Perhaps a personal reflection that I wrote in February 1988 best explains some of my thoughts and struggles while working at ICHC and living in the community.
Prove yourself! Prove your motives! Prove that those motives are pure!
How does a person prove that she is genuinely concerned about an issue? When I made the statement that I care about low-income people and about the lack of adequate health care for them, I was suddenly faced with the issue of trying to prove that statement. Putting my words into action has always been a standard that I have CARE attempted to live by Scripture states it as, “Faith Without Works is dead. I believe this also refers to verbal commitments that - without being followed up with action - are dead statements.
So I left my comfortable, White suburban community and moved into a predominantly black inner-city community. I left my motivating, supportive church body to join a small, struggling black church Where three-fourths of the congregation consisted of street people in varying stages of recovery. I helped start a medical clinic located in the low income area of town to provide health care.
Then I waited for acceptance to come, for these people that I was attempting to serve to believe that my motives were pure, as Christian love should be. My spouse and I took a teenage boy into our home as a foster son and again found ourselves trying to prove to him that We really cared about him.
So I waited and I waited, for five years I waited. I became frustrated as skepticism continued. The frustration turned into anger and the anger became bitterness. There were days that I wanted to go out on my front porch and yell, “I love you! I care about your lives! I want to be a part of you — please let me
But I didn’t yell, instead I emotionally withdrew. I was so tired of trying to prove my motives. I felt hurt, vulnerable, confused and angry. What more did I have to do to prove that I really believed what I was saying?
Last Sunday our small inner city church had a “Love Sing” with many talented and some not-so-talented musicians performing. The Spirit was present and love abounded. The audience responded to the not-so-talented musicians just as warmly as to the gifted ones. There were tears, smiles and clapping of hands. Then it hit me! These lovely people — these outcast, poverty-ridden people - these street people, all living their entire lives trying to prove that they are good — trying to prove that they deserve respect and opportunity — trying to prove to white society that they have something to contribute to society — trying to prove that all mankind has worth. Who am I to be angry over just five years of this struggle? Who am I to demand acceptance and appreciation? Who am I to think that I know anything about the struggle that most of them continue to live every day? I was humbled and ashamed. My bitterness is gone.
I hope that I have grown since those days of frustration and despair. This reflection demonstrates the beginning of the wonderful learning that I would experience from living and working in a diverse culture. We lived in the community for 11 years and I worked at ICHC for 18 years. They were some of the best years of my life. I retired as CEO of ICHC in 2001 and have watched a wonderful community man step into that position and take the clinic to even higher levels of service, healthcare and leadership. Inner City Health Center currently serves approximately 2000 patients monthly. God has indeed taught many lessons to both my husband and me as we continue to cross cultural barriers and learn to love and be loved. This keeps me going!
Jan Williams, B.A., M.P.A., served as Executive Director of Inner City Health Center in Denver from 1983 to 2001. Following her retirement from ICHC, she worked part-time as the Program Director of Joshua Station, a homeless family transitional housing program of Mile High Ministries in Denver. She served on the CCHF Board for two different terms and was Chair of the Board for two of those years. She is currently serving as an Elder in her church mentoring several families, and learning to play golf in her retirement. She can be contacted at janet.williams2 [at] juno [dot] com.
In 1983, my husband and I opened Inner City Health Center in one of the poorest . neighborhoods of Denver, Colorado. The birth of this clinic was the result of a three year journey seeking God’s direction of how He wanted us, as a couple, to best use our talents to serve Him. During this process, we attended the very first CCHF conference which was held in Washington DC. in 1982. This was a a life-changing experience for us as we met other health care providers with similar hearts. Meeting H.P. Specs, Dr. Janelle Goetcheus and John Perkins challenged us to put into practice the three R’s that John Perkins has taught for many years: Redistribution, Relocation and Reconciliation. We came back to Denver with a clearer image of how God wanted to use us, and in December of 1983 opened a private, nonprofit, Christian-based clinic in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. My husband, Dr. Bob Williams, and Dr. Duane Claassen provided the medical care and I provided the counseling for patients, as that was my previous profession and training. Bob and Duane each donated 20 hours weekly at ICHC and then worked 20 hours weekly at a private suburban practice where they earned an income.