Saturday, April 1, 2017
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Had a young dentist, Vincent, from Musoma, come to our house yesterday to replace a crown that had fallen out after only forty-seven years. Guess that’s out of warranty. I was on my back on my bed with my head hanging off the foot of the bed and Shaban was holding my phone’s flashlight so Vincent could see to work. He brought all he needed, but there was no suction, no rinse and spit, no painkiller medication, and no attractive assistant (just Shaban holding the light). This for a man who used to have to have painkilling medication just to make a dental appointment. A lot changes over the years, I just wanted to get the thing put back in place, so I could get on with my work here. Didn’t take long, and I am very grateful that Vincent was willing to ride a bus for an hour to get here and do the work in my house. I consider myself blessed although a few decades earlier I would have thought of this as a violation of the Geneva convention on torture. Now, just really, really grateful.
I have known of two other dentists (one’s actually an endodontist) who embody this kind of caring treatment. Both rather perfectly fit the quote from Emerson above. I had the honor to work with both of them on mission trips, one to the Peruvian Amazon and one here in Tanzania. Both Drs. Whitaker and Lucke are permanently on my heroes list for their dedication and devotion to those in need. Both gave of themselves (and still give of themselves) for Christ and His followers in places far away and far away from modern conveniences. Both had the most giving attitudes and were willing to work under far less than ideal circumstances to help those in need be they African or Amazonian Indian. Dr. Whitaker was unable to complete a tooth removal one day as we ran out of painkiller and promised the man to return the next day with more medication to finish the job. When he got back the next day, the man had taken a knife and removed the rest of the tooth himself in his hut. We were all pretty amazed. Doc Whitaker also helped build a church in the jungle and even went into the jungle to cut down more trees to finish the job. Dr. Lucke kept going no matter what the obstacles (and there were many) and kept the spirits up of all those on the team. She worked tirelessly and was an inspiration to all who met her (me among them). She had arranged to get over $5,000 worth of dental equipment shipped to Tanzania, but it was held up in customs till after she and the team had returned to the United States. Undaunted, she made it possible for all that equipment to go to a free dental clinic in Arusha where it is still being used today almost thirteen years later. She also adopted a Ugandan boy and made him part of her family (and a nice family it is). Yup, both of these would have made house calls in Africa, but don’t expect them to show up at your house when they have all the stuff needed at their offices and the ability to deal with any surprises that might occur. Both are permanent holders of “That’s My Hero” awards from me and all who know them. I am both proud and honored to call them both friends and to have known them under difficult circumstances on mission trips. I’m also glad to have young Vincent willing to come work on this old man who has trouble making trips even just an hour away. God has blessed me many times with the quality of those laboring in His name here and back in the States. If you know these two wonderful people, give ‘em a hug for me and let them know they are loved, missed, and will always be remembered by those they helped.
I had to wait over three hours to eat anything and it was eight o’clock at night before I could, but my son, John, made me waffles interrupting our viewing of “Pete’s Dragon” to do it. I don’t deserve such caring family and friends but am happy they are and have been in my life.