By Kayla Rinker
SENEGAL, West Africa – As another busy work day came to an end, one patient remained in the waiting room. The young Mandyak man had been waiting all day for the American dentist, Mike Edgar, to examine his toothache.
But before he was called in to meet the dentist, an older Mandyak woman came through the door, the expression on her face showing severe discomfort.
“The boy had been waiting but he realized that the woman was in more pain than he was, so he offered his spot,” said Edgar, a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Desloge. “His comment was, ‘It’s OK, I can wait until next year.’ Of course, we went ahead and made time to see the boy as well.”
Edgar said the young man’s sacrifice is only a small example of the overall selfless attitude of the Mandyak people of Senegal, West Africa.
“I’ve noticed that the people there are pretty good about helping each other out, more so than I would say Americans are,” he said. “We would be greedy and make sure we got whatever we desired first, looking out for others only after the fact. We ought to be a little more understanding of people and their needs, and going to Senegal has made me realize that.”
The 10-day trip in January is the third medical trip to Senegal that Edgar has made in three years. His wife, Gwen, has been there five times. Each trip involved teaming with members of Calvary Baptist Church in Neosho, and Edgar said he feels blessed to be part of such an important ongoing mission.
“It’s my understanding that it all happened by word of mouth,” said Bradford Laubinger, pastor at First Desloge. “Calvary was looking for a dentist and a friend of a friend turned them to Mike. I believe God crosses people’s paths for a reason and I think this partnership is another example of God at work.”
Besides dental care, Calvary Neosho’s medical mission clinics also supply regular medical care and a pharmacy. Because announcements about the week-long clinic are posted well in advance, the Mandyak people travel many miles to see the trained professionals for their needs.
“It is our job to get the people together and meet their physical needs as best we can,” Edgar said. “Because we are outsiders, we may not be as trustworthy as one of their own. That’s why it’s the mission of the Christian nationals working with us to witness to them and make those connections.”
Edgar said it’s the boldness and strong faith of the West African nationals that impress him the most. So much so, in fact, that models of their faith stay with Edgar even after the trip is over.
“Seeing that gives me the strength to be bolder in my faith,” he said. “Normally I don’t, even when the opportunity is there. I always question whether it is appropriate or not. I need to go out on a limb more than I do. I think the more you act on your faith, the stronger you grow in your faith.”
Edgar said Calvary’s long-term missions approach with the Mandyak people has been a huge factor in the success of the medical clinics.
“A lot of times you’ll have medical groups come in somewhere and after one week the people there never see them again,” he said. “What Calvary’s got going for them and what Rick Hedger is trying to do with the Missouri Baptist Convention is get people to make long-term commitments and build relationships. I think that makes a big difference on people as far as giving Christianity some thought. They know we are going to keep coming back and that we are there for them.”