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Trapped by Compassion

By David Campbell, DDS | October 03, 2017

by David Campbell, DDS

The call of Christ should build from the heart. God puts compassion into our hearts. If you are reading this, you probably are not a generic Christian dentist. You may know where God is leading you, but many of us spend much of our careers struggling to find service to Christ within our profession. Christ clearly calls us to value service to the poor, but is it with our hands? Is it here or overseas? Is it now or later?

We know missionaries often take steps of faith into the mission field while they are still securing financial stability for their families. Most mission agencies are quite careful about measuring the risk of failure for younger missionaries. There are careful rules about forbidding the abandonment of our obligations if we do go into the mission field. These aspects of missionary service have been developed and proven to be wise stewardship. Many of us are very proud of the role CMDA played in the founding of MedSend. Many of us also recognize that Dr. Topazian, a dental member, began this organization while serving as CMDA’s President. This organization was established to help dedicated healthcare missionaries go into the field before all their student debt was completely paid. This exception to the prior rule is allowed because MedSend has developed a pledging system and foundation support to cover those debts, if the healthcare missionary is accepted into the program. It allows the enthusiastic young professionals to serve while they are young, to establish their presence in the field instead of chaining them to the years of expensive U.S. lifestyle, before sending them into the field. 

I bring this up in comparison to many of us who are dedicated to serving the poor in our dental practices. We do not always have access to wise leadership in our private practices. We want to give to the poor, but we don’t own our own practices while young. And by the time we do own our own practice, we are then locked into a tightly budgeted office with a fair fee schedule that isn't able to be discounted too often. 

The Lord provides. This principle is clear. We are not to worry about tomorrow, nor worry about what we wear. Two principles that say, finances need competent management, not obsession, and secondly, don't indulge in extravagant duds, hobbies or identities within our lifestyle. Indulgence is shunned, while flourishing is often blest upon us by calling. Just look at the flowers.  

Yet, not all practices flourish. All plants do not flower. Some of us find ourselves struggling to find sustenance or basic provisions from our practices. Clearly a modest lifestyle helps, but losses occur, even in dentistry. Out of confession, I have never paid all our rents to our family foundation. This is my modest description of how we survive without profiting. I am not complaining. The Lord provided years of resources to our third generation multi-office dental practice. It had probably been one of the largest practices in the world during some prior period, although no one kept records. We were early providers of denture services to Los Angeles, and the poor communities really wanted their smiles restored to fully embrace the "image obsessed" culture that Hollywood started. 

Yet, I had been trapped into the compassion for the poor. I loved the idea, as a young evangelical, of taking over a large organization that served the poor with such dedication. BUT, it had long passed its heyday. The practices lost money every year. As I sit here, I am preparing my exit strategy, knowing that new avenues of service have opened up. Others have made money with strategies that I couldn't accept. I share this to encourage. Stick to the Lord's plan for your life. Search your heart for your comfort in practice. There are communities where the needs and the resources are balanced, thus most dentists have great opportunities for healthy practices and generous lifestyles. 

As we participate with programs that help the poor, we often run the risk of trapping our finances within an abusive system. Yet, the Lord provided for my family and me throughout this drought. I have my eyes and heart set on other avenues of service. I encourage all dentists to explore the world of charity dentistry. Fewer and fewer dentists have to shoulder the burden of balancing a dental practice dedicated to serving the poor, alone. Organizations are arising everyday. I am grateful for the Korean American Christian Dental Mission (now Global Dental Alliance, GDA) for starting a skid row practice, which employs me part-time as the dental director. The skid row practice, Los Angeles Christian Health Center, is a federally qualified health center with steady federal support and miraculous donor base from secular agencies and faithful churches. I am humbled to be entrusted with this role as a calling from God. 

God led me here, by impoverishing my practice. I accepted His guidance, and I give Him praise and amazement at His wisdom. Difficult times are guidance for you to heed, and persistence will bring God glory. Wisdom comes from asking, “Why? Why me?” For years I have cried and struggled, but now, I have seen more of a plan. He's always ready to throw turns into the plan, but there is a confidence in His hand. I'd appreciate your prayers, and I hope you can find encouragement from my struggles.

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