In an empty parking lot in San José, California, Angela Bymaster waits for a patient. Gloved and masked, she holds a 3D-printed test swab for COVID-19. Behind her, construction is underway for the clinic where she and her husband, Brett, are working with other volunteers and professionals to provide a new kind of medical care.
The mission of Healing Grove Health Center is to change the healthcare paradigm by providing holistic primary care to low-income people through concierge memberships. In this model patients pay a membership fee, and in exchange, physicians commit to provide personal, “enhanced” medical care. A monthly membership covers wellness visits and annual appointments, basic imaging and labs, as well as minor surgeries within a patient’s physician’s expertise. One benefit of such memberships is low patient-doctor ratio, which means each visit could last as long as an hour. Healing Grove guarantees the availability of same-day appointments Monday through Friday, and offers 24-hour telehealth options. The clinic also offers patients soul care in the form of pastoral prayer and other resources.
In addition, for each full-paying member of Healing Grove, the clinic provides healthcare to two low-income members for a minimal fee.
The new clinic is located in the diverse Washington neighborhood in San José, a community that is 83 percent Latino or Hispanic according to city-data.com and includes a range of non-Spanish-speaking ethnicities as well.
The Bymasters are members of the River Church Community, a Covenant congregation that supports Healing Grove where Angela serves as a staff physician. When Brett heard about a new way to provide healthcare from Jairo Sarmiento, pastor of Shalom Iglesia del Pacto, a Covenant church plant in San José, he began to sense a new call from God.
He quit his job as a youth pastor at the River Church Community and dedicated his full attention to the clinic. He devoted several weeks to studying the Bible. “Jesus probably does about two-thirds of his ministry with poor people, and one-third with wealthy people,” Brett says. “We’re trying to model that. Our mission is to share the love of Jesus through healthcare, soul care, and culture care.” Brett now serves as executive director of Healing Grove.
Healing Grove provides health care management for individuals, families, and the community. Members go through an enrollment process that includes a thorough assessment and patient/family history. The more regular members and sponsors who enroll, the more low-income people they are able to serve. Currently 548 people in 109 families are on their wait list.
When a patient calls, they undergo an intake process, and then a staff member reaches out with the needed assistance. “For example, if someone is anxious, a pastor will call them back,” Brett says. “The pastor makes a connection with them and can follow up with them after a crisis. We really see this as the beginning of a revival.”
Members also have access to culture care programs supported by the clinic. Madre-a-Madre is a women’s empowerment group that provides community, training, and education to women in the Washington community. “We’ve done trainings on topics from mental health, substance abuse, depression, and domestic violence to how to get your kids in college,” Brett says.
Angela created Arte de Vida, a six-week program within Healing Grove to help teens and their parents identify adverse childhood experiences in their past and build resilience for a promising future. Through Arte de Vida, families come together to talk through their trauma, pray for one another, and practice forgiveness.
Opening a clinic in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic has put Healing Grove on the front lines of ministry to the community. They operate a call center, staffed by local church partners, specifically created to help people with the virus, regardless of membership status. They have also been able to provide educational materials and rent assistance.
In the first two weeks of August, Healing Grove provided free COVID-19 tests to 271 people. Their positivity rate was 25 percent, compared to the 4 percent countywide average, with 72 individuals from 52 families testing positive.
Many local residents have lost jobs, which means many undocumented residents are at risk of homelessness.
“We are the voice of those who can’t have any help from the government,” says Lourdes Sarmiento, pastor of Shalom Iglesia del Pacto. “We are looking for ways to help them to face this situation. The beautiful thing is, when I call people to find out how they’re doing, their attitude is so beautiful. They feel loved and cared for. It’s a great opportunity to bring Jesus to the situation and make a difference.”
With construction newly completed on their building and a generous donation of office furniture and equipment from a local physician, Healing Grove was able to open at the end of June.
“We were like the clinic on the street because we had no building,” Angela says. “Somehow God is bringing us the sick people and we’re able not only to test them, but also to bring them food and make sure they have everything they need and pray for them.”