For years he had been awaiting this opportunity. Jeremy Holt, a sophomore business administration and pre-dental major at Southern Adventist University (SAU), was going to be a dental-work missionary for eight months with Amor Ministries (AM) in Pucallpa, Peru. He had been involved with local missions through his home church in Mills River, N.C., and had gone overseas on weeklong mission trips. Still, nothing could prepare him for what he saw as his plane touched down on the runway in Peru.
The squatters’ community stretched for miles. Poverty-stricken people with nowhere else to live had constructed makeshift shanties in hopes that squatters’ law would award them the land title if they lived there long enough. However, keeping possession of a shanty is not easy since someone must be there constantly to guard it. This translates into one less person who can work and provide income for the family. On top of it all, the lack of both potable water and an organized sewage system means that waterborne illnesses are simply part of daily life.
Upon arrival Holt was eager to find out how he could help, but he was in for a surprise. It wasn’t dental workers that AM needed most. “They had recently lost one of their administrators and needed someone with business skills to help them get reorganized,” he recalls. “It’s funny. I thought I was going to Peru to develop new skills, when actually God wanted me to serve others with the ones I already had.”
Holt put his two semesters of accounting into practice, logging AM’s finances and helping them switch from an unwieldy spreadsheet to QuickBooks. The same organizational skills that helped him navigate an intense class schedule and homework load also enabled him to plan dental and medical clinics, health seminars, and Bible studies.
The majority of medical ailments addressed by the clinic stemmed from poor water conditions. Many people suffered from parasites, dehydration, headaches, and kidney problems. Most of the squatters drank a lot of soft drinks and did not brush their teeth. Consequently, cavities were the primary problem treated at the dental clinic, and Holt and his coworkers spent one day a week extracting teeth from the time the clinic opened until it closed in the afternoon.
Holt is now back at SAU, and is slated to graduate in 2018. After dental school, he hopes one day to go overseas as a missionary dentist. “My time in Peru was difficult but so rewarding,” he shares. “We worked to meet the physical needs of the people and then their spiritual ones, following the example of Jesus’ ministry. I can hardly wait to do something like that again.”
Carolina | November 2017