[Photo Credit: A patient is helped at the LifeBridge dental clinic in Tacoma, Washington. Photo provided by the North Pacific UnionGleaner

North America

A Scam, a Service, and Many Smiles

Free dental clinic in Tacoma, Washington, meets community needs

United States | Dustin Serns

At the beginning of May 2021, the LifeBridge Seventh-day Adventist Church provided the Tacoma, Washington community with more than $90,000 worth of free dental care over a period of two days.
Clinic director and local dentist, Jed de la Paz and the LifeBridge team recruited more than 75 volunteers who gave selflessly of their time and expertise. The clinic was hosted at De la Paz’s local practice, Bright Smile Dental, because, “We want to use whatever we have to bless the local community.”

Through additional partnerships with a local college’s dental hygiene school and Mercy Missions of the Northwest, the clinic team was able to operate nine dental chairs concurrently and serve more than 125 patients. Every patient received prayer. New friendships were formed with volunteers from the community. The team desired to give people a taste of the Kingdom of God. It was incredible to see how God worked.

“It’s a scam …”

One patient had been having severe tooth pain for several weeks. He made too much money to qualify for state health insurance, but not enough to be able to pay for a dental procedure out-of-pocket.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, his work in the restaurant industry was shut down for a few months. His family got behind on their bills since he couldn’t work. When the restaurant reopened, he picked up every shift available in order to catch up with their financial obligations.

As his tooth pain worsened, he tried four different dental facilities, appealing to them for help. They all said the same thing, “Unless you have insurance or the cash upfront, we can’t help you.”

The patient began to give up. “I guess I am just going to have to learn to live with the pain,” he said to his fiancé one night. A few days later, the patient’s fiancé saw an advertisement on Facebook for a free Dental Clinic by LifeBridge Church. She excitedly told her fiancé.

“It’s a scam to steal our personal information,” he replied in response. “Nobody gives out dental care for free.”

“Oh, you’re right,” she admitted. But she decided to look into it further.

“It says this is done by a church. Maybe they just want to help people,” she thought. She decided to register her fiancé. When she received the confirmation email, both of them began to wonder if this could actually be real. When they arrived, they were waiting for someone to ask for their insurance or for cash, but it never happened. They finally had hope that his dental pain would be resolved!

The patient’s fiancé shared their story to one of the dental clinic volunteers as they waited for their appointment. They were extremely grateful.

“We are here doing this free clinic so people can have an encounter with Jesus and be freed from their suffering,” the volunteer shared.

The patient’s fiancé candidly shared, “It is so easy to lose faith when we are having all these struggles with finances, health, my autistic child, and everything else. My mom is Catholic and moved away a few months ago. I feel like when she left, my faith left with her.”

“Maybe this is God tapping you on the shoulder right now and telling you, ‘I have been here with you all along,’” the volunteer responded.

“I think it is,” she agreed.

“We would love to come alongside you and be an encouragement to you in your journey,” the volunteer shared. He let her know about opportunities LifeBridge Church has that could help strengthen their faith and family.

An Answered Prayer

Another patient had dealt with unresolved tooth pain for several weeks. The morning of the clinic, he prayed God would help him with the pain. He happened to be passing by when he saw the sign along the road that said, “LifeBridge Church Free Dental Clinic.”

“Could this be an answer to my prayers?”, he wondered.

He came into the parking lot and asked one of the volunteers about the Free Dental Clinic. She encouraged him to come inside. At registration, the team was able to fit him into an open slot for an appointment and his pain was finally resolved! When he met with a LifeBridge chaplain during checkout, the patient asked what denomination LifeBridge Church was part of. The chaplain shared LifeBridge Church is a Seventh-day Adventist church plant.

The patient became super excited, “I’m a Seventh-day Adventist! I was just baptized a couple of weeks ago at South Tacoma Adventist Fellowship (another nearby Adventist Church)!”

God worked through his new church to answer his prayers and bring healing in his life!

[Photo Credit: The team of volunteers at the LifeBridge dental clinic in Tacoma, Washington; Photo provided by the North Pacific Union Gleaner]

[Photo Credit: The team of volunteers at the LifeBridge dental clinic in Tacoma, Washington; Photo provided by the North Pacific Union Gleaner]

More than an Event

The LifeBridge Church team is passionate about serving their community like Jesus did. They consider this much more than just a service event. Whenever they serve, they pray and look for people they can form meaningful friendships with and continue journeying with in their relationship with Jesus. It has been thrilling to see God answering those prayers and transforming lives.

To learn more about how you can be involved, visit lifebridgeway.com/give. Watch a highlight video here.