In the United States, health care coverage is not universally accessible. But in Goshen, N.Y., community members without insurance can find health care services at a free or reduced rate by going to an unlikely place: church. Goshen (N.Y.) Christian Reformed Church partners with Christ Health Care Ministry to provide an open general care and dental clinic twice a month. The clinic began in February 2020 and operated through the pandemic. It’s the third to partner with Christ Health Care Ministry.
Samuel Sutter, pastor of Goshen CRC, said the church provides the clinic with storage and one designated room and also offers use of the building’s full basement—a space that typically houses children’s classroom spaces—on clinic days. The clinic runs on volunteers, many of whom are part of the Goshen CRC congregation.
A recent renovation that expanded the church’s facilities had Sutter looking for ways to use that space to better serve community members. Many Goshen residents are immigrants from Latin America with little access to health care. Sutter said he learned that Dr. Juan Goyzueta, an elder at Goshen CRC, also served as a board member for CHCM and had been a key figure in setting up two other clinics in New York state. After much prayer and planning, “the church went ahead with setting up the clinic—(receiving) training, equipment, and networking with a local hospital,” Sutter said.
The clinic’s executive director, Rev. Gilbert Varela, is a bi-vocational CRC church planter establishing a Spanish-speaking congregation across the parking lot from Goshen CRC. He greets clients at the clinic and extends a welcome from the church, Sutter said.
Henry Vogel is another Goshen CRC elder and clinic board member. He said sharing the space with the clinic was natural. “We had just finished our building addition—we have a new kid’s classroom, we’re handicap accessible for the first time (due to a new elevator). How could we not use the building to help others in need?”
Goyzueta said, “I think God used pastor Sam to mobilize the church to reach out to the community and provide the congregation with an opportunity to serve. God uses pastors, and I think that was the case here.”
Some of the volunteers staffing the Goshen clinic come from the Christ Health Care Ministry, a Christ-centered community of health care professionals around New York State. The ministry connects its three clinics to medication and prescriptions through Dispensary of Hope, another faith-based medical organization. Clients at the clinic can receive 50-100% off the services they receive.
The Goshen clinic serves 10 clients per month through its two Saturday clinic days. Some of the Spanish-speaking clients have accepted the invitation to attend the new church plant services. “(The clinic) is a great instrument for churches that intend to reach people in the most tangible way,” Goyzueta said.