The breakfast room was a hum of excitement today. After waiting for so long, we finally get to start providing care!
The dental team watched and waited as the zodiac boats started heading out to their different destinations filled with the nurses and doctors. They would bring the patients in need of mouth care and eye care back to be worked on in the ship’s clinic. In the down time leading up to our patients’ arrival, the clinic leader went over some more basic training for those of us who would be serving as dental assistants for the first time. She taught us the basics of working with a dentist on filling teeth and extracting them.
The first boat of patients pulled up and unloaded onto the ship. Another volunteer and I started registering them. We talked to them while they waited. One man told me that he had such terrible tooth pain that he couldn’t eat for a week. Another girl said that she had been having tooth pain for five years. I think the most impactful patient today was a little three year old named Nemiah. His teeth were all rotted through and had infection so extreme that he couldn’t be fully anesthetized. As one of our dentists started trying to work on him, he let out a terrible cry that could probably be heard on shore. The poor little guy couldn’t handle the pain, so they decided not to continue. Later when I was asking the dentists about the little fella, she said that, if we were in a different country, Nemiah would have been sent to the hospital for a night to treat the infection. It would have taken several weeks to fully fix his mouth in a country with limitless resources. The only thing that can be done for him now is to pray that God looks out for him and protects him from the dangers of such an extreme infection. So I ask that you please add him to your prayer list.
The dentists all worked tirelessly today. 48 patients were seen and treated. Teeth were extracted to end pain, and chipped or decayed teeth were cleaned and filled. I got to work with a dentist who is actually from this village that we are in. She is amazing to me. Not only did she patiently help me learn how to help her as a dental assistant, but she also was able to connect with her patients using their local language and, in some cases, their local dialect. She is the first person in her village to become a dentist, and one of the only dentists in this province. I loved working with her and I’m excited to see how God continues to use her these coming days.
After we finished with our last patient and deep cleaned all the equipment, dinner was served to an exhausted group of people. There was a worship time on the top deck of the ship at 19:30. Songs were sung in English and Pigeon. We also watched a short recorded message given by the leader of YWAM Brazil. He spoke about looking at the facts and opening our eyes to the truth. The example he pointed out in scripture is the story found in 2 Kings of Elisha and his assistant being surrounded by the Syrian army, whose sole purpose was to destroy the two of them. The assistant saw the fact that there was an army out to get them, but Elisha saw the truth that God is bigger than any army of men. As Elisha prayed for the eyes of his assistant to be opened, an army of the Lord’s angels, sent to protect them, became visible. It is easy to see the insurmountable odds that face us and just walk away. However, God has called us to a greater faith and a greater trust. He has called us to bet our lives on His truth alone and fall head first into His provision. On this mission that means trusting that God will make miracles happen when it comes to healing and restoration. Great things are happening here, but there isn’t enough time or enough resources to provide the level of care to each individual that is standard for a first world country. Most of the patients in the dentist chair today had a whole mouth of cavity ridden teeth that are as brown as a paper bag, yet the dentists only have enough time to pull one or two and no time to clean or fully restore. This is a struggle for them. The ophthalmologists are doing simultaneous eye surgery in a cramped operating room with two operating tables side by side. They are working on cataracts that have progressed beyond anything they’ve seen back home. This is somewhat new territory for them. They don’t know if the patients that they are operating on will have the results for which they are hoping, new sight. There is a possibility that some will return tomorrow for follow up care and they will see less than they did at the beginning of today. These are the facts. The truth is that God is our healer. We end this first day of care with the prayer that in our short comings God will provide. In this way all success achieved will be His glory alone, and in His glory we can find our strength.
Please pray specifically for the ophthalmologists and their teams to have peace in God’s providence over every surgery and situation that presents itself. Pray that their patients would have new sight. Pray for the dentists to not be discouraged by only getting to do partial care. Pray that the dental patients would be freed from pain. Pray that God would do miracles here.