Over 25 years ago, at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, Dr. Frank Kik delivered a sermon that changed the social service landscape of the city of Indianapolis. Like the Legal Clinic, which was started by six attorneys who were inspired by Dr. Kik’s powerful call to help our neighbors in need, Raphael Health Center was also born in a similar fashion.
According to Raphael’s CEO Sherry Gray, Dr. Kik urged a Sunday school class working on social justice issues to address the medical needs of those in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. He said he knew a lot of providers and there was space available in the building across the street from the church. “Why don’t we just go start helping people?” he said.
Since 1994, Raphael has grown from a small volunteer health clinic only open on Saturdays to one that now boasts 60 staff members and a plethora of programs. Sherry says, “We have dental care, medical care, behavioral healthcare, psychologists, and two counselors. We are adding optometry in January.” They also have in-house labs, pre-natal care coordination, and financial counselors.
But more than that, Raphael provides what Sherry refers to as “wrap-around services” that extend beyond simply meeting the medical needs of their patients. They help with transportation and food assistance. They help anyone in the community that needs to enroll in programs, whether they are a patient or not.
Sherry explains the mission of Raphael: “Our mission is to serve everyone with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, regardless of their race, ethnicity, language, ability to pay. We care for anyone.” And because Indiana has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, they are particularly passionate about providing care and support to new mothers and infants. “We really focus on the things we can do to keep mom and baby safe through that first year,” she says. “If we can get them through that first year, our chances of setting them up for a healthier and safer life are much higher.”
Sherry recalls one mother who had no support system in town, nothing for her apartment, and who had just delivered her second child. The staff at Raphael each brought in pieces of furniture for this mother—an extra chair here, a nightstand there, even a bed. They then loaded a truck and went to her apartment and set everything up. For Sherry, this is the epitome of the work that Raphael does.
“It’s not our job to judge anyone. It’s our job to figure out how we can help and support in ways that are meaningful,” she says. “For us to preach about valuing life, but not stepping in and doing the practical is not meaningful to anyone. Making sure that [this patient had] enough stuff to make it through the week—for us, that is valuing life.”
To learn more about Raphael and their services, please visit their website.