Showing Love in a Practical Way

Apr 1, 2008

“D, I don’t really feel like coming over today.” She said to me on the phone. “Why?” I prodded and asked for more information. I was disappointed that she was canceling our lunch plans, as I had been looking forward to spending some time with her. She said, “My mouth is in so much pain.” I knew about her dental problems, and we had searched for a dentist for a few weeks; however, it was virtually impossible to find someone who would provide a root canal at an affordable price. Emily had spent hours looking for someone who would provide the services for our friend but all contacts led to a dead end. She was ready to resort to having it pulled.

However, pulling the tooth would mean that her entire crown would be deemed worthless as it was one of two teeth that held in her denture. I had been with her the week prior when she had a tooth pulled at the free clinic. I went with her into the room and offered to translate. However, the dentist was not interested in communicating with her patient and began jabbing Josefina’s gum line with shots of Novocain without even bothering to explain to the patient what was about to happen. It was an absolute terrifying experience for Josefina, and she was not fond of the idea of visiting another dentist.

The truth of the matter was that this constant pain was wearing down the otherwise cheerful, spunky spirit of my 22-year-old friend. I missed the old Josefina and it was hard to see her suffering every time she tried to eat. It was also wearing down her self esteem because she was in so much pain she was unable to wear her denture revealing that she only had 4 teeth remaining on her top gum line. Not knowing what else to do, I sent out an email to some friends asking if anyone knew a dentist who might be willing to do some pro bono work and help out this young lady. By the next day I had a response from a deacon at a local church and within two days she had an appointment set to see a dentist and the deacon’s fund at the church would cover the expenses.

She was scared when we entered the waiting room of the office. Her hands were shaking. I grasped them and she shot me a nervous smile as I assured her that everything was going to be okay. The dental hygienist called us back to the exam room and gave Josefina a welcoming smile. She explained to me what was going to happen and waited for me to translate. She then asked Josefina to open her mouth and with extreme gentleness, removed the denture, examined her teeth and proceeded with a cleaning and x-rays. Josefina began to relax in the chair and trust again.

Then the hygienist called in the dentist who restored Josefina’s dignity by looking her in the eye and asking her questions. He did a quick examination and asked me to go out into the hallway with him. He told me, “The tooth isn’t worth saving. We need to pull it. We cannot do a root canal. She also needs to have 8 cavities filled. She will lose her denture but it is also not worth saving. It is rubbing her gum raw and creating much of the pain she is experiencing. I can fill the cavities, pull the tooth and do the work for free but there is nothing I can do about the denture. Those are outsourced and a new one will be $1300 at cost. I’ll give you a moment to figure out what you want to do.” I walked in and broke the news to Josefina and she gasped at the price to end her pain. I prayed with her and told her that she is God’s creation, that He loves her, that He does not want to see her suffer, and somehow He would provide for her need. I walked out and called the deacon to explain the situation. He told me that they had only approved a $500 payment, but Josefina and I stepped out on faith and told the dentist to go ahead, knowing that God would provide in some miraculous way. The dentist stayed after hours to take care of the cavities and make the imprints for the denture. The Lord did provide with individuals from two different church communities. Within 2 weeks, Josefina’s mouth was cavity and pain free and she had received a new smile coupled with confidence. She is doing her part by paying back $500 of the costs on a monthly payment plan enabling the church to use those funds to help others.

The local church stepped up and showed Josefina that they cared about her health as an individual who is created in God’s image. A dentist gave of his talents and time, helping to gently restore dignity to a hurting young girl. All of this was possible because through relationship the church was willing to step up and love one person in a real way. Chirilagua Connections gives the ability to relationally connect needs with resources, giving the body of Christ an opportunity to show God’s love in tangible ways.

We are a community of people “learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves” in a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a faith-based Christian non-profit with a small staff and over 100 volunteers, we serve alongside more than 100 families and their children (1st-12th grades) each week through our community programs.

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Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.