Sabbath School Class Paves Way for Next U.S. Free Clinic

The class in Collegedale, Tennessee, just wanted to get its members more involved in mission.

Sabbath School Class Paves Way for Next U.S. Free Clinic

Updated on June 8 with sidebar about why Pathway Beckley needs financial assistance. 

Call it the power of a Sabbath School class.

The first small-town free clinic organized by Your Best Pathway to Health — which will be held in Beckley, West Virginia, on July 13-15 — is actually the brainchild of the Acceptance Sabbath School class at the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church in Collegedale, Tennessee.

“Several years ago, our mission committee felt that passively writing checks for missions, while good, wasn’t enough,” said Bob Gadd, leader of the class of about 100 members. “We wanted the class members to experience missions as well.”

The class worked with the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Mountain View Conference for more than a year to identify Beckley as a place where its members could have a mission experience close to home. The class then reached out to Your Best Pathway to Health to organize a free clinic there.

This spirit of mission is being held up by church leaders as an example for Sabbath School classes everywhere as Your Best Pathway to Health scales down its previously larger operations to show that the concept of free clinics can — and should — be replicated in every U.S. community.

The event in Beckley, population 17,600, will be considerably smaller than previous mega-clinics in Los Angeles (8,538 patients in three days last April) and San Antonio (about 6,200 patients in three days in April 2015).

“I hope to learn how this can be replicated on a smaller scale simultaneously around the country,” said Lela Lewis, president of Your Best Pathway to Health, which organizes the free clinics in partnership with ASI and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “Pathway Beckley will be a training ground for other conferences, cities, and individual churches to know how they too can make their church a center of influence.”

The local New Beginnings Seventh-day Adventist Church will serve as an extension of the clinic where patients can pick up prescription eyeglasses, lab results, and other post-clinic diagnoses after the clinic ends. Patients also will receive invitations to attend health seminars and other events that focus on physical and spiritual wellness at the church.

The Acceptance Sabbath School class canceled its annual mission trip to Kodiak, Alaska, in favor of the clinic. A group of 10 class members had traveled to Kodiak for three weeks every year to lead health seminars, cooking schools, Vacation Bible Schools, and evangelistic meetings.

But Gadd and class member Benny Moore, chief financial officer for Your Best Pathway to Health, wanted to get even more class members involved and to find a way for them to foster longer term relationships with the people whom they met.

“While that was a good project, it was too far away for our class to continue the relationship,” Gadd said. “So we were looking for a project closer to home where more members could be involved and our class could continue the relationship once the initial project had been completed.”

He said about 15 class members have registered so far to participate in Pathway Beckley.

Moore, who said the class also was donating $10,000 toward the event, encouraged other Sabbath school classes to get involved by signing up members to volunteer and contributing funds.

The free clinic could use the assistance. With only a month left, Your Best Pathway to Health is urgently seeking medical volunteers. Lewis, a medical doctor, said a total of 300 volunteers were needed, including 30 dentists, 10 dental hygienists, eight optometrists, and 40 physicians, specifically cardiologists, surgeons, gynecologic surgeons, physical therapists, and a radiologist and an infectious disease specialist.

With a looming budgetary shortfall, Lewis also is asking church members to consider sponsoring individual patients at the clinic.

“Our goal is 1,500 patients,” she said Tuesday. “It only costs $100 to service a patient, and as such we would like to get 1,500 Adventists to sponsor 1,500 patients.”

For information about participating in Pathway Beckley, visit the Your Best Pathway to Health sign-up website.