Annie Crain thought her medical career was behind her when the former RN and her husband moved back to her native Spokane area last year after raising four boys on the West Side. Her passion for more than a decade had been sharing Jesus with children, both in local neighborhood outreach and in developing nations. Health care and homelessness weren't areas she was particularly passionate about – it was all about the kids.
“I never really thought I'd be at Union Gospel Mission,” Annie says. “It’s the last place that I really thought I’d be.”
Leave it to God to bring Ryan Brown, UGM’s youth outreach director, into her path. Annie started volunteering in Ryan's department as they shared a desire to grow the ministry at schools.
When practical considerations compelled Annie to apply for paid work, she found an opportunity she wasn't looking for: Her 15 years of intensive care experience caught the eye of UGM's HR department, and they asked her to pray about applying for the open clinic coordinator position. She said she would – not really thinking it would lead anywhere.
Then God put a few signs in her path.
The big one was a newspaper cover about the death of a 3-month-old baby and the homicide trial of his mom’s boyfriend, who was homeless. The baby had had many neglected medical problems, and there were other children at the scene who undoubtedly suffered the same neglect. Homelessness, health care and the wellbeing of children were tragically connected in that case.
“When I saw that article," Annie said, "God grabbed my heart and said, ‘I’m really serious about you praying.'"
Soon, God made it clear she could serve Him at UGM in a different way than she expected, but one that would uplift children and families in Jesus’ name. The Scripture that clinched it for her was John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
And that abundant life goes both ways. “I felt like God was telling me he was going to give me life as I was pouring life into others.”
Annie started working in the clinics in early 2016, and the learning curve was steep as her position was reshaped from what it had been – a nurse working out of Anna Ogden Hall – to coordinating three clinics across UGM's multiple shelters.
“I'm really overseeing all the clinics, and helping find the volunteers and coordinate the clinics so that we can bring abundant life through healthier people. Healthier people do better: you can learn more, you can work harder, you can think more clearly,” she says.
The job hasn’t been easy.
“Most of my jobs, I’ve kind of worked out of my strengths,” Annie says. “And this job I’m really kind of working out of my weakness.”
That “weakness” turned out to be a grateful dependence on God to use her as a “connector,” bringing together the providers who want to serve and the people who need care.
“It’s kind of like what you can do when you have nothing,” she says: you can still connect people to others who have what they need.
Working out of weakness also included having to ask a lot of questions: “You have to be open and willing to receive and be the ‘dummy,’” because health care is complex and constantly changing, and Annie hadn't worked in medicine for 15 years.
Even so, God has brought willing-to-serve experts into her path with impeccable timing, from highly experienced health care providers to regulations specialists and even smoking cessation and diabetes instructors.
Watching those needs being met has developed another part of Annie she says was a weakness before: thankfulness.
At UGM, “We have a core value of thankfulness, which starts at the top, of always thanking God for everything. And I believe God honors that. And he provides in the midst of that thankfulness.”
That provision comes in hundreds of small ways and a few big ones. Without government or insurance funding, the clinics aren’t exactly a big-budget operation. Donors and volunteers make up the lifeblood of what happens there, down to the small details.
“Some days it’s like, ‘We’re kind of getting low on cough drops.’ And then I get a phone call from somebody who’s getting rid of bags of cough drops.”
Though there are a few other free clinics available in this area, some clients say UGM is unique. A mom who brought her daughter in for treatment once told Annie, “You guys value me and my daughter. And you don't ever treat me different than anyone else. And you pray for us.”
One of the most exciting future prospects for Annie is the opening of a clinic at the new Crisis Shelter for Women and Children. She already has some specialists lined up, eager to get started equipping the clinic for women’s health but is in need of a pediatric specialist to help with the kids at the Shelter. Abundant life will flow even farther because she became a connector, a bridge.
“If you look at how Christ worked, he healed people physically, and then he brought the spiritual. So really, I see the clinic as a bridge to Christ. We get people that walk in here that say, ‘I don't want to stay here’ … and then they walk out and say, ‘You're the only person that would help me.’ And we get to show Christ, we get to be a bridge to him.”
If you're a medical provider looking for a place to serve, Annie would love to have you join her team. Click on the link below to get started.