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  • Baptist Beacon


She was visibly nervous as she waited for her appointment. Guadalupe was the last patient of the day. The 29-year-old woman had never been treated by a dentist. She openly shared her fear that the dentist would find something seriously wrong - that he would need to remove her teeth because she waited too long to receive dental care. The volunteers all took turns trying to calm the fears of this young mother. The smile on her face after the appointment was infectious. Her teeth were in great shape and she only needed a cleaning!

On this day, most patients needed more than a cleaning. The volunteer dentist filled cavities, extracted unrepairable teeth, and did root canals to help people who had limited or no access to dental care. The services that the dentists and hygienist provided was exceptional. Every patient expressed humble gratitude for the dental services during the mobile clinic at First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit.

North American Mission Board Dental Clinic makes its first stop in Detroit. (Photo by Mike Durbin)

The new mobile dental clinic is filled with state of the art equipment. It's designed to go where those most in need might be provided dental care, and Detroit was its first stop after being unveiled at the Southern Baptist Convention in June. The mobile clinic is being made available to churches, associations, and state conventions as a part of the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Send Relief emphasis. Send Relief exists to mobilize churches to provide practical help to meet needs in their communities and to proclaim the life changing hope of the Gospel.

First Spanish Baptist Church hosted the clinic and conducted five Backyard Bible Clubs in homes around the church as an outreach. The efforts caught the attention of the community and presented the church many opportunities to share the Gospel. Pastor Eli Garza says, "We are grateful for the opportunity we had to host the clinic. We were able to impact our neighborhood in a way that has never been done by our church. It helped us connect with our neighbors in an easy way that was helpful to them. It also helped us improve our contacts with other ministries in our community. We are grateful for the sacrificial spirit of the doctors and hygienist."

The clinic was possible because local dental professionals volunteered to serve. They made an incredible impact helping people through their skills. Dr. Brian Bishop treated patients three hours longer than anticipated to make sure all patients received care. His professionalism, patience and poise brought everyone together as the first day started. There were some glitches, including an air conditioner that quit working, but Dr. Bishop kept everyone focused on helping people. Dental Hygienist, Susan Warren of Memorial Baptist Church, was the first person to volunteer. She heard about the dental clinic and offered to serve in any way needed, and she did. Warren used her professional skills as a hygienist, served as an assistant to the doctor, and cleaned and organized dental supplies. She demonstrated a "whatever it takes" attitude to serve. Dr. Peter Bulthuis injured his foot days before he was scheduled to serve and needed surgery. We expected to cancel his appointments so he could recover. When I called to talk to him about canceling, he replied, "I really want to help my community." His mobility was limited, but he came with his wife Martina to serve. Despite being in a cast, he found ways to move around the quarters of the mobile clinic to treat everyone. You could see the concerned look on his wife's face as he hopped on one foot to move from place to place. In addition, Bulthuis generously offered to treat several who needed additional care in his office.

When the dental clinic became available to use in Michigan, Pastor Tim Patterson, Executive Director of the BSCM, led the staff to get involved when he charged "all hands on deck." The cooperative outreach brought together churches, community agencies, and convention partners. NAMB provided the mobile unit, delivered it to the church with a driver, five interns, and a supervisor. Michigan churches sent volunteers to serve at the clinic and lead Backyard Bible Clubs.

For a more personal look at the mobile dental clinic from Pastor Eli Garza, click here.



Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.


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