The congregation of Central Baptist Church focuses on partnership and relationships to reach people for the Lord. For that reason the church in Eureka, Missouri, has several ministries to meet needs in the community and around the world.
One of those ministry efforts is Healing Grace Clinic, said Pastor Dennis Gard.
“Healing Grace Clinic is a partnership with St. Luke’s Hospital,” Gard said. “Central started it in 2009 with Dr. Lori Utech to provide medical care to those in the community who could not afford it. We use a house next to the church; it may be the old parsonage or just the last house standing in the area around the church.”
“God has used Healing Grace in miraculous ways,” Gard continued. “He has helped so many with medical concerns that couldn’t afford it elsewhere and they always encounter a testimony and a prayer with the staff.”
All of the volunteer staff who greet visitors, answer phones and file at the clinic come from Central Baptist. In addition, the medical practice includes a physician assistant and a collaborating doctor from St. Luke’s Hospital. Optometrists visit the clinic two times a week for eye care.
“The clinic is a 501C3 organization,” said Jeanne Ritchie, physician assistant and member of First Baptist Church St. Clair. “St. Luke’s pays for my salary and the office manager. I can’t say enough about the work and support that we gain from Central.”
“It is our charter to serve those who are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurance,” Ritchie said. “We are able to get free physical therapy, Urgent Care, ER and admittance to the hospital for those who qualify.”
More time spent with each individual patient is another benefit from this clinic, Ritchie noted. “We do a complete assessment for each patient to determine their physical, mental and spiritual needs,” she said. “Many of our patients are ‘at risk’ patients because they may have 6-10 medical problems that have not been treated because of financial issues. We also share our belief in Christ with each patient. We send the Gospel of John home with each one in their folder.”
“We work with many refugees,” Ritchie said. “Oasis is a partner, but we do have transportation difficulties because they are a distance away.”
‘Only the Lord can orchestrate all of this’
Ritchie also highlighted the contributions of other partners to the optometry service. “We are heavily supported by the Lions and Elks Clubs,” she said. “Only the Lord can orchestrate all of this. We see Him alive here every day. We operate on donations. People hear about us and offer various levels of support. Even patients come back to give us donations when they get a job.
Central also serves the community with a preschool program. “We offer WEE (Weekly Early Education) School to the area, and we have classes for three-, four- and five-year-olds,” Gard said. “We’ve offered this school for 30 years, and we are even having alumni parents coming back with their kids to attend.”
“I teach a Bible story to the kids on Monday,” Gard continued, “then, the teachers use it as a basis for activities through the week. Those activities refresh the story in their minds and reinforce the biblical teaching.”
Gard said Eureka is a young area. “The median age is 41,” he said. “There are younger families, and we are looking at two new ministries. First, [there is] grief share for those who have lost someone. We want to help them if they have lost a parent to COVID-19. We will also offer a divorce recovery for those hurting from that.”
‘Wonderful way to reach children’
Gard also identified Central’s partnership with Operation Christmas Child. “This was our second year being a drop-off location,” he said. “Larry and Carol Allen served as our team leaders. They took in 1,800 shoeboxes from the community.”
“Our church has also increased the number of shoeboxes from 50 or 60 to more than 200,” he continued. “We know this is a wonderful way to reach children around the world with the gospel and to disciple them.”