there, and I met a lady. She put a paper in my hand, and it was about Pathway to Health,” Saroj said. “I went home, took a picture [with the phone], and shared the flyer with my family.”
When Saroj arrived at the clinic, she was experiencing debilitating foot pain. With assistance from volunteer podiatrists, she was able to resolve the pain. “Now I don’t have any pain at all!” she said excitedly.
During the check-in process, Saroj connected with Nora Sackett. Discovering that they lived near each other, Sackett offered her a ride home. During the drive, they began to discuss how Saroj learned about the mega-clinic. After Saroj recounted her experience at the grocery store, Sackett realized she was the one who had given her the flyer. Saroj broke down in tears. She later recounted, “When you are by yourself, it is so hard to do everything. It becomes really challenging. But sometimes, I meet people like [Nora] that allow you to forget everything.”
‘I Want to Go to Your Church Many Times, Not One Time’
Mark Eaton, Indiana Conference secretary and treasurer, was volunteering at the clinic and had an encounter he won’t soon forget.
“We were standing in the lifestyle section, and I was talking to a Hispanic lady,” Eaton said. “She didn’t speak any English. I know a little bit of Spanish, so I showed her the locations of the Health Information Centers and some of the dates and asked her if she wanted to go.” The woman, who appeared interested in the centers, replied, “Yes, not one time.” Eaton, a bit unsure of the woman’s response replied, “Some of these are only one time.” The woman persisted. “No, no, many times. I want to go there many times. Any church that helps people like this, I want to go there many times.”
Eaton was blown away by her response. He called Noel Ojeda, Indiana Hispanic Ministries coordinator, and had him speak with the woman. “She was adamant — she said, ‘I want to go many times! I want to join!’ ” Eaton said. After she spoke with Ojeda, the woman informed Eaton of her choice. “She told me, ‘I want to join your church.’ The Holy Spirit really impressed her.”
It is stories such as these that North American Division president Alex Bryant said make Pathway to Health the closest to the ministry of Jesus. “It provides a ministry to the people who are in need, and who almost don’t know where else to go,” Bryant said in an interview for the Lake Union Herald’s livestream broadcast. “When Jesus was here, he attracted this kind of people who don’t have means, yet they have great need. Your Best Pathway to Health comes into a community and provides free medical services to the people who are the least of these among us. And I believe that, more than anything else, really represents what Jesus would be doing down here.”
How It Came Together
Mark Black served as layout director for Pathway to Health and said it's astounding for him to see what how God shows up during these outreach efforts.
“In my career, I have been involved with the opening of many licensed care facilities. There is more than a month of training before any patients are admitted,” he explained. “With Pathway events, 2,000 to 4,000 volunteers come together, set up and open a medical, dental, and vision triage and treatment center within a couple of days, and immediately bring in thousands of patients!”
Black gives all the credit to God. “The reality is, it really cannot be done! Humanly speaking, this is not possible. But that is how God works!”
Eight semi-trailers were loaded from a warehouse in Arkansas, stored at Indiana Academy, and then brought to Indianapolis ahead of the event. “God provided a volunteer that motored them to the Lucas Oil Stadium on the first day the dock was available,” Black said. Negotiations with vendors for equipment and supplies took place in advance. Department leaders ordered supplies and shipped them to a local warehouse. Later, many departments found that entities were willing to donate supplies and lend equipment for the mega-clinic. Each piece of equipment had to be tracked and returned at the end of the event. “Over and over, I could see God's leading in providing the right volunteers and resources at the right time,” Black said.
“There were many opportunities to see our need for God to work for the success of the event,” Black explained. A snowstorm during the event, a fire alarm on the first day that led to the stadium's evacuation, and a last-minute lack of volunteers in some departments were all challenges the event organizers had to persevere through. “They all made apparent our need to keep our dependence on the Lord. Volunteers had set up a prayer room where there was continuous prayer. Being yoked together by Christ in service of others does something amazing for those who commit to work together; there is a sense of unity, of family, when Christ is at the head.”
What’s Next in Indianapolis
The Indiana and Lake Region conferences have planned an assortment of bold evangelism initiatives for the coming days. As patients left the Lucas Oil Stadium, they were handed a booklet about Health Information Centers (HICs).
Kevin Rogers, pastor of the Capitol City Adventist church in Indianapolis, said, “You’ve heard the saying, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’ One of the things that Pathway pretty much insisted on as we were preparing was, they wanted us to have what they call Health Information Centers. They saw the great need for people to learn to be [healthier] in their lifestyle.”
Evangelistic meetings and the HICs will be located throughout Indianapolis and are designed to provide ongoing support to individuals as they strive to overcome lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Van Schaik is enthusiastic about the efforts. “Because all these people have come, and they had such a positive impression of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” he said, “I believe that God is already working on their hearts so that we can lead them to the next part of the journey.”