By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneMarch 12, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Colleen Mills knows what it's like to be in on a "God moment."
And seeing the shiny clean smiles of happy children was among the best "God moments" experienced by Mills and her fellow missionaries during a dental/medical mission trip to the Central American country of Belize, where she used her skills as a dental hygienist to aid the impoverished people in a remote agricultural area.
"I feel so fortunate and thankful for everything I was able to do and achieve while in Belize," Mills said of the hundreds of children she ministered to during the trip.
"I am so thankful to know that through my efforts God was honored. This isn't about me. It's about God and the work He can do through us."
Mills, the wife of retired Lt. Col. David Mills and an active member of Bicentennial Chapel, felt the calling to participate in a mission trip in March 2009, after attending a Calhoun Community College continuing education class on dental/medical missions.
"On the way home that night, I told the Lord that if He wanted me to go, He just needed to send me," she recalled. "I knew I would love to do this. But there was no way I could afford it then. I told the Lord I would go if He showed me how. I decided to pray about it. I knew if the Lord wanted me to go, I'd go."
She also shared her calling with her friends at the chapel, where she has attended church for 18 years and has been a choir member, Sunday school teacher and youth leader. She prayed about her calling with members of her Bible study group, the Protestant Women of the Chapel, and her Sunday school class. And she connected with a dental office that invited her to participate in their Belize mission trip, set for February 2010.
"I am a part-time dental hygienist who offers fill-in services for dentists whose hygienist is sick or on vacation," Mills said. "I work in lots of different dentist offices in the area.
"About three weeks after my Calhoun class, I was called by Dr. Paul Bishop's office in Decatur. I had never worked there before and on the way there I prayed that God would surround me with Christians in this dental office."
It wasn't long before Mills knew her prayer was answered. In the office's break room she saw a sign that said "Styling your smile with a focus on Christ!" Later that day, she learned the office staff was planning a mission trip to Belize and they asked her "Do you want to come along'" Mills couldn't say "No."
"It was such an answer to prayer! They just took me in as family," Mills said. "I worked with them to do several fund-raisers for our trip. But most of my trip was paid for by donations through my church. When members of the chapel learned I was planning this mission trip to Belize they would make donations to it and say to me 'Thank you so much for doing what we cannot do.'"
Mills also crocheted afghans and sold them to raise funds for her trip, which cost about $1,300 through Fishers of Men International.
"The wonderful people of Bicentennial Chapel financially supported my trip to Belize. I am so grateful and blessed to have a family like this," she said.
Belize is the most impoverished country in Central America. In February, Mills fulfilled her promise to God by being part of a 72-member dental and medical team who made the trip to the Belize village known as the Valley of Peace.
"We were all committed to care about the needs of others in a proactive and compassionate way because of Jesus Christ," Mills said. "Everyone worked so hard during our six days in Belize to see as many people as we could in our clinics."
During their first day, the 72 missionaries broke up into three groups to visit three churches in the area.
After that, they spent each day seeing children in the dental and medical clinics. The children came to the clinic from their schools, with many of them brought in on a trailer attached to a four-wheeler. More than 2,500 children made visits to the dental and medical clinics.
Despite being exhausted from sitting on a bucket each day and cleaning the teeth of children who were laying on a bench in front of her, Mills felt empowered by God's word. Along with cleaning the children's teeth, she also witnessed to them about God's love.
"I felt so poured out after each day," she said. "But every night at our devotionals we were reminded of Jesus' promise to give us rest (Matthew 11:28). I was amazed that every morning when I woke up I was rejuvenated and energetic and ready to do it all over again. I give all the glory to God for that ... And I will never again complain about the dental chair that I have that I can raise and lower."
Many of the children suffered from the symptoms of gingivitis.
"We were incredibly busy," Mills said. "On a normal work day, I see 11, maybe 12 patients. On one day in Belize, between two of us dental hygienists, we saw 65 patients just in the morning.
We couldn't polish their teeth because we didn't have the equipment. But we cleaned as much as we could, showed them how to brush and checked for cavities. If they had cavities or other problems, we sent them to the dentist. Many, many of them left with fewer teeth than they came with."
Though the visits could be traumatic for the children, Mills said the missionaries got lots of hugs and 'thank yous' for the work they did.
"There were God moments all over the place," she said. "It was very obvious to us that God choose us for this trip. This was a way for me to honor God, to be the hands and feet of God. I want to give my testimony about this trip. I hope others will consider going on a mission trip to Belize. There is still so much to be accomplished. No matter what your job is, God can use you in Belize."