Doing Unto Others

Seven years ago, Bobby Davis, lead pastor of Life Church in Cookeville, Tennessee, started thinking about how wonderful it would be to mobilize the doctors and dentists in his congregation and send them out into the community to offer their services. But, as is often the case, life got in the way of his pursuing this idea further. When COVID-19 arrived and the world came to a screeching halt, the pause gave Davis time to return to his idea of serving the community. 

“I thought, We may not be able to conduct church services, but we can do church service,” says Davis. 

Life Church began by getting several buses and delivering groceries to people confined to their homes. Then, in 2021, the church launched DUO (Doing Unto Others) Mobile Missions with buses providing medical, dental, optometric, and cosmetological services along with food distribution free of charge. 

Davis maintains that ministry shouldn’t be about serving at church on a Sunday morning, because those people are already saved. Instead, it should be about doing ministry on the mission field and talking to people who are unchurched.

“We have found that there are doctors, dentists, optometrists and beauticians who don’t feel called to teach a Sunday school class or to serve as an usher, but you let them use their talent on that bus, and they show up,” says Davis. “DUO gives people the opportunity to use their God-given gifts.”

Currently, Life Church has 150 people registered as DUO volunteers. Each monthly event uses between 50 and 60 of them. As of September 2023, DUO Missions had done seven events; seen 217 people, administered 131 vision exams and given an equal number of glasses through DUO Wellness; performed 57 tooth extractions and provided 47 dental cleanings through DUO Dental; given 142 haircuts at DUO Hair; distributed 807 meals through DUO Food; and prayed for 302 people. 

“On a conservative estimation, our cash value for the care and food we’ve provided is around $80,000,” says Vincent Scardino, director of DUO Mobile Missions. 

These interactions are life-changing both for the recipients and the volunteers. For example, an optometrist had recently mentioned to her husband that she was feeling frustrated with her profession and was wondering if perhaps it wasn’t the right fit for her anymore. But then she volunteered in the DUO Vision bus and her entire perspective changed. In the middle of her shift, she texted her spouse, “I have found my calling. I am going to be part of this ministry from here on out.”

Davis and Scardino have seen the infectious nature of serving others time and again. In fact, a doctor who lived in south Florida watched Life Church online. When he heard about DUO, this doctor sold his home, left his practice and moved to Cookeville just so he could join the ministry. 

Those people receiving services and health screenings are also appreciative. Recently, a woman called Scardino to say that she was blown away by the entire experience.

“From the moment of registration to every interaction I had with your personnel, I felt the love,” she told him. 

Recipients are grateful for the no-strings-attached nature of the ministry. 

“People know we’re not doing this to get something back,” says Davis. “We’re not doing it to give out our church literature. It is done out of love and kindness.” 

Although Life Church has flirted with the idea of finding a physical building to hold these events for the community, the church has found that keeping the services mobile is a blessing because they can travel to different counties to help more people.

Davis sees DUO as an opportunity to get back to what really matters.

“Everyone is so divided right now, but when you’re not screaming at everybody that this is how you should live or this is how you should vote and instead you go out and wash feet, it’s amazing how hearts open up to you,” says Davis. “You’re not pointing a finger. You’re extending a hand. And that is the difference.”

Christy Heitger-Ewing
Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is a contributing writer for Outreach magazine. In addition, Christy pens the “Now & Then” column in Cabin Life magazine. She also writes regularly for Christian publications such as Encounter, Insight, and the Lookout. She is the author of Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat.