March 19, 2024

Two Conferences Team Up to Provide Medical and Dental Care in Detroit

More than 300 community members received important medical and dental services.

Debbie Michel, Lake Union Herald
(From left) Pontiac Southside church elder Betty Yancey, Lake Region health ministries director Christina Wells, and Michigan Conference assistant literature ministries director Seth Roberts were on the literature, medical, and counseling teams. [Photos: JeNean Lendor]

One man expressed his joy through an interpreter as he was no longer experiencing excruciating tooth pain. Another patient accompanying his son for dental care decided to take advantage of the medical screening and discovered his blood pressure was dangerously high. 

These are two of the hundreds of stories emerging from the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) free medical and dental clinic, held jointly with the Lake Region and Michigan conferences at the Johnson Recreation Center in Detroit, Michigan, United States, on March 10. 

The event offering whole-person health care showcased what happens when churches cross conference lines and work together, leaders said.   

For the past several years, the Lake Union Conference of the Adventist Church, whose territory includes the Lake Region and Michigan conferences, has encouraged Detroit pastors and laypeople of both conferences to dialogue and pray together in a variety of ways. “The AMEN dental/medical clinic took us a step further from discussion to action,” said Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union vice president and the union’s representative for these health initiatives. “What impressed me the most on this day was the unity of action and spirit that the Detroit area volunteers provided. I could see many people smiling, thankful for the privilege to serve, and patients expressing great appreciation for the help that they needed.” 

Volunteer Gayle Daniels traveled from Texas to give free eye exams at the AMEN clinic in Detroit. [Photos: JeNean Lendor] 
An AMEN volunteer takes vital statistics for one of the free clinic attendees. [Photos: JeNean Lendor] 

How It Came Together 

The idea for the clinic began more than a year ago, when Michigan Conference leaders contacted AMEN to come and support 10 of their churches in dental and medical services. Detroit Northwest church voted to hold a dental/medical clinic in the city and invite all Adventist churches in the Motor City area of the Lake Region and Michigan conferences to partner with them.   

A committee was formed, composed of pastors and laypeople of both conferences, with Toria Turner, Detroit City Temple health ministries leader serving as chairperson. The committee worked closely with Nicole Braxton, director of AMEN, to make sure the clinic would be a blessing for the patients.   

Turner is the community engagement coordinator for the city of Detroit in the area of maternal infant health, a position she has held for the past five years. Prior to this she worked at the Detroit Children’s Hospital. No stranger to organizational management, she and the rest of the team worked to secure the venue for the free clinic.   

The biggest hurdle was finding the hundreds of volunteers and medical professionals needed to pull off an event of this magnitude. She leaned on her connections and reached out to schools such as Wayne County Community College, University of Detroit Mercy, and Henry Ford Community College, hoping to recruit dental hygienists, nurses, dentists, and opticians. Wendell Lawrence, a dentist based in Southfield, Michigan, and AMEN dental coordinator Randy Griffin reached out to their network of dentists. However, a week before the event, AMEN leaders were concerned that there weren’t enough volunteer dentists.  

Nurse Marlo Troupe gathers a medical history from a clinic attendee. [Photos: JeNean Lendor] 
The line to enter the AMEN clinic extended beyond the front doors. [Photos: JeNean Lendor] 

Hinged on Prayer 

Months earlier, planning was underway for a joint prayer conference organized by City Temple associate pastor Tricia Wynn Payne. It would feature presentations by Lake Region executive secretary Abraham Henry, Michigan Conference president Jim Micheff, and Lake Union president Ken Denslow.  

On the day of the prayer conference, Turner said, it was a moving sight “to see so many people from the Lake Union and Michigan conferences having prayer for our city, for the volunteers, for all of us.” She added the joint fellowship was even more “beautiful,” since for many this was the first time meeting in person after months of planning on Zoom calls.   

Both Mercado and Turner said this is a model to follow going forward. “Anytime we go into something so large, we should have a prayer conference,” Turner said. “Having all that positivity in the same room — eating together, singing together, reading the word — is so powerful.” 

In the end, more than 200 volunteers and professionals at the AMEN clinic met the needs of 300 people in the community. Turner concluded this experience taught her what it means to walk by faith. “God is in control and … He loves all of His people. Those that need help and healing, He will look after them. We just have to put it into His hands.”  

Mercado concluded that he prays “a seed for the desire of constant engagement between churches will take place and that many people in the city will ultimately accept the blessed hope that God desires for all cultures and backgrounds to have.” 

Rosanne (left) and Carmelo Mercado (Lake Union Conference general vice president, center) and Neville Lendor (pastor, Detroit City Temple) greet clinic attendees as they are checked in. [Photos: JeNean Lendor] 
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From left: Nicole Braxton (clinic director), Randy Griffin (dental director), Toria Turner (assistant clinic director). [Photos: JeNean Lendor] 

What’s Next 

Organizers were hoping that members of the community didn’t leave with the impression this is the end of their care. Conant Gardens Adventist church invited patients and community members to attend health seminars, organized by Lake Region’s health ministries director Christina Wells, on March 17. Various Lake Region churches will hold further seminars focusing on maternal health or mental health. Some of the participating dentists have also offered patients the chance to come to their offices for free follow-up care and other services. 

The original version of this story was posted by the Lake Union Herald