by Terry Barone
FRESNO - When California Southern Baptists give to state missions this September, a portion of their gifts will pay for a mobile medical/dental clinic recently obtained for ministry projects throughout the state.
California Southern Baptist Convention leaders said the primary uses for the clinic include migrant ministry, disaster relief and community efforts such as block parties.
Tom Stringfellow, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Beverly Hills and CSBC president, said leaders have been praying for a mobile clinic for a number of years and he believes God has answered that prayer.
He said the vehicle was purchased for $150,000, some $100,000 less than the market value.
The vehicle was owned by a Northern California county that had an agreement with a medical school to partner in providing staff for the clinic. But when the partnership didn't work out, the county couldn't operate the clinic and decided to sell it through an auction.
"When we first saw the vehicle and began investigating," String-fellow said, "we realized that the $250,000 price tag was beyond our reach."
However, only two bids were submitted for the vehicle - the $150,000 by CSBC and $220,000 by another entity. Stringfellow is convinced "God wanted us to have the vehicle because the group that won the bid simply chose not to purchase it."
"God put this whole thing together. That's for sure," he added.
This is not the first time California Southern Baptists encountered the mobile clinic, Stringfellow noted. In 2002, when a group of churches conducted an outreach project at the state-operated migrant center in Dixon, the vehicle was scheduled to be part of the ministry.
However, it was new and String-fellow said the county couldn't get all the necessary clearances. He said he thinks it is ironic that "the very (vehicle) we were to use, God made available to us."
The mobile clinic, which has been driven less than 7,000 miles, is, according to Stringfellow, self-contained and comes complete with a wheelchair lift, bathroom and diesel generator to power all of the electrical needs including heating and air-conditioning.
The unit has two exam rooms and a reception area, and String-fellow noted there is a video screen in each area for instructional medical and dental videos.
Stringfellow and Enio Agüero, CSBC migrant ministries field specialist, said not only will California Southern Baptists be able to minister in Jesus' name because of the vehicle, but it will help mobilize more laypersons to be involved in missions.
"Because of this vehicle, I believe many Baptist volunteers will be asked why they are doing this and will have the opportunity to share their testimony and the gospel message of Jesus Christ," Agero said.
He noted CSBC will probably "eventually acquire an additional unit as more and more people see, touch and realize the clinic is an effective tool to reach communities and meet spiritual needs while also meeting physical needs."
The mobile medical/dental clinic is one of the items included in the community ministry projects portion of the California Mission Offering, which is emphasized each September and totally supports ministry projects in the Golden State. The 2005 goal is $1.33 million. Additional gifts to the offering will support church starting, healthy church and association ministry projects.