The opening of The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks (FMCO) on November 8, 2008 was the fulfillment of a vision God had given me at least fifteen years earlier, and He had placed the same vision in the hearts of others. One of the miraculous stories concerning the opening involved the position of Executive Director. In June, 2008, the clinic board discussed the immediate need for an individual experienced in the legal and administrative steps necessary to establish the clinic. The board asked me to find the person! I had no idea where to start looking but began praying with the board members and with Cathy. One week later on Sunday our Sunday school class was preparing for the monthly lunch we held in the Fellowship Hall. Standing near the kitchen door and waiting for his wife was Ed Williams, a fellow choir member and good friend. Ed and Jackie had recently moved to Branson, and had told me they were not certain why they chose this town. They had been married for seventeen years, and this was the second marriage for both. Jackie’s husband died in an auto accident many years earlier. Ed’s wife Dixie was from El Dorado, Arkansas and I knew her well, since we graduated from high school in the class of 1957. Dixie had died from a malignancy twenty years earlier.
In a brief conversation with Ed that Sunday morning, he said, “Did you know Dixie and I had a foster home in Russellville, Arkansas, and we had eight foster children we raised?” “I had no idea, I responded. That had to take lots of administrative skill to establish a foster home. Would you sit down for five minutes and let me tell you what God is doing regarding a free medical clinic in Branson?” I explained the clinic concept to Ed and told him I believed he had the administrative skills and the heart to be our Executive Director. He thought for a moment and said, “John, you sure know how to ruin a man’s Sunday afternoon.” Ed called the next morning and reported God had spoken to him, and he would accept the responsibility. He further said he was terrified and needed our prayers and assistance. Within the next four months all the pieces were in place and the clinic opened.
There were other amazing stories regarding the clinic’s beginning, but the fact it was organized and opened in such a short time, confirms God’s sovereign hand in it. Early in the planning phase I was hopeful the clinic could be open one evening every other week and and later expand to have a clinic two nights a week. As I began recruiting doctors one after another agreed to help, and soon there were sixteen who volunteered for one night each month. A larger number of nurses volunteered and an equally large number of other volunteers signed up. There were also sixteen saints who agreed to be trained and serve as chaplains. We were astounded by the responses, and when the clinic opened we were scheduled to see patients on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 PM. Patients are seen by appointments only so we can manage the number of patients treated at each clinic.
The servant work of the Free Clinic could not have been accomplished without the full support of Skaggs Regional Medical Center. Not only does the hospital provide free lab tests and X Rays, but has provided computer hardware and software. In addition they allowed us to use their patient information website. The Dietary Department provides box meals for the volunteers of each evening clinic. In July, 2012 Skaggs leased to the Free Clinic a beautiful of
Within the first year of the clinic operation Ed Williams believed God had used him to complete his administrative work at the clinic, and the job of Executive Director was assumed by Jerry Lilley on a “temporary” basis. Jerry and his wife Carolyn were founding owners of Lilley’s Landing, a lakeside fishing resort on Lake Taneycomo. His background was that he was the CEO of Labette County Medical Center in Parsons, Kansas for 30 years before his retirement and their move to Branson. Jerry’s expertise and wisdom in managing the clinic was profound, and I told him on more than one occasion that he needed to remain the “temporary director” until Jesus returns. In the latter part of 2011, Jerry was diagnosed with liver cancer and underwent multiple therapies throughout 2012, but his condition gradually worsened. Many days he came to the clinic and worked until he was almost too weak to stand. Jerry’s service for the Lord was completed and he departed this life on September 26, 2012. Tragically, one week prior to Jerry’s death, Ed Williams suffered a massive stroke and remained in a coma in Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where he departed this life on the day of Jerry’s burial, September 29, 2012. Two of the men God used to start and maintain the Free Clinic were called home to their Savior within a few days of each other.
In the second year of operation, we received a call from a retired physician from Effingham, Illinois who said he and his wife had a condominium in Branson and lived here for 2 or 3 months each year. He requested volunteering for 2 morning clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We joyfully included Dr. Del Huelskoetter and his wife, Ann into our FMCO family, and within one or two clinics he became one of our most beloved doctors. His name was a bit of a challenge for most of us to pronounce, so he said, “Just call me, “Dr. Hulls!” Not long after he began his service with us, Ann was diagnosed with a head and neck malignancy, and he had to greatly reduce his time of service because of her continuing treatment regimen. When he finally had to stop his volunteer service, God raised up another retired physician, Dr. Bill Lauderdale who was able to maintain the Tuesday and Thursday morning clinics.
God never begins a work that He does not sustain and make succesful according to His sovereign purposes. I never dreamed our move to Branson would result in so many benefits for both Cathy and me. Having the joys of living near our Branson kids for these past 7 years have exceeded our expectations, and this was our primary reason for the move. The 7 years of work at the Wound Care Clinic was a wonderful climax to my surgical career as I retired from that work in November, 2011. The privilege of seeing the birth and growth of the faith-based Free Medical Clinic has been a highlight of my ministry life for the Lord Jesus. As the work is ongoing and the times are changing rapidly, the plans of Cathy and me are to continue our service for Him as long as He leads, and we serve with great joy and peace in our hearts.