Houston’s First family member Dr. Russell Edwards is a physician, instructor, and prayer warrior. An obstetrician/gynecologist from Houston who has been in practice since 1991, he made a career change in 2013 to teaching physicians who wanted to become experts in that field of medicine. He is currently a core faculty member at Houston Methodist.
“Houston Methodist has a unique partnership with St. Joseph Medical Center that permits faculty physicians at Houston Methodist to work on site at St. Joseph to train the resident physicians there,” Edwards explains. “That began my relationship with the 20 resident physicians in training in obstetrics and gynecology. I love teaching, my job, and our residents. I prayed from day one that I would be an example of Christ to all my residents as we work together closely in emotional and sometimes stressful circumstances.”
Edwards prayed that a Bible study group would form with the residents where they could fellowship and pray together.
“I wanted to see them nourished and supported during this incredibly trying time in their lives and training. I also wanted to have a group like this become a nidus for evangelism that might draw other non-Christians into it,” he says of his hopes for what might happen at work.
“I minister one-on-one to all the residents, but finally about a year to 18 months ago the opportunity presented itself to formalize a group,” Edwards explains. “I asked a group of about six residents if they wanted to form a prayer and fellowship group that would meet weekly. They were very enthusiastic about the prospect and I started with them to get them off the ground. The group continues to meet today.”
Edwards also prayed for years that there would be a ministry partnership between the Downtown Campus of Houston’s First and St. Joseph.
“The labor and delivery rooms on the second and third floors of St. Joseph literally look out onto the Houston’s First – Downtown facility,” Edwards says. “I would stand by the windows of the labor rooms, look out onto the church, and pray that the church would come to develop a relationship with the hospital and evangelize and disciple the staff there. Repeatedly, I would stand in the windows and pray.”
The Downtown Campus had the opportunity to provide care packages to the St. Joseph hospital staff during the coronavirus outbreak. The care packages included a card telling them how much they are appreciated and the church’s contact information.
“COVID-19 brought the opportunity for Houston’s First – Downtown to get a foot in the door at St. Joseph. I was thrilled at the idea of this outreach!” Edwards explains. “I am privileged to offer input into how to navigate the system at the hospital to gain approval for the church to contact the staff and offer support during this unprecedented time of stress in the hospital. I just know that God knew that all this would present itself when the church first considered buying the property across the road.”
Edwards shares the significance of this outreach and ministry partnership.
“I feel this outreach is quintessentially important. It is the cracking open of a door of opportunity to minister to staff and physicians and hopefully eventually patients at a hospital facility that became a secular institution some twenty years ago when the Sisters of Charity were forced to sell it in the midst of bankruptcy. So, I feel this tiny opening is potentially the gateway for the church back into this hospital,” Edwards says.
He looks forward to what may come as the relationship between the church and St. Joseph Medical Center continues to develop.
“We must proceed carefully and in cooperation with hospital ownership, but all evidence at this time indicates that they are very willing to have the church make itself available to a nursing staff and physician staff that is suffering and needy under the weight of the COVID-19 crisis,” he says. “I applaud leadership and the individuals at the Downtown Campus who envisioned this outreach. I thank God that I have been in a position to be used to facilitate the relationship between St. Joseph and Houston’s First. I have big ideas and hopes for where this young relationship may lead for the sake of the kingdom of God and the salvation of souls within the walls of my place of employment.”
The Downtown Campus is equally as excited about what might come from this relationship since healthcare workers were one of the groups they sought to impact when the campus launched years ago.
“We look forward to providing a place that ministers to the medical workers at St. Joseph right where they are in this season of life. We want to be a relevant biblical community for them,” Minister of Campus Development Leon Brooks adds. “We are open to whatever doors the Lord opens up to minister to the needs of the frontline hospital workers.”