When in the bush of Africa, one of the last things anyone wants is a toothache. In my case, the problem was an impacted wisdom tooth; my husband and I were six hours from a trustworthy dentist and had responsibility for a dorm full of girls. It’s one thing to ask a colleague to look after a few kids for a day or two, but 19 girls in an MK school when the term is in full swing? Thanks to some flexible teammates, Jim and I were able to leave on a Tuesday morning and arrived in Abidjan in time for an appointment with an orthodontist that afternoon. She made time for us, took a peek into my mouth, and wrote out an order for a full mouth X-ray that needed to be done in another office.
The next morning we took a taxi to the best hospital in the city. We entered the clean, modern facility with optimism, even confidence, only to find that the x-ray machine had broken down the day before. “Call back later today,” was the advice given. OK, afternoon x-rays could still work. In the meantime Jim needed to go to a regular dentist where he had an appointment to have a filling repaired. “We’ll try this without Novocain,” said the dentist. “Just raise your hand if you start to feel anything.” His hand was ready as the drill screamed but the tooth wasn’t sensitive so that was no problem. The problem turned up later when we called back to the hospital. They informed us that the x-ray machine wouldn’t be repaired for several days. Our anxious thoughts raced. “We can’t wait around for this thing to get fixed. We have to get back to school!”
Our business agent got on the phone and found a place connected with the university that could help us. We headed in that direction and eventually found the office after a couple of tries. But because it had taken us so long to find it, noon was approaching and we were told to return at 2:30. We left but not before getting some assurances that the machine was indeed working!
Things started to fall into place after that. The x-rays were taken without hassle and for a about a third of the price that the hospital would have charged. A quick scan of the x-ray by the orthodontist prompted her to advise that the lower left wisdom tooth would have to come out. She would not do the procedure but recommended her friend, George, on the other side of town, as the best one for the job. A call to George produced a favor — the good news that he would see me at 8:15 the next morning.
It is not easy to get around a big city like Abidjan, built as it is, on lagoons, but once again our business agent helped us out, and we arrived in the office of Dr. George with a few minutes to spare. It wasn’t long after entering his modern, well equipped office that I was in the chair. Dr. George was very professional, took an x-ray of the tooth in question and explained what had to be done. I received a few injections and the work began. It was not an easy extraction. The tooth was deeply imbedded in the jaw, so he had to remove some bone in order to loosen it. Using the proper tools, skill and a head hold on me, Dr. George finally removed the tooth, put in some stitches, and gave instructions for the care of the area. A prescription for antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory finished the appointment. I was shaking and a little worse for wear, but we were through the ordeal.
After ten days the stitches could be removed and everything would be fine. Well, theoretically anyway. In spite of pain and slow healing, I recovered well and we look back on that experience, knowing that the Lord answered the prayers of many. He helped us find a way through all the problems we encountered and got us back to our post by the weekend. Being on the field gives us opportunities to lean on the Lord. We are finding Him sufficient in situations that are way beyond our control and we are experiencing His mercy and grace as we ride the storms of life.