Below left, volunteer Dentist Iluska is working directly with the patient, while our missionary Dentist Marco Manzano assists. Asas de Socorro and the patients it treats are eternally grateful for the donation of $3,000 from Aldersgate United Methodist Church of Chesapeake, Virginia, to purchase the new dental equipment pictured here on its third voyage.
Below right, the new dental equipment powering the drill is energized by a battery which is recharged from solar panels. The system is so efficient that we never ran out of power. The spray and suction features are further advantages over the old system. These parts all pack away neatly into easily carried satchels and one well organized roller bag.
Southern Baptist missionaries Lynn Olmstead and Mildred Verbeck brought in some snacks for the team at break time.
Doctora Otinara (leave off the "O" and it sounds like "Chinara" in Portuguese) still has a perky smile. Even through the wilting heat and humidity, the spirit of service and the love of God shine in the faces of the team members.
The mission team, organized and conducted jointly with Southern Baptist missionaries, arrives on a bare landing stip in the middle of a field of red mud. Left to right, they are Dra. Otinara, SBC missionaries Mildred Verbeck and Lynn Olmstead, perched on the float behind Lynn is Dentista Iluska, then missionary pilot Wilson Kannenberg, Dr. Flavio Ribas and his sister, Dentista Monalisa Ribas Longhi, and our own Asas de Socorro--Manaus Sector dentist and organizer, Dr. Marco Manzano. Darrel Carver is behind the camera. Marco's young daughter Giovana also went along, getting early indoctrination in to missionary life.
Juruá is a somewhat different mission for us, as it is a town of some 5,000 people where evangelical work is just beginning. Perhaps our team expected that it would be further advanced than small river villages in some of the identifying marks of civilization--education, health and sanitary practices, and social structure. What the team found, instead, was a case study of what happens when a colony of humans has grown up without God.
Dr. Flavio worked 12 to 15 hours in the tropical heat. Though there was a state clinic in the town, the health of the citizens was abysmal. Most of the women (not including the patient shown here) had multiple venereal diseases due to child and adult prostitution and rampant immorality.
He did not find AIDS in the community, but ventured the opinion that if it should enter this population group, it would decimate the population.
The mission clinic was conducted in two rooms of the school, just across the street from the state clinic. The state clinic had so many rooms empty that the team was put up in hospital beds. They were delighted to have air conditioning at night.
I promise you, Dra. Monalisa is actually a very pretty young woman. This photo doesn't do her justice.
Whereas we expected the dental health of the people to be better than that of the jungle river villages, it was worse. Children of age three already had a mouth full of rotten teeth. The people not only ate the pure starch product manioc and didn't brush their teeth, but they also had candies and snacks in the "city" of Juruá.
Adults had such poor teeth that she had to limit the number pulled to the very worst.
Two men from the state clinic assisted with the scrubbing and sterilization of tools.
The Baptist pastor, Albino, worked with the missionaries in evangelism. He also was one of the patients who received free medical care. Pastor Albino has endured constant pressure from certain elements in the community because he is a Protestant. His landlord had just kicked his family out of a rented house because the landlord was threatened and intimidated. The family has temporarily moved into a single room house without electricity, water or plumbing.
The team and some additional local volunteers line up for a final photo in front of the school where they worked. They are ready to be hauled back to the plane and return to Manaus.
Lynn had encouraging words for the team, reminding them that the Gospel had only recently arrived in Juruá. It has been our consistent observation that as people come to know God and experience salvation through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they do become "new creatures." Their personal and social relationships improve, and they become cleaner and healthier. Currently, girls as young as twelve begin earning money for the family as prostitutes. Correcting this one behavior would go far in improving the health of the community.
Dr. Flavio was very surprised at the good health of a woman patient of 48 years old. When he commented, she motioned to her mother, age 73, and also in very good health. Dr. Flavio asked the older woman, "What do you eat that makes you so healthy?" She responded with a smile, "We're Christians."