Multiplication Center

Churches Helping Launch Charitable Health Care Clinics

July 2, 2013

Published on 7/2/2013

By Warren Bird

The name Arubah is a Hebrew word meaning restoration to sound health. The mission of the clinic is to provide free care with dignity to restore the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of those uninsured in the Owasso and Collinsville areas of Oklahoma.

As a career medical professional, Hilary Nicholson thought the idea of a charitable health care clinic was laughable—that is, until a “divine appointment” and a partnership between her local church and a national organization fueled the launch of an innovative, life-changing ministry in her community.

“As a nurse, I really thought charitable clinics were a joke,” says Hilary, a pediatric nurse practitioner who also honed her skills as a helicopter flight nurse. “Nothing is for free, and what kind of care is good if it’s free?”

Little did they know, Hilary and Discovery Bible Fellowship (Collinsville, OK) pastor Glenn Krispense were about to find out. Hilary was reading Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love, when she was struck with the idea of opening a charitable healthcare clinic in the suburbs of Tulsa.

“I honestly didn’t know any statistics or needs within the community,” says Hilary. “I know it sounds crazy. It was totally and completely divine. It was as if it were written in the pages of that book that I was supposed to open a charitable health care clinic.”

Hilary brought the vision for the clinic to Pastor Glenn, who didn’t need much convincing.

“We believe the church’s responsibility is to stand in the gap for the lost, least, last and marginalized,” Glenn says. “Scripture is clear, that is a central mission of the church. This is primarily the church’s responsibility—to take care of these people—not the government’s responsibility.”

“We decided we wanted to be a local solution for a national problem.”

Thus Arubah Community Clinic (a Hebrew word meaning “restoration to sound health”) was born.

ECHO’s mission is to empower churches and other community organizations to develop charitable healthcare clinics to serve the most vulnerable people in America. 

Finding Experienced Help

Hilary, Discovery leaders and other community partners were nine months into planning the clinic when they found the national non-profit organization Empowering Community Healthcare Outreach (ECHO). ECHO provides free consultation and advisory support to clinics across the United States, with the goal of developing charitable health care clinics to serve the uninsured, under insured, and provide access for those medically vulnerable.

“After a month of wrestling with God, I sat down at the computer and searched to find someone to help us get the clinic started,” Hilary says. “The very first site that came up was ECHO. That is how God confirmed to me that this was his desire.”

As it has with over 40 other charitable health care clinics around the country, ECHO staff consulted for 12 months with Hilary and others involved, until the clinic opened. ECHO continues to serve Arubah as it expands it services. Members of ECHO’s experienced staff have served as executive directors or personally started health care clinics.

“Churches are great partners in this process,” says ECHO staff member Mara Servaites, who worked directly with the Oklahoma group. “They have the biblical mandate of serving the poor and their neighbors in need, and they heeded that calling. Churches also bring a wealth of resources both financial and human to the vision, and they have the ability to secure funding.

Current ECHO CEO Tom Wilson most recently served as CEO of OneHundred X, Halftime and Leadership Network.

ECHO’s goal is to start 1,000 clinics that will serve 2 million people annually by the year 2025.

“This model provides the opportunity for a church to make a difference outside its walls in the middle of one of the biggest social issues of our day,” says ECHO CEO Tom Wilson. “This innovation scales health care in a way that a church can play a vital role and do something it probably couldn’t do on its own.”

An Extension of the Church

Pastor Glenn and Discovery Church are learning first-hand how a scaleable model of charitable health care works. Church members have contributed in multiple ways, and have helped the Arubah Community Clinic grow in three years to the point that the clinic is expanding its operations from two days a week to five.

Discovery’s people support the clinic financially—as do three other churches in the community—and they serve in a myriad of roles including prayer warriors, meal providers, greeters, receptionists and counselors.

“Discovery and other churches in our community view Arubah as much more than a medical clinic,” Glenn says. “It’s a way to be the church in our world. Discovery has chosen to truly be used by God to stand up and face the injustices in our world, and do something about them in the name of Christ.”

“We believe the best way to love God is to love the people. He created and desires to redeem.”

Pastor Glenn Krispense, doctors, nurses, and volunteers talk about how the Arubah Clinic has positively affected them and the community.

Hilary says patients leave Arubah with no doubt it is a Christ-centered facility, but not necessarily sponsored by a local church. “Discovery is the founding church, and plays a key role,” Hilary says. “But this is a Kingdom clinic. This is intentional on our part, because we want and need the larger church community to support Arubah and its mission.”

Hilary Nicholson looks at Carol Patterson’s leg at the Arubah clinic. Patterson, who volunteers at the clinic, stopped to see Hilary and be checked out.

Life Change in Abundance

In addition to providing quality medical care to people who would otherwise have no access, Arubah also offers no-cost counseling, Divorce Care, Celebrate Recovery and Grief Share programs.

The stories of life change at Arubah are numerous. Glenn notes that people in the community often come to the clinic just for prayer.

Hilary recalls a 40-year-old man whose liver was shutting down because of an alcohol addiction. A volunteer prayed with him during his first visit to the clinic, and encouraged him to attend Celebrate Recovery. “I learned a few weeks ago that he has been sober for 5 months and is doing very well,” Hilary says. “He credits Arubah and the volunteers for taking the time to listen to him and encourage him.”

Another young woman in her early 20s came in for an acute illness, and was eventually given blood pressure medication that reversed her medical condition. “When she returned a month later, she shared that she felt like a new person and didn’t have the fatigue and general sickness causing her to miss work and life,” Hilary says. “She credits Arubah for allowing her to have her life back.”

For Glenn and Discovery, the clinic has become a powerful conduit for sharing the love of Christ with their community.

“We truly love the people God brings us, and this is experienced by how our clients are treated from the moment they arrive,” Glenn says. “Even for people who would say they ‘don’t want anything to do with God,’ it is very hard to turn down genuine love and acceptance from those serving you.”

“Our desire is to give them a taste of God, because we know they will be back for more.”

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Click here for help from ECHO in setting up a charitable healthcare clinic.

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