Healing the World From the Inside Out
Dr. Steve Harris Uses His Chiropractic Practice, Humanitarian Efforts to Give Hope to the Lost, Hurting
When local chiropractor, Dr. Steve Harris, was five-years-old, living in the heart of Houston, he began to see a change in his father. The seemingly invincible, Houston police officer was riddled with pain, living with the excruciating symptoms of a stomach ulcer.
After visiting with three of the best doctors in the area, Harris’ father still couldn’t get relief. A friend suggested the policeman see a chiropractor. Although he was skeptical at first, he didn’t have much to lose. To his surprise, the treatments administered by the chiropractor relieved a pinched nerve that controlled the stomach and gave Dr. Harris’ father his life back.
“After that my father took us all in to see the chiropractor for everything—whiplash, asthma and sports injuries,” Dr. Harris said. “I grew up seeing all of our neighbors, friends, family and people at church find relief through this chiropractor. I saw what chiropractic could do. I loved the idea that I could treat and help people with my hands.”
So, in the ninth grade, Harris decided to one day become a chiropractor and dedicate his life to helping others.
“I was as young as you can be and go through all of the requirements,” he said. “I was a 23-year-old doctor when I first started. I’ve been practicing for 38 years, and I love having that much experience and still having some youth left.”
He has seen generations of patients grow up before his eyes.
“I had a patient on Tuesday that I’ve treated since he was four-years-old, and he’s 40,” Dr. Harris said. “I’ve treated parents, grandparents and grandchildren.”
Dr. Harris has treated over 11,000 different patients in his career. Not only has he helped many of them get back on the road to a longer, healthier life, but he has also helped them grow closer to God.
“I pray for my patients every morning when I’m on my way to work,” he said. “I pray that God will send me patients that I can help; especially those who are frustrated and haven’t found relief through other avenues.”
Dr. Harris said he frequently hears patients say they were guided to him by prayer. Dr. Harris feels as though God has led these people to him specifically.
Dr. Harris’ empathy for people and love for God began as a child. He grew up in a godly home where he attended church regularly.
“When I was ten-years-old, my Sunday school teacher, Mr. Pringle, talked about accepting Jesus as Lord and being baptized for forgiveness of sins and I did so. Then, when I was 11-years-old another teacher, Mrs Shepherd, was talking about Solomon and his special gift. She said he asked for wisdom and that’s the best thing to pursue. I have prayed for wisdom ever since. It has been my most prolific request.”
His pursuit of wisdom, coupled with his heart for people, has led him to be used by God in some extraordinary ways.
A dream, a Chinese leader and a Bible
“I had a dream when I was 20-years-old that I was supposed to do something with China,” Dr. Harris said. “At the time, the only time I’d heard the word China was when my mom would say, ‘finish the food on your plate. There are starving children in China who’d love to have this food.’”
His opportunity came a few years later, in 1979, when the leader of China, Deng Xiaoping, announced he was making a trip to Houston to tour Hughes Tool Company and NASA.
“When I heard that on the radio I was in my car and I was in front of the Hughes Tool Company. I had just finished listening to a tape of a preacher who said, ‘do something big for God.’ I got the idea to give Deng Xiaoping a Bible.”
Since the Chinese leader was a communist, the mayor of Houston was refusing his visit. So Louie Welch, who was president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, decided he would show Xiaoping around.
“My dad was a policeman for 26 years for Houston, but his last 10 years were spent as the head of security for Mayor Louie Welch. I called and shared my idea with Mayor Welch. He said he’d have to check with the state department.”
In the meantime, Harris found a Bible written in Chinese and brought it to the former mayor’s home. Welch then gave the young doctor the bad news that the State Department said that he couldn’t give the Chinese leader a Bible.
Harris thought for a moment and then said, “On our money it says ‘In God We Trust.’ Why can’t we give him something that represents what is on our money? Mayor Welch looked at me and said. ‘I’m glad you came over because I’m not ashamed to give anybody a Bible and I’m going to smuggle it to him.’”
Welch was able to successfully get the Bible to Xiaoping and within nine months the communist country was opened once again to Christianity.
“I’m not saying that it’s because of what I did or what Louie Welch did, but it was exhilarating to be a part of what God was doing,” Harris said.
Dr. Harris is a long-time member of Rotary, an international service organization. He first joined Rotary in 1977, and has been an active member ever since. In fact, in 1997-98, Harris was the Rotary District Governor over 57 clubs in nine counties. It was during this time that he became an early supporter and eventual humanitarian to a project that was helping to break the cycle of poverty in Nicaraguan villages.
“We literally moved a village of 2,000 people living on a dump to a location five miles away that was situated on a peanut farm. We enabled them to build their own homes, plant crops, raise chickens, have clean water and sanitation,” he said. “Within 18 months they were in surplus production and self-sufficient. They went from sub-human conditions to breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Harris later returned with other humanitarians to help build schools and provide a better future for the “Children of the Dump.”
The project was such a revolutionary idea that Harris and others who had worked to make it happen were asked to speak to the United Nations in New York City about their work. Unfortunately, the day before they were supposed to make their speech happened to be one of the most horrific days in American history—9/11.
“We set Rotary on fire about the project, but it all evaporated after 9/11. It’s coming back slowly. The cycle of poverty has been broken for two more villages since then.”
He has recently taken an interest in a different humanitarian effort that is helping to change the hearts and minds of inmates in Texas state prisons.
It all started when Pastor Gary Hill became a patient of Harris. The two became friends and through their discussions, Hill asked the doctor if he’d ever heard of the work being done at Angola State Prison in Angola, Louisiana. When Harris said no, Hill offered to pay his way so he could see it for himself.
“Nineteen years ago it was the most violent prison in the US; run by gangs, blood on the floor every morning,” Harris said. “Today, it’s the least violent. There are no more gangs. They’ve reduced violence by 85 percent, reduced their guards by 400 and are saving $16 million a year.”
It all started with Burl Cain, a Christian warden who decided to give the inmates, most of whom were serving life sentences without parole, something to believe in.
“They opened up a seminary in the prison for the inmates,” he said. “Two hundred and forty have gone through the full, four-year program and have become certified chaplains.”
The warden has placed the chaplains in key positions in each cell block to influence other prisoners in a positive, Christ-centered way.
Grove Norwood, with the Heart of Texas Foundation, had duplicated the Angola example for the first time at Darrington, a Texas maximum security prison with 1,800 inmates in Rosharon. With the help of Senators Dan Patrick, John Whitmire, Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Southwest Theological Seminary at Darrington was started. They now have about 150 inmates enrolled and just started the fourth-year students. They need a seminary facility. There’s a gym that’s not being used at Darrington that can be remodeled into this facility at a cost of $2.5 million. Dr Harris felt honored to be on the ground floor of this remarkable project. Together they have raised $1,060,000 so far.
It is the goal of this effort to eventually send a certified chaplain to all of the 110 prisons in Texas. “We need to get this done! This could change our society from the bottom up,” Harris said.
It seems as though Harris has had great fortune in finding great projects and works of God to be a part of. Why? Dr. Harris’ answer is:
“God’s way is the best way! I recommend reading the Bible. I’ve read the Bible, cover to cover, six times. My inspiration in joining these causes comes from Matthew 25: 24 – 46: Jesus said whenever you help someone that is hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, a stranger, homeless or in prison… it’s the same as if you did it for Jesus. Also, Matthew 7:7 says to ask, seek, knock and it will be given to you. Do you know what hummingbirds and vultures have in common? They both find what they are looking for. God can use anyone to do special things. We plant, we water but God gives the increase. The power is God. It’s all about God.”