Monday, April 8, 2013
On March 21, at 5 p.m., hundreds gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the new Gamertsfelder Mission Centre in Frome, Jamaica.
Local churches, schools, police, firefighters and government officials joined Nazarenes and the center’s namesake himself, optometrist Dr. Paul Gamertsfelder, for the event. The Jamaica West District superintendent, Rev. Lionel Brown, and his wife, Jennifer Brown, who is the Global NMI president and assistant Pastor at the Burnt Savannah Church of the Nazarene, led the event.
The event was televised on a Jamaican TV station, and streamed live over the Internet for Nazarenes who were interested or had been involved in the project but weren’t able to travel to Jamaica for the grand opening.
In conjunction with the grand opening, the clinic opened for two days to the public. About 200 patients were seen for optical and dental needs. Two dentists volunteered, as well as one ophthalmologist, one optometrist, 3 registered nurses, and an EMT.
“The grand opening was really a festive occasion,” said Jennifer Brown. “Persons from all different areas came out; people have been talking about it for days. It’s really impacted many persons and the Church of the Nazarene is making an impact.”
The center is named for Dr. Paul Gamertsfelder, the father of the Church of the Nazarene’s widely influential Work & Witness short-term mission ministry, which he pioneered in 1974. Gamertsfelder is also the founder of Mission of Sight, a Nazarene compassionate ministry dedicated to bringing low-cost and free eye care to disadvantaged people through medical mission trips.
Gamertsfelder was overwhelmed by the honor he was given at the grand opening.
“I couldn’t believe it. It really didn’t dawn upon me until I was down there. It’s mind boggling. I felt the lord had me there for the right time and the right place.”
From building to equipping
The 18,000-square-foot, three-story center has been under construction by more than 20 Work & Witness teams, and numerous Jamaican Nazarenes, since its groundbreaking in 2008. The top floor is dedicated to banquet and conferencing services, as well as a virtual classroom for the decentralized theological studies program of the Caribbean Nazarene Theological College; the second floor is dedicated to optical, dental, medical, pharmacy and surgical eye care, as well as a special area for prayer and spiritual counseling; and the ground floor will serve children and youth as Jamaica’s first Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Child Development Center, according to Dr. Doug McCloy, a Nazarene from Ohio, who initially cast the vision for the center and coordinated its construction and development for the past 10 years.
While the grand opening marked the near completion of construction on the center, the next stage is to equip it with a permanent Jamaican staff and instrumentation, McCloy said.
Currently, the center has two receptionists, two opticians, an optometrist and an operations manager. It has been offering basic eye care for about a year. They are still looking for dentists, dental nurses, hygienists, medical doctors and nurses, a full time optometrist and ophthalmologist, more opticians, an administrator and a bookkeeper.
He also plans to have eye care, dental, medical, and surgical volunteer mission teams visit the center quarterly to provide special services not offered on a daily basis at the center, or regular services for free.
The Gamertsfelder Medical and Educational Center is located in an economically disadvantaged community of Jamaica, and will offer low-cost eye care, dental, and medical care as well as educational development to anyone regardless of need or means, said Lionel Brown. Frome has a population of about 4,000 to 5,000 people, largely in the sugar cane and agricultural industry, or unemployed. The clinic will also serve the larger surrounding area of Westmoreland, which is home to more than 30,000 people.
“We are looking at how we can price the medical, optical, dental and surgical care so that no one is left out, so that whatever funds come from them can be used to take care of the utility of all the other areas,” Lionel said.
For example, a root canal that might cost someone 45,000 Jamaican dollars (473 US dollars) at another clinic would run about 10,000 Jamaican dollars (about 100 US dollars) at the Nazarene center.
There are more than 250 patients awaiting cataract surgery, while the center is waiting on registration through the government to clear them for surgical services.
Casting a vision
McCloy first cast the vision to build a medical center in Gamertsfelder’s honor in 2003. McCloy, an optometrist himself, had been hearing people praise Gamertsfelder’s contribution to missions and vision ministry for years. McCloy, asked by Dr. Paul to carry on the torch of Mission of Sight in 2001, had heavily invested himself in medical and vision mission work to Jamaica and knew of the needs there. So he issued a challenge to Nazarenes to build an eye surgery center there in Gamertsfelder’s honor.
“It seems like it would make sense to honor Dr. Paul while he’s still alive and with us,” McCloy said he told the attendees at the 2003 East Central Regional Work & Witness Conference in Columbus, Ohio. “Over the years, Dr. Paul has helped thousands of patients to see with glasses, but there are still so many left behind who are literally blind with cataracts. If we create a place where people could have cataract surgery, we could truly help the blind to see from a physical perspective. Through this kind of ministry, we could then open the eyes of them and their family members and others to the spiritual need for seeing the Lord.”
McCloy and his family have spent the past 13 years dividing their time between his optometry practice in Ohio and in Jamaica, recruiting and coordinating Work & Witness teams coming to work on the Gamertsfelder Mission Centre. So the grand opening marked a milestone of countless of hours of work coming to fruition.
“It felt great … hearing the voices and heartfelt words, their true thankfulness for God having placed a center of such significance in this area where it’s so greatly needed,” McCloy said.
Photos courtesy Paul Gamertsfelder and Jennifer Brown.