Published August 25, 2011
WOODSTOCK — Georgia Mission of Mercy (GMOM), a free dental clinic for low or no-income adults, decided to set up camp at First Baptist Church Woodstock on Aug. 12-13.
And the people came. They came from all over Georgia. Some came from neighboring states. They came by the thousands. People began arriving before noon on Thursday even though the clinic did not open until 5 a.m. Friday. Hundreds spent the night in the church parking lot waiting for the clinic to open. At 4:30 on Thursday morning 3,000 were in line waiting for the clinic to open.
Dr. Richard Smith, a dentist in north Atlanta, estimated that at its peak 4,000 people stood in line at the church’s campus in hopes of being served by some of the finest dental professionals in the state.
First Baptist Woodstock’s On the Street Band played music to entertain the people who stood in line. The church’s drama team and clowns were available to buoy the spirits of those who waited to see the health care professionals.
The Georgia Dental Association and its Foundation for Oral Care sponsored the two-day clinic. Craig Ormsby, who gives leadership to First Baptist’s LoveLoud emphasis, expressed delight that the Georgia Dental Association brought GMOM to Georgia and credited Dr. John Peacock, a Woodstock dentist and member of First Baptist, as being one of the persons responsible for getting the clinic to come to First Baptist Woodstock. Peacock knew about America’s Mission of Mercy, a Kansas based ministry, and found out that they were facilitating a clinic in Colorado. He traveled to Colorado and observed how the clinic was organized and operated and came back to Georgia with a passion to see a Mission of Mercy clinic set up in the Peach State.
After several possible venues were considered, the decision was made to have the Woodstock church host the dental clinic. After almost 18 months of planning, a large tractor-trailer truck hauling all the dental equipment necessary to serve the potential patients rolled into the church parking lot.
Dental facilities sufficient to serve 100 people at a time were set up almost overnight. The installation of each dental station required special electrical wiring, the fitting of PVC pipes so that water could be channeled to each patient’s chair, sufficient lighting and a myriad of other things most people would never think of as being necessary for a successful dental clinic’s operation.
FBC’s pastor, Johnny Hunt, appealed to his congregation for the hundreds of volunteers that would be necessary to assist in the mammoth project. More than 1,600 volunteers, including 300 dentists from across the state and beyond, were mobilized for the monumental project.
Dental hygienists cleaned teeth, dental assistants offered help wherever needed, dentists filled cavities, oral surgeons extracted teeth and endodontists performed root canals. Dentures were fitted and provided for many people – all at no cost to the patient.
Members of the church’s hospitality team remained with the patients from the parking lot to the church’s chapel, which became the holding area. From the chapel the patients were moved to the gym where their blood pressure and other vital examinations were given, then to the triage area where dentists determined the patients’ needs.
Ormsby remarked, “When we were approached about hosting this event I felt like we were doing them a favor, but they provided us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to minister to the community.
“It was hard work, long hours and taxing on our property and facilities, but we would do it again this weekend if they asked us.”
Peacock stated, “I would call Craig and his response was always positive and I knew he would do whatever I asked. Our pastor has put service in the DNA of our church members.”
The dental clinic provided many opportunities for First Baptist members to share their faith. Pastor Johnny Hunt has led the way in sharing the Gospel as doors of opportunity were opened.
Mike Hansell, who is affiliated with First Baptist Woodstock but had never been baptized due to the physical limitations caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), was greatly blessed that his two grown children went to the dental clinic for help.
Ormsby said, “The disease has so affected Mike’s body that he can only move his eyes. He is completely bedridden. Knowing that his children had received help from the dental clinic, he felt like they would be receptive to the Gospel. He called and asked Pastor Hunt to come to his home and baptize him and share the Gospel with his children.” A video of that baptism can be seen on the First Baptist webcast from the Sunday evening service on Aug. 14.
Ormsby admitted, “The most difficult thing was to have to turn people away, but we had more folks than we could possibly serve in two days. We did serve 2,179 people in the largest dental clinic ever held in Georgia.
Peacock proclaimed, “It was a great weekend. In fact, I would be in favor of turning GMOM upside down and just calling it GWOW!”
The Woodstock church is not only equipped to host a dental clinic of biblical proportions, but they have multiple ongoing mercy missions like HopeQuest and the City of Refuge.
Roy Blankenship, who has been a member of FBC Woodstock since 1991, is the founder and CEO of HopeQuest, a ministry dedicated to providing “directions for successful living.”
Blankenship defines the mission, or motto, of HopeQuest thusly: “a comprehensive set of Christian ministry programs for persons who struggle with or have been impacted by alcohol abuse, substance abuse, sexual brokenness and their co-occurring disorders.”
“We are unique,” Blankenship explains, “I am a pastor; and I am not willing to sacrifice my Christian heritage or belief system in order to work in the mental health field.
“There are things I have learned from school and training in psychological theory that helps me remove the barriers in order to help people find their way to Christ.”
The HopeQuest founder added, “Our ministry incorporates the appropriate merging of man’s wisdom with Christian practice, but being fully undergirded by the Word of God.
“I want people to know that there is a place that is uniquely affordable, distinctly Christian, and clinically effective.”
Interestingly, when HopeQuest provides a booth to exhibit their ministry at national conferences on addictive disorders they occasionally are located next to the display for the Betty Ford Center. Blankenship remarked, “The cost for a 90-day treatment program at the Betty Ford Center is listed at $42,000. Our rate is $6,000 for the three-month intensive program and that includes an additional six months of a continuing care program.”
The success rate for those in HopeQuest is excellent, with a 75-80 percent completion rate in the residential program and a 50-60 percent long-term success rate after completion.
HopeQuest started in 1996 at First Baptist, but split off as its own non-profit ministry in 2004. Blankenship, however, continues to serve on the church’s senior staff executive team as the minister of pastoral counseling.
In November of 2007 the HopeQuest Crossroads campus in Acworth was purchased. Although the property is located near a main thoroughfare it is tucked away in the back of a neighborhood and offers a tranquil, retreat-like setting for the clients who become a part of the residential component of the ministry.
HopeQuest can accommodate 28 clients every 12 weeks, or approximately 120 individuals a year. The ten-acre campus has dormitories for men and women, an administration building, group therapy rooms and classrooms.
Blankenship’s staff for the residential program includes a cliental programming officer, staff counselors, continuing care caseworkers, psychologists who assist with licensure, a food service director and house supervisors.
HopeQuest also has an outpatient program that helps men and women with sexual concerns. Currently there are 200 men who are active in that program. Journey, a program designed for the wives of the men in the outpatient program, has 50 women being helped at the present time.
Will Moriarity, 15, acknowledged that HopeQuest saved his family. Will’s dad entered the TREK program at HopeQuest for three months to work through some personal struggles that had placed the family’s future a risk.
Moriarity testified, “About a year ago my family and I went to visit my dad at the TREK program (HopeQuest). My dad was going there to overcome his struggle with an addiction. During this weekend my family and I were able to sit with other families and tell them and their loved ones publicly what my dad did and how it made us feel toward him.
“I shared with my dad and other families the feelings I thought I would never be able to tell anyone. But when I finished saying everything I needed to say, I felt amazed and proud of myself for being honest and real with my emotions.
“On that day I realized what God was doing for me and my family. He was teaching us to forgive my dad for his wrongdoings and in the process we became a stronger family.”
He continued, “During that weekend I felt I had developed a relationship with God and I was going to devote myself to continue to build a relationship with him. Since then I feel I have developed a stronger relationship with my family, but an even better one with my dad.”
City of Refuge
The idea of establishing a City of Refuge for hurting, discouraged, fallen or even wounded ministers was born out of a vision Hunt had while in his prayer closet. Subsequently, he shared his vision with his staff and soon the vision became a reality.
At first the City of Refuge received one family at a time, then two families, but now as many as 15 families are served by First Baptist Woodstock at one time.
The church and/or members of the church provide housing, clothes, food, counseling, jobs and a myriad of other needs as required by each individual family received in the City of Refuge.
There are times when the church receives as many as 100 calls a week from distressed ministers who need some kind of sanctuary, a place to be restored and renewed.
Blankenship stated, “Our goal is for them to become the Christian men that God desires them to be and let God do the restoring. Many preachers had rather preach than pray. We want them to become authentic, but most fear authenticity and don’t want people to see their flaws for fear it will exclude them from ministry.
“We want to see them get their relationship with God, spouse and family right. Then we want to see them become good Christians in the community. Then we can focus on them vocationally, but that is the fifth thing on the list. Our goal for each City of Refuge participant is that they will experience the incredible healing power of intimate relationships with God and other believers.
“The first question for 99 percent of them is, ‘How long will it be before I can get back in the pulpit?’ Once we crack that shell or break down that defense we get them involved in the life of the church. When they begin to experience life as a Christian they can then trust God with the ‘if’ and ‘when’ of ministry.”
The City of Refuge is owned by the Timothy – Barnabas Conference. The North American Mission Board is working with First Baptist Woodstock to develop a replication package for other churches interested in having a City of Refuge ministry.
The need is great. The cost for First Baptist Woodstock is about $40,000 annually for each family that is served, but Blankenship insists, “The church body must be involved. It is a community effort.”
The rewards of seeing a minister spiritually renewed and restored as a servant of God are unfathomable. Perhaps your church will want to reach out to one of Christ’s wounded soldiers.
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