By T.M. Deliganis
I was attending the Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal in Houston and I became very involved in a neighborhood ministry called Esperanza Del Barrio (Hope of the Neighborhood). The primary focus of this ministry was to develop Christian based mercy services for the ever growing poor immigrants in the East End of our city. I was asked to be on the board, and I took the lead in getting Esperanza established as a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.
Simultaneously we were trying to decide which of the many ministry ideas we should take on first. Housing, hunger, health, employment, and education were all candidates. After much debate and prayer, we decided on health care. The plan was to try to create a neighborhood medical clinic with the primary purpose of providing quality health and medical services to the poor within the context of Christian love and evangelism.
I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea. I knew virtually nothing about the medical and health fields, and it just seemed too difficult and ambitious to tackle as our first project. But others on the Esperanza Board, including my friend and mentor Dick Bird, was convinced that a medical clinic was where the Lord was leading us. My other good friend involved in this project was Russ Edwards – a first year medical student. He also believed that a Health and Medical Clinic was the right direction. Additionally, the remarkable and saint like Dr. Art Johnson – a physician; and his wife Nan, a lab technician and nurse; along with Essie Avalos, also a nurse, Abdias Avalos an Episcopal Priest, and the talented David Skaggs – an all-around good Christian servant. These fine folks were the initial core of the team that jumped on board with the organizing.
So if you are keeping score, I was outnumbered by about 7 to 1; but they also happened to have God in their corner. So I relented and joined the winning team. Then something really surprising happened. Dick Bird, who was more or less our leader, asked me to take the lead on our clinic project. What? Are you nuts?
I was a twenty something year old mess of a person, who was recently engaged to be married. At that point in my life, the only notable things I had accomplished was to somehow graduate from college; and miraculously pick the right woman to be my life-long partner. But Dick was insistent; so we began. We basically had no money, no facility, no supplies nor equipment. We did have a few people with medical backgrounds who felt called to give their time and skills – should this project become a reality.
Shortly after Dick asked me to take the lead, I went on a week-long hiatus at an Episcopal Retreat Center in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. I had planned this retreat months before, as I desperately needed to get away from work and Church and all the numerous other challenges and responsibilities with which I was dealing. It was a wonderful and energizing week.
On the last evening we were all in a Chapel worshiping God with song and prayer. An altar call was given for anyone who felt a desire to serve God in a special way to come forward for some anointing prayer. I immediately thought about the new medical clinic project and went up and knelt at the altar. The leader of this service was a young and dynamic priest. He placed his hands on my head and began to pray fervently and spoke in tongues. I felt everything shake, and I experienced the Holy Spirit engulf and anoint me in a very tangible way.
When I returned to Houston, we began the process of founding Eastwood Clinic in the East End of town. What happened next was miraculous. Money started coming out of the most unusual places. We were provided with a free facility that was just the right size. All we had to do was significantly remodel the interior. People donated lab equipment, examination room furniture, supplies, pharmaceuticals, building materials and most importantly – their time and skills. Their enthusiasm for this project was contagious and we ended up with many dozens of fine people helping out any way they were able.
We spent every Saturday, for at least a year and a half, working on our new facility. And each Saturday when we worked, there seemed to be at least one building trade challenge that was way too difficult for any of our regular and merry band of amateur craftspeople. No worries! All we had to do was pray, and the just the right carpenter, plumber or electrician would magically show up at the facility and ask if he or she could do anything to help. I’m not kidding nor exaggerating! We witnessed this miracle over and over.
Meanwhile, during the week we would speak at medical luncheons and attend meetings. In the process we recruited additional Christian doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, and just about every other type of medical professional we could find.
By the time we opened on March 13th, 1983 we had everything and every person we needed, and then some. We had two fully equipped examination rooms; a full service pharmacy; a blood and urine lab; a comfortable and well – furnished waiting room; a beautiful outdoor mural; and a small office space. We took only donations and we were open every Sunday afternoon from 1:00 p.m. until we served everyone who showed up.
Over thirty years later, Eastwood Clinic is now open most of the week and is staffed by numerous doctors, nurses and other professionals. The building, as well as the services, has been significantly expanded. It is used as a teaching clinic for medical and nursing students, and now provides dental and other needed services for the poor residents of the East End.
In the early days I saw so many miracles of provision for this ministry that I would often say, “Even if I saw God heal a man with withered hand, it would not be as impressive as the miracle of Eastwood Clinic.” I would usually follow up with: “I now know for sure that God loves the poor.”