Loma Linda University students travel to Santo Domingo for evangelism and health care ministry
International dentistry program student Alan Lopes poses with some children he helped educate regarding the importance of dental health.
From June 8 to 26, 14 students and two faculty ministered to the people of the Dominican Republic capital city, Santo Domingo, as medical evangelists in the truest sense of the term.
“This trip is different than ones in the past,” explains Ron Forde, DDS, director of service learning and assistant professor, LLU School of Dentistry, “because it featured both health work—clinical work—as well as gospel evangelism.”
Dr. Forde served as coordinator for this particular mission trip, which was sponsored primarily by the LLU office of student affairs and School of Dentistry.
Physical therapy student Richard Barnes; nursing student Joel Cerna; dental students Alberto Barnes, Daniel Morgan, and Alan Lopes; and researcher Dafne Moretta preached the “Word” each evening and twice on weekend days for two weeks.
The speakers utilized a PowerPoint™ presentation created by Share Him Ministries™.
Leading out in the medical clinic portion of the trip was Lois Ritchie, MD, assistant professor of family medicine, School of Medicine.
Carlos Moretta, DDS, who is studying in the post-graduate maxillofacial surgery program in the School of Denti
Postdoctoral student Carlos Moretta, DDS, tends to some dental needs of a patient at one of the clinics held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
stry, served as clinical coordinator for the dental portion.
Dental student Daniel Morgan, co-religious vice president of the LLU Student Association, served as a student leader for the trip, as well as a speaker and participant in the dental clinics.
“It’s been a life-changing experience,” he relates, “because I’ve never done anything like this before.”
He continues, “It’s the first time I’ve been able to speak many nights in a row—which is both rewarding and requires a lot of preparation.”
Janelle Shives, a biology student in the Loma Linda University School of Science and Technology, had never been away from the United States before.
“Seeing this culture has been very interesting,” she says, “especially the driving, just the way the people live with the hurricane damage, and how they make do with what they have.”
Nursing student Joel Cerna recalls an experience at one of the clinics. “We saw this little old lady and she had problems with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and bone pain,” he recalls. “We told her what she could do, which was to have calcium—lots of milk.&r
Biology student Janelle Shives (back, center), LLU School of Science and Technology, prays with a family following her evangelistic presentation in Santo Domingo.
“Her response was, ‘How am I going to get milk if I don’t work?’” He adds, “There wasn’t much we could do, so we gave her a plate of food—that was the best we could do for her.”
The group conducted medical and dental clinics at various sites throughout the city, partnering with the Dominican Republic’s ministry of health and Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, the country’s largest university with 135,000 students.
One highlight of the trip was a visit to the university, where the dental students particularly enjoyed a tour of the dental school there, as well as chance to speak with school administrators.
Dr. Forde, pleased with the success of the trip, had this to say: “We will never know the degree to which we changed lives through these experiences—both in terms of cultural awareness and becoming more culturally sensitive, to have a broader view of the world.” He continued, “It helps us to recognize just how blessed we are in the United States, but we also acknowledge that by going on mission trips we are often more blessed than those we serve.
“Listening to our students, quite often the remark comes across—when they see how blessed we are and how little others have—there arises a greater desire for Christ to return and to level out all of society, and make us all that holy, happy people that He planned for us to be.”
By Larry Kidder, MA