After retiring from decades working in dentistry, Greg Stroud was left with an office full of equipment. He began the hunt for a nonprofit who could use his dental gear, but he was met with roadblock after roadblock in the search. After several weeks of fruitless inquiries, he discovered Send Relief’s work on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota.
He had been on mission trips to do volunteer work with indigenous communities before and knew the gravity of the need.
“The general approach is to remove teeth if they’re causing trouble and replace them with dentures once the person is older,” he said. “There’s no kind of reparative work being done, and it’s so frustrating to see the lack of services available to people who need them the most.”
Send Relief’s partner on the reservation—Matt Hadden—was recently approached by a young woman who was in tears, having just gotten a report from her dentist that they were going to have to pull all of her front teeth due to nerve pain. She was 27 years old. The young woman told Hadden she would rather put up with her broken teeth and nerve damage than be toothless at her age.
Sadly, her story is not a unique one on this Lakota reservation.
The reservation, around 11,000 square miles, is about the size of Connecticut—with just two dentists serving the community. Because of how little resources they have, the dentists’ general rule has been to pull the teeth causing problems in order to preempt any future dental costs for the residents.
While this theory was put into place with good intentions, today, the typical middle-aged reservation resident has an average of five teeth.
Though Send Relief sent mobile dental clinics and established a permanent dentistry building on the reservation in recent months, it soon became clear that additional, specialized equipment was needed to properly serve the Lakota families in need. With the costs of dental equipment, purchasing new chairs, X-ray machines, digital sensors and surgical instruments for a three-room dental practice was a big ask. So, when Greg Stroud contacted Hadden with exactly three rooms’ worth of equipment to donate, they knew it was a divine appointment.
“It was exactly what we needed! A lot of times donations come that don’t fill the need, but it’s always neat to see God bring somebody along who fits the exact desire and intention of our ministry,” Hadden shared.
After the transfer was finalized, Stroud and his wife were even able to take the 14-hour road trip from Texas to South Dakota to see their altruism in action.
“It was the perfect fit, a total God thing,” Stroud said. “They are going to be able to open the clinic as a fully-equipped dental center. I think anybody who gets involved in work like this is going to quickly see the need and develop a care for the people who don’t have access to the services we do. It makes you realize how blessed we are, and therefore how responsible and accountable we need to be as good stewards, distributing what we have to those who really need it. If you ever have the opportunity to share with people who need it, you will experience blessings tenfold.”
“I was especially thrilled to hear about Send Relief. It is an answer to prayer for my wife and I, and we are thrilled to participate in what Send Relief is doing. It’s commendable, and we are so grateful to know that Southern Baptists are being intentional about relief work.”
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Published January 28, 2021