The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks was opened and became fully operational in November, 2008 as a medical ministry to people with no medical insurance in Taney and Stone Counties, Missouri. The Free Clinic (FMCO) has been a prominent part of my medical professional life since its’ founding. One of the more amazing things about the Free Clinic has been the funding.
In the initial planning phase of FMCO which began in mid-2007 it was the founders’ desire to provide free medical care, free medicines and the free gospel to everyone who came. The planners had no idea what the annual expenses would be but trusted God to provide. We were not presuming on God to supply that which was not in His sovereign will, but firmly believed the formation of this clinic was His will.
The funding for the clinic was to come from any churches who considered the ministry of the clinic an extension of their own ministry, from individuals who were led to make a charitable contribution and from fees charged to legal offices for copying records. In the beginning I contacted many church administrators and pastors to make our clinic known to them and to ask for support. Both the First Baptist Church of Branson and the First Baptist Church of Hollister agreed to be regular contributing partners while other churches in the area promised their prayer support and financial help if possible. There were a small but significant number of individual supporters who gave generously to the founding and maintenance of the clinic.
The clinic was initially located in a remodeled building owned and maintained by the Covenant Life Church in downtown Branson, Missouri. The pastor and ruling board of Covenant Life told us had they not invested significant funds in remodeling we would have the use of the clinic space at no cost. The rent was to be fifteen hundred dollars per month, but from that amount Covenant Life would give two hundred and fifty dollars back into our operating budget. We believed the rent was a good investment for a very nice and convenient office with good parking.
All of the workers at the Free Clinic were to be volunteers including the doctors and physician assistants, and most agreed to serve in at least one clinic evening per month. This kept our overhead expenses down greatly, and we were able to tell all potential donors at least ninety-five per cent of every dollar donated would go directly to patient care.
Jerry Lilley, the Executive Director and I were guests on two local radio stations and Rick Beasley, a board member and I were invited to be guests on Mona Stafford’s show on Bott Radio to explain the work and ministry of the Free Medical Clinic. Our goal was to make the work known and solicit donations for our clinic. I was twice invited as guest speaker at the Branson chapter of the Rotary Club, and was invited to speak at the Lion’s Club in Branson and at a luncheon meeting of the chapter in Branson West. We were grateful to have the privilege of explaining the ministry and giving people the opportunity to partner with us. We were blessed by donors giving generously and were able to meet all the financial obligations with some to spare each month. We have never initiated a fund-raising event, although one Branson tribute artist, Keith Allyn has voluntarily performed three separate benefit concerts over a three years span for the clinic for which we are very grateful.
Approximately two years after the clinic opened the local hospital Skaggs Community Hospital approached us with an offer for a new clinic space in Hollister, Missouri. The hospital had an existing clinic building which was not fully occupied, and they offered us one of the offices on the first floor. For us the most amazing thing was they offered the space for the lease price of one dollar per year. With their offer our clinic overhead expense was reduced by fifteen thousand dollars per year. In addition to providing ample clinic space there was more parking and easier access for our patients.
One of our original chaplains, Jerri Traister told me one evening the man for whom she had been providing personal home care wanted to make a contribution to the clinic. Her patient Raymond B. had been quadriplegic for several years due to an accident, and Jerri had been providing general supportive care most of the time. When she was on duty as a chaplain she would bring Raymond to the clinic where he had been interacting with the patients. Jerri said he “loved the clinic and wanted to help out with the finances.” I told her how grateful I was for even his desire to be a part of the clinic.
About two weeks following our initial conversation I was at the clinic one evening while patients were being seen. I didn’t realize Jerri was on duty this night, but when I saw her she said Raymond was there with his check for me. She pushed his wheelchair into my office, and I noticed Raymond was holding a check between his index and long finger, and it was resting on his chest. I had known Raymond in prior years because he had been a patient of mine when I was Director of the Wound Care Clinic in Branson. I told Raymond I was so glad to see him again, and he smilingly said, “I have a donation I would like to make to the clinic,” while he lifted the check and placed it in my hand. At first I didn’t look at the amount of the check, but I told him how grateful I was for his contribution, and how we would be faithful to use his gift wisely. I then looked at the check and it was for $10,000! This was the largest single gift ever made to our clinic, and I couldn’t help shedding tears of gratitude. Who could have imagined a man with so many personal needs would give such a huge gift to help meet the needs of others!
God has demonstrated His faithfulness to the ministry of the Free Medical Clinic in so many ways, and as we have seen Him provide the needed finances at just the right time our faith has grown. We have seen many demonstrations of His Word from Philippians 4:19 where He promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. Raymond B. was used of God to fulfill God’s promise to us, and I’m confident Raymond will be richly rewarded for his obedience.