This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
~ Missionary Jim Eliot
For 15 years, Dr. Herb Gorin, DDS, of Easton, has been living by these words as he and members of his family have traveled with Global Health Outreach to more than 15 Third World countries to provide dental and medical care.
His interest in mission work was sparked one day by a patient, Karen Berger, who shared her experiences about her church’s mission project in Honduras to care for orphans there. Herb prayed about how he could serve while his staff did some research on mission opportunities. His first mission trip was to Honduras with his wife, daughter and a few of his staff. This led to the love affair he has today with foreign missions and the three to four trips he takes annually overseas.
“As one person you can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person,” he remarks.
Through Global Health Outreach (GHO), Herb has now visited the major continents in the world. Founded in 1931, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) provides programs and services supporting its mission to “change hearts in healthcare” with a current membership over 19,000. The response to the health care teams’ work has been overwhelming. In many of the countries the teams visit, the lines for dental and health care are never-ending.
Herb recalls that in Burundi, on the African continent, people stood in lines for three days to get care. He states, “In Amman, Jordan we treated 4,000 patients, through medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, nursing, ophthalmology, and pharmacy services. In our first GHO trip to prisons in the Dominican Republic, the lines stretched into the night and the team had to choose the three worst cases to treat as they wrapped up their day. I remember thinking, ‘how do I choose?’ ”
While in the field on these trips, Herb likens his approach to that of St. Francis of Assis, who said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” He adds, “A smile is the greatest purveyor of peace.”
Reflecting on today’s churches and mission work, Herb states, “In many churches today, we are doing ministry work within our own walls. I challenge today’s churches to look at their sending capacity and not their seating capacity.”
Herb has both led teams and served on teams made up of medical personnel from the U.S. and Canada. He says that with each trip, he leaves a piece of his heart in the countries he visits. Most of the people the Global Health Outreach teams care for are refugees.
“I would have missed the blessing if I hadn’t been there,” he reflects.
About the broken people he treats, he adds, “I learn to see the God in everyone I treat. Even the Isis fighters. A smile goes a long way and a gentle touch is huge.”
He travels with his ukulele and learns to sing a song in every language to break the ice with the people he treats, finding that music is universal. Most are spiritual songs. He recalls, “Some of the people we treat have never seen a Christian.”
The countries Herb has visited have included the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Thailand, Moldova, Cambodia, Burma, Ghana, Morocco, Burundi, Lebanon, Jordan, Nicaragua, Nepal, Greece, and Spain.
Herb’s wife, Laura, is a registered nurse and goes on the trips providing medical triage. The environment to provide services can vary greatly, from working inside tents to working outside under trees. Global Health Outreach is a Christian organization. Its philosophy is that they may not be able to heal everyone physically who they treat, but they often heal them spiritually. Herb shares, “Sometimes it is just holding their hand and weeping with them.”
He explains that the trips are challenging, requiring long days and less than optimal surroundings to practice dentistry. The team has devotionals twice a day, one in the morning and once in the evening. He comments, “It’s a battleground and you have to be ready for what you are going to encounter, but you see miracles on these trips. It has made my faith walk a rollercoaster ride – sometimes it’s exhilarating, other times it’s terrifying. But it is always fun and real.” He adds, “It truly is the frontlines of faith – a Spiritual Super Bowl.”
Herb provides dental care in the form of extractions, restorations, cleanings, replacement teeth, and even diagnosing tongue and throat cancer. Most of the refugees he cares for are in desperate need of care. In the Far East, many need teeth extracted because of the environment in which they live, where chewing on sugar cane decays the teeth.
A new product, Silver Diamine, Fluoride (SDF), now on the market is revolutionizing dental care in these countries. The compound turns decay into concrete. He explains, “We no longer need to extract these decayed teeth, but can restore them. It’s been a game-changer.”
Herb truly believes that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He quotes missionary John Keith Falconer who said, “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”
For information about how you can support Dr. Herb Gorin and Global Health Outreach, visit cmda.org.