By Daniel Wallace
It is about to become easier for the uninsured in Oklahoma City to receive primary health care.
Good Shepherd Ministries, an extension of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, recently landed a $7.7 million grant that will transform its medical and dental services from part time to full time.
The grant was provided by the Oklahoma-based Butterfield Memorial Foundation, which supports mainly Christian causes in the state.
“The news of the scale of the Butterfield grant was almost beyond our wildest imagination,” said Tom Ogburn, senior pastor at First Baptist. “It is going to allow Good Shepherd — and the church by extension — to touch so many more people.”
The clinic provided 1,117 medical appointments in 2012 and expects to double that number this year. The ministry anticipates providing 5,300 appointments by the time the grant expires in 2015.
The grant will enable Good Shepherd to offer enhanced medical and dental care, X-rays, lab work, pharmacy and physical therapy.
The expansion of dental care will meet one of the greatest needs of the Oklahoma City community, said Ellen Ingram, director of development for Good Shepherd: fillings, crowns and cleanings. The clinic already offers extractions.
Overall, Good Shepherd expects the number of dental patients it sees to increase from 223 last year to 2,500 in 2014.
The clinic’s weekly hours of operation will also expand, rising from six to 20 beginning in March. By 2014, it expects to be at full-time operation with a full-time medical and administrative staff.
The clinic space, in the church parking lot, will more than double in size, as renovations and additions to the building are completed.
Providing Christian service
At the heart of the expansion is the opportunity to show the love of Christ to the Oklahoma City community in practical, needed ways, Ingram said.
“As we become a medical home, our reach and effect will be maximized,” Ingram said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to show Jesus’ love to so many more people.”
Fred Loper, the ministry’s medical doctor, gives every patient the opportunity to pray with him before he begins his procedure. It is not required, but the opportunity is always offered.
Ingram recalled the first time she saw the clinic in operation in September 2012, when she witnessed Loper join hands in a circle with all the volunteers, doctors and nurses to pray over each of the patients and the people serving them.
“It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen,” Ingram said. “The patients could witness the staff preparing in that way, and it just changes everything.”
Congruent with the vision of First Baptist, Good Shepherd Ministries seeks to touch the life of the whole person — or more than just the physical needs of a person, according to Ogburn. He said the ministry goes a bit deeper than that.
“It is a ministry of word, encouraging and praying for those that come into our life through this ministry,” Ogburn said. He added it is also, “a ministry of deed — meeting people’s physical needs by providing food and clothing, as well as offering medical and dental resources.”
Plans to build a chapel in the clinic are underway, and a chaplain will serve on staff for Good Shepherd Ministries beginning this summer, as per the request of Butterfield.
Christian primary care center
Those are the kinds of organizations the Butterfield Memorial Foundation seeks to help, said Beth Brown, the foundation’s vice president.
Butterfield is a Christian charitable organization that seeks to provide Christ-centered, quality health care for the medically vulnerable.
Established in 2004, it works primarily within Oklahoma where it disperses 90 percent of its grants each year to Christian nonprofit organizations. Butterfield grants nearly $33 million per year in charitable care.
About three years ago, Butterfield’s board of directors shifted from giving more grants with smaller monetary value to smaller organizations to granting larger sums of money to fewer, but larger, organizations. They felt like this step would maximize their impact in the community. Good Shepherd Ministries is the most recent beneficiary, Brown said.
When Good Shepherd Ministries applied for the grant, it showed phenomenal budget planning, an elaborate timeline and easily measurable goals, Brown said
The grant allowed the ministry, along with Oklahoma City’s Crosslands Community Church’s similar ministry, to become a “Christian Primary Care Center for Excellence.”