Many years ago I participated in a Volunteers In Mission trip to Grenada. We had a construction team and a medical team. I was amazed at the medical team—especially the dentist. The medical doctors were somewhat limited in what they could do—for instance, they couldn’t do any surgeries. But the dentist was free to do anything that needed to be done.
I remember a team member approaching the local elementary school to announce that free dental care was available. Nearly the entire school appeared in the little church sanctuary where we had set up shop. The first pew was reserved for those children who had already received their anesthetic. Many pews were filled behind them waiting their turn.
All in all that dentist pulled over 300 teeth in one week. One week. I was amazed at that. But even more, I was struck by how many of those children may have been living in pain. If you or I have a toothache, we make an appointment with a dentist that same day, if possible. Some of these children may have been in pain for months.
I think we forget the extraordinary blessings we have that don’t exist in the much of the rest of the world. Most of us take dental care for granted. Try to imagine your life without it.
Even here in Nashville, there are many, many people who live without basic dental care. Did you know that there is a ministry in town called “The Interfaith Dental Clinic?” Last year alone, there were over 14,000 patients that visited this clinic, which serves a 10-county area. Tennessee ranks number 47 in the nation in the level of overall oral health. The IFDC helps people with prevention and oral health care that can make a lasting difference in a person’s life. For 20 years the IFDC has been helping people. It began, I am proud to say, in West End UMC and now is located on Patterson Street.
We are now talking about what it means to “live missionally”. The Interfaith Dental Clinic is a prime example of what can happen when one person with a vision and passion can do.
We as Christians believe that Jesus has called us to love God and neighbor and to find ways to show it. What’s on your heart today?