Hundreds of residents of Bakersfield, California, received free dental, medical, vision, and chiropractic care—with some getting free haircuts—as the Bakersfield Hillcrest Seventh-day Adventist Church held a AMEN Clinic to serve its neighbors.
The Adventist Medical Evangelism Network, or AMEN, helps congregations run the clinics. This is the second year for such an effort at the Bakersfield Hillcrest church.
“You want to talk about something that brings every aspect of a church together as Jesus’ ministry does, it’s that AMEN clinic,” said Pastor Daniel Petsch, senior pastor at the church. “Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants — people who may not go door-to-door, but if they can go out and share their [professional] skills, their face will light up.”
At least 600 people were served at the clinic on Jan. 29—final numbers have yet to be tallied—and while that number was lower than the 900 who’d participated in 2016, Tui Silafau, AMEN’s clinic coordinator, said the level of enthusiasm was the same.
“You want to talk about something that brings every aspect of a church together as Jesus’ ministry does, it’s that AMEN clinic.”
“Every patient was happy and satisfied with the service they received,” Silafau said. “And it was great to see how the dentists prayed with each patient.”
That merging of prayer and practice continued in other areas of the clinic, including a lifestyle section where lectures and individual counseling was provided. Lecturers came from the area, from Weimar Institute, and as far away as the Nevada-Utah Conference, Silafau said.
Equally important was the mutuality of benefit to both the patients and the providers.
“Every time we do a clinic, especially in Bakersfield, there was no ulterior motive on both ends,” Silafau said. “The patients had to wait a long time, but they knew it was worth it. The dentists [and other practitioners] weren’t paid, but did more than a ten-hour day. They’re taking out time on a Sunday to come, even though they had to work the next day.”
Petsch noted that some workers and medical personnel were at the church as early as 6:30 a.m., and many stayed long after the senior pastor left at 6:30 p.m.
“It was a long, long day, but they did it with a smile on their face,” he said.
Patients weren’t the only visitors to the event: the local CBS-TV affiliate, KBAK, featured the clinic on the evening’s “Eyewitness News” broadcast.
Frank Farmer, a clinic visitor, told the station, “First come, first serve, no requirement whatsoever, just be here and they’ll give you whatever you need. For someone to offer free medical, dental, and vision care and almost anything else you can imagine, it’s incredible.”
Church member and volunteer Marci Horus also told KBAK, “Our job as a church family is to be able to serve the people in our community, to be able to fill them where they have a need.”
“Our job as a church family is to be able to serve the people in our community, to be able to fill them where they have a need.”
A former U.S. Army chaplain who retired in 2016, Petsch is no stranger to Bakersfield Hillcrest. He’d served there as an associate pastor from 1990 to 1994, moving to a three-church district in the Central California Conference before becoming a military chaplain in 1999. He returned to the church in December 2016.
Petsch, who credited members with organizing and running the day’s events, heartily supported the AMEN effort.
“I can only give a full-throated endorsement of all the people who brought the AMEN Clinic to us; just superb persons to work with,” he said. “I think a lot of churches with professional people they can tap to do the vision, dental, chiropractic and massage, this is right up their alley. This is the ministry for their church.”
Silafau agreed, saying the clinics are “not just about the patients we’re there for. It truly brings the churches together, it gives an opportunity for the laity to do something. Not everyone can do door knocking; if they’re just there to smile and offer a prayer with a patient, I find that it truly does change and transform a church in a radical way. It defines Total Member Involvement.”