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 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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about me, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, in my opinion, my country: the philippines, my travels

Politicians and the Campaign Season

I went on a brief vacation to Mindanao last month, and I was lucky enough to be asked to tag along on three missions while I was there. My team has taken a brief hiatus, and I have been missing the field. So imagine my delight when I was asked to serve…

The thing about being “invited to missions” is that you sort of become a part of the purpose they wish to serve–whatever it is. But it’s okay, I always tell myself that I’m there for the people–not for the organizers.

Continue reading “Politicians and the Campaign Season”

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, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist

Touching People’s Lives

I’ve always wanted to be a dentist. My uncle was a dentist and I said, “I want to do that”, and when I finally became one I realized that it wasn’t so special. Haha. Actually, when younger individuals tell me they want to be a dentist, I’d always discourage them and say, “Oh do not make the mistake I made!”

Of course the main advantage you enjoy when you’re in private practice is that you have so much freedom, being your own boss and all. But that’s not much, really. It’s mostly hardwork and with very little gain. Things change, however, when you revert your focus.

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about me, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, in my opinion, my country: the philippines, my travels, the mission life

The Mission Life: Serving in the Red Area

Mission Life Entry #3. Saturday, 23rd of September 2017. Daraga, Albay.

4:00am. My alarm sounded and my mind and body weren’t ready to function yet. The room is pitch dark and my teammates are still asleep. I snoozed the alarm–and bought myself 30 more minutes.

Continue reading “The Mission Life: Serving in the Red Area”

my country: the philippines

I Should’ve Brought My Surgery Set

In the latest dental mission I went to, I worked independent from my team. I was invited to join a nationwide Medical-Dental event that was participated by various sectors but I came on my own, so I came representing You and Your Teeth Dental Clinic (my dental practice), and Team Jesus (my mission team).

More confident with my own instruments, I have been accustomed to bringing my set, despite how heavy it is, but I was told I didn’t have to bother because they will bring the instruments. It was more convenient that way, of course, because a full surgery set is quite heavy and it’s much fun to travel light. So I was grateful for that. It seemed perfect–but I was wrong because…

Continue reading “I Should’ve Brought My Surgery Set”