Recently a free health clinic was held in St. Louis at the Northside Church’s gymnasium. The clinic, which was open for two hours, served over 20 people.
The clinic provided free health screening services, spiritual counseling and prayer, mental health screenings and home remedy seminars. These services were administered by more than 30 volunteers from local Seventh-day Adventist churches in the St. Louis area.
The pop-up health clinic was the first event overseen by the St. Louis Metropolitan Adventist Health Clinic (STLMHC), a steering committee that was formed in 2021 with the purpose of making health care more easily accessible to the underserved in St. Louis.
The idea to start a free health clinic in St. Louis was introduced by Geoffrey Ikpeama, a member of the St. Louis Central Church and vice president for STLMHC. During a trip to Nigeria, Ikpeama witnessed a free temporary health clinic which offered basic services to those in need. Ikpeama, who’s background is in public health, was inspired by what he saw.
“Seeing that really made me think, ‘Okay, you know, we could probably do something, at least as basic as this in St. Louis,’” Ikpeama recalled.
After returning to the United States, Ikpeama met with Rob Alfalah, who at that time was the pastor for St. Louis Central Church and a representative for Adventist Ministers and Pastors of St. Louis (AMPS). AMPS is an organization to connect pastors and churches in the St. Louis metropolitan area with the intent of ministry and fellowship. AMPS has members from the Central States Conference, Illinois Conference, Iowa-Missouri Conference and Lake Region Conference. Ikpeama and Alfalah discussed the idea to hold a similar clinic in the St. Louis area to the one Ikpeama had seen in Nigeria. Alfalah thought it was a great concept and brought the idea to the chair of AMPS, Abraham Weekes.
Weekes saw the potential of a health initiative in the St. Louis area and believed any health efforts would be best accomplished by the different conferences in the St. Louis area working together.
“The thought was, that consistent with the mission and the vision of AMPS, it just might be that working together we can accomplish more at times,” Weekes said.
With the support of AMPS, a steering committee was formed. Trevor Barnes, pastor for the Northside Church, was appointed president for the STLMHC. Barnes, who previously did similar outreaches in Sacramento, believed a health clinic would be beneficial to St. Louis.
“I resonated with [the possibility of doing a health clinic], I thought it was a great idea,” Barnes reflected.
For months, the STLMHC group planned the logistics of their ministry. The group developed a three-phase plan to bring free health services to the underserved in St. Louis. As stated on STLMHC’s website, the first phase is to host pop-up clinics. The second phase is to purchase a medical van to serve as a vehicle for a mobile clinic. The third and final phase is to build a lifestyle center.
With an infrastructure in place, the team planned the first pop-up clinic. The STLMHC group wanted to bring the clinic to a homeless shelter, however the team was unable to secure the building and instead decided to hold the clinic at the Northside Church.
“We wanted to go right where the people were, [and] administer [health care] to them there,” Barnes said. “But we decided to move forward and host the clinic at Northside Church because we have the facilities.”
Members of STLMHC were pleased with their first pop-up clinic. In addition to serving the community’s health needs, the group also hoped their efforts would form connections between the local Seventh-day Adventist churches and the community.
“We’re trying to build relationships with the community,” Ikpeama said.
The clinic attracted the attention of a local news outlet who interview Barnes about the clinic. Barnes said the news anchor had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists and struggled to pronounce the denomination correctly.
“The church has to be able to be known in the community,” Barnes said. “And I feel this is a great way to be able to do that.”
STLMHC plans to hold a second pop-up clinic in June. The group is still finalizing details for the event and will update their website after the specifics are confirmed.