For Dr. Dennis M. of Stilwell, Oklahoma, disasters—like the earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria—have a unique sound. It’s a call to go and help.
He and a team with International Medical Relief (IMR) are traveling to Turkey to help earthquake survivors with medical clinics.
“I didn’t have to think about [going],” he said in an interview three days before his flight out. “Something tells you, ‘You need to go.’ These people are living a normal life like you and me, and suddenly, without warning, everything is destroyed—their entire life, their home. They have nothing; it’s a total disaster. And you go help those people as much as you can. They need help.”
Dr. Dennis’s call to missions started long before his retirement. In 2006, when he was still eleven years away from retiring, he felt a stirring. “I was at a point…. I was working hard. My kids were all grown, out of school, and so forth, had their own lives and were working and living elsewhere. And I was just in a place of ‘what in the world am I going to do with my life?’ And I wasn’t upset about anything or depressed; I was just seriously wondering, ‘What’s happening?’”
At that time, Dr. Dennis received a newsletter from a mission organization that he had never heard from before. After inquiring about volunteering, he was told that a team had already been formed, but because he was a doctor, they would make room for one more.
Within a week, we on his way to the hills of Tennessee to undergo rigorous disaster response training. He learned how to clear for landmines and how to hike deep into the wild to respond after a disaster.
From there, he was ready for his first mission trip destination. Most people acclimatize themselves to overseas service with a nearby 5- to 10-day trip. But Dr. Dennis’s first mission trip was four weeks in the poorest areas of Ethiopia, providing clinics.
Since 2006, he’s ventured out on an estimated thirty to forty trips. “An average of three a year, maybe,” he guesses. When asked how many countries he’s been to, he wasn’t sure—a true sign of someone who cares more about the people he goes to see than the places.
“I took another week-long disaster course several years later in Guanajuato, Mexico,” he said, describing long days with few breaks. “It was deliberately designed for international disaster relief, and it was a training to certify you to be a team leader…. It was intensive, but it was good.
“When the Turkey earthquake hit—that kind of training is exactly what we were trained for.”
The trip to Turkey will be one of the more rugged trips he’s taken. Because of the lack of necessities, team members need to bring everything they’ll need, including sleeping bags and food.
And being the doctor he is, he’s bringing as much medicine and medical supplies as he can carry. Thanks to many donors wanting to help earthquake victims, Blessings International was able to send Dr. Dennis with all the medicines and supplies he could pack.
“Blessings has been a blessing,” he said.
It’s a eleven and a half hour flight from Dallas, Texas, to Istanbul, Turkey, then a brief flight to Adana, Turkey, followed by anywhere from four to five hours of driving across damaged roads. Having had a hip replacement last year, the travel is far from ideal for Dr. Dennis, but his commitment outweighs the anticipated pain.
“Ninety-nine [point eight] percent of the Turkey population is Muslim,” Dr. Dennis said. “One of my main goals while there is to represent Christ and show them who the true God of this world and the universe is.”
We are thankful for Dr. Dennis and our many partners like him!
If you’d like to help responders like Dr. Dennis, please consider giving to Blessings International’s Emergency Disaster Relief fund, which quickly provides responders with pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in times of upheaval.