Ministering to body and soul (7:15 p.m.)

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chaplains at the Community of Hope free health clinic in Pelham may not be doctors, but they do just as much to keep clients healthy.

“We want to provide for people’s needs, whether that be physical, medical, spiritual or emotional,” said volunteer chaplain Bobby Culpepper, who is the mission director for Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster. “Most people don’t want to have to ask for help. This is what we want to do, is be here for them. The reason we’re here is that we care.”

As the chaplains paced the floor at 7 p.m., waiting to see clients, Culpepper reiterated the need for such a clinic in Shelby County.

“We do know that there are homeless people in Shelby County. There are people in Shelby County that do not have health insurance,” he said. “We want you to know God loves you. You may be going through hard times, but we want to walk through hard times with you.”

Everyone who works at Community of Hope is a volunteer, from the doctors and nurses right down to the receptionists.

The clinic has been open since November, and sees patients on Thursday nights from 5:30 to 8:30.

During their time at the clinic, the chaplains introduce themselves to clients, meet one-on-one if needed and can make referrals to churches or other pastors if clients wish.

“We’re here to make sure we take care of the living,” said chaplain Gary Yarbrough. “There’s hope beyond this place. There’s people here who can care for them. We become expressions of God’s love for people.”

Yarbrough, who is director of pastoral care at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, said he chose to begin volunteering at the clinic to spread love to people who haven’t felt much of it.

“There was a need that wasn’t being met,” he said. “I think the bottom line is that we’ve experienced a lot of love, and we want to be faithful in expressing love to others.”

Many of the clients at the health clinic are Hispanic immigrants that are unable to speak English.

A few weeks ago, a Hispanic family came into the clinic, and the mother and grandmother were unable to speak English.

The two children, who spoke English and Spanish, had to communicate for the family.

Such situations are common in the clinic, and it requires compassion and care to minister to those people, Culpepper said.

“The fact that we can offer hope and comfort to people brings joy and happiness to us,” Culpepper said. “I think it’s time that we take the cross from the top of the church and take it into the shopping center and into the highways and byways, because that’s where the lost and hurting people are.”