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‘Servicing’ body & soul: Free medical clinic opens door for sharing Gospel in Miami

Editor’s Note: The Week of Prayer for North American Missions, part of the 2004 North American Missions Emphasis, will be observed in many churches March 7-14. Baptist Press during this period will present profiles on the featured missionaries. For more on the emphasis, visit www.AnnieArmstrong.com.

MIAMI (BP)–To say Michael Daily likes a challenge would be an understatement.

Ministering in the midst of disaster has almost become routine for the Missouri native, a North American missionary who has served as director of church and community ministries with the Miami Baptist Association for the past 17 years.

Daily helps Miami’s nearly 300 Southern Baptist churches minister to both physical and spiritual needs of thousands of people each year, many of whom lack basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and healthcare.

As they share the Good News of Jesus Christ, these ministries help people rebuild lives after devastating hurricanes; feed and clothe the homeless and refugees who pour into the city from Central America, Europe and Africa; and empower communities paralyzed by poverty through healthcare, education and job training.

In a city of 3.5 million people, the needs can seem overwhelming — at times almost hopeless. Yet what most people might see as insurmountable problems, Daily recognizes as opportunities for God to change lives for eternity.

Daily and his wife, Ana, are among nearly 5,200 missionaries in the United States and Canada supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. They are featured during the March 7-14 Week of Prayer and North American Mission Study, which this year focuses on “The World at Our Doorstep.”

Behind Miami’s scenic beaches, trendy boutiques and restaurants lies the poorest city in the United States with a population above 250,000.

Tens of thousands of residents — from the homeless in the inner city to the migrant camps in the rural areas — try to survive on incomes well below the national poverty level.

“To do ministry here in Miami you have to be patient,” Daily said. “It’s not a nine-to-five job at all. Every day is different and every week is different. … It’s multicultural yet the cultures retain their distinct cultural identities. It’s not a melting pot; it’s a true mosaic.”

While leading health fairs and mobile dental clinics for migrant camps in rural South Dade County, for instance, Daily quickly realized that thousands of workers in Miami’s farming communities had little or no access to basic healthcare.

From there, a vision was born for a free medical clinic.

“The average wage among migrant farm workers is somewhere around $7,500 a year, maybe up to $12,000,” he said. “And in most cases, these people are supporting families of four and more persons on an income like that.”

For seven years, Daily worked tirelessly on the project. He secured funding grants and volunteer staff — all the while trying to convince a local municipality to permit the clinic to open. While the idea was rejected by many local leaders, Daily remained undeterred.

In 1996, the Good News Care Center opened in nearby Florida City, a largely Hispanic community. Today, nearly 200 patients are seen each week in the 2,000-square foot modular building located beside Florida City Baptist Church.

“The purpose of the clinic is not only to serve the body, but by servicing the body we’re going to service the soul,” said Ana, a native of Brazil who has served as the clinic’s administrator since 1999. “We’ve had some beautiful people accept Christ after coming here because they were sick. And by serving their need we show them the way to the Lord.”

The clinic distributes New Testaments — in Spanish and English — and shows the “Jesus” video in the waiting room. Many of the clinic’s 3,500 patients are treated for high blood pressure, diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases. Mothers in their 40s often will receive their first ever gynecological exams at the clinic, Daily said. Early diagnosis of cancer and heart disease has saved a number of lives as well.

Daily said all aspects of his work have proved repeatedly that, regardless of ethnicity or culture, people respond to the message of Christ when met at their point of need.

“It produces an intimacy that allows us to speak the truth, and consequently it’s heard as the truth,” he said.

Ministering in a multicultural region where more than 140 languages are spoken can be physically and emotionally rigorous. But Daily doesn’t mind the 12-hour days spent crisscrossing the county networking with community agencies and helping churches meet community needs. He realizes he’s impacting the world.

“I think that Miami-Dade County must surely be one place where the world has definitely come to our doorstep,” he said. “There are people here, in huge numbers, from every single Spanish speaking country, province and location. … You’ll hear languages from Asia, Europe, and Africa. And as we reach people for Christ who return to these different countries, they take the Gospel message back with them.”

Because of Daily’s long-term commitment to helping others through his work with the Miami Baptist Association, county leaders now allow the association to distribute free New Testaments during the annual 18-day Dade County Fair. This year the association expects to distribute more than 30,000 New Testaments at the fair.

And the efforts are making an impact, including many new churches that have seen professions of faith from individuals who have first had their physical needs met through the various ministries.

“I can’t wait to see what God will do next,” Daily said. “Jesus said that we would do even greater things than we saw Him do. That’s because He does it through us.”

While Daily describes his ministry as “behind the scenes” work as it relates to identifying ministry opportunities and resources for churches, he readily admits the work could not be done without the prayer and financial support of Southern Baptists across the country through their giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

“The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is the life-blood for the work that we’re involved in,” he said. “Giving just a little bit together makes me think of Jesus and the loaves and the fishes. He takes what we give and just keeps blessing it.”

The Big Picture:

— While Miami-Dade County’s population according the U.S. Census is about 2.3 million, undocumented immigrants swell that figure to an estimated 3.5 million or higher.

— People from more than 160 countries in Miami speak more than 140 languages. Of the 266 churches in the Miami Baptist Associations, 82 are Spanish-speaking, 70 are Hatian-Creole, and 102 are English-speaking. Other language groups represented by churches include Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Persian and Filipino.

— Michael Daily is one of more than 600 church and community ministries missionaries currently serving through NAMB –- each of whom focuses on sharing the Gospel through meeting physical needs.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MEDICAL MINISTRY, HELPING FAMILIES, SOWING THE SEED and REAPING THE HARVEST.

    About the Author

  • Lee Weeks