Mission work can take many forms. Some trips focus on children, others on women, medical needs or housing. The list of needs in areas that differ from our own is potentially infinite. For the 20 members of the Snellville United Methodist Church’s recent trip to the remote mountains of Nicaragua, becoming a dental assistant occurred in short order.
Two of the mission members, Dr. John Simmons and Dr. Ken Hutchinson, who happen to be the best of friends, brothers-in-law and dentists, saw an opportunity to plan and implement a trip to an area that does not receive dental care. Along with their own expertise, the other members of the trip stepped up to the plate to assist with procedures that were not a part of their daily lives. “This was an example of the Body of Christ in action,” says Simmons. “We all had different gifts to provide the service of dental care and it took all of us working together as a team to meet their (Nicaraguan) physical needs.”
The team taught children the simple task of brushing their teeth. It was a novel idea for the kids and they gave it their best try. Afterwards, when the kids saw how white there teeth became, there were plenty of smiles shared all around.
Much of the dentistry services that took place on the mission trip centered around tooth extractions. “Unfortunately, sugar is readily available and oral hygiene isn’t something that is taught to the children,” says Dr. Simmons. “We pulled a good many painful teeth and that made people more comfortable.” When word of the relief that came with extracting teeth made the rounds, more and more people came forward to have troublesome teeth pulled.
“The mission team came together in a God Story kind of way,” says Dr. Ken Hutchinson. “It was really neat to have people without any medical background jump in to do anything we asked.” One of the team members, Beth Summerford took on the role of instrument sterilization. “She kept things going like clockwork,” says Dr. Hutchinson. Another of the team members, Jane Moore, had originally planned to work in the children’s ministry, but when her language skills were needed (fluent Spanish), she sat with one patient after another explaining what the doctors needed them to do in order to be successful.
In all, the dental clinic mission trip was a success. To plan and carry out such an operation took many months, teamwork and the ability to navigate a foreign health ministry to be able to bring the necessary medications, tools and personnel into the country. “Each step was blessed,” says Dr. Hutchinson. “We were not sure up until we were suddenly allowed entry at the airport that we would be able to bring everything we needed with us.” Both Dr. Simmons and Dr. Hutchinson believe that there was a higher power in charge.