When I was asked if I would like to go on a mission trip to southwest China, I said “Yes” without hesitation. I did not wonder, what am I going to do? I am not a dentist, a hygienist, nor a dental assistant. Besides, I do not speak Chinese except for “Ni Hao” You see; I believe that it is not enough to just breathe. With no knowledge of dentistry; stroked, faces, held hands, had my hands squeezed, and sang to the children.
People (especially children) and their situations, and the look on their faces fascinate me. In the village we met “Eve”. She was very shy and hid in a tree because she did not want to be photographed so one of the Singapore dentist, with our dental mission team, nicknamed her “Eve”. She looks like about 6-7 years old and had Conjunctivitis. No wonder! Her face and body was very dirty. I used wet wipes to clean her face and hands, and used a toothpick that someone gave me to get some of the dirt from under her nails. It did not help much but when I was done, she kept rubbing the palm of her hands on her cheeks. She may not have had a clean face for some time. After that, she warmed up and joined in playing games.
Another little girl I call “Precious” looked like she never had a bath. Her hair was matted, her nose was full of snot, and her cheeks had little black spots on it, the dirt now permanent on her face. I cleaned her face with wet wipes too. We were in the village 2 nights, 3 days and did not take a bath and it was uncomfortable. No bathing is a common thing for these children. Consider how blessed you are!
We played Frisbee, Basket Ball, and make up games such as toss the Corn Cob in the Trash Can, with the children. Our senior dentist did his Harlem Globe Trotter moves… he was really good at spinning the ball on his index finger. I was really impressed.
There were two little boys who could not get a chance playing Frisbee. They stood there and watched while the bigger boys threw the Frisbee only to THEIR friends. So I got in the game and each time I caught the Frisbee, I would throw it to these two “under-dogs”. After they were tired of that, one I call “Little Fella” came over with his Pogs and wanted me to play with him. Pogs passed through here about 15 years ago and now hitting the village. I think that the village is also 15 years behind civilization. So, I played with “Little Fella” often shouting “Jeja, Yega” (this one, that one) like he did. Later as I sat on a bench, he came over and threw himself in my lap. I was so surprised and instinctively, I rubbed his back and rocked him like baby. That was the “mother” in me. All he needed was some attention.
Later “Little Fella” came to dinner. I am thinking… he invited himself to dinner. He sat with us and helped himself to food from one of the dentist’s bowl. It was not until the next day when we were leaving that I realized he was the son of the lady who cooked our meals. He “belonged’, I did not. The morning we were leaving, I was struggling up hill and he was walking beside me, E, er, san, e, er san (1,2,3; 1,2,3) with ease. He was urging me up the hill.
The memories of the children will be with me forever. I pray that the seeds planted there during our visit will be nurtured by someone else, that God will truly bless these children and their families and that they may come to know Christ.
Besides, working in the village we worked at a school on deaf, mute 7th graders. I did the sign language for “I love you” in front of a group of the kids and it brought smiles to their faces. A cute little girl picked up my Sign Language Book and as she flipped through pages I could see that she knew it all by her body language. There were also blind children but we were not allowed to work on them. We could only see them from afar.
So, dentistry took on a new meaning to me. I charted and worked along with the hygienist and got the hang of it. However, when I was asked if I wanted to do an extraction, I had to draw the line.
In the tourist area of town, I bumped into a restaurant that advertised “Jamaican breakfast. It was more expensive than the British breakfast. I went in to check it out but the waitress could not understand my English (chuckle). After we were done with our assignment, we went to LiJiang for three days. In old LiJiang I heard loud Reggae music and went to check it out. The owner of the store has a Japanese friend who gave her the music and she loves it. In her store she had Rasta tams on sale. This reminded me of the Reggae Pub I found in a back street in Frankfurt. So, no matter where I go, the Jamaican, like the Chinese influence is there.