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Soul providers

"Soul providers" Continued...

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

But the husband and father of four small children came to help Campbell start the clinic as soon as he finished his medical residency in 2007. "I realized there's a difference between the American dream and the Christian dream," he says. "The American dream says work hard and have all you can in this life. The Christian dream says lay down your life and pick up your cross."

Both doctors picked up their crosses by forgoing salaries at the clinic for over a year. The physicians moonlighted, working shifts at local hospitals to pay their personal bills so the clinic could survive. A large grant from a local hospital helps keep the clinic afloat. (A hospital also allowed the clinic to use its current location for the cost of renovating the space, and local organizations donated supplies and labor.)

Giving up some of the comforts a medical career can buy wasn't an easy decision, says Campbell, who also has a growing family, but a gospel-centered concern for the poor drives the men to think like missionaries: "We consider ourselves well-paid missionaries and poorly paid physicians."

Being a missionary-doctor to patients means entering into their spiritual as well as physical problems. "The No. 1 diagnosis here is despair," says Campbell. "And we don't have anything in our prescription pads for that." The doctors and nurses address spiritual needs by praying with patients, reading Scripture with them, and talking with them about Christ. Clinic staff recently threw a birthday party for a patient with a debilitating illness that had left her desperate before coming to the clinic. Campbell remembers her words: "This was my last hope. I was either going to get help or I was going to put a bullet in my head." The doctors helped relieve her physical suffering, offered spiritual hope, and watched her improve.

The physicians hope to improve their outreach by adding another doctor to the clinic, but first they need more space: The four exam rooms are barely enough space for the two doctors and four nurses that handled more than 3,000 patient visits last year. To that end, a local real estate developer donated a 120-year-old building-known as the "Widows Home"-that served first as a home for Confederate widows and then as a home for women in need until 2003.

Local volunteers-including many church groups-have donated hundreds of hours of volunteer labor to gut the existing structure, and clinic staff hope to raise some $3 million to renovate the historic building into a 15,000-square-foot space with 12 exam rooms and a pediatric physical therapy suite. The economic climate makes fundraising difficult, but the staff hopes to move into the building this fall.

Scarborough and Campbell also hope to continue to encourage medical students to work in the clinic and to consider working in similar groups as a career. CCHF's Noblett says his organization reaches out to Christian groups at medical schools, and he points out Christian organizations like Project MedSend that help medical students repay student loans so they can serve in Christian clinics for the needy. "We need Christians to think missionally," says Noblett. "The biggest thing is talking to [students] about living like the people you serve instead of like the doctors who trained you."

Campbell tells students the sacrifices are worth the rewards. "I've been driven into a deeper relationship with Christ, and that's the one thing I desire for me and my patients," he says. "It's always rewarding to bring down someone's cholesterol, but that's not nearly so good as union with Christ."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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