As we head down the runway on the last leg of the combined 23 hours of flights home from Africa, I wonder how the people that I have just spent the last ten days with are doing.
Did they make it to their destinations? Are they home with their families now? Did the training trip make as big of an impact on them as it did on me?
The I-DENT team was given a rare opportunity to work with three other mission groups, in a country that most people would not consider entering. The Christian Dental Society (CDS), Christian Medical/ Dental Association (CMDA), Reconciliation Ministry Network (RMNi), and ITEC joined forces and worked together in a refugee camp in sub-Saharan Africa. Each ministry brought a unique input and worked together for the glory of God’s kingdom.
Great Team, Returning I-DENT Graduates
When you have a common goal and let God steer the wheel, amazing things can happen. God provided a solid team including an oral surgeon from Jamaica, a local African dentist, a female dentist from East Africa, and three East African I-DENT graduates who ITEC trained in extractions over a year ago, one of whom was trained by mPower Approach four years ago. Most of us had never met before but we all love Jesus and desire to open doors to the Gospel through training and dental care.
Our US-based I-DENT team was assisted by the previous I-DENT graduates in expanded roles. Not only were they in the clinic as student-supervisors treating patients, but they also served as co-instructors under the US dentists supervision during the classroom portion of the training. Their experience as former students that have actively used dentistry in the field allowed them to teach difficult concepts to the students. Jesus commands us to make disciples who will then make more disciples. It was exciting to see these empowered local Christ-followers using their dental skills to train their fellow African brothers and sisters with a tool to share the love of Christ in their communities.
Collaboration and Impact
The collaboration between all four mission groups was an important part of the impact of this trip. Each day started with communal prayer and devotions. Traveling to and from the refugee camp together gave us the opportunity to get to know each other personally. Working in very close proximity with one another allowed us to utilize the special skills each dentist and technician had to offer. We shared instruments, borrowed pressure pots, exchanged supplies, and ate together each day. It was like a well-run hospital/clinic in the middle of an all-to-recent war zone. At the end of each day, we left exhausted but the camaraderie we shared gave unity and strength to continue our work.
On the last day of the clinic, an elderly refugee woman approached me and wanted to get rid of the gauze in her mouth. I let her spit it out in the garbage can and after giving her new gauze, she returned several times, potentially in need of the trash can. Finally, I decided to give her a cup and have her sit to relax. When she was ready to leave she walked over to me. I will never forget her wrinkled face and how crippled her hands looked as she raised them over her head. She prayed over me and praised God for all we were doing there. Though we did not speak the same language, I could see the love in her eyes and feel the joy in her heart. If a cup and some gauze could move this woman like that, imagine the impact the students trained will have long after we are back.
We are thankful for this opportunity to serve, train, and invest in the work the Lord is doing in that part of the world. Thank you for your prayer and support that allows this work to continue.