Dr. Belinda Forbes is a dentist who has connected United Methodist churches in the U.S. to ministries in Nicaragua for almost 30 years. Forbes says supporting a missionary gives churches a direct link to our global church around the world.
Dr. Belinda Forbes, United Methodist missionary serving in Nicaragua: "When you support a missionary you are instantly transported to the place where that missionary is serving."
Dr. Belinda Forbes found her call to ministry in dental school in the 1980's. Forbes took a one-year mission assignment in Nicaragua that has turned into a 28-year commitment to public health.
Serving rural areas with one dentist for every 50,000 people, Forbes works alongside local dental workers, midwives and community pharmacists who are the front line in healthcare.
Dr. Belinda Forbes: "They're often the first and only response if there is an emergency, or if a child is dehydrated and needs some oral rehydration salts, or there's a malaria outbreak."
It surprises some supporting congregations to know that the majority of Forbes' work goes beyond dentistry.
Dr. Belinda Forbes: "Development is really much more than that. Why are children dying of preventable diseases? Why are mothers dying in childbirth?"
Clean water, sanitation, and maternal and child health are all part of a community model that relies on local people rather than outsiders.
Dr. Belinda Forbes: "You might have a VIM team that comes and they don't want the local staff to do anything. They want to make all the decisions about what's going to happen on the team. It's important to lift up the local knowledge and the competency on the ground, of which there is an abundance."
Looking back Forbes can see God in the journey that led her from New England to Nicaragua. As a teen she was fascinated when she heard visiting missionaries pray in Spanish.
Dr. Belinda Forbes: "I was just starting to learn Spanish in middle school. And I thought, 'Gee, I'd like to talk to God in Spanish.' How would I do that?"
At Tufts University in the 1980's, Forbes felt a call to mission work.
Dr. Belinda Forbes: "In dental school they passed around a little note that said, 'If you speak another language will you accept patients in that language?' And I prayed over this little note 'cause I was so nervous. I'd had lots of academic Spanish, but I'd never actually spoken it on a daily basis. I put 'yes.' Well, I was inundated with Spanish-speaking patients. And that was a way to start improving my language ability."
Forbes knows not every person in the pew will feel a call to mission but she says every United Methodist should have a connection to their church in the world.
Dr. Belinda Forbes: "Every church should support a missionary. Prayers for that missionary, financial support helps enable us to stay in our assignment and be sustained there. And presence. Some churches come. Some don't. I think we have the possibility to understand God in a different way because we've taken the time to understand what God is doing in the world in another place."