Flourishing through Holistic Healthcare
“From the very beginning, the content from When Helping Hurts helped shape how we handled our operations.”Christy Chermak, Executive Director, Watermark Health
When a patient walks through the doors of a Watermark Health clinic in Dallas, TX, they will be warmly greeted with a smile. Often, that smile is Julie’s.
By all appearances, when Julie began volunteering at the clinic 8 years ago, she was the picture of the perfect Christian wife and mom. Initially, she was looking for an opportunity to bless the clinic with her gifts of administration and hospitality. She would soon find out that God had much more in store for her.
I had no idea that the Lord was going to use this place to wreck my heart and change me from the inside out. The Lord did use the gifts He had given me to serve at the clinic by welcoming and serving patients, other volunteers, and staff. But I don’t think I could have ever known how He would use the patients, volunteers, and staff to completely open my eyes to trust the truth of His Word in my everyday life.
I know my family would tell you that I have become a better wife and mother because of what the Lord has done in my life through my time at the clinic. I have met so many people from all over the world that have very different backgrounds and lives from mine… I have been able to take the Bible knowledge in my head and allow it to transform my heart.
Watermark Health’s Model
From their patients to their staff and 175 volunteers, Watermark Health’s understanding of mutual transformation is evident in every aspect of their work.
Executive Director, Christy Chermak shares, “We truly see life change happen as worlds meld and people are treated like the full human they are in a medical context.”
Inspired by our book, When Helping Hurts, Watermark Health, a nonprofit affiliated with Watermark Church, has designed its three clinics to instill value and promote dignity among their patients. The majority of their patients are uninsured and from marginalized communities who otherwise lack access to adequate medical resources. Located near a large refugee resettlement area, their original clinic has had patients from 123 countries.
By inviting the community to speak into the clinic’s operations and services, they have implemented practices that empower patients. For example, they operate as a free and charitable clinic, but they ask patients to make a $10 donation, a practice that instills value in the services they receive and invites patients to take ownership of their healthcare.
Staff and volunteers are trained in helping without hurting principles, understanding that poverty is not only material, but also relational. From the front desk to the doctors, nurses, and pastoral care volunteers, the team takes the time to get to know their patients, ask about their families, and connect them to a local church and any wraparound services they might need.
While making their patient’s healthcare journey more accessible is a primary goal, they are deeply committed to providing holistic care that extends beyond their patient’s medical needs and is distilled down to the gospel encounters that are at the core of their mission. Staff and volunteers invite patients into relationship as they ask to pray and share Christ with them. Patients learn about the root causes of poverty and grow in their understanding that poverty is the result of broken relationships with God, self, others, and creation.
Holistic Healthcare Leads to Flourishing
This holistic care is transformational for patients like A*. On her second visit to the clinic, she shared with staff that her family was on the run from a dangerous situation. They fled their home in the Middle East after her sister became a Christian. As a result, the family was living undocumented in the US.
The team met her in the midst of her crisis, connecting her with resources for asylum seekers. Volunteers went to lawyer visits with her. Through the benevolence ministry from Watermark Church, she had a consistent gospel witness in her life and received practical help in meeting her needs.
Today, A* is a legal US resident, and has secured employment that helped her to graduate from the benevolence ministry, and is a flourishing member of the body of Christ.
Praise God for the good news of His Kingdom, a Kingdom in which both Julie and A* are being made new. And praise God for the ministry of Watermark Health. Join us in praying for their work as they seek to have 1 million gospel encounters over the next 10 years!
*Name withheld for confidentiality