Spiritual and Physical Renewal
Those involved at The Tabernacle in Decatur, Georgia, consider it a church “where the nations come to worship.” But the worship doesn’t end when the music stops. To the staff and members of the Assemblies of God congregation, true worship involves showing tangible Christian compassion to those in the community.
One way The Tabernacle accomplishes that goal is by offering a free health clinic. Nonprofit and community based, the Hope Health Center Clinic provides high quality medical care and referral services to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the uninsured and underinsured.
The needs are huge. In just DeKalb County, where the clinic is located, there are 166,000 uninsured people. Among other tenets, the Hope Health Center Clinic believes that because every person is created by God, he or she deserves to be treated with dignity at every stage of life, and the inability to pay should not prevent them from receiving health care.
The ministry began following a family’s personal heartbreak. As a new immigrant, founder and CEO Martin Bong and his wife, Pelagie, lost their baby during pregnancy because they had no insurance to cover medical costs.
“How are we, the most sophisticated medical and technologically driven country, not able to afford a basic treatment because of lack of insurance?” asks Bong, who worked as a pastor and professor in his native Cameroon.
The loss affected Bong so profoundly that he began inquiring about the prevalence of the uninsured. With little capital, in 2015 he became part of the solution by starting a clinic that gives uninsured patients access to free health care. He introduced the business plan for Hope Health Center to Mark Haston, lead pastor at The Tabernacle. That started the partnership between Hope Health Center and the Tabernacle Church. The church provides the facilities, including paying for remodeling, and Hope Health Center covers the cost of managing the clinic and purchasing medical equipment.
Most of the staff are volunteers. The only paid employees are the medical director, nurse practitioner, and clinic administrator. Hope Health Center has two waiting rooms, three exam rooms, two doctors’ offices, a staff lounge, and laboratory. A dental clinic is on the drawing board. In addition, Hope Health Center has signed intern partnerships with Clayton State University, DeKalb Medical and Medshare International.
Hope Health Center is funded solely by donations. With an annual budget of $140,000, the medical outreach currently is open only Wednesdays but Bong, who works full time as a teacher and research scholar, hopes hours will expand. Haston believes the center is a perfect fit for The Tabernacle.
“The Church needs to have a holistic approach by addressing the physical needs of the community as well as the spiritual,” Haston says. One strength of The Tabernacle is its diversity, with more than 50 nationalities represented. The church also has an ethnically diverse staff. With an increasing number of immigrants in the region, Hope Health Center has an ideal opportunity to reach refugees who need medical assistance.
Imogene Jenkins, a member of The Tabernacle, is one of many grateful for the treatment — and prayers — provided by Hope Health Center. She struggled to find medical care before a physician at the clinic provided a diagnosis and treatment.
“It’s been six months now that I haven’t felt any numbness or tingles,” Jenkins says. “I know that I am healed and thank God for that.”
Amelia M. Simon is another satisfied patient.
“I came to Hope Health Center Clinic with my grandson, who had an asthma attack,” Simon recalls. “I was seen right away, and got a prescription. I only paid what I could afford. It was a great blessing.”
Bong believes Hope Health Center Clinic is a way God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary tasks.
“I am convinced that what God has started in Decatur will bear fruit and expand,” Bong says.