“Soon after I received my license, I went to Kenya for four months. I served at a mission hospital in Kijabi, outside of Nairobi, the capital. People traveled for many miles by foot or jitney for medical and dental service. I served in a dental clinic there and also went on ‘dental safaris’ to serve the Masaai tribe in the Rift Valley and the Turkana, a nomadic tribe in the desert further north.
They say that once you’ve been to Africa, it stays in your heart and I can attest to that. Kenya is one of the most beautiful countries in the world! The animals, mountains, savannahs, beaches – all breathtaking!
Since that life-changing experience, I have returned to Africa several times. My husband and I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) for two months in 1995. Tom is very skilled as a handyman and was able to take a room of donated, ancient dental equipment and build a functioning dental unit and chair so that I could practice dentistry. My assistant was an undertaker from Philadelphia who was also serving as the missionary school nurse. (Yes, some patients were very scared!) It’s sad to know that all was destroyed when civil war broke out just months after we left. We have been so blessed in our country to live in peace that many times we do not realize how unstable other countries are.
A few years ago, we returned for vacation and to visit friends and work a bit at the hospital in Kenya. While I was there, I befriended a man who had a large swelling on his face. Inquiring if it was tooth related, he sadly told me that it was a tumor and that he had it for years because he lacked the funds for an operation. I was able to watch the long surgery and from what I understand, the Kenyan surgeon and a plastic surgeon missionary were able to remove it fully. The tumor was malignant and my young pastor friend with three kids would not have much longer to live. I still pray for his family.
There are many happier stories I can share with you. Just ask me while I’m working on your teeth!”