Phi 06: 31 Oct – 5 Nov 2016
The God of Small Things (Dental Missions)
By Joanne Hioe
You wouldn’t have guessed the person looking at your teeth, dressed in scrubs, would be half of a modern-day Priscilla and Aquilla – until you’ve met Jeremy and Ker Shin. This couple with the beautiful smiles love God, love missions, and best of all, they aren’t afraid to deal with life’s realities of head-on – such as pulling teeth.
Both dentists, who met at university (though they were not seeing each other at the time), regularly commit their time to serving God in the mission field through their professional skill – dentistry. Their willing hearts have brought them from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and most recently, to Santiago, in the Philippines.
“What impact can a short-term mission trip make?” ask many medical professionals, especially as one-time treatment for chronic diseases may do more harm than good. But for Jeremy and Ker Shin counter one question with another: “If I can help one person, why not?” Dental missions can still make a positive difference, the couple affirms, because what you see as a small investment may be of great help in the long term.
“There are people we serve in Cambodia who tell us that the last time they had a dental checkup was when we went one year ago,” said Ker Shin (possibly more often than many Singaporeans…).
Ministering as part of the larger body of Christ
For the duo, the experience of Bless Santiago was unlike any other. First of all, this massive team of 80 meant a greater capacity to reach out together. Unlike previous trips, where teams were sent out specifically for dental missions, Bless Santiago put the dental team in close contact with other ministries in the church. “The hands and legs team was amazing,” enthused Jeremy. “We only needed to explain what had to be done in the sterilization room in the morning, and by evening it was automatic.”
Each of the “body” complemented the other. With cross-ministry teams, the Singapore team could love the Filipino community in a holistic manner – body, soul and spirit. “Even while waiting for the doctor, the freedom ministry was on standby to pray for the patients,” Jeremy said. It helped to have the cheerful, irresistibly warm volunteers of the freedom ministry break the ice when a person in dental scrubs could appear intimidating.
In between moments of extracting teeth, there still were rewarding opportunities for dentists to minister Christ. “When we pray with them, we can share the gospel,” Jeremy said. Such spiritual deposits last longer than the effect of a checkup, because the person you share the gospel with will remember the work you have done later on, he added.
Going on mission trips helps Ker Shin rediscover her God-given passion for the profession – helping others, and education. “Going on mission trips helps me to remember the root of why I do what we do,” smiled the mother of two. Wanting to inculcate her passion for missions in her children, she is looking forward to bringing her elder six-year old daughter on a mission trip soon.
God is in the details – of teeth, children, and little seeds we sow for His kingdom. Nothing is too small for Him to use.
“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”
– 1st Cor 3:6
What can I do?
Are you a dentist? Go! Given the technical expertise needed for dental missions, your willing hearts are most welcome.
You’re not a dentist? Don’t fret – there’s still much that you can do.
1. Public health.
With training, you can teach others the importance of oral hygiene and tooth-brushing techniques.
Oral hygiene is not highly valued in developing countries because of the urgent need for money to satisfy one’s day-to-day needs. On one particular trip, Ker Shin found that tiny toothpaste tubes they bought were out for sale in the market the next day. With your help, we can put a stop to this, and make oral hygiene a priority.
Dentists need far more equipment than doctors, including their chairs and tools. Thus far, Cornerstone has been supportive of the purchase of dental equipment. With your giving, it could go even further.