NICK EICHER, HOST:Today is Wednesday, January 15th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
HOST:And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Medical Missions. It’s been around since Jesus walked the earth, healing sick bodies and hard hearts.
Today, Christian medical professionals still travel far and wide to provide medical care and when possible share the Gospel.
WORLD reporter Myrna Brown comes now to tell us about an Atlanta doctor who does both, but without ever leaving the country.
AUDIO: [Door open]
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: It’s Wednesday morning. 8 a.m. Dr. Scott Keller walks into the empty waiting room and smiles.
KELLER: This is medicine like I was trained for… that I loved doing.
AUDIO: [Unfolding and setting out chairs]
Dr. Keller took his first mission trip as a medical student more than 40 years ago. He’s been doing it ever since.
KELLER: And then we got invited to Peru and went about 15 or 16 times. I’ve been to Costa Rica once and Kosovo twice.
AUDIO: [DR. KELLER TO NURSING STUDENTS] “I’m going to give you a quick tour here…
Today, he’s in Clarkston, Georgia, a community less than an hour from his home. Wearing a v-neck scrub top, blue jeans and a salt and pepper beard, he’s showing a group of nursing students a new way to do medical missions.
KELLER: In Clarkston we have the world at our door steps. 47 different languages, 54 different countries in the 13,000 people who live in Clarkston. And so we see people from all over the world. Instead of having to go on a mission trip, once a year, five times a month we’re doing our missions here.
Dr. Keller says 34 percent of the refugees who settle in Clarkston live below the poverty level and need healthcare. Seven years ago, he started meeting that need and now invites other medical professionals to join him.
KELLER: We went to apartment complexes initially. A different complex every month.
Then a local church purchased an empty red-brick, two-bedroom cottage.
AUDIO: Good Morning, good morning. Oh gracious, I see I got a lot of work to do today.
Five times a month, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the tiny bungalow becomes Grace Village Medical Clinic.
AUDIO: [PATIENTS SPEAKING DIFFERENT LANGUAGES]
KELLER: So, we’ll see anywhere from 35 to 55 on a Saturday and around 20 to 25 on Wednesdays.
Deborah, a young mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo is waiting to see the gynecologist. She brought her three-month-old baby girl with her. A patient from Burma will get her test results from recent blood work. An 81-year-old woman from Mexico needs medication for her high blood pressure. And an Indonesian woman with a dimpled smile seems to be enjoying the wait.
AUDIO: Guys, we’re so thrilled to have so many volunteers here this morning. It’s just awesome.
But before these volunteer health providers can start serving, they’ll first stand shoulder to shoulder in prayer.
AUDIO: Help us to serve them well. And we pray that you will receive all the glory from it. And will be pleased at what happens in your clinic house today. In the name of Jesus Amen. Amen.
KELLER: Oh I would wager that probably a third of the people that serve are not believers. And nobody’s ever refused to pray with us at the beginning. And I’ve never had a patient here refused to be prayed for.
Dr. Keller says in the early days of the ministry, patients were skeptical and leery of their motives. Undeterred, Keller and his staff focused on developing relationships.
KELLER: We’re not crazy, white Christians, we’re here to help you. And we’re not going to push religion on you. Now, if you want to consider Jesus, we’re praying that you do. But that’s not the point.
AUDIO: Diabetes? No diabetes? Is it ok if we check your blood sugar because of your high blood pressure?
Many of Dr. Keller’s patients are fighting conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Language and cultural differences make caring for them difficult.
KELLER: You might have someone with diabetes and you want to teach them how to do a diabetic diet for example. 90 percent of their diet is rice. Well, what are you going to do?
Mike Sorrells is the clinic’s volunteer administrator.
MIKE SORRELLS: Saturday we had a patient with a blood sugar that was off the charts to the point where they needed to be hospitalized. And he refused to go. He refused to go. And you can’t make somebody go. He didn’t want to leave his wife. He was afraid. Who’s going to take care of my wife if I’m in the hospital?
Dr. Keller and Sorrells are writing a grant that will address hard questions like that and establish health education navigators; volunteers trained to spend time with patients and provide critical health information in their own language. Until then they’ll continue to speak the language of love.
AUDIO: Next Wednesday when you come back, we’ll check your blood pressure again.
KELLER: We started off just with the idea of helping people who didn’t have insurance and sharing the love of Jesus. Now we’re a training center for medical students. We give people vision for mission fields. We’re part of a witness to other practitioners and the community. This has grown way beyond whatever I had any idea it was going to do.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown reporting from Clarkston, Georgia.