Letter Re: Getting Third World Experience to Prepare for More Austere Times

Mr. Rawles,
I have been prepping and working on self-reliance for some time now, and starting reading your blog about a year ago. Thank you for your efforts.

I am a dentist and would like to mention a training option that may be of interest to some of your readers. Especially medical personal. For the past 11 years I have been a “volunteer” dentist for a week or two at a time in a very poor, Central American country. I am part of team that includes other dentists, medical doctors (MDs), and assistants.

I picked this country because of its poverty, relative ease of travel (as opposed to Africa) and the lack of armed conflict. There are many reasons that I go, but a main one is for training and equipment testing.

We stay on site; in a village that has no running water or electricity. Every day hundreds of people line up outside the gate, starting about 5:00 a.m.. The Dental team almost exclusively remove teeth. The MDs see a wide variety of ailments, but many parasites, and hand /eye injuries related to chopping wood and cook fires. I am not qualified to go much beyond that in describing the medical team’s activities.

Delivering care in a place like this is a totally different world than my comfortable, climate controlled office. It’s more than removing learning how to extract teeth without great lighting and high-powered suction. The skills required to deliver safe, efficient, high volume oral surgery in what is essentially a ”grid down situation” take some time to develop.

Equipment that works great in the states, only takes up shelf space in the Third World. Without high tech equipment, most dentists aren’t fully productive until they have completed several trips.

The training aspects involve more than my personal skill in removing teeth and running a clinic. I have trained many people in suturing, and given them ample practice. Some trained dental assistants have also learned to inject Novocain as well as removing less challenging teeth.

In addition to the clinical aspect of such trips, these types of missions provide opportunity to practice skills such as off-road driving, crowd control, and improvising. Living for a week or two without running water and electricity gives a taste of what TEOTWAWKI might be like. The parts of daily living that we take for granted in the United States of America, come in to sharp focus. It is also worthwhile to see how yourself and others behave while under a bit of stress from change in diet, poor sleep and other environmental disorientations.

There are many medical/dental mission organizations, both secular and religious. They vary in length of trip, cost and location. Many have personal stay at hotels and drive out to provide services. All could use your support. This type of training is clearly not an option for everyone, but has been very worthwhile for me and my team on many levels, beyond a
training experience. If interested, local dental and medical societies are a good place to start researching. – D.J.

JWR Replies: Some of my relatives have done multiple “tours” overseas with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and I have a friend that has worked for several years with Baptist Medical and Dental Missions International (BMDMI). in Honduras. The father of one of my college classmates was a volunteer pilot for The Flying Doctors for nearly two decades. I’ve observed that they all have returned from these trips both strengthened in their faith and much more capable in operating in austere environments. I highly recommend this sort of service. It is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding form of personal ministry, to God’s glory.