January 31, 2011

The Dentist in Zambia

The gentle dentist explained to an old Zambian woman holding her cheek in obvious pain that her abscessed tooth would need to come out. The mud-walled church was built for the communities near Chashinama village, but today it served as a dental office consisting of an old dinette chair, a backpack of tools and a large “torch,” as he called it. We called it a flashlight. My husband assisted by holding the torch at different angles above the woman’s mouth during the procedure. She endured it all quietly while her young granddaughter, an orphan, sat in the dirt listlessly at her feet.

I did a bit of research when we got home. I learned that far more aid has been poured into Africa than any other continent and it is still the neediest place on earth. I struggle unendingly with trying to resolve the level of need there with my inability to do much about it. With anyone’s inability to do much about it. Is this what Jesus meant when he said the poor would always be with us?

While the dentist was done explaining through an interpreter how the grandmother should take care of her wound, my husband bent down to pick up and comfort the little girl on the ground. She laid her weary head against his shoulder. At that point, with our prayers, it was all we had to give. For her, for that moment, a daddy’s attention was all she needed.