Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET
Thousands of people lined up in San Antonio for a second day of free medical and dental services Thursday as a Seventh-day Adventist-organized mega clinic looked likely to surpass expectations and treat upward of 7,500 people.
Organizers of the three-day event initially planned to care for 5,000 people, but boosted the figure to 6,000 at the request of the Texan city’s mayor, who provided the Alamodome stadium for the event at no cost.
But a total of 2,617 people ended up receiving treatment on Wednesday, a figure that exceeded a cap of 2,000 patients announced by organizers earlier in the day.
Dr. Chris Lewis, assistant to the president of Your Best Pathway to Health, the main organizer of the event, praised God that the number of patients looked on track to greatly exceed the mayor’s requested 6,000.
“I would have been ecstatic to reach that number over the three days, but yesterday our volunteers were able to see just over 2,700 people on the first day,” Lewis told the
Adventist Review. “We believe God is blessing this event greatly.”
Mayor Ivy Taylor toured the stadium on Thursday and praised the volunteers for their work.
A team of 1,700 doctors, dentists, and other volunteers are running the free clinic, one of the Adventist Church’s biggest community outreach initiatives of 2015. The clinic seeks to introduce San Antonio residents to Adventists ahead of a major church business meeting, the General Conference session, that will be held in the same stadium in July.
You have got to see this! #pathwaytohealth #Christsmethod #MOREcompassion #MOREsanantonio
Posted by Your Best Pathway to Health on Wednesday, April 8, 2015
A patient tearfully says doctors successfully treated a lingering leg pain. “I couldn’t have done this on my own,” she says. Video courtesy of Your Best Pathway to Health
People started lining up outside the Alamodome at noon Tuesday, and hundreds more who did not make it to the front of the line on opening day camped outside the stadium overnight in hope of getting in Thursday.
“There is a great need here for healthcare,” said Daniel Weber, communication director for the Adventist Church’s North American Division, a co-organizer of the event.
The waiting line is divided into dental and medical services, and Weber said 1,500 to 2,000 people were waiting for dental work alone when the stadium reopened at 7 a.m. Thursday.
“This morning, the line is longer than yesterday,” he said. “So the challenge is trying to get all the people through.”
A significantly larger number of people are seeking root canals, crowns, fillings, and other dental services compared to those seeking the medical services, which include pap smears, pediatrics, immunizations, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, and general surgery.
A patient tearfully said that doctors had successfully treated a lingering leg pain and she was looking forward to receiving dental care.
“I couldn’t have done this on my own,” she said in a videotaped interview posted on the event’s Facebook page.
“It’s just a blessing,” she said. “Thank you to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I’m just so overwhelmed.”
Some people have traveled to San Antonio from other parts of Texas after news about the free clinic was featured prominently on local television channels and in newspapers, including
on the front page of Wednesday’s San Antonio Express-News.
About 100 minor surgical procedures were carried out in the stadium on Wednesday, organizers said. Another 70 patients are receiving free major surgery at the Central Texas Medical Center, an Adventist Health System facility located about 45 minutes north of San Antonio.
Adventist Health System is another co-organizer of the event, together with the Adventist Church’s Southwestern Union Conference, the General Conference, and other entities.
Haircuts and a free meal are also available at the stadium. The sack lunches on Wednesday included a wrap with vegetables and hummus, multigrain Sun Chips, a couple oatmeal raisin cookies, and vegan butterscotch pudding.
Volunteers said they felt blessed to participate.
“We are seeing God at work here, and it is a privilege to be part of that,” said Kerrie D. Kimbrow, a nursing professor from Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas, who is serving as the event’s assistant director of nursing.
“Keep us in your prayers — for strength (we are exhausted) — but more importantly, that our efforts may have eternal results,” she said in an e-mail to the university that was seen by the
More than 70 Southwestern nursing students and faculty are working at the clinic. Several of the students chose to go to San Antonio instead of staying on campus to be recognized at a prestigious annual scholarships and awards reception on Wednesday night, university president Kenneth L. Shaw told the reception.
Jonathan Dumar, 14, said he was glad his handbell choir from Oklahoma Academy had made the trip to play religious songs for people waiting in line outside the stadium.
“The people who were going through line seemed happy to listen to us because there wasn’t much to do,” the ninth grader said by cell phone.
Other student choirs and musical groups are also performing outside and inside the stadium. Patients can watch cooking demonstrations conducted by Teenie Finley and other Adventists while waiting in line.
Dumar was also working with groups of up to 45 preteens whose parents were receiving treatment. He said he and other volunteers played with the children and led them through educational activities such as a tour of workstations representing exercise, water, rest, and other ingredients of good health.
A total of 27 students and five faculty members from Oklahoma Academy in Harrah, Oklahoma, are volunteering in San Antonio. Students also are present from Daystar Adventist Academy in Utah, Greenville Adventist Academy in Tennessee, Ouachita Hills Academy in Arkansas, and Weimar in California.
Oklahoma Academy teacher Brian Holland signed up to lead volunteers’ children in constructing models of the biblical sanctuary. A donor provided the sanctuary kits, which retail for $30, to 25 of the older children. About 80 children total were being cared for.
But Holland said he also has been assisting in IT, hospitality, and chaplaincy services.
Chaplains talk and pray with every patient after treatment. The chaplains also invite patients to visit their nearest Seventh-day Adventist church to collect blood test results, prescription eyeglasses, and other items that aren’t ready immediately.
Holland said that watching people enter the stadium, being divided into groups to receive treatment at various places, and then leaving with a prayer and the visible joy of better health gave him an inkling of how the disciples might have felt when Jesus fed the multitude of 5,000 in
“This is like it was when Jesus fed the 5,000 but in a modern way,” Holland said. “Just like Jesus had the disciples organize people into groups for the feeding, that’s what we are doing here. It really has that feel.”