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Nathaniel Mission Cares for People’s Physical and Spiritual Health

Physicians donate time, expertise to free medical clinic

As a physician, if you saw 16 patients in one day, that would be quite a day’s work, wouldn’t it?

The 13 or 14 physicians who work one day a month – or, in some cases, one day a week – at Lexington’s Nathaniel Mission and Refuge Clinic not only see that many patients in a day, they do it for free.

Since 1979, Lexington-area physicians have been donating their time and expertise to Nathaniel Mission. Rev. David MacFarland, pastor of Nathaniel United Methodist Church, which operates under the sponsorship of the mission, declines to name any of the doctors who give of their time and services. But, he said, a doctor coming one day a month and seeing about 16 patients is typical. Another doctor comes every Thursday and stays four hours. Yet another comes every Tuesday, arriving about 10 a.m. and staying until he has seen the 16 appointments. The doctors commit to a specific day or time one month in advance. Diabetes and blood-pressure problems are the most frequent complaints. Colds and flu are common also.

In order to qualify for the free medical services, patients must live in Fayette County, be older than 18 years of age and not have any kind of health insurance. Most of the patients are between 30 and 50 years of age. The elderly are not seen because they have Medicare and Medicaid. The patients do not have to be homeless to be seen.

A Lexington phlebotomist comes one day a month and draws blood. The specimens are sent to a local commercial laboratory, and the mission pays for the tests. However, the mission is not equipped to take X-rays. If a broken bone or other indication for an X-ray appears, the person is sent to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where he or she may or may not be eligible for free care. If a woman presents with a problem that indicates a need for an ultrasound, she is seen by a well-respected Lexington obstetrician and gynecologist.

The clinic maintains a limited pharmacy that stocks basic drugs but absolutely no narcotics. It makes frequent use of patient-assistance programs offered by drug companies who donate needed drugs. It also uses two state free-drug programs. “By one route or another, people get the drugs they need,” MacFarland said.

Nathaniel Mission began about 1930 when students from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore began to hold worship services in the neighborhood. The present building at 616 DeRoode Street was built in 1946. It has had several more recent additions. The Kentucky Methodist Annual Conference chartered Nathaniel United Methodist Church (UMC), whose building is attached to the mission building, in 1995. The mission is an agency of the conference. Jonathan Bowen is the new administrator of Nathaniel Mission Health Clinic and Carol Woods is the administrative assistant.

MacFarland is not sure when medical services began at the mission, but it appears that early in Nathaniel Mission’s existence volunteer nurses were recruited to give back-to-school shots and perform general physical examinations.

“We didn’t determine or diagnose, but we noticed and referred on a very, very informal basis at that point,” MacFarland said. Realizing more help was needed, a structured, organized clinic opened in 1979.

The mission attends to people’s spiritual health as well as their physical health. MacFarland conducts the Sunday and Wednesday worship services held at the church. Sundays begin with an 8 a.m. Bible study. Breakfast is served at 9 a.m., and Sunday school at 10 a.m is followed by an 11 a.m. worship service.

On both Sundays and Wednesdays, a 6 p.m. worship service follows a 5 p.m. meal for anybody who is hungry. “If you come hungry, we will feed you,” said MacFarland. The mission serves an average of 200 to 300 meals a week. It tries to serve high-quality meals on the supposition that this will be most clients’ best meal of the day. Volunteers from area churches help with food service. The mission does not keep anyone overnight and it has no clothing distribution , but it does have a food market where everything is free. It is mostly nonperishable and canned items, but there are also Hot Pockets and hot dogs.

Nathaniel Mission is a nonprofit organization, totally dependent upon contributions. Are they making it? “We can always use more, but on the other side, God always provides,” McFarland said.

If you wish to donate to Nathaniel Mission and Refuge Clinic, checks or money orders should be made out to “Nathaniel Mission” and sent to P.O. Box 31, Lexington, KY 40588. Patients can call (859) 255-0062 for an appointment. The Web site is http://www.nathanielmission.org.

By Martha Evans Sparks, Staff Writer

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