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Jacksonville Church embraces community’s dental needs
 

By Brittney Head

September 11, 2012

 

JACKSONVILLE—She was an unemployed health educator who recognized the importance of dental care but had no insurance and little money for needed dental treatment. Stopping by the Mobile Dental Clinic held earlier this year at Lake Shore Baptist Church, the woman received free dental care and was “overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity” demonstrated by the clinic staff.

 

Not only were her dental needs treated, but she received a care package of dental products and food from the church’s pantry, calling the extra’s “an unexpected and awesome surprise.”

 

“I did not expect to be surrounded by such a Christian environment filled with love,” said the woman.

 

This was the second year for the Jacksonville church to host the dental clinic, offering services provided by the Florida Baptist Convention’s mobile dental unit. The mobile van crisscrosses the state giving free dental care for the poor and needy in a community. The clinic also provided vision and hearing screenings, a clothes closet, food pantry and tax preparation by AARP.

 

Stella Mouzon, whose husband is the pastor of the Lake Shore church, coordinated the five-day clinic for the church, along with Anna Guy, the church’s Women’s Mission and Ministry director, who coordinated church volunteers and managed the clothes and food distribution.

 

As a registered nurse, Mouzon also serves as manager of St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Outreach Ministry, which provided its Mobile Medical Unit to do health screenings of dental patients prior to their dental treatment.

 

During the week long dental ministry, 157 patients were treated by 17 volunteer dentists and 19 volunteer dental assistants, receiving exams, fillings, tooth extractions and x-rays. The cost of the services performed that week was estimated at $69,341.

 

Among the patients seen were a group of farm workers who arrived one afternoon past regular hours. The clinic remained open until the group, which had made the 70 mile journey from Crescent City, could be seen.

 

Mouzon believes their arrival on that afternoon was providential. “They spoke Spanish and this was the one day we had a dentist who spoke Spanish,” she recalled.

 

Other God-events were also apparent during the week as church members covered the activities in prayer. When the clinic lacked dentists and nurses, volunteers stepped in from unexpected sources.

 

During the community outreach, Lake Shore members shared God’s word with all of the patients, Mouzon said. “This event allows us to focus on our community and to actively participate in hands on missions. We had one person saved through this outreach but, we know many more lives were touched.”

 

The Florida Baptist mobile dental unit is a state-of-the-art bus that contains two treatment rooms, each equipped with x-ray equipment, fiber-optic hand pieces, supplies and instruments needed for basic dentistry. Mobile dental coordinators, supplied by the Florida Baptist Convention, are available to assist with sterilization and location of the instruments.

 

The retrofitted bus travels throughout the state about 40 weeks a year to serve Floridians who otherwise do not have access to dental care. Operated on a volunteer basis, any Florida Baptist church or association can reserve the mobile clinic. Each church is responsible for enlisting volunteers, identifying the needy, and planning an evangelistic ministry to coincide with the dental ministry.

 

The dental unit is one of 23 ministries made possible through the Maguire State Mission Offering. Without the offering funds, the ministry could not exist, said Marc Johnston, team strategist for the Convention’s Church and Communities Ministries Team.

 

“The Mobile Dental Unit ministry is one way to show and share the tangible love of Christ. It helps the church to build a bridge to the community as it provides a way for believers to engage the lost,” he said.

 

The mobile dental clinic is an effective way to foster a relationship between the host church and its community, said Johnston. In some cases local businesses partner with the church in order to provide extra services for the volunteers and patients.

 

During the past 18 months, 39 churches hosted the mobile dental unit, treating 3,486 patients with the help of 346 dentists and 1,898 volunteers. The value of the dental services provided exceeds $1 million annually, said Johnston. Through community outreach and ministry 107 professions of faith and other decisions were made.

 

The Lake Shore church is well aware of needs in its Westside community. The congregation sponsors an on-going free medical clinic for their neighbors who are without medical insurance. The Maguire State Mission Offering also provides funding for medical clinics sponsored by Florida Baptist churches and associations. This year, the church received $1,200 from the offering to subsidize the cost of this ministry.

 

To speak with a project coordinator team about hosting the Mobile Dental Unit or to volunteer, contact the Church and Community Ministries Team, 800-226-8584 ext. 3113.
 

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