JACKSONVILLE–A man who came to Aspire Vietnamese Baptist Church’s first dental mission to see about a filling for his tooth was recently baptized at the church as a new believer in Christ.
It’s just the kind of story Pastor Chinh Nguyen hoped for as he and other church volunteers shared the gospel with Vietnamese residents who received dental care over the course of the four-day clinic held at the church in Jacksonville.
“After he became a believer, he told me ‘I am quitting Buddhism, and I have become a Christian’,” said Nguyen. “It brought tears to my eyes that day. I am so happy for him and for the kingdom of God.”
This man was one of four who accepted Christ during the mission. One of the other three lives more than an hour away in Daytona, and the other two work on Sundays, making it difficult to attend church services. Still, Nguyen is hopeful that he will eventually get to baptize the others and help them grow in their faith.
These four were part of the 75 people who received care from the Florida Baptist Mobile Dental Ministry, ranging from fillings, tooth extractions and cleanings. The dental mission included seven local dentists, six dental assistants, four dental hygienists, all volunteering their time, and about 22 other volunteers. Anna Guy is one of the volunteers who helped coordinate the dental mission. As a member of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Jacksonville, she has about 12 years of experience coordinating these clinics. When Marc Johnston, community ministries catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, contacted her about helping this new church, she was happy to say yes.
The host church is responsible for finding and enlisting dentists and assistants, she said. “Since this is the church’s first time doing this, I thought it would be helpful to take care of scheduling the dentists for them.”
Guy and other volunteers also took care of registering attendees over the phone, after they had pre-registered online. Since this ministry is for the underprivileged, participants can’t have dental insurance, and their income must be below a certain level.
“It’s amazing what God has done through this mobile dental service.”
Every person attending received a personal care kit and gift from the church. All the Vietnamese attendees also received a Vietnamese Bible.
“I can’t say enough about the dental services that the Florida Baptist Convention provides,” Guy said. “This is a real passion for me. The people are always so appreciative. That’s why it’s such a wonderful ministry. It’s so rewarding and fulfilling to be able to help and minister to these people. It’s the icing on the cake when people accept the Lord.”
While 75 people attended the clinic – the maximum that can be accommodated, Nguyen said only about half were Vietnamese. There was a long waiting list, but few cancellations. He’d like to host the dental mission again, but he’d like to be a little more strategic about attracting the target audience of
Vietnamese residents who are unbelievers. One idea he has is to set up a table at the local Vietnamese market and pre-register attendees. This method would also benefit older residents who are not computer savvy enough to register online.
The mobile dental mission is a great service to provide to the Vietnamese community, he said. While most Vietnamese people care about their health and buy medical insurance, many can’t afford dental insurance.
“This is such a good mission,” Nguyen said. “It’s amazing what God has done through this mobile dental service.” This Vietnamese-language church plant began meeting in October 2022 and currently has about 55 regular members and attendees. As the church prepared to celebrate the end of its first year, they liked the idea of doing the dental mission clinic.
With approximately 12,000 Vietnamese residents in Jacksonville, Nguyen said there is definitely a need for Vietnamese-language churches like this one. He said there are only three in the city that he is aware of, including his own, but there is room for more. Before answering God’s call to come to Jacksonville to start the church, he lived in Denver where there were eight Vietnamese churches.
“I believe there are good number of unreached Vietnamese people here in Jacksonville,” he said. “That is one of the reasons we moved here and started the church.”