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Medical Ministry - by Dr. Bob Eckert

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ack to 4th-Ward clinic page

You may have noticed that I have omitted the names of those many and wonderful, sacrificial saints, as well as specific testimonies. The Lord did powerful things in our and others' lives. Those testimonies would take at least several days to narrate verbally, much less type, so they must be for another time.

I hope that this gives you a historical foundation for writing about the Fourth Ward Clinic. The Lord will bless you and your service as you glorify Him. But, for whom else and what else is worth our taking even one breath?


In Christ, Bob
Robert M. Eckert, M.D.-R

Nancy and I moved from Galveston County to the Redeemer neighborhood in 1964 to join in life with Graham Pulkingham and his family. Gradually, we were joined in the neighborhood by Jerry Barker, John Grimmet, and Ladd Fields and their families. Others, the needy and the steady, joined when they saw the fruit of our lives laid down together before God and man.

When we moved to Houston, I had laid down working as a physician and began to watch and listen to the Lord about what sort of work I should do. After two months, it became apparent that I should work as a physician in a clinic where there were four other physicians, near the docks. The Lord assured me that if I would work for Him, He would provide for me and my family. He gave me the opportunity to relate to every patient as if they were my mother, father, brother, and sister. That was expressed in our personal relationship, and by my not requiring my patients to pay for my services. In fact, if my patients were not able to pay me, or for their laboratory tests and X-rays, I paid the clinic for them. Also, when my patients could not afford their medications at the two nearby pharmacies, I instructed the pharmacists to give the medications to them and to bill me at the end of each month. Our delivery of the gospel and of medical care was put into motion.

At the same time, back at the church, we were receiving into our homes those who were afflicted in body and soul, whom the Lord brought to be one family with us. As they began to be healed, I took them to the clinic and put them to work doing something associated with my practice. The clinic building had an empty second floor, so I moved into it with my growing staff, none of whom had ever worked in the medical field. Soon I had a "nurse," a "laboratory technician," a receptionist, a janitor, and a book keeper. We were really busy and we were a family medical team. We loved our patients and they loved us. Lives and bodies were being changed all around, and some of my patients became committed to the Lord and members of the Redeemer Community.

After about three years of that growing Life, Al Roundtree began to sense Redeemer's call to some sort of ministry in the Fourth Ward, Houston's most concentrated poverty area. After a few days of talk among ourselves and with the Lord, I found myself walking around in that area and eventually rented a storefront. I opened it with my staff, no furniture of any sort, and all of the supplies my black bag could carry. We saw three patients the first day, five the next, etc., and always had whatever those patients needed. Shirley Mitchell was a highly qualified laboratory technologist in Houston and was a member of the Redeemer Community. She began to spread the news of our clinic around her hospital. In a couple of weeks we had a clinic full of proper furniture, a well-equipped laboratory, a different licensed nurse every day of the week, and over the next few months we were joined by several specialist physicians, each working a few hours every week, seeing patients according to their specialty field.

Over one year, our patient load and staff grew so numerous that we moved into the Sunday School rooms of an abandoned church. We were there three years and simply outgrew that location, so we moved into an abandoned Weingarten's supermarket. At first, we saw patients in the storage rooms and freezers, while in the large open area we were building hallways and rooms. In a couple of years, we had three full-time doctors, all volunteer; about 12 part-time volunteer specialists, a full-time pharmacy and pharmacist, a full-time optometrist, a full-time dentist, a full-time physical therapist, nurses and nurse practitioners, counselors, and the usual clinic personnel. We had about 75 full-time personnel and about that number of part-time personnel. We had a sign in the waiting room that read something like: "This is a private clinic. We are not government funded. Please pay what you are willing and able to pay. You will not receive a bill."

Just as our lives had been changed to cause us to love our patients as our selves and as our families, likewise many of our patients' lives were changed. We lived in the Fourth Ward among our patients, not returning across town after work. We were written up many times in the Houston newspapers, prominently. Several medical groups wrote of us in their magazines. Shirley Mitchell wrote a great article with photographs for her professional magazine, which you have on your website, I believe. We were a prominent part of the PBS one-hour TV special about the Redeemer. We trained students in medicine, optometry, nursing and nurse practitioning, and pharmacy. I was elevated professionally onto the staffs of both medical schools in Houston. Etc., etc.


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