‘God’s clinic’ cares for thousands
LONGMONT, Colo. — Something big is happening at the Longmont Church of Christ.
I didn’t realize just how big until I arrived at the church, 40 miles north of Denver, and found a full parking lot … on a Tuesday.
“We have an interesting community outreach program,” deacon Lynnwood Cockerham had said in an email. “The clinic offers all kinds of medical services to the underserved people of our community.”
That did sound interesting, so I arranged to visit while in Colorado on a reporting trip.
I expected to find a little office with a doctor or nurse and a patient or two. Instead, I discovered Hopelight Medical Clinic, a primary care “safety net” clinic with multiple exam rooms and a pharmacy.
I learned that Hopelight is open five days a week and has a $6 million annual budget, funded by Medicaid, Medicare and sliding-scale patient fees as well as grants and donations.
About 125 medical professionals — a mix of full-time staff and volunteers — serve 11,000 patients a year.
Consider my mind blown.
Edward Bowen, a former missionary to India, serves as the church’s lead minister and the clinic’s executive director. His wife, Shyll, leads Hopelight’s growing behavioral health program, meeting the needs of children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Bowen describes the clinic as an outreach dedicated to sharing Jesus. As he sees it, the church has an obligation to use the resources God provides.
“You have a lot of churches that end up not using their building,” he said. “Like, how long is their building sitting empty each week? Well, if it’s sitting empty at all after worship, then they’re underutilizing their building.”
In Hopelight’s case, the clinic helps pay for the church’s ministries. The congregation recently completed a $5.5 million expansion that included a new auditorium and an expanded clinic area.
Related: Listen to our podcast on Hopelight (starting at 38:45 mark)
Hopelight began after a major flood struck Longmont in September 2013. The church helped with disaster relief and ended up with about $40,000 in surplus. The flood wiped out a medical facility that served low-income residents, so the church stepped in to help.
The clinic started in 2014 as a one-night-a-week offering.
Dr. Steve Haskew, 79, and Anne, his wife of 53 years, were recruited to help. Haskew, the church’s deacon for visitation, serves as the clinic’s medical director.
“He calls it God’s clinic,” Bowen said of Haskew, who frequently invites patients to worship.
For his part, Haskew stressed that while not every Christian is a doctor, each one can serve the Lord in a special way.
“God has given every person talents,” he said. “It might seem small to us, but it’s huge to the person receiving the gift.”
Nurse practitioner Marcia Moore, who is Methodist, works with Hopelight and the city of Longmont to care for the medical needs of homeless people.
“I think this church is doing an awesome job trying to help the community,” Moore told me. “That’s one of the reasons I love working here because I think that’s what a church should be doing.”
It’s not unusual for Longmont church members to start as Hopelight volunteers and later join the full-time staff.
Alyssa Novak, the clinic’s administrative services director, previously worked in secular human resources. A lot of problems in the workforce, she said, came down to, “You need Jesus in your life.” Now she’s in a role where she can say that.
The apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:23 — “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” — resonate with Devon Newburn.
For Newburn, a pianist who studied music at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., “all things” means teaching children how to play a guitar, violin or ukulele through the church’s fine arts academy.
“All things” means sharing caffeine and conversation with neighbors who receive care at Hopelight and sip cappuccinos at the church’s Thirsty Souls coffee shop.
“All things” means preaching in Spanish — the first language of many of Hopelight’s patients — at the Hispanic assembly Newburn has helped grow at the 350-member church.
“I think our overall thrust is very Scriptural. It’s not just some theory about mission work, right?” said the 35-year-old father of three, who serves as the church’s outreach minister as well as the clinic’s outreach director.
“I think our overall thrust is very Scriptural. It’s not just some theory about mission work, right?”
“So I’m a pianist who works in an a cappella Church of Christ, but I’m also the lead minister of a Spanish congregation,” he said. “And so how does that even work? Well, it’s because whatever needs are presented to me, I’m going to try to meet that need with whatever skills I have.”
When Aracelis Acosta immigrated to the United States in 2020, she found a place to worship, receive medical care and study English.
The Longmont church met all of those needs for the 46-year-old native Venezuelan.
“For immigrants who need so much help, they support us,” said Acosta, who now serves as the church secretary for the Spanish-speaking group. “They give us lots of good things, and they help us grow.”
Something big is happening at the Longmont Church of Christ.
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].