Out of gratitude for what God has given me, I am committed to being a blessing to others by using the talents He has gifted me with. The trips I have taken have truly touched my life and my heart, and I have received far more than I have given. You hear about poverty in other parts of the world, but when you see it in person, treat people in pain, or simply show them love by caring for them or giving them a hug and a smile...you are changed inside.
Both Dr. T and Samantha are part of a dental missions trip going to Dnipro, Ukraine in Spring 2018. Check back for updates on the trip!
In November, Katie and I will be heading to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!! This will be our first time overseas together and we are very excited (and a bit nervous)....
We will be visiting some amazing ministries while there, including Bring Love In, Embracing Hope and Women at Risk. We will also visit some of the orphanages in the area. I am bringing a suitcase of dental supplies in order to set up a portable extraction clinic just in case we run into a child that needs help with a toothache!
Towards the end of the week, we will join Ethiopia Smile, a team of dentists who are joining together to serve people in need. This is an amazing ministry that we are excited to be a part of! Read more about Ethiopia Smile here. We will be treating some of the women and orphans from the ministries listed above. What a privilege to serve there using the skills that God has given me! I will update when I return.
For more info on how we decided to go together to Ethopia instead of the Caribbean, read our blog at http://trustwithnoborders.blogspot.com/ :)
UPDATE: While in Ethiopia, we felt led to adopt two teenagers we met. After mountains of paperwork and two more trips to Ethiopia, Samri and Abel came home in April 2015!! We love having them as a part of our family of 7!
I will be heading back to the middle east in April for my next medical trip. I will be joining four medical professionals from my church and 8 others from around the country. We will be setting up a makeshift medical/dental clinic in a church near a Syrian refugee camp to serve those who have been displaced from their homes. The civil war in Syria has claimed over 60,000 lives and hundreds of thousands are fleeing their homes. We hope to help in a small way to help these poor people by providing any medical assistance they might need. I will post an update this once I return!
I returned from the Middle East two months ago and I am still trying to process what I experienced there. The trip was both amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time. I came back completely empty and exhausted, but also with a passion for what God is doing there through the Christian church.
A few stories that have been imprinted on my heart:
We saw a little girl who was 10 and needed a tooth pulled. She was terrified. When asked, her mom told us that she had a terrible experience with a Syrian dentist (he broke her tooth off at the gumline and now it was infected.) But then she shared about how they had been eating dinner on their balcony when a make-shift bomb being packed below them blew up. Part of the man’s torso was blown onto the balcony at their feet. Later, the army came through and broke their windows with the butts of their guns and the glass shattered on her. This poor little girl has seen things that we only see portrayed in horror movies. Her eyes were haunting – almost empty. But we had the opportunity to serve and love her with gentleness and kindness and then pray with her and her family that they would know the peace that only Jesus can bring.
An older gentleman was very thankful after I pulled two of his broken teeth. I told him that I had come all the way from America because I love Jesus and I wanted him to know His love, too. He came over to me, took my face in both of his hands and kissed me on the top of my head. Very moving.
We saw a man who had been beaten with metal rods by the Syrian Army and had his teeth knocked out. A young man who was shot and left for dead in a mass grave until his parents dug through the bodies and found him. A mother who burst into tears as I prayed that her son would grow up to become a man of God – I knew instantly that she wondered if he would have a future at all. A woman whose tooth was severely infected but didn’t want treatment because “it wasn’t as bad as the pain in her heart.”
The Syrians, who were middle class just like you and me, have lost everything - family, possessions, and hope. Most of the people we saw were just escaping the refugee camps which are filled with crime, rape, unsanitary conditions, prostitution of children to wealthy Saudis who come up, overcrowding, etc… They have had to choose to live in overpriced concrete shacks and starve rather than be fed and stay in the camps. They are unwelcome guests in the countries surrounding Syria because their presence has spiked the price of food, gas and rent. The refugees are truly lost – no country, no job, no friends and no future.
And this is where God has led the church there to step in. They are reaching out to these people in love and generosity. During regular home visits to check in on the refugees, the Christians feed them, clothe them, encourage them and bring them
supplies. And the church keeps coming back to care for them – the only love they have experienced since they left. This has melted the Syrian refugees’ heartsand has given them hope in the middle of a very dark time. I went and did what I could to alleviate the suffering of a few people, but the need is overwhelming. I left encouraged by the example of the people who live to meet the need of others constantly. What a privilege to serve alongside such heroes!
I fell in love with the people in this country on my most recent trip. We worked with a Christian church there that cared for the needs of the poverty stricken Muslims in the surrounding community. Although facing persecution and making up less than 1% of the total population, these Christians were willing to serve others in love. I was so humbled by their servant's heart and attitude - they are true heroes!
We worked in the clinic they had built and saw over 1000 patients. We had a full medical team including internists, a pediatrician, an orthopedic PA, a dentist and people distributing eyeglasses. I had the chance to work with some young dentists who became my friends very quickly. The church provided us some wonderful meals of lamb, rice and almonds (Mansef) and an after-lunch "tea time" of Turkish coffee and cookies. I was impressed by the modern dental clinic as well as the skill level of the dentists I worked with. This was a very memorable trip and I would love to go back!
I love this photo - this was one of the toughest surgical extractions I have done and the intensity shows. The case turned out great!
A church member had bought a very nice dental unit for the clinic to have. We were able to do a variety of procedures instead of just offering extractions.
The reality of mission trips is that the travel can be brutal. We were originally scheduled to go to Egypt, but had to be rerouted to another country (unnamed to protect the church there) because of the unrest caused by the Arab Spring Uprising. Here we are blowing up pool floats to sleep on overnight in the Cairo airport. On the way home we went through 5 cities on 4 continents in 36 hours!
We had a sightseeing day and travelled to the ancient ruins of Gadara. In the foreground is the ruins of a 4th century Byzantine church. To the right is the Golan Heights, to the left is Israel and straight ahead is the Sea of Galilee!
On my first mission trip we set up a makeshift dental clinic in a school. Kids would be bused in from miles around the city to be able to see "American doctors". We had mattresses on top of desks for the patients to lay on and headlamps as a light source. Instruments were steam sterilized in pressure pots.
Almost every single child had cavities. In this area of the world they are very poor, but sugar is cheap. Most children had teeth that needed to be extracted, but we had to focus on those that couldn't eat or sleep at night because of the pain. It was heartbreaking to pull their teeth (some of them permanent), but we knew that a severe abscess could kill them and they did not have any access to futher care.
These kids were wonderful! They waited for hours on bleachers without complaining. They were brave and thankful and so adorable! One little girl needed two adult teeth out and we had trouble stopping the bleeding. In spite of this, she sat right by her friend and encouraged her and held her hand while we worked. I will never forget that moment.
My translators and assistants were local college students. They were awesome, and we had a great time becoming friends. These are three of my favorites - I couldn't have done this without them!
This little guy was terrified, but we were able to get the tooth out. I was telling him he was "batale" which means brave.
I had just pulled his tooth, but he couldn't stop smiling...why? Earlier he had gotten fitted with his first pair of glasses and couldn't believe what he could see. His first words after were "I see trees over there!"