Dentist and a short-term missionary Fred Sharpe is currently working toward his a master's degree in cross-cultural ministries. His main interest involves exploring and developing the use of dental care on the mission field to promote evangelism.
Fred and his wife, Sherrie, who is also a dentist, have been on 9 dental mission trips—to Mexico, Latvia, Bulgaria, and Ethiopia. Usually Fred does dental work while Sherrie screens patients to determine what needs can be addressed that day.
“Dental and vision care are the two most sought-after needs for short term medical missions,” he said. “Most people around the world have access to basic medical care, but few have access to dental care.”
Fred works closely with World Dental Relief (WDR), an organization based in Oklahoma that provides supplies, training, and equipment for short-term dental mission trips. According to the organization’s web site, dental disease is the most rampant disease in the world, affecting some 95 percent of earth's population. While we have many dentists and modern technology in our country, third-world countries have little or no help for themselves. The high cost of dental equipment and supplies make it nearly impossible for them to have dentists or training programs.
“I have seen lines of people three blocks long waiting to receive dental care in needy countries,” said Ron Lamb, president of WDR. “These people are in pain. Many who are unable to get in the doors of the clinic that day, will stay in line all night, to get in the next day.”
On his most recent trip, Fred talked with pastors and other church leaders in Ethiopia about the long-term effects on local ministries from the response to short-term volunteers. What he heard was yes, such ministries do help evangelists reach new visitors and begin long-term commitments to Christ. Many people heard the gospel because they came to get their toothache fixed and wound up becoming long-term followers of Christ.
The Sharpes first became interested in dental mission work in 1994 when Sherrie’s brother-in-law, who is also a dentist, invited them to go on a trip he was leading with his church from Kingwood, Texas. Then, two years ago, Fred decided he needed formal missions training. He investigated the programs of local seminaries and found that the diversity at DTS made it a good fit for his needs.
Fred, who also holds a degree in law, currently lives in Southlake, Texas, and works as a dental plan consultant with Avesis, Inc., a Maryland-based care dental benefits organization. He is not sure what his future ministry will hold, but he envisions moving toward more frequent dental mission trips and assisting churches in organizing short-term trips that utilize dentists and other health professionals.
“There are many health professionals who express a willingness to donate their time, but too few opportunities for them to serve!” he said.
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.