Medical mission trip opens door for Gospel conversations
For more than 40 years, T. Bob Davis, former trustee of Southwestern Seminary and current member of its Board of Visitors, has led many international efforts to bring dental care to people in communities lacking such treatment. Through each trip, Davis says, their mission is to provide relief from physical pain and discomfort, but also to share the message of hope found in the Gospel.
Throughout his nearly 50-year career in dentistry, Davis’ passion has always been to serve others, whether through his local church, music ministry or dental care. Davis first answered the call to participate in a medical mission trip in 1977, and in the four decades since, Davis has led 42 trips to multiple countries, including Mexico, Nicaragua and, most recently, a country in South Asia.
During the trip to South Asia, unlike many others, Davis had an opportunity to serve a community with two of his passions: dentistry and music. Davis and his team helped deliver a used Yamaha piano (donated by a pediatric dentist from Katy, Texas) to a church whose 100-year-old piano had served them well, but was beyond repair.
Davis, who has also served many years as a pianist for churches and other ministries, says this gift will serve the church well in their ministry efforts to their community. “Such a gift can last for another 100 years as one of the most encouraging musical instruments in Christian worship,” Davis says.
Despite many challenges to deliver such a large item, the piano finally made its way to the church, where Davis led two dedication performances before an eager congregation. “God had His timing in everything,” Davis says. “He made the way for us to bring this wonderful gift to this community. Many teary-eyed elders of the church sang of their Lord and Savior with the joy of the Lord shining on their faces and in their eyes.”
Then resuming the medical component of the trip, Davis and a nine-member team (including dental students from Dallas) worked for five days in the city to provide dental care to more than 300 patients, all of whom were receiving care and dental hygiene education for the first time.
As Davis worked with people to address their needs and alleviate their physical pain, he and his team found many opportunities to engage with them on a personal and spiritual level.
“It is well-accepted in dental and missions circles that dentistry is a door-opener for the witnessing of your faith,” Davis says. “Dentistry most often provides fairly instant relief from pain and aesthetic problems. Such personal health improvement in a very caring environment engenders confidence in the ethical provision of free care.”
For this type of instant relief, Davis says people lined up to receive care. During this time, Davis and others were often able to learn about the lives of the people and share their own stories of life and faith. What makes medical missions such a unique opportunity for the Gospel, Davis says, is that they are providing much-needed physical care, living out an example of compassion and kindness for the pain and needs of other human beings.
“When you are helping them, they are more open to hearing what you have to say. That is just human nature,” Davis says. “And when you show them compassion, they are more open to you and more open to receiving the life-changing message of the Gospel.”