Last week, I traveled with the Christian Dental Society of the University of Florida to Palin, Guatemala. By the grace of God, we saw more patients on this trip than any of the 6 other dental mission trips that I have been able to go on. With 7 dentists and 30 dental students we were able to treat almost 1000 patients in just four days. We provided services to these patients including fillings, cleanings, fluoride treatments and tooth extractions.
Every time I go on a trip like this, I find myself humbled and surprised by the gratitude of the people that I meet. You might think that waiting outside all day in a long line just to get a tooth pulled might make some people unhappy. This was not the case in Guatemala. Every patient that I met was eager to greet me with a handshake and thank me with a hug.
With no suction, poor lighting and only two dental chairs, you could say that the conditions were less than ideal. Still, we managed to provide a high level of care to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it. We were only able to see by using flashlights that attached to our heads. In an ideal scenario, we would be able to lay every patient back in a dental chair, but all we had were plastic patio chairs. To make patients more comfortable, we would often allow them to rest their head on our leg or hip while we worked. You could say that the whole experience was somewhat like pulling teeth.
In the end, seeing the gratitude in our patients’ eyes washed away any aches and pains from poor posture and improper lighting. The week culminated with a large church service where many of the patients showed up to say thank you and to pray for us.
This week was about much more than dentistry to us. This was about sharing God’s love with every person that we met. We made this our priority by praying with our patients before treating them. We found that they were extremely grateful that we took the time to pray for them. It also gave most patients a deep sense of peace before beginning their treatment.
It is this element of the trip that I enjoy the most and the part that will keep me going back for years to come. Even though I do not speak Spanish, I find that God’s love is universal and can be communicated without words. I would like to say thank you to everyone who said a prayer for our trip and our safe travels.
God bless! Or as they say in Guatemala, “¡Dios te bendiga!”