By Matt Wiley
It’s easy to take going to the dentist for granted here in the US. However, in many other parts of the world, dental care is either extremely rare or, in many cases, nonexistent. The people of these countries must rely on missionary work to receive the care that they need.
For this reason, a group of 27 missionaries from CityLife Church in nearby Carrollwood recently traveled to Esteli, Nicaragua, for one week, from April 29-May 6, to bring medical supplies, medical and dental care, as well as construction supplies and a construction team to help with projects in the impoverished area.
“This trip was something unique,” says Transito Leiva, owner of Leiva’s Jewelry, located in the New Tampa Center shopping plaza. “(The dentists) have probably never worked so hard in their lives.”
Leiva, 64, who is originally from Nicaragua, has done four mission trips to his native country with CityLife. However, this trip was the first one that featured a dental team. Dr. Rodney Holcombe, DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), of Advanced Dental Associates in Tampa Palms, was one of two dentists who made the trip.
“Imagine operating in the middle of a church with open windows, limited electricity, no water and farm animals wandering outside,” Dr. Holcombe says. “We treated hundreds of patients with serious dental cavities and infections. We dealt mostly with extractions. Many of (the patients) walked for hours and waited in line for our team to arrive.”
He adds that many of their patients were local farmers who make about $6 per week, “Access to medical care, and especially dental care, is extremely limited.”
Along with Dr. Holcombe and Dr. Timothy Muscaro, DDS, of Muscaro & Martini Dentistry in South Tampa, five registered nurses, one physician and one physician’s assistant were sent to the small town in northern Nicaragua. Together, the group helped more than 600 Esteli locals with various medical issues.
CityLife has been sending groups on missionary trips for nearly twenty years, says the church’s missions pastor Molly Cox. So far, groups have been sent to 18 countries, including the Philippines and Colombia.
“Our goal in the missions department is to send a team out once per year to help with medical, construction and teaching needs in less fortunate countries,” Cox explains. Church members who decide to take part in the trip must pay for their own transportation and take part in six weeks of training to prepare for traveling to impoverished countries.
But, CityLife also sends teams to areas in the U.S. that need assistance. Following the devastating tornado in Moore, OK, CityLife has been preparing to send a team to the devastated town to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts.
To discover which countries would benefit from a team of missionaries, CityLife sends individuals to assess the needs there, such as Gerson Rodriguez of Meadow Pointe.
“I was invited on a trip to Honduras about 19 years ago, and I’ve been going every year ever since,” Rodriguez says. “I go ahead of the group and meet with missionaries already in the countries to discover what the biggest needs are” in the area the team plans to visit and help.
Rodriguez says that the biggest request for this trip was for a dentist. So dentists were sent.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Dr. Holcombe admits. “We were very limited in what we could do, but it was a great opportunity to give back to those less fortunate.”
For more information about CityLife Church (8411 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.) and its mission trips, please visit CityLifeChurch.CC.