LifeBridge Creates New Smiles Despite Pandemic
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country and community events continue to get canceled, LifeBridge Adventist Group in Tacoma, Washington, found a way to meet a community need.
“When I saw that all free dental clinics around Tacoma and Seattle were canceled, I decided to find a way to provide for my community via my dental clinic,” says Jed de la Paz, dentist and owner at Bright Smile Dental in Tacoma.
As a young professional leader of the new LifeBridge church plant, de la Paz and others had been looking for ways to serve the community. De la Paz contacted the city and county health department, which were as enthusiastic about the idea as the LifeBridge team. They set a date for six weeks later and began moving forward rapidly in planning the project, recruiting volunteers and raising funds.
Since space was limited in the dental office, they planned to have patients check in and out outside.
“When the landlord found out we were having this clinic, he offered us a vacant area of the building so we wouldn’t be out in the cold rain,” says de la Paz. "This allowed the entire clinic to be held indoors with plenty of rooms to abide by social distancing guidelines. “
"God’s plans for the clinic were bigger than ours,” says Dustin Serns, LifeBridge pastor. The extra space allowed for opening up two more dental chairs, for a total of seven.
When online registration opened, the appointment times quickly filled and a long waitlist was formed.
At the free clinic, one patient shared that her mouth had been in extreme discomfort for weeks, and she had been having trouble sleeping. She had applied for a job with dental benefits. When she didn’t get the job, she was devastated. Then a friend sent her the advertisement for the LifeBridge Free Dental Clinic.
“This free clinic came at the perfect time for me. I am so thankful for what you guys are doing,” she said. She left the clinic with healing from her dental pain, peace in her heart and a smile on her face.
After their treatment, patients checked out with a “chaplain” from the LifeBridge Church team. The chaplains asked patients about their experience at the clinic and what they could pray for.
“We didn’t want this to only be an event but the beginning of some meaningful relationships with people in our community,” shares Serns. “2020 definitely changed our plans for starting a new church. We thought we would have a building rented and weekly worship gatherings by now. Instead, we dumped all our energy and resources into serving our community. We are so glad we did.”
This year has been a huge challenge for many people. But thanks to God’s guidance and a handful of highly committed servant leaders, LifeBridge Church was able to bring new smiles to their community even during the pandemic.