Early this year I got invited to join a Medical and Dental Mission to Bicol. I’ve always enjoyed going to these things, but I don’t get invited to a lot, and this ARMS trip is a special one so I was ecstatic. I was initially asked to join for a week, but later on I was told that I needed to stay for two, and after praying I decided to go for it. I was telling myself: “Crix you’ve been praying for something like this for a long time. You have been looking for a way to serve the Lord and this is it. Why are you having second thoughts about it?” So I asked my assistant to block the dates and I booked my ticket.
Preparing for the Trip: A Confession
I’ve always loved tooth extractions. I still remember the first time I took a tooth out—it was liberating for me, the tooth and the patient. My skill has improved through the years, but I credit most of my talent to my time as an intern in the Air Force Dental Dispensary, where I was exposed to a lot of surgeries and tooth extractions. Needless to say, I have always been confident when it comes to extractions–but a few weeks before the trip I had a few cases in my clinic and in several occasions, I had a difficult time. I even broke two teeth and I was thinking maybe it’s my boxing and weight training (that I’ve gotten stronger, so I should readjust the force I put in), I don’t know if that makes sense. But anyway, I was really worried about the dental mission because there will be no automated dental chairs, no surgical burs, and no sophisticated equipment. In the field we make do with what we have–and we rely on our inherent skills.
A few days before the mission I remember praying: “Lord, what’s wrong with my hands? Am I ready for this mission?” On our first day in the field, DENTAL went through 183 patients. I went through all my patients successfully and I was grateful. Now let me go back to what I said earlier: In the field we make do with what we have–and we rely on our inherent skills–I FORGOT ONE IMPORTANT THING: In the field we heal by faith and we manage patients in the NAME OF JESUS. I don’t know why I was worried, at all.
The 7-Day Mission
It was a 10-day trip and we spent seven days in the field. We went to 7 sites (all schools) and each location was a different work environment. Some classrooms were small and some were spacious; some had electricity and some didn’t; and some locations were hot, still some, even hotter. The heat surely did not help with the exhaustion brought on by the physical work, but I never felt really tired.
For two locations (Santicon and Malictay) we had to travel to an island so we had to go on a boat ride. This meant transferring the load of the bus (not just people) to the boats; and everyone, young and old, helped. From one location to the next, we carried boxes in and out of the buses, and transformed classrooms to makeshift “clinics”. A battlefield of sorts, we came in like soldiers and we brought with us our weapons for war. We setup camps, in whichever way possible and we opened our doors to treat patients.
The island experience was memorable for me (maybe for every dentist) because I never encountered patients with the toughest bones ever—until that day (maybe due to their high seafood diet). If you are a dentist, you know that the key to extractions is good elevation/luxation. If you’ve successfully loosened a tooth from the socket, pulling it out will be easy. I only grasp the forceps at the very end, to scoop the tooth out. Most of the action is put on the loosening, but the teeth of the people in the island were surrounded by very tough and thick bones, so our elevators/luxators hardly had wiggle room. By the middle of the day, I realized my hands were sore and it was because I was physically battling with teeth and bone and giving the forceps extraordinary “muscle-man” grip.
We were on our third day and it was my first time to take out a mallet and chisel. I even had to call for reinforcements because that is how it is in the field, you call for backup.
You know what, we were working on wisdom tooth extractions in the field. With no radiograph (xray), we only identify impacted teeth mid-surgery and we are left with no choice but to finish the case. Leaving the tooth would be detrimental to a patient, let alone expensive, so we didn’t want to release them unless we’ve liberated the tooth completely from its bony socket.
On several occasions, while working on a difficult patient, we’d breathe a prayer: “Lord please, konting tulong!” (Lord, a little help here please!) And that is all you can rely on when you’ve taken much of the bone already and the tooth still refuses to show any movement. You trust that the Lord will not let you harm a patient and God is faithful in his promise. I worked on cases that would’ve been tough, even in the clinic, but through sweat I extricated the tooth from its bony cage. All glory to God!
Miracles Up Close
Now let me differentiate the ARMS Mission from other Medical-Dental missions. Formed under Christians in Action, we are not a social welfare development group, but we go in the field to be fishers of men. The group of pastors, doctors, dentists, nurses and countless medical and non-medical individuals come together to alleviate spiritual poverty—to give people the opportunity to hear about and accept Christ into their lives as their Lord and Savior. The Medical Assistance we provide is just the tip of the iceberg because ultimately, there is only one true healer, and in this mission my faith has been fortified.
The work that doctors and dentists do in the field do not compare to the miracles that God brought through prayer. Before ARMS, I thought miracles only happened in the Bible. I’ve heard stories of miraculous healing in the past (and have doubted the credibility of every story I heard)—but it’s different when miracles happen up-close and it was amazing.
From our Prayer and Healing Team there was a 14-year old girl who was able to restore eyesight to two old people. After she prayed, the old man looked at her and said in delight: “I can see you. You are beautiful.” (Said in Filipino). There was a witch doctor who left prayer and healing, free from pain, saying: “I’ve treated many people, but I couldn’t treat myself” (Said in Filipino). There was also a patient currently being healed by a faith healer. This person wore a rope around the waist–a treatment costing Php2000, and after prayers were offered they removed the rope and the pain was gone. The person joked, after being asked if they could throw the rope in the trash: “I want it. I will go back to the faith healer and get a refund!” (Said in Filipino).
There were more stories of healing (outside of dental and medical) but the one I want to tell you in detail is one of a woman (a veteran mother) who came into Medical and was seen by Dr. Sarah Turner.
So anyway, a woman came in. As soon as Dr. Sarah read her paper, she knew she couldn’t do anything for her (at least not in the current field setup). As I’ve mentioned, she’s a veteran mother, and what I meant by that is that she’s had many children and has had multiple births. Now, you should know that the delivery process can very torturous and damaging to the tissues and muscles of the vagina. The medical term for this damage is Pelvic Organ Prolapse and it’s when the supporting tissues can no longer fulfill its function, so the structures collapse. That woman came in with this complaint and the severity of her case could only be resolved with surgery, so Dr Sarah talked to her and offered her a prayer, instead.
She placed her hand on her and proceed to pray, and as she was doing so, she felt a shift. When she finished, almost immediately, the woman was relieved of pain. This surprised Dr Sarah, so she examined her, and was surprised with what she found out. She even asked the woman to squat, a full squat, and she managed it. Still in awe of what just happened, she decided to lead the woman to Prayer and Healing. She said: “Let’s have them continue what’s been started here”.
Isn’t the Lord amazing? You may or may not believe what I just said, it is up to you. It is not about being amazed, really, because in my life God has done countless wonderful things. I’m sharing this story because if you have not experienced God’s amazing love yet, I am daring you to open your life to Him to see for yourself. I am excited for the 2,980 people who made a decision to accept Christ through the ARMS missionaries in Bicol. I’m excited because I know that their lives will be extra special.
Friends in Love with the Lord
On April 4th I flew to Bicol on my own. A complete newbie in the ARMS Mission, I only knew one person when my plane departed from NAIA 3 but I came back from the trip on April 14th with new friends from all over the world. What’s more amazing, too, is that I met people who are seriously in love with the Lord. To be honest, I was a little worried before the trip because I didn’t know anyone there… but all that didn’t matter. Right from the first day, I have already gotten along with my two roomies in the first hotel; and the same with my new roomie in the second hotel. Most of them knew each other already, but it didn’t take long for me to join in the friendly banter and laughter. I had such an amazing time.
Working with the ARMS Dental Team was amazing. Everyday I was working with people who were smiling and singing through broken teeth, aching backs and extreme heat. By the end of the 10-day trip the team was like a family—a solid working unit and we had non-dental individuals, truly committing to their task, whether it was sterilizing, sorting instruments, assisting, dispensing drugs or holding the flashlight.
They say: “there are no small roles, only small actors” and every person on the team played a significant part. We breezed through the 1113 patients because we were working as one… looking out for each other, ready to rescue, support and cheer (whenever there is a need). I cannot wait to work with these people again.
Pastor Kennedy call everyone saints. “Well done saints” he would say after a good day spent in the field. I’m not sure about me but I met a lot of saints in the ARMS Mission. They are amazing people and it was a privilege to be given a chance to work with the group. In fact, on the very first day of the mission, I came back to the hotel and messaged my family: “I want to do this. I want to be a mission dentist”. So please pray for me… because I want to continue on this path. Of course, I will still work as a dentist in my practice, but I want to devote more time working for the Lord.
I am Crickette and I am an ARMS missionary!