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Baptist health fairs model Christ in Mississippi Delta

FRIARS POINT, Miss. (BP)–A church van full of nurses pulls up in front of a small, two-story frame structure that shows the wear and tear of many years on its face. The health fair has arrived in Friars Point, a sleepy Mississippi Delta river town in the northwest corner of the state.
Fifteen student nurses plus supervisors from Baptist-affiliated William Carey College in Hattiesburg are joined by Wanda Lee of Columbus, Ga., a registered nurse and president of the Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union, to take blood samples and conduct health screenings as a ministry to area residents.
Registered nurse Jimmy Payne of Hattiesburg, on-site manager for the health fair, gives instructions as supplies are unloaded and tables are cleaned and made ready for the boxes of medical supplies, educational materials, toothbrushes, coloring kits for children and sundry other materials needed for this type of ministry.
This is the second of five heath fairs conducted in the North Delta Baptist Association during the week of May 5-9. Other health clinics were held in the towns of Lambert, Coahoma, Crowder and Clarksdale. M.C. Johnson, director of missions for the North Delta association, coordinated the event.
Lee’s participation in the health fair came through Volunteer Connection, a WMU ministry linking volunteers to places of ministry. WMU is hoping to send 300 volunteers to places like Friars Point during the spring of 1998 as part of the Mississippi River Ministry.
Lee’s visit to Mississippi is also part of her goal during this first year as national WMU president to visit as many states as possible.
While in the North Delta association, she spoke at several area churches and met with WMU members for a question-and-answer session at a Clarksdale motel.
“I want to learn as much as I can this first year,” said Lee, who was elected to her national post in 1996. “I have discovered that we (Southern Baptist women) are so diverse. What works in Illinois won’t necessarily wash in Georgia.”
Nelwyn Brantley of Picayune, Miss., a William Carey nursing instructor, and Maggie Payne, assistant professor of nursing at the college, make sure each of the students understand their assignments.
Jackie Verell, a volunteer from Tupelo and WMU director for Arbor Grove Baptist Church, Houston, Miss., sets up a table to conduct exit interviews.
“I ask each one, ‘Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?’ If they don’t, I ask them if they would like to,” she said.
During the week, eight individuals made professions of faith, including a banker during the first health fair at Lambert.
“Many local women couldn’t believe the bank man made a profession of faith,” Verell said. “We prayed right there with the crowds all around us.”
The first client arrives. After taking a medical history, Lee draws blood. Before the week is over, 400 people will attend the health fairs.
Sixty nursing students from William Carey, plus 12 local nurses from the North West Regional Medical Center in Clarksdale, helped. Physician Richard Waller of Marks served as the coordinating physician.
For those who might think “we (WMU) sit and do nothing,” Lee noted: “That is not what we are seeing here today. All of this is just a way to live out our faith in front of these people for a little bit of time.”

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  • Carl M. White