The extreme pressure and fear of failure was lifted from both Cathy and me when I was notified I had successfully passed the Florida Medical Board exam. The personal interview with the full board in Orlando in January, 2000 was a formality, but in itself was quite an experience. I had to wait for the arrival of the actual license before the Indian Rocks Medical Clinic could begin operations, so the official opening date was the first week in February, 2000.
Following opening of the clinic for patient care, we began treating a few patients each day. We anticipated a slow start until general awareness of the clinic availability occurred, and we anticipated this would take a couple of months. One piece of medical equipment I was learning to use was the x-ray machine. We had a reasonably good machine donated along with a film developer, and we did not have a volunteer technician to take and develop the films. In a few weeks I was able to take satisfactory (but not great) films, and this made me appreciate more fully the value of trained x-ray techs. I was glad to finally be doing the health care ministry to which I believed God had called me. It certainly was different from the surgical profession I had in the Air Force for 2 years and in El Dorado for 29 years!
After approximately two months of clinic experience I began having serious doubts about our future at The Indian Rocks Medical Clinic. There were two significant events which greatly affected my continuation as Medical Director. One was already in place when I arrived, and early on I had missed its’ significance. In the by-laws of the clinic structure the Medical Director was an ex-officio member of the clinic board. This meant I had no vote on board matters, and as Medical Director I did not have the final authority for making any decisions in the operation of the clinic. In effect, I was an employee of the board, whose chairman happened to be the pastor’s wife, and she had been the driving force for the founding of the clinic. Despite the fact she had no prior medical experience, she was very settled in her ideas of how the clinic was to be operated. The second event was the decision made by the board following my arrival to transition the clinic to not only a minor emergency clinic but a general clinic as well. This meant we would accept church members for medical care which might include treatment of diabetes, hypertension and heart trouble. These primary care problems were outside my professional skill levels, and the medical liability risks in Florida were much too high for me to continue without additional training.
I appealed to Pastor Martin to intercede for me by having the clinic by-laws changed giving me the control of the clinic, and in addition convince his wife to step down as chairman. It had become evident we were not able to work harmoniously together. He said he was not able or willing to do either one. I told him my only option was to resign, and I felt badly about leaving after such a short tenure. I had desperately wanted the clinic to succeed under my direction.
There was great sadness in Cathy and me over what seemed I had missed God’s call for our lives. We prayed about and decided our next move should be to Fayetteville, Arkansas where our daughter Ginny and husband John Luther lived. Our sorrow was turned to joy when we made the phone call to Ginny to tell her our decision. Her first comment was, “You are not kidding me, are you?” When we assured her we were moving there, she put the phone down and began whooping, hollering and dancing which we could hear, along with the loud barking of their dog Scout! Amidst all the initial excitement of the new ministry in Florida, Cathy and I had deeply missed the closeness of our children and grandchildren in Arkansas.
The next big steps involved selling our Florida home which unfortunately fell on the shoulders of Cathy, since I had to move to Arkansas as quickly as possible to find a job. Cathy had become very skilled in marketing and selling homes, and we prayed for a fast sale. She began the arduous task of once again packing our household items to prepare for the move once the sale was complete. Ginny and John found an apartment for us in a good location which was just a few miles from the hospital. We decided I should load a U-Haul trailer with enough furniture for temporary living and proceed to Fayetteville to interview for a possible job in the wound care field. I hated leaving Cathy alone in Florida, but financially we had only enough savings to live for 2-3 months without a source of income.
The morning I drove alone away from our Clearwater home was one of the saddest days of my life. I felt like not only a failure in my profession, but a spiritual failure as well. I believed I had missed the will of God and was now a 60-year-old physician without a job!! Driving alone without Cathy to encourage me, I had a huge pity party and didn’t invite anyone to sorrow with me. It continued for many miles and perhaps 6 to 8 hours. It “just happened” I had the radio tuned to a station in Tennessee near Memphis. A song began playing that got my full attention; “God will make a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see– God will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day- He will make a way– God will make a way.” As I listened to all the verses of that song, tears of thanksgiving and repentance ran down my face. I almost had to stop driving because it was such an emotional moment for me. I asked God to forgive me for not trusting His sovereignty, and I would purpose to follow wherever He leads and not look back.
My entire attitude changed that day while driving outside Memphis, and just about the time I drove into the traffic of the city, I got a call from Cathy who excitedly told me she just sold the house for our asking price! I got so excited for her and for us, I took a wrong turn; got lost in Memphis, and it took an extra 15 minutes before I found the correct road. I didn’t fuss or fume one minute like I normally would, because I was continuing to sing in my heart, “God will make a way—–!”