The woman was grinning from ear to ear.
But hours earlier, she told me, she had been disappointed to learn that she couldn’t receive a free tooth cleaning at the Pathway to Health mega clinic in the U.S. state of Texas.
The woman had joined a long line of people seeking health care and other services at the sprawling Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth on Sept. 19, the first day of a three-day free mega clinic organized by Seventh-day Adventists. But when she reached the front of the line, she learned that no more dental openings were available for the day.
Hopes dashed, she began to turn away when a volunteer suggested that she chose another free service. She opted for a vision checkup.
After giving her blood pressure and other vital signs, a requirement for all patients, she sat down with an eye doctor.
The man looked at a printout of her vitals sign and asked a few questions. He thought something wasn’t quite right. Seeing a physician nearby, he asked for help.
The physician examined her, ordered a sonogram, and diagnosed the woman with hypothyroidism, an abnormally underactivethyroid gland. He asked whether the woman suffered common symptoms of the condition such as fatigue, irritability and depression, intolerance for cold, and weight gain.
“Yes, for six years!” the woman replied.
She had visited various doctors, but none had been able to diagnose her condition. Her medical insurance didn’t allow tests such as a sonogram, and she hadn’t been able to afford to pay for more than a medical consultation.
When I met the woman, she was leaving the Pathway to Health event. She told her story when Pathway to Health volunteers asked whether she was satisfied with her experience. I was able to empathize with her because I have hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland.
“I thought I was dying a few months ago,” I said. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Once I started taking medicine, I felt much better. The difference was like night and day. You will feel so much better once you get this problem regulated.”
The woman was all smiles.
“I came for a tooth cleaning, and I never would have found out what my real problem was if the dentist had seen me,” she said. “The way God worked this out has been such a blessing.”
“You have purses?”
It was a blessing. We later learned that some 2,000 volunteers, myself included, assisted a record 3,111 people on Sept. 19, topping the previous high of 2,200 people on Dec. 25, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. In all, Pathway to Health has assisted 36,363 people over 21 days of service since 2014, according to founder Dr. Lela Gilbert Lewis.
In Fort Worth, 6,805 people received dental, medical, vision, legal, massage, haircut, and other services during the Sept. 19-21 free clinic.
Late on the second day of the clinic, a woman came to the area where 14 volunteers and I were distributing free clothing. Few articles of clothing remained on the tables.
“We are hoping for more clothes tomorrow,” I said. “Come back and check with us.”
The woman showed up early in the morning. We had just replenished our supply of clothing and also received several women’s purses.
“We have mostly small women’s clothes,” I said. “But we also have some purses.”
“What? You have purses?” the woman said, clearly shocked. “You’re kidding me! This morning at 5:30 my purse strap broke, and I really need a new purse.”
I showed the purses, and she chose a nice one. She was overjoyed.
“Can I just take everything out of this purse and put it in there?” she asked, pointing to the new purse.
“Yes,” I said with a smile.
The woman happily transferred her belongings and left with her head held high.
At that moment, I saw that God provides for us just when we need it. Also, God cares about the smallest things, even a purse.
“Pam on Fire for Jesus”
Another woman whom I won’t soon forget introduced herself as “Pam on Fire for Jesus.”
She came up to me at the clothing department and immediately started praying for me. She put her hand on mine as she prayed. She spoke about Jesus.
“Take something,” I said, pointing to the clothes.
“I don’t know,” she said, slowly. “I can’t carry very much, living on the street.”
I encouraged her to take something anyway.
“Jesus knows that you have physical needs, and He wants to use us to provide for your physical needs,” I said.
Pam chose a short-sleeved shirt. When I mentioned that the winter cold would arrive soon, she also selected a long-sleeved shirt. I wasn’t sure that she had taken enough.
“What are you going to do when it gets cold?” I said.
Then I remembered her clear love for God.
“Oh, you aren’t worried, are you, because God will provide,” I said.
“Yes, God sends angels all the time to give me everything that I need,” she said. “They wash my clothes and give whatever I need.”
She spoke of how God uses her to witness to people about Him and His glory.
Her words reminded me of Jesus’ humble life on Earth.
“You are living like Jesus when He was here,” I said. “He said He didn’t have a place to lay His head, and many nights he slept under the stars.”
Pam started to cry. I gave her a big hug.
“You are my sister because we both follow Jesus,” I said.
My experience at Pathway to Health was unforgettable. I went to be a blessing to others, but they gave me the biggest blessing of all.