Healing Grove Health Center
From a presentation at a Transform Our World Conference
For those of you interested in church planting into deprived areas, let me share about Healing Grove Health Center. It is an an example of the ekklesia (church) operating through a health clinic.
Silicon Valley in California is an incredibly wealthy area, but there's a lot of poverty because the cost of living is very high due to all of the tech companies that brought so much wealth. So there are people who have incredible wealth, and there are people who are really, really poor.
For 15 years, Brett & Angela Bymaster have been reaching out to one area which is very poor, lived in by primarily Mexican, almost entirely Spanish speaking immigrants - mostly an undocumented community. Brett is an electrical engineer and youth worker and Angela is a medical doctor.
In November of 2018, they were in regular jobs. A prophet came and she said, "I want to pray for you. You need to start a Christian clinic right here in San Jose, and it's going to be different from any clinic that anyone has ever seen before. And it's to be called Healing Grove, based on Revelation 22 - the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations."
And so they pictured a small clinic that incorporates some spiritual stuff - prayer for patients and healing, but God had a completely different idea. Brett continues the story:
"I don't know if you've ever had the experience of somebody with a prophetic gift coming and saying, I have a vision from the Lord for your future. It's uncomfortable, right? And so they dropped this bombshell. We were both getting regular paycheques and then we're supposed to step out and start this thing.
"Every time I've gotten a call from God, I've been like, "Yeah, let's go." And then God says, "Whoa, slow down. Get on my time." This time something really unique happened. We are like, "I don't know." And God's like, "GO NOW! GO, GO, GO!" And we were thinking, it's 2019. Everything stable, what could possibly happen? And furthermore, it's nice to have a paycheque.
"Every time we said, "But...", God opened the door. We left our jobs as the clinic opened in March 2020, just as COVID hit. And so on the day after the shutdown, we looked at each other we were like, what is happening? On that day, every single person in our community lost their jobs. They didn't have unemployment, because they didn't have citizenship. They didn't have a government support network - their support network was each other. You see, in poor communities, what happens is when one person falls down, the rest of the community kind of gathers together and helps them up. During normal times that works but every single person that they knew lost their jobs. Do you think our little Mexican grocery store had anything after the panic buying in the stores of the wealthy?
"We gathered our church and community leaders and ask what's happening on the ground. And the leaders said, "We're hungry, we're desperately poor, we're not going to be able to pay the rent. We have kids at home, we don't know how to use Zoom, we don't have an internet connection. And some of us are sick." We had a head start on any of the other communities because we had this network of leaders - an Ekklesia thriving in this poor community. And so on that day, we said, "Go to the Ekklesia." And it's amazing what happened. Let me just share a little bit.
"We did not have access to resources. We had 20 COVID test kits. I was calling everybody I knew and everyone said no, but somehow God figured it out. There was a cancer testing lab near San Francisco. And it turned out that they had technology that they could easily divert to COVID testing. And so we built a relationship with them. They gave us a million dollars worth of COVID tests for free.
"However, in order to get COVID tested and vaccines you had to have an email. Now, our community had come from a very low income places in Mexico where education is not free. And so most of them had a second or third grade level education. They can't use email because email is textual. And so they were cut off and so I got together with IT at the COVID testing company, and we built a new system where we could run our whole COVID Test Flow verbally in Spanish. They completely re engineered their system for us, gave us all the swabs, gave us a million dollars of free testing. We were able to test 10,400 people for COVID. We supported 2400 people who were COVID positive through quarantine and not a single one of them died.
"In quarantine, it wasn't just telling them, "Oh, you're positive, stay home." It was bringing them food. It was bringing them groceries. It was providing medication for them if they were really sick. It was amazing. And God just made it happen.
"We then got a $1.5 million grant from the city of San Jose. And we paid for people in our community who had lost our jobs and fell behind on rent to make hot Mexican meals. We were able to pay people who didn't have a job to get food out to people who guess what, didn't have a job. We did 106,000 packages of groceries. These are enough groceries to last a family for more than a week to more than 20,000 families. In the end, through further grants, we distributed $5.5 million dollars keeping 1000 families from becoming homeless. We've employed nearly 200 people in the past year.
"And 85 people have accepted Christ.
Visit their foundation website here.
Healing Grove has a number of programmes:
Madre-A-Madre - building women's leadership through this grassroots empowerment programme.
Arte De Vida - overcoming trauma with art.
Health Care - high quality health care for the poor.
Employment - providing jobs and employment training.
Women’s Groups - spiritual healing and a stronger community.
Prayer Ministry - prayer for all comers.
Youth Group - bringing hope to teens.
Healthy Eating - cooking classes help families lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
What prophetic words have you experienced to confirm your calling? How many ways does the church (Ekklesia) operate in your community? What model could be introduced in a deprived community?
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