The Luke Clinic Serves Afghan Refugees4 min read

On Saturday, February 26, The Luke Clinic in Detroit opened its doors to serve a group of Afghan refugee families by giving them free prenatal and baby care. In this podcast, Penny Armbruster, the clinic’s executive director, had described all the preparations and anticipation that were taking place prior to the day. The video above is an interview with Armbruster after the fact.

Provider and patient listen to a U of M translator who is helping them via phone

Armbruster describes the surprise of being told, three days before clinic, that they were going to have 35 patients instead of 10. One of the biggest challenges was that they didn’t have enough translators: “I had provided three translators for 10 patients, but in fact we had three translators for 35 patients. So, it was really just God’s provision that in the first wave of families that came there was a gentleman who was an Afghan national who had been working for the US army translating for them, so he had incredible translation skills.”

10 volunteer physicians consult before the start of clinic

The number of volunteers that came to work that day was incredible and included 20 people who had never been at The Luke Clinic before. Armbruster says, “God just put people in place for us to make this clinic happen. It was a coming together of many hospitals. We had people from Beaumont, from Henry Ford, from the University of Michigan. We had student nurses from U of M, Wayne State, and Concordia University. It was just a coming together of so many people. And it was probably one of the proudest days in my life.”

When asked about memorable moments of the day, Armbruster recalled how, despite the language barrier, providers and patients found their common humanity—being mothers, being proud of their children, and smiling even through masks. She says, “It was just a complete joy to serve them.”

An Afghani patient gets checked for weight and height as another waits for her turn

Armbruster wasn’t sure exactly how many patients they served because the day was such a blur: “I think it was probably between 30 and 35, but what you have to understand is for us, every woman who comes in gets orientation, gets the lab done, gets an ultrasound, gets to see a doctor, and goes to see the pharmacist. So each one of those women is representative of five separate appointments. So, you know, that’s 150 appointments that took place between nine o’clock in the morning and 4:30 in the afternoon.”

Penny Armbruster (L) leads an orientation meeting for volunteers before clinic in the sanctuary of Family of God, Detroit. On the right side are medical staff; on the left, admins and translators

Now that those patients are in the system, they are going to be added to the regular clinic on Thursdays. Armbruster adds: “Now that does significantly increase the needs in Detroit for volunteers. But we had 20 volunteers that had never volunteered with us before, all of whom signed up to continue to volunteer. They were so excited by what they saw happening. And obviously to the staff, we are very transparent about our faith, how our faith affects what we do. Pastor Scott leads with devotions, we pray, and I call them the NPR participants. They’re there to make a difference and to do something. They’re not motivated by faith, but actually that’s a group that I see as a huge opportunity for us to come alongside and witness to. So I was very excited to get 20 new volunteers who really kept saying, ‘I just didn’t think the church was like this. I didn’t think this is what it meant to be a Christian. If this was church, I’d want to be a part of it.’ So that excites me too.”

The Luke Clinic is supported by the Innovative Missional Ministry of the Here We Stand Campaign. If you would like to help The Luke Clinic as a volunteer, click here.

Photos by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS; video by Jeff Heisner/Michigan District, LCMS.

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This blog is published by the Communications Department of the Michigan District, LCMS.

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Leslie Wagner - March 3, 2022

So proud of what Penny Armbruster is doing. Haven’t seen Penny in a long time, but not surprised that she is leading such a ministry and support for refugees. She has always been an amazing woman and how wonderful that God has led her to this position.