"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going on a medical/dental mission trip to Haiti. This picture is one of my first glimpses of this country. It took my breath away! This was my first overseas mission trip as well as my first medical mission trip. I went into this trip with no expectations and left with my mind full of wonderful memories and my heart full of love for the people of Haiti.
We were staying in a compound with several missionaries, and right outside the compound was this open air church. I had never been to a church service where I did not speak the language, but it did not keep me from feeling the emotion that the Haitians were expressing. During the service, there was an open invitation for people to come up and sing anything that was on their heart. I will never forget one man that sang. He was crippled and lying on the concrete floor, but sang in the most clear, strong voice. It was an amazing feeling to know that you were bound with complete strangers by your love for our Savior.
This picture brings me so much joy. Part of the compound was an orphanage and anytime you would see the children, they had huge smiles and would run to love on you. They were yearning for love. One thing that is not uncommon in Haiti is for women to have children and for them to give them away because they cannot take care of them. At one point, when we were walking through the village, one lady picked out one of the guys in our group and asked for him to hold her newborn. Once the guy was holding the beautiful child, the mother would not take the child back. It was heartbreaking to watch a mother freely give away something that was so much a part of her.
I have never been in a place where the terrain was this rugged. The ground was literally dust with white rocks jutting out of the ground. The Haitian children would run around barefoot and the bottoms of their feet were like the paw of a dog's.
I love this picture so much. I feel like it is so symbolic of us trying to make it alone in the desert. Beautiful.
A verse kept running through my head while I was on this trip. As many of you know, I will be attending a residency program after I graduate from dental school. It is in pediatric dentistry in which I will receive training working specifically on children as well as patients with special needs. Children are my heart and Jesus kept whispering Matthew 19:14 in my ear. "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
After the earthquake occurred in Haiti, so many people lost everything. These homes were built by But God ministries, the organization we used to go on this mission trip. These huts were immensely nicer than many of the huts made from sticks and mud that the Haitians were living in and some are still living in after this tragic event.
This view is from the compound's guard tower looking down upon the orphanage with its playground.
We came to work!!! We did more extractions, cleanings, and fillings than I can count. We did one more than the other two and lets just say the Haitians had a lot fewer teeth after we got through with them. It was a great feeling to be able to help so many people get out of pain and prevent more serious problems.
I can't do a blog post about Haiti without showing this man who has meant so much to me. I worked for Dr. Cope for a year before I started dental school. He is a pediatric dentist and I really didn't know how I was going to like working on kids. Over that year, I saw him use his practice as his ministry. He loved the children he was working on, and he never shied away from a challenging patient. It almost seemed as if he sought out the difficult patients. His love and mentoring was one of the biggest catalysts for me deciding to follow in his footsteps to do pediatrics. Thank you for everything, Dr. Cope!
This was a new experience for me. We worked on our patients while they sat in mas-sues chairs. They were portable and allowed us to get the job done. I like to tell people we are trending spa dentistry. It was a hit in Haiti...
These are my dear friends, Kristen and Keith. They are both in my dental school class and I feel as though we have been through so much. I would trust them with anything, and I am going to miss them terribly next year.
Another friend pic! Brian Jackson is on the left and Kristen Douglas is on the right. We all worked for Dr. Cope and his daughter, Dr. Fortenberry. We have been through so much together over the years and have all been motivated by our time spent working with the doctors. Brian will begin an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency while Kristen will also be starting a Pediatric dental residency after we graduate in May. I am blessed to have such talented friends.
You have already met Dr. Cope, but really the person in charge is his brilliant daughter, Susan Cope Fortenberry. Dr. Fortenberry had just started working at her dad's office when I got hired. She was straight out of her residency at the time, and she was one of the best teachers I have known. Her knowledge was so valuable to me, and as I have progressed through school, she has taken on more of a big sister role. I honestly can't say enough good things about her.
Another Dr. Cope and Fortenberry previous employee! Kristen is on the left and Martha is on the right. Martha is a third year dental student and has an unparalleled passion for children. She is hoping to join the profession of pediatric dentistry after she finishes school. She is so kind and loving and will be a fantastic pediatric dentist.
I hope you have enjoyed sharing in my memories of Haiti. Two words that describe Haiti in my mind are devastating and beautiful. The terrain is rough. The people are so impoverished. The land is unforgiving. But the people are so full of hope and life. They take each day as it comes, and it truly put my life into perspective. There is no need for me to worry about what comes tomorrow or the next day. God holds us in His hands and tenderly guides us moment by moment. Because of this, we can rest in His presence.