Member Spotlight: Mark Schlatter of Christian Community Health Care

Brittany Klaus  ·  Dec 19, 2019

When patients walk through the door of the Christian Community Health Care clinic in Grabill, Indiana, near Fort Wayne, they know something is different.

That something is the Holy Spirit, says Mark Schlatter, CCHC executive director.

“There are a lot of people praying for that building and for the ministry,” Mark says.

Mainly staffed by volunteers, CCHC serves more than 1,000 patients a year, providing acute care for all ages, work and sports physicals, and treatment for simple hypertension and for simple depression. It also offers ear, nose, and throat clinics, nutrition classes, and women’s health fairs—all of it free.

Ministry, however, has been at the forefront of what happens at the clinic during its 23 years. CCHC’s services are not only free, but intentionally personal and compassionate, Mark says. The volunteer staff is always seeking ways to expose patients to the love of Jesus Christ, including praying with them, sharing the Gospel message, and offering free Bibles. They are also very intentional about having a chaplain on duty every time the doors are open.

“The clinic was founded 23 years ago with the idea that health care could be used as a platform to reach people for Jesus,” he says.

A local church had just moved into a new building in the town of Leo, Indiana, and its members were considering ways they could use their new facility to reach out to the surrounding communities. One idea was to open a free health clinic, and, on the night of their first meeting to discuss it, they met with a doctor to see if he would be interested in getting involved. The doctor had been praying about such an opportunity, and it wasn’t long before the clinic opened.

“Within a year, we had our nonprofit status and had started seeing patients,” Mark says.

For eight years, the clinic operated at that church building and was opened to the public every Tuesday night. Traffic was low, but once the board realized that “the success of the ministry does not hinge upon the number of patients that we see, but on each individual patient that we treat,” doors began to open for expansion of the ministry.

In the adjoining town of Grabill, a former doctor’s office had sat vacant for a while. Without the necessary funds to purchase it immediately, the CCHC board approached the hospital that owned the building and were told that the hospital would give them an entire year to raise the funds. The Lord provided, and, through grants from local foundations and fundraising in the community, the clinic purchased the building and moved in.

This move has allowed the clinic to “blossom quite a bit” over the past 14 years by adding more hours, increasing the number of volunteers involved, and broadening the scope of services offered.

“We’ve been trying to find as many creative ways as possible to use the platform of health care to reach people for the Lord in all that time,” Mark says. “We’ve been keeping our model and our approach the exact same as we did back when we opened 23 years ago, and that was to offer everything totally free to whoever walks through the doors.”

CCHC does not require patients to meet any specific qualifications in order to receive treatment, including income, insurance, or even geographic.

Most of the patients they see are lower income, with around 80 to 85 percent falling within the federal poverty guidelines. But, even if they aren’t, the doctors, nurses, administrative staff, and chaplains who volunteer at CCHC still view it as an opportunity to share Christ’s love and the Gospel message, Mark says.

“We realize there are people going through different periods in their life,” Mark says. “Even if their life looks good on paper, they may be going through a time of struggle at that point. Maybe they’re in over their heads with debt or they just don’t have the expendable cash to go see a doctor.”

CCHC currently has around 100 volunteers, including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, receptionists, chaplains, and maintenance workers. They also have volunteers who help outside the clinic with special events and fundraisers.

The clinic was founded 23 years ago with the idea that health care could be used as a platform to reach people for Jesus.

Mark Schlatter

The clinic is open Monday mornings, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.

CCHC leadership is always open to the possibilities of new services as well. The clinic has partnered with a women’s pregnancy ministry called A Hope Center as well as Living Free Recovery, a weekly addiction counseling program.

“We’re also taking a look at some future potential specialty clinics, such as a diabetes clinic, dental, prescription drug assistance, and a women’s health clinic,” Mark says.

They’ve even been approached by a local surgeon about starting a surgical clinic.

“It’s as creative as we want to be,” Mark adds.

They are also considering mental health services, having done some community assessment and screenings.

“Most of our patients who come in will have a dual issue in their life,” Mark says. “They’ll have the medical need, but then they’ll also have a spiritual need or a mental health need that comes along with that.”

Central to CCHC, though, is that difference from other free clinics. Secular social agencies may not have the same compassion offered at the CCHC, which is a Holy Spirit difference, Mark says.

Another important aspect of the clinic’s mission is the one-on-one interaction patients get with the medical providers at the clinic, who are more than willing to take the time to listen to a patient’s story, and hear about what’s going on in their life.

Despite the responsibilities of leading the clinic and also running his own business—Mark and his wife, Koleen, run the Olde Church Shoppes, which consists of several small businesses inside a historic church building the couple restored in a nearby town—he’s still just as passionate about the outreach opportunities at CCHC after 23 years.

“It’s still something that just really gets me excited,” he says, “because we’re actually making a difference in people’s lives and sharing the Gospel with a lot of people who would not normally go to church or open up their hearts to anything having to do with Christianity or religion.”

More about Mark Schlatter:

Why SMI? You can receive large deductions on your medical bills

Get help from Mark if you want to start a Christian health care clinic