Busy Days and Answered Prayers
“It is illegal. It will have to be destroyed.”
I gulped and looked at the expensive – and borrowed – suitcase full of dental equipment. Surely, Lord, I prayed, You won’t let this happen!
We had been looking forward to this visit from our daughter, Rebekah, and her family for months. Already we had missed one precious day because a delayed flight caused them to miss their connections and they were stranded in Korea.
Now the customs officials were confiscating the dental equipment that Andrew, our son-in-law, needed to use on the long-awaited dental mission trip. We had prayed about this specifically – so why was this happening?We looked at one another as the official turned away and said almost simultaneously, “God’s in control. He’s got this.”
Andrew kept his cool and explained that he wasn’t going to practice dentistry for money. He came only to help poor people who couldn’t go to a dentist.
“There are good dentists in Thailand,” the man said irritably. “You should pay to send those people to go to a Thai dentist.”
Appeals were useless. He would confiscate the equipment and destroy it. One of the officials, a young woman, seemed more sympathetic. She thoughtfully read the brochure from the Christian Dental Association and handed it to the abrupt official. He handed it back without looking at it.
“I will give you one day,” she said, finally. “You can go to Bangkok and apply to the authorities there. But if you aren’t able to accomplish that in one day, it will all have to be destroyed.”
The next day we enjoyed spending time with our daughter and our grandsons, Jeremiah, Justin, and Henry, and Cy and Diane Smith who were also a part of the dental team. Our friend Rusty Van Der Net (who speaks better Thai than I do) flew with Andrew to Bangkok. There the Lord had prepared a sympathetic worker who spent the day petitioning on their behalf. At the end of the day they flew home with a partial victory. They weren’t able to get the equipment released, but it wouldn’t be destroyed. It would be held at the airport until they flew out – and they could take it home with them.
And the dental mission wouldn’t have to be scuttled after all. The suitcase that was confiscated held the most important and expensive piece of equipment, but the rest of his tools were divided among the clothing and things in the other bags. After a visit to the dental supply place in Chiang Mai, he would be able to do extractions.
We left for the first village while the unit was being built. At Bon Saw I set up my medical clinic at one end of the church building while the other end became Andrew’s dental clinic. As I was setting up, a young man asked me to help the older man sitting among those waiting.
“Could you help him first, because he is first in line to see the dentist?”
The man turned as I spoke to him and I saw his eyes were filmed over and blank in his seamed, brown face. He had been blind for many years, I learned. There was nothing I could do with my limited ability, except to give him eyedrops for comfort. He received those gladly, along with the soap and vitamins we gave out to all our patients. His happy smile revealed a toothless mouth. What, I wondered, would Andrew find to do with this poor man?
It turns out he did have three teeth and went home with only one.
Everyone was busy that day. The grandsons helped me with the clinic. I didn’t have an interpreter, but with the help of a Thai-speaking young lady I was able to manage in my imperfect Thai to help those who spoke only Lahu. Occasionally when I was stuck, I borrowed Ai Donkham who was interpreting for Andrew.
Then we handed out hats and coloring books and crayons.
When we returned to Chiang Mai, the equipment was ready and the rest of the trips went smoothly with Andrew able to do fillings as well as extractions.
Several of the villages had their Thanksgivings on the days we were there. Paul preached and we heard lots of Lahu singing. Then we ate the special Thanksgiving food and visited with the people before setting up the clinics.
Andrew worked tirelessly with Diane assisting him as they saw patient after patient. Many of those people had never seen a dentist before, so he had his work cut out for him. Rebekah, Jeremiah, and Cy took turns sterilizing equipment in a pressure cooker over a portable butane stove. That’s hot work in a tropical climate! The others helped me “do medicine” and give out our gifts of hats and coloring books to the children.
In spare minutes Cy would entertain the village children who laughed uproariously at his antics. He blew up the gloves into balloons, which delighted the kids.
He also gave out toothbrushes and baking soda, which we encouraged them to use as toothpaste. Toothpaste is expensive for them, so we wanted to teach them some more affordable options in hopes of encouraging brushing.
On the few days when we didn’t have clinics scheduled, we did some sight-seeing. I think the favorite was Buo Thong, the sticky waterfall. It’s a shallow waterfall flowing steeply down the mountainside. Because of the mineral content of the water it’s not slick. The rocks provide enough traction just to walk up and down without slipping. It makes you feel like Spiderman!
We also visited the White Temple, which is listed as one of the top sights to see
in Thailand. It’s beautiful at a distance, but up close reveals some disturbing images. It was built fairly recently – not hundreds of years ago as many of the temples here were. The man who designed it and donated it is an artist who hopes, we understand, to gain eternal life from his donation.
The visit with the family was busy and all too short. We were thankful they
could come. And thankful that God answered the desire of our hearts, if not our specific prayers. We asked Him to let the equipment through without hassle. Instead He arranged for us to have a set of equipment to keep here so we don’t need to worry any more about it being lost in customs. He also allowed Andrew to find out the specific steps he needs to take to avoid legal complications on his next visit.
We thank the Lord for the wonderful people at The Door in Sunriver, OR who sponsored the Walls and Smiths for this trip. They had fundraisers to collect the funds and many made generous donations to make the trip possible. And we are thankful for Andrew and Rebekah, and Cy and Diane Smith for being willing to give up vacation time and their own comfort to help those who needed them. We all were blessed! God is good!