“Clean teeth, Clean Hearts too!” That’s what it says on the bulletin board in Mary Chase’s dental office. The board is covered with photos of people she has met on her missionary trips. Mary cleans teeth for a living, but her life’s work is to tell people about the Lord. Mary has been our family’s dental hygienist for years. Many times, when we would go in for cleanings she’d say to me or to my husband, Luis, “You should come on a trip someday…” We never imagined what God had planned for us.
Luis and I do not see ourselves as ‘missionaries’. All of our church missionaries have left their homes, jobs and families and moved across the globe to plant and pastor churches. We live in a small New England town and have 3 teenage kids. I am a nurse and Luis is a cook at a local hospital. In most ways, we are just an average American family. In our minds, our role as a family was to help support our church missionaries here at home through faithful giving.
But Mary Chase was persistent. In the fall of 2021, she invited our 17-year-old daughter, Rosa, to serve as her interpreter in the dental clinic in Mexico. Rosa is in her senior year in high school, and her childhood is slipping through our fingers each day. We know that big changes are coming, whether we are ready or not. We told Rosa to pray about it, and let us know what God was telling her to do. A few months later, she made a decision: Yes, she wanted to go to Mexico with Mary! However, she was nervous to travel far from home with a group of people she didn’t know. We thought about sending Luis with her, as a father-daughter trip. As I read about GDM Missions, looked at the photos, and read through the application, I started to realize that this was something I really wanted to do, too! I reached out to Mary. She was enthusiastic. She said, “You could work in the clinic and Luis could help with evangelism! I’ll text Bryan!”
Before we knew it we were in an airport with a group of people we had never met, preparing for work we had no experience doing, and heading to a place we’d never thought of going. As soon as we landed in Hermosillo and met the rest of the mission team, we realized that these people were like a big family with distinct personalities and shared experiences, bound together with the joy and purpose of serving the Lord Jesus Christ. We had never, ever experienced anything like it! And the strangest thing was we felt like we knew them already, and that we were part of this big, diverse, joyous family reunion.
Our first day at the clinic in Pesqueira, people began to arrive for the medical clinic, and the dental clinic had a steady flow of patients. Seeing Rosa at work with Mary, seeing how independent she was, and how she could make use of her language skills was a blessing for us as parents. In triage, Lori and I took histories and vital signs as people came in. Luis went out with the missions team to do street ministry. As the first day came to an end, we were tired but satisfied that we had made it through our first day on the mission field.
The next day started out much the same. People came and waited for the clinics, and the local church and missions team shared the Gospel with each one as they passed through to see Dr. Chuck, or Mary for a dental cleaning. About halfway through the day, a woman came in with her 11 year old son. I took the medical history: The boy has epilepsy and suffers from convulsions. I talked to them about triggers for seizures: stress, lack of sleep, video games with flashing lights. She looked at me and said, “I want to be honest with you. I know what causes his seizures. He and some kids in the neighborhood took my cell phone, and looked at things that no child should ever see. Not just once, but many times. I had no idea until he started doing and saying horrible things.” She continued, “That traumatized him, and that still affects him to this day. I feel so ashamed.”
I knew that our team was there for missions, and that people were hearing the Gospel while they waited. But at that moment, it was as though God suddenly opened my eyes to see for myself that people were not just coming to the clinic with medical or dental needs. They were coming in with deep, unfulfilled spiritual needs. It was as if the entire clinic faded away, and it was just me, the woman and her son. Suddenly I found myself telling them that when we confess our sins, and trust Jesus Christ as Savior, he forgives and takes our sins away, His mercies are new each morning and He begins to renew our minds, and heal and erase the pain and the shame of those sins. She began to cry and then asked if I would keep praying so she could record it on her phone and take it home to show the boy’s father! That was the moment that I began to see exactly how the Lord really, truly uses medical and dental missions to draw people unto Himself. They may come to the clinic for a medical prescription or a dental cleaning, but every person on our mission team was there with the ultimate goal that people come to know the Lord, trust him as Savior, and be healed of the pain, shame and fear of sin and death.
The whole experience is extremely difficult to put into words. The overall impact is impossible to capture, because it continues to work and expand in our lives back at home. Since we returned, Luis, Rosa and I have felt revival in our spirits and a new joy in our souls. We have a feeling, almost like being homesick, to go back to Hermosillo and be there again in Pesqueira. We were able to share testimony at our church and Rosa said, “When I first decided to go, I was afraid that I would be anxious and I wasn’t sure of what I would be able to do. But I worked the whole week, all day long in the clinic, and working with other young people who love the Lord was so encouraging to me and to my faith. God helped me do it.” The experience has been so overwhelming, and made our faith more real. We wait anxiously for another opportunity to return to the mission field, and see more people receive amazing love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ and have, as Mary Chase says, “Clean teeth and clean hearts too!”