April 29, 2022

Pop-up Adventist Clinic in St. Louis Reaches People in Need of Medical Care

Initiative is part of an intentional plan to reach local communities across that U.S. city.

Christina Coston, Mid-America Union Conference Outlook, and Adventist Review

Seventh-day Adventist church members in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, recently offered a free pop-up clinic in the Northside Adventist church’s gymnasium. 

The clinic provided free health screening services, spiritual counseling and prayer, mental health screenings, and home remedy seminars. Services were administered by more than 30 volunteers from Seventh-day Adventist churches in the St. Louis area.

The pop-up health clinic was the first event overseen by the St. Louis Metropolitan Adventist Health Clinic (STLMHC), a steering committee formed in 2021 with the purpose of making health care more accessible to the underserved in St. Louis.

The idea to start a free health clinic in St. Louis was introduced by Geoffrey Ikpeama, a member of the St. Louis Central Adventist church and vice president for STLMHC. During a trip to Nigeria, Ikpeama witnessed a free temporary health clinic that offered basic services to those in need. Ikpeama, whose background is in public health, was inspired by what he saw.

“Seeing that really made me think, ‘OK, you know, we could probably do something at least as basic as this in St. Louis,’ ” Ikpeama recalled.

After returning to the United States, Ikpeama met with Rob Alfalah, who at that time was the pastor for St. Louis Central church and a representative for Adventist Ministers and Pastors of St. Louis (AMPS). AMPS is an organization that connects pastors and churches in the St. Louis metropolitan area with the intent of ministry and fellowship. AMPS has members from the Central States Conference, Illinois Conference, Iowa-Missouri Conference, and Lake Region Conference. Ikpeama and Alfalah discussed the idea to hold a clinic in the St. Louis area similar to the one Ikpeama had seen in Nigeria. Alfalah said he thought it was a great concept and brought the idea to the chair of AMPS, Abraham Weekes.

Weekes saw the potential of a health initiative in the St. Louis area and believed any health efforts would be best accomplished by the various conferences in the St. Louis area working together.

“The thought was that, consistent with AMPS’s mission and vision, it just might be that working together, we can accomplish more,” Weekes said.

With the support of AMPS, a steering committee was formed. Trevor Barnes, pastor for the Northside church, was appointed president for the STLMHC. Barnes, who previously conducted such outreach programs in Sacramento, California, believed a health clinic would be beneficial to St. Louis.

“I resonated with [the possibility of doing a health clinic]. I thought it was a great idea,” Barnes reflected.

For months, the STLMHC group planned the logistics of their ministry. The group developed a three-phase plan to bring free health services to the underserved in St. Louis. As stated on STLMHC’s website, the first phase is to host pop-up clinics. The second phase is to purchase a medical van to serve as a vehicle for a mobile clinic. The third and final phase is to build a lifestyle center.

With this infrastructure in place, the team planned the first pop-up clinic. Upon completion, the team considers the event a success.

In addition to serving the community’s health needs, the group hopes their efforts will form connections between the local Seventh-day Adventist churches and the community.

“We’re trying to build relationships with the community,” Ikpeama said.

The clinic attracted the attention of a local news outlet, which interviewed Barnes about the clinic. He said the news reporter had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists and struggled to pronounce the denomination’s name correctly.

“The church has to be able to be known in the community,” Barnes said. “And I feel this is a great way to be able to do that.”

STLMHC plans to hold a second pop-up clinic in June. The group is still finalizing details for the event and will update their website as the specifics are confirmed.

The original version of this story was posted by the Mid-America Union Conference Outlook magazine.