Suva-Nausori - Macuata - Toyota Island - Rabi Island
Under a Coconut Tree
Have you ever sat in a camping chair at the dentist's office?
It's probably unlikely!
Our local dentist offers comfortable armchairs and something to read while you wait for your name to be called. Yet, in many island nations of the South Pacific, there are few dentists and even fewer dental offices.
On a remote Fijian island located in the South Pacific (like Kavewa which is a mile long by half a mile wide, with no more than 25 houses dotting the shore) a villager who had suffered a stroke desperately needed dental treatment. Yet, hoping to gain relief from the pain onboard the medical mission ship anchored offshore of the island, they were too fragile to be transported.
This didn't stop the dentist who had joined the volunteer team that was offering free medical and dental services to the islanders.
Finding a camping chair they positioned themselves under a coconut tree, for relief from the tropical sun, and the dentist proceeded to extract the decayed tooth!
"Bula (hello) from Fiji"
Fiji is comprised of islands ranging from the main island of Viti Levu, which means Great Fiji, to the Yasawas, pronounced "isawa" and the Island of Vanua Levu. Fijians are really affable and kind and a strong familial bond runs through their communities.
Yet, there are dozens of small remote islands that lack access to basic primary and oral healthcare, with just 1 dentist per 14,000 people.1Due to the pandemic, this has become even more pronounced as the economy struggles and many people are unable to access healthcare.
Oral healthcare is among the most underrated needs for many outside the western world and through poor diet and the love of sugar cane, many Fijian patients are beyond having their teeth repaired, with extraction the only option.
So, where did the ship come from?
Koha is a Māori word for "gift" and the hospital ship YWAM Koha is a gift of practical hope and healing to the Pacific islands.
Launched for its first three-month overseas mission this year, from its operations base in New Zealand, the volunteer crew worked with Fijian national authorities and local health workers to serve these isolated communities.2
This allowed for training and building partnerships while successfully meeting the needs of those in pain, or requiring healthcare assessments, during the three-month deployment to twenty-nine villages visited by the crew.
A Ten-Year Wait In 2012, an island chief from the northern Macuata Province of Vanua Levu met a visiting land-based YWAM team who asked him if he would like a ministry ship to serve his people.
After a ten-year wait, the crew of the Koha arrived in August this year, providing medical and dental treatment to 28 patients and training their village health workers.
A Life Saved
An islander in her early twenties arrived on board the ship with a toothache, mentioning her teeth used to cause more pain but that it had gone away. Checking her teeth, the dentist discovered that her teeth were so badly infected that it was either going to impact her lungs or her brain.
Removing these teeth saved the woman from what could have developed into potentially life-threatening complications.
"The ship coming was a demonstration of Jesus' care and compassion."
- Talei, Kavewa Island, Fiji
Dental care is just one way to show God's love and that he cares for the many people living in isolated island communities in the South Pacific, even when treatment is under a coconut tree!