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.
It’s Friday again! And this is a continuation of our missionary’s call to pray for her field of harvest, to learn to persist in keeping the vision of the harvest, by beginning to serve in her home Church, and to prepare her bosses for her eventual departure. The missionary also emphasized the need to develop strong relationships with her Church leaders as they will be integral to her success on the fields. Learning to listen is a vital skill and posture to have on the fields. However, just as important as listening is our need to open up our lives to one another.
Some people are great listeners, but never open up to share their own life. This is an unnatural conversation as well because, sooner or later, the person you’re talking to will begin to feel like it’s a counseling session. If you can’t be open with people, you will never be able to connect with them in a meaningful way. So get comfortable with opening up your own life to others, even ones you don’t know that well. Because your personal testimony is almost always the thing that leads others to Christ! It is a sacrifice to make yourself vulnerable, but with God’s help it’s possible and so effective. For example, because of my past in overcoming depression, I was able to reach several precious people in my target country who had dealt with the same thing. One new believer told me, “I used to feel like I was being put into a box inside a box inside a box. I could physically hear the locks clicking. Now (after calling on the Name of Jesus), it’s like several boxes have just melted away!” Praise God! So listen and also don’t be afraid to share your life with others!
It’s Friday again! And this is a continuation of our missionary’s call to pray for her field of harvest, to learn to persist in keeping the vision of the harvest, by beginning to serve in her home Church, and to prepare her bosses for her eventual departure. The missionary also emphasized the need to develop strong relationships with her Church leaders as they will be integral to her success on the fields. Today, we’ll consider our need to learn to really listen.
Good listening is the key to every relationship. This is especially true on the mission field, where there is already a communication barrier because of language/culture. So while you’re at home, learn to connect well with people by listening. Learn to really listen. Put down your cell phone. Don’t cut people off. Force yourself to slow down and follow respectfully even those who speak more slowly than you. Give feedback such as “Yes,” “Mmm,” “I understand what you mean.” Look at them in the eye. Practice reading body language. Know when to repeat and when to stop talking. The way you communicate (not just what you say) can be a powerful witness to love of Jesus in your life. Learn to love through listening.
It’s Friday again! And this is a continuation of our missionary’s call to pray for her field of harvest, to learn to persist in keeping the vision of the harvest, by beginning to serve in her home Church, and to prepare her bosses for her eventual departure. The missionary also emphasized the need to develop strong relationships with her Church leaders as they will be integral to her success on the fields.
Any time someone is sent to the field, it really involves the whole church. And for the church to get behind you, you must have leadership support. If you are not close to your cell group leaders/pastors, you should begin to build those relationships. One of the best ways is by serving in church. But you also must be willing to be open with them about your own life as the relationship grows. Many people are scared to connect with leaders, but they are just people too. And most will appreciate your treating them like a normal person. Think of how you can give, not just what you can gain from the relationship. And pray for them and their ministries as well. You will find God doing a work to knit your hearts together. And when the time comes for you to go out, they will be there for you. Most importantly, they will lay hands on you and commission you, like in Acts 13:1-3.
It’s Friday again! And this is a continuation of our missionary’s call to pray for her field of harvest, to learn to persist in keeping the vision of the harvest, by beginning to serve in her home Church, and to prepare her bosses for her eventual departure.
Just as it is important to set and manage expectations of how long you could serve in your home Church, the same principle goes for the workplace. You must prepare your bosses that you will be leaving, and plan strategically so that someone can cover your roles. Some people are concerned they might not be promoted if they tell their boss they won’t be there forever, but being honest in this area will also help keep you accountable to really go. And it’s only fair to them. My boss appreciated that I prepared her long beforehand. She also had me write a manual of how-to’s for everything I did! But it helped – later I had to do the same for the ministry in Thailand. Your testimony in your workplace is a part of your ministry as well. This also applies to your church pastors and overseers. Prepare them.
It’s Friday again! And this is a continuation of our missionary’s call to pray for her field of harvest, to learn to persist in keeping the vision of the harvest, by beginning to serve in her home Church.
Luke 16:10 was the verse most often quoted by my mom: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” Of course, she was referring to making my bed but the principle was there – I had to complete many small tasks well before the Lord could entrust me with work on the mission field. So I learned to be (mostly!) faithful in my chores at home. I also volunteered at my home church. Since I was interested in helping children, I took a job as the children’s ministry intern. It was the most boring thing I’d ever done. Most days were spent alone in a room copying coloring pages and vacuuming the carpet. I wanted to quit after the first week, but my mom encouraged me to stay, probably quoting Luke 16:10! So I completed one year. During that time, I also taught Sunday School to 3-year-olds. I remember after one lengthy discourse on Noah, complete with felt board storytelling, I asked them all who built the ark. “God,” one cried out. “Jesus,” another offered. “She bit me,” a third one wailed, pointing to a cherubic blonde with a mean bite. My official recommendation at the end of that year was that 3-year-olds stay in the nursery.
In additional to Sunday School, I was a student leader in the youth group, and I helped out with various events in church as needed. I enjoyed being with people and learning to serve. The relationships I built and the skills I learned during this time were truly priceless. However, one thing to remember is that while serving at your home church first is important, it is good to manage expectations of how long you can serve. From the start, you should let people know your intention to go to the mission field, and you should always be training others up to take your place.