They came by the hundreds. Some traveled for days on foot, others rode more than 200 miles on motorbikes over rutted, unpaved roads. All came with one hope—to find relief from tooth pain.
The story started over a year before, when Heaven’s Family staff member Jeff Trotter told one of our trusted partners in Myanmar of a ministry that could equip national missionaries with basic dental skills. The obvious first benefit would be to provide relief of dental pain suffered by those who have no access to dental care. But the acquired skills would also give national missionaries two additional blessings: (1) more opportunities to share the gospel through a valuable service they could supply and (2), by charging a small fee, financial support for their ministries.
Jeff told our Myanmar partner that through our National Missionary Fund and Critical Medical Needs Fund, Heaven’s Family could provide the funding for special portable dental chairs, as well as the portable dental equipment and supplies that would be needed.
Skepticism ran high among many when they first heard of the plan. Train basic dental skills to men and women—some of whom never completed high school, let alone set foot in a university—in just 6 days? Impossible! But the training team, consisting of experienced and certified American dentists, had done it dozens of times before, all around the world. So plans were made for a 6-day dental school in February.
The first day of training consisted primarily of classroom lecture. As the day progressed, the students, most of whom had never been to a dentist themselves, looked more and more like deer caught in headlights. Our dental team reassured them, however, that despite their feelings of being overwhelmed they would do just fine. At the end of the day, all three student teams had their first hands-on experience, as they practiced giving each other lidocaine injections.
The students also learned the latest methods of dental hygiene and sterilization. By the second day, they were already diagnosing pain and extracting rotten teeth from some of those who had come with urgent dental needs! After 6 days, hundreds of thankful patients and lots of extracted teeth, all 6 of our students proudly received certificates during a special graduation ceremony.
Those three student teams will now be using their new skills to reach the lost with opportunities they’ve never had before. Chin-Chin and Nan, two female students who have already been serving in prison ministry, hope to gain more access into local prisons where dental care is non-existent; Billy and Langh will be using their new skills to reach Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State; and Tange and John will be pulling teeth and preaching the gospel in unreached villages of southern Chin State. All six graduates will be repaying a portion of what their training cost in order to give them a greater sense of ownership and responsibility.
At Heaven’s Family, we’re thrilled to equip faithful national missionaries with door-opening ministry tools, while at the same time providing a means for their greater self-sufficiency. Thanks to those who have given to our National Missionary Fund and Critical Medical Needs Fund, we’re able to send out these “dental disciples” into places where no Western missionary could ever go, where they’ll be extracting teeth and implanting the gospel!