Story by Mountain View Conference and Columbia Union Staff
Diana, a Beckley, W.Va., resident, joined the line at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, waiting for dental service. “I’m not afraid of the drill; I’m afraid of the bill,” she says, adding that she hadn’t been to a dentist in six years. "I can't afford dental care."
More than 1,100 patients, many with similar stories to Diana, have been treated at the Your Best Pathway to Health pop-up clinic since it opened Wednesday. As of publishing time, dental volunteers treated 165 people, other volunteer volunteers performed 18 surgeries, 131 HIV tests, performed 420 eye exams, fitted 299 pair of glasses, and provided 117 haircuts and provided 2,205 lunches to volunteers and patients.
Volunteers also provide spiritual counseling to community members, many of whom live in areas impacted by the recent flooding that left thousands homeless. “There is a lot of emotional distress involved [following the flooding],” says Lela Lewis, MD, founder and CEO of Your Best Pathway to Health. “We also offer, if patients want, spiritual healing and health education seminars on topics like addictions, heart health, how to manage hypertension and anxiety and secrets to living well.”
Lewis says the organization chose Beckley because her team “wanted to have a small-town USA experience” following five events in larger cities like Los Angeles, San Antonio and San Francisco.
Lewis adds that the local community, churches and conferences were welcoming and helpful. A large group of Mountain View Conference pastors and members who are physicians and nurses are participating in the event, most for the first time.
“I cannot adequately express what it means to Mountain View Conference to see so many volunteers come to West Virginia to help us minister to the people of Appalachia,” says Larry Boggess (pictured praying with patients below), Mountain View conference president. “The people here face many health challenges and economic issues, and it is awesome to think that our Seventh-day Adventist Church family would come together to help us minister to them with love and compassion. It has made such a tangible difference and will go a long way in helping us to broaden our impact here.”
To run a large-scale event like this, the planning team overcame several obstacles including out-of-state medical professional credentialing issues. Besides providing care to hundreds of people in Appalachia, Lewis hopes this event will inspire others around the country to replicate the event on a small scale. Volunteers will host a training event Sunday at the close of the Beckley clinic.
More than 730 volunteers from across the United States and even a few from Colombia, Mexico and Poland, are helping at the event, including Olive Lesko, a member of the Ohio Conference’s Centerville church.
Lesko, 14, volunteers in the clothing distribution area and served a 4-year-old girl and her mother Wednesday. Lesko (pictured left) says the girl’s eyes got big when she spotted a pair of sparkly pink Barbie shoes on the floor.
“I heard her say, ‘They fit perfect Mommy! The only other shoes I have are my flip flops - now I have these and they gave me Minnie-Mouse socks!’ she adds.
"It just made me so happy to help this little girl. I'm so happy to be here at Pathway to Health,” says Lesko.
The event continues until noon on Friday. Follow the Mountain View Conference Facebook page for updates.