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    September 24, 2013

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Today was the day I was able to put my profession to use. Before becoming a dentist, I never imagined I would serve in Armenia.

This morning we packed boxes of gloves, plastic mirrors, medications and dental visual aides and headed to a Kurdish Armenian village. We had read several stories about their cultural rules and did our best to be sensitive. For example, we had read that the color blue is not allowed in their villages. I put on a shirt that I swear was turquoise but decided to change after hearing several comments on the slight blue hue it had. Neshan was warned against wearing his blue jeans but his only other choice was his pajama shorts so he took the risk and wore his blue jeans.

Our drive to the village was about an hour and a half and it was truly a beautiful drive. We saw mountain ranges, beautiful trees and lots of cows. The cows had no hesitation when it came to jaywalking and we had to stop a few times to allow the cows to cross. When we arrived to the village, an amazing team and very kindhearted villagers greeted us.  Also, we saw the color blue everywhere so we knew we were okay.

After we were introduced, Marett gave a great overview of how cavities happen and how to prevent them. We set up two rooms to complete screenings and to provide oral hygiene instruction. After the brief introduction, the villagers filed in one by one. I asked them if they were in pain and the answer was almost always “yes.” Most people had been enduring their pain for months and most people said they could not sleep at night due to the pain. Comparing their teeth to my patients in Orange County is like comparing a luxury hotel bed with down pillows to backpacking on the forest floor. Several people had cavities and big holes on almost every tooth. I know there are so many people at home who need dental care as well but to see mouth after mouth filled with teeth with large holes and poor oral hygiene was heart wrenching. Medications were given out to those who needed them. I explained to them the importance of good oral hygiene, took notes and asked them to go to the oral hygiene room where Marett, Tony, Carina and Taline had hands on demonstrations using floss, toothbrushes and a mouth model. They were also given a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. We were saddened when some of them told us there was no place nearby for them to continue buying floss when American stores are filled with brand after brand of floss.

Downstairs, our other team members engaged the children in VBS by teaching them about the Gospel and making crafts.

I wish I could have fixed hundreds of teeth but the goal of today was different. We wanted to reach Armenians in a part of Armenia which is usually not visited. There is a dental clinic in Gyumri which is run by ARDA and we conducted screenings today so that a van can be arranged to take the villagers to the clinic in the upcoming weeks. I am sure several visits will be needed to complete all the work that is necessary but I feel so blessed to have been part of the process.  As we sat and reflected on the day, someone mentioned that to make that day work, four different groups came together to make everything possible. This is truly God’s work. He is truly amazing.

(written by Nayiry)

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