i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, my country: the philippines, this is life

Medical Missions Can Save Lives

Someone I didn’t know posted this a few weeks ago…

medical missions useless

Okay then, let’s talk about it now. Let’s talk about how Medical Missions cannot really change the lives of people because as soon as the team packs up, everyone is forced to go back to their hapless lives. How services provided do not even touch the surface of the society’s real problems. And how the desperate individuals are sometimes forced to pay for meager service that is devoid of heart and care. I guess if you look at things this way, Medical Missions can seem quite useless, especially when teams arrive and patients discover that the services and medicines are not completely free. Not all Medical Missions are the same, I guess, and I pity that doctor for seeing no point in them, because that is not what I experience when I go to the field. Of course I realize that there may be a backstory to his statement. I wish I could hear it so that I could understand the depth of his frustration and at the same time, explain to him why I disagree with what he said.

The Heart of Christian Missions

Medical Missions will never be the answer for peace; and it will never be the absolute solution for the improvement of lives. But it is not at all useless. We know that any assistance we can offer is temporary, that’s why apart from Physical Healing, we come with Spiritual Enrichment.

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You see, the main goal of every Team Jesus Mission is not really to bring Medical and Dental Care, but to bring Jesus into the lives of people. We travel with pastors and counselors because the Great Commission calls for us to “go and make disciples of all nations”. And with this, we can never deem Medical Missions useless because we go to far places to fulfill God’s work.

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“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than yours,

and your thoughts higher than my thoughts.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower

and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

it will not return empty,

but it will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

(Isaiah 55:9-11)

We travel far, bringing the word of the Lord, and we allow ourselves to be channels of his unfailing love.

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Is it really useless? Do you still feel it useless even when God said “my word will not return empty?” and that all this is meant to achieve the purpose for which he sent it? In a single perspective it may seem as though Medical Missions are just a waste of time; but if you are a Christian Missionary, every chance to tell someone about Jesus is a golden opportunity that you cannot simply take for granted.

It is such a privilege to tell someone about the Lord. It’s not easy to do but when you’re given the opportunity to introduce him to people by serving them, you make USE OF IT.

The Miracle of Healing

Faith is the most important tool we bring to the field. Not the boxes of medicines and supplies. Not my heavy surgical instruments—but FAITH. And believe it or not, I have seen many miracles happen in the field. From medicines magically multiplying, just so we can provide for every single person who has queued for hours—to patients miraculously getting better through prayer or simple medications that aren’t exactly designed to do that.

A few weeks ago, the team was in Bicol and just before we wrapped up the second day, a lady came running to us in panic, needing a BP apparatus. We thought she just needed to take someone’s blood pressure, but an old woman was apparently having a panic attack, so we ran to her. What happened was, the woman received urgent news about her daughter who is currently confined in the hospital. It was such bad news, told so carelessly, that it immediately launched a massive attack. She was crying, running out of breath, and clutching her chest.

Her BP was registered at 180/120 and even after the sublingual she was still tachycardic (rapid heart rate). Our doctor said, “Kailangan nya ng oxygen.” (She needs oxygen). And then she remembered that we arrived with the Medical Corps who brought with them, an AMBULANCE. So I ran and asked if they were equipped and Praise the Lord, they were. Two soldiers immediately carried the woman to the ambulance, and hand-in-hand with her husband she was given immediate relief. If she wasn’t attended to, at that moment, her heart would have continued to fail.

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Talk about being at the right place, at the right time. Minutes later, the old woman was walking home, and feeling much better. Whether her daughter’s state had worsened or improved since she received the news, I lift it to the Lord. That is a different battle—but we will celebrate this one that we had just won.

“Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven”.

James 5:15

“When do we start talking about the overall uselessness of medical missions?”

Medical missions will never be the ultimate solution to poor healthcare, but you cannot just dismiss it and deem it useless. Not for me. Not the way I experience it. Not the way God works through the volunteers, for his people. I have been to many medical missions before, but I’ve never seen true service until I became a dental missionary. And in my heart of hearts, I wish that doctor will find happiness in serving the people. I wish he would experience it the way I do so he, too, will find value in this.

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This little girl and her mother were queued to receive Medical Care, when our nurse noticed the 3-month old baby having difficulty breathing. Our doctor ran to them, examined the girl, and observed that her lungs were congested and her nostrils were flared (alar flaring). They were survivors of the landslide during Typhoon Usman and she’s had on and off cough for months. Sensing the immediate need, they were pulled out of the queue and were attended to, right away.

Tucked away in the mountains, without any access to Medical Care, what are they supposed to do? Of course the care they received is only temporary. But hopefully, the MHO we endorsed them to is going to keep her promise to monitor the child.

Medical Missions are not useless, especially when the heart of the volunteer is sincerely devoted to the service of the people. And we will continue to travel and reach far areas, because there might be another old woman or another young child, needing emergency care that is OUT OF REACH.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for each other”

1 John 3:16

 

 

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about me, i am a mission dentist, in my opinion, this is life

Age Is Just A Number

And my number is 38.

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Cringe, I know… so close to 40.

Today I woke up to messages from my high school friends and the line being thrown repeatedly was, “Shit, malapit na tyo maging 40!” (Shit we’re almost 40). Where did time go, right? Can’t I just be in my 30s forever? I want to say that age doesn’t matter, but to be honest, I’ve started to feel the weight of my age on my shoulders. It is clear that even though my mind is clinging on to youthfulness, my body is transitioning to what it is slowly becoming–OLD(er).

When I was younger, I would wait excitedly for my birthday because it’s so fun to gain a year. I felt thoroughly accomplished and sophisticated with the maturity and that was the case until I turned 18. After that, I dreaded it every year. When I was closing in to my thirties, I got so obsessed with numbers–and making something out of myself. I don’t know why, but that’s how everyone was, so I guess I was just going with the flow. By 30 you want to be able to show the world that you’ve come so far. And so I plotted all kinds of goals for myself.

I wanted to be married by 30. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be rich. I had so many plans and dreams for my life… because I thought that will bring my life meaning.

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So what now? I am not “married”, not a mother, and not rich.

Eventually I realized the truth in the statement, “Age is just a number”. Because at the end of the day, all the hurrying and scurrying to meet deadlines did not do me good. The meaning you seek in life does not follow a world standard. The meaning you seek, comes from somewhere else.

Today I am thirty-eight (38) and soon enough I will enter my 40s. I don’t really have anything to show to the world, but I just want to be grateful for the chance to still try. And I guess what I can promise is that I will keep trying, until I am unable to. The other day I was talking to my DGroup about my life in the field and my DGroup leader asked me, “How long do you think can you do this for?” And I paused. I realized I’ve never really thought about that. “Until I can?” Until my hands permit me to do so?” And I knew that it is clear in my heart, that until God says, GO… I will go.

 

Age and My Hands

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve stopped (or maybe just taken a quick break from) coloring. I have set it aside because there are some instances, when I am performing a root canal, that I feel my hands getting really tired. That makes me worry so much because my survival is dependent on the ability of my hands to perform. And although I don’t want to say it out loud I usually wonder about it. What if one day I can’t move my hands anymore?

In 2010 a 72-year old OB successfully and skillfully performed Myomectomy on me. How about me? Will my hands be reliable in the clinic and the field, even when I become a septuagenarian?

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Age is just a number, but we are fearful of the number because we feel that it comes with so many limits. I see this in my aging grandma who insists she is still completely capable, and I see it in myself when I try to “defy gravity”. Age is just a number but of course this number will come with changes that will vary from one person to another. Just the other day my youngest sister was crying of debilitating menstrual cramps and she said, “Ganito ba talaga kapag tumatanda ka na?” Is this really how it is when you get older? We merely laughed at her, in agreement.

Age is just a number and this number comes with a lot of changes. My number is 38–and soon it will greater than that. But who cares?

 

“Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter years can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives”.

Billy Graham

 

Ultimately, I think, what matters is not how old you are or how far you’ve come. What matters is, you’re still here and you’re still trying.

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about me, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, this is life

Two Hundred Pesos

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Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. If you’re buying an expensive 2 million automobile, it’s quite worthless; but when you’re starving and looking to feed your family, two hundred pesos is a decent meal on the table. And really, life is all about perspective. It’s about seeing things in a positive light.

In our first site in Mindanao, we served a cluster of barangays, and as much as 700 people came. When hordes of people are rushing in, it’s quite easy for the team to get lost in the panic. When the queue of people don’t seem to thin, human nature sets in and the heaviness will settle. As a dentist in the field, the pain starts on my neck and back. Almost permanently hunched back to look into people’s mouths, the pain can be quite excruciating and uncomfortable as the day progresses. Hunger and exhaustion will soon manifest as a fairly limiting headache—and you see yourself checking the time and the number of patients that still need to be served. And often times I hear myself faintly cry out, “Oh Lord,” even more so when I am being overwhelmed by a difficult case. Almost instantly, I get the strength I need to finish the work, and of course I know it is no longer my own effort but the Lord’s.

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But then it’s not easy being a patient in a Medical Mission, either. Desperate and hopeful, you come in as early as you can, in order to register your name. And after getting your name in, you go through the process. In a Team Jesus Mission, you go through the following steps:

Step 1: Registration

Step 2: Vital Signs

Step 3: Counselling

Step 4: Medical, Dental, Optical, Circumcision

Step 5: Pharmacy

You go through the tedious process when the truth is that everyone just wants to go straight to Step 4, and the volunteers would rather be at the comfort of their homes. Fortunately, that is not God’s design. It’s not easy to understand why we travel so far, but when the burden to serve is placed in your heart by the Lord, you will answer the call.

“For many are called, but a few are chosen”

Matthew 22:14

And while many are called to serve, only a few people will actually do it. Because why would you take time off work and travel far? Why would you close your clinic for a while, and tell your patients to wait so you can go up to the mountains? It’s not easy to explain why we do this, but you just have to know that it’s clear in my heart that this is what I have to do. It is clear in every volunteer’s heart… and so we go to the field to serve. Not a lot of people get this, but sometimes someone does.

I Want to Help You

In our first site in Mindanao, amidst the crowd of patients, our Pastor found herself counselling a woman. She was quite enthusiastic and a little overeager, so it didn’t help that our Pastor was already feeling quite tired for the day. When you’re speaking to a large group of people you only hope that they are listening and not merely hearing your voice. Otherwise you’re only making noise and the word will fall on deaf ears. Our pastor continued to talk to the group and she remembers seeing the woman as she preached, and hearing her exclaim “Amen”, in almost automatic repetition. Her curiosity immediately grew, “Who is this woman?” she thought to herself.

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When the session ended, the crowd started to move out of the room, but the woman stayed. As soon as everyone had left, she approached our pastor and she said, “Nakakatuwa ang ginagawa nyo” (Your work makes me happy). She continued, “Gusto kong tumulong pero wala akong pera.” (I want to help, but I don’t have much money). Completely moved by her spirit, our Pastor smiled reassuringly and said, “Madaming paraan para tumulong. Pwede mo kaming ipagdasal. Ipagdasal mo kami para maipagpatuloy naming ang gawain ng Panginoon”. (There are many ways for you to help. You can pray for us. You can pray for us so that we could continue with God’s work). Volunteerism come in three forms: some work, some give, some pray. And so our Pastor told her not to worry if she has nothing to give, because her prayers will be worth so much.

Just then, she took two hundred pesos from her pocket and handed it over, “Ito lang ang meron ako, pero gusto ko tumulong sa inyo”. (This is all I have but I really want to help you). And she left with the promise to pray for the team.

Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. And that gesture of generosity and grace is worth more than what it can actually afford—a box of gloves, two packs of cotton balls, or two bottles of alcohol? Many wonder where we get our medicines from, but just like the old woman, there are people who believe in the importance of God’s work to reach the last, the least and the lost, so they share whatever they can so we can buy medicines. And sometimes, supplies arrive in boxes without us asking—it’s quite overwhelming.

Team Jesus functions entirely by FAITH. As a matter of fact, before the Mindanao Mission, I was severely short of dental supplies and one by one it got filled up until all I lacked were two boxes of gloves. Anyway, a friend saw my IG post and sent me exactly what we needed. Another friend saw it, but I told her it’s already been filled, so she offered to give 100 bags with school supplies for the kids, instead.

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Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. After our second day we ran out of some things and that donation went towards the replenishment of some dental and surgical supplies. So we might not see that old woman again, but her spirit will remain with us, always.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6: 19-21

You see, it’s not easy to be a patient in a Medical Mission. Some people wait for hours for the chance to receive free care, and it isn’t so much what we are able to give in the field. But they wait patiently to be served and to receive free care, because money that you can save from free dental and medical, is money that can go towards a few decent meals. So when a patient turns to you and says, “Please take my money, I want to help you.” You receive it with sincere gratitude, because that’s grace from God.

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i am a christian, in my opinion, love and relationships, stories of friends, this is life

The Haunting of Hill House and the “Poppy” in Our Heads

Spoiler Alert: Please be warned. This is heavy on spoiler details, so stop now. But really, go on. This is not a series review—it’s more of a reflection paper, so carry on. Haha. Are you confused now?

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“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

-Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Continue reading “The Haunting of Hill House and the “Poppy” in Our Heads”

about me, i am a christian, in my opinion, this is life

Stop. Look. Listen.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1: 19-20

My family call me hysterical. I remember my Papa scolding me for always raising my voice and throwing a tantrum in the middle of an argument.

Continue reading “Stop. Look. Listen.”

i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, this is life

But Who Will Hug Them?

“Hugs can do great amounts of good – especially for children.”

Princess Diana

A week ago my team served the teenagers in Manila Youth Rehabilitation Center (MYRC). Mostly boys, we served almost 200 youth between the ages of 15-17, and for the first time in my life I was called “mie” (mommy). When I asked why they call everyone mommy and daddy, they said “Nasanay na po.” They’ve gotten used to it because they are asked to call elders and staff, mommy and daddy. Some of the teens have to reside in the center for years… and during that time MYRC is their home. And the “labels” create some semblance of a family, I suppose (that many of them no longer have).

Continue reading “But Who Will Hug Them?”

about me, in my opinion, love and relationships, my travels, this is life

Looking for Love

New York is a lovely place. I love how busy it is–the city that never sleeps. We arrived in NYC at 10 o’clock at night. But with the interminable queuing at the immigration, we didn’t get on the train until 12 midnight. When we finally emerged from the subway and were hauling our luggage along Manhattan, we were desperate for a restful sleep. Much of our days and nights in New York were like that–walking, train rides, and foot cramping. We had a packed itinerary… so we were working on a schedule.

On the first day we were supposed to encounter Time Square before “Book of Mormon”, but we got heavily delayed at the Rockefeller Center, and only had time for dinner. This meant that we had to miss out on seeing the the LOVE-HOPE sculpture. It wasn’t that special. It may be overrated… but I guess the small time romantic in me wanted to believe in a chance at Love and Hope. Luckily that same night, we randomly passed by “HOPE” and I thought… maybe, just maybe, I’d get to find love here in New York, too.

And I did…

Continue reading “Looking for Love”