Published November 23, 2006
They sell pineapple whips and roasted corn on the cob. They guess your weight and they tell you how to shoot a yellow plastic duck and win a prize.
They are carnies. They travel from site to site, week after week, year after year, working for the carnival company. Living in tiny rooms in trailers and some even in tents, they take their meager possessions from town to town.
Every year when the Exchange Club of Albany puts on the annual Halloween fair, about 300 carnival workers move into a field next to the fairgrounds for the five-day event.
Teeth cleanings, x-rays, hair cuts – FREE
For the last five of those years, another trailer has brought help and hope in the carny campground. Five years ago, among the trailers and tents, Mallary Baptist Association in Albany set up the Georgia Baptist Mobile Health Unit to provide dental and medical care free to the workers.
For five days, the portable clinic opened and workers could have their teeth cleaned, x-rayed, pulled, and filled. A physician sat in a smaller trailer next to the dental clinic on wheels and offered free exams.
Outside, under a white tent, local volunteers gave free haircuts. Between appointments, volunteers shared Christ with the workers.
The ministry began when Baptist volunteers first saw the need.
“We started about eight years ago with a Judgment House. The first year we had a great response with about 100 decisions, but the second year the response wasn’t so good,” said Tom Hocutt, director of missions for Mallary Association.
But while working the Judgement House, volunteers met carnival workers and saw a different need.
“We discovered they had a lot of medical needs so we’ve been doing this ever since,” Hocutt said. “We’ve had a great response. The fair workers tell us there are only two other places on their route that provide any care for them.”
It’s a huge savings for the workers and provides much needed care, as well.
Medical help isn’t the only value
Perry Graham has worked for the carnivals for more than 15 years. In that time he has never seen a dentist. In Albany, he had his teeth cleaned, one tooth pulled, and one cavity filled.
“This saved me a couple hundred dollars. I’m really grateful,” he said.
Phillip Roberts, a medical oncologist and member of Byne Memorial Church in Albany, volunteers his services every morning next door.
“There are a lot of chronically ill people here,” he said. “Diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking problems are common. Drug use is common, too. I’d like to follow up on them, but they’re here today, gone tomorrow.”? Roberts tried to convince one worker to go to a hospital. His foot was severely infected because of complications from diabetes.
“He’s close to losing that foot. It’s very serious, but he refused to go to a hospital,” Roberts said. “I found out his son is attending the University of Mexico and he works here to send money to his son.”
But even one-time medical and dental care can make a difference for some.
“What these dentists do is important. It helps these people for the rest of their lives,” Roberts said.
“But in addition to helping them with medical problems, we give them a sense of value and that is so important. They leave here feeling better because we show them respect.”
Did you know…
The mobile health unit is available to churches and associations who want to provide this ministry to the community. Diana Brown, coordinator for the unit, not only schedules the use of the unit, but also provides help on site.
The mobile health unit, supported through the Cooperative Program and state missions offerings, is available in 2007, but it takes six months to get on the schedule. For scheduling information, contact Diana Brown at email@example.com or (770) 936-5217 or (800) RING-GBC.
The unit is also in need of donated dental supplies. Contact Brown for information on tax-deductible donated supplies.
Your church’s giving through the Cooperative Program is vital to the missions and ministries of the GBC and the Southern Baptist Convention.
For more information or to order free educational materials on the Cooperative Program, contact the GBC Cooperative Program office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 936-5240 or at (800) RING-GBC.
You and your church may send Cooperative Program gifts to:
Dr. J. Robert White, Executive Director • Georgia Baptist Convention • 6405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, GA 30097
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