Three years ago Missionary Sherman sat in his office thinking out a plan for medical work, a plan which he realized would have to be built on faith alone. There was no money, but he had a plan plus a firm faith. Today this plan, conceived in faith and operated by prayer, has developed even beyond his fondest hopes. In the brief span of these few years there has been built up the largest dental clinic in Caracas, a city of nearly 140,000 persons. As a result, our work has become favorably known throughout the Republic of Venezuela, precious converts have been won to the kingdom, and a nucleus has been created which bids fair soon to grow into a well-established denominational sanitarium.
Speaking of those days of humble beginning, Brother Sherman says, "About three years ago I invited some of our brethren who were suffering from tooth infection to come to the office. I thought I might help them. I had no equipment except an office chair and some simple dental tools, donated by kind friends in America. When these brethren learned I could do simple extractions, they passed the word to others, until I was frequently called upon by our brethren and others to extract infected, decayed teeth. Then I saw how this work opened the hearts of the people for the reception of our truth, and it occurred to me that we ought to establish a small clinic. About this time the Lord sent us kind friends who helped us financially, and so the work was begun."
Once when Brother Sherman was in need of a dental chair a brother came to him with an offer of five hundred bolivars. Other friends added to this fund until he soon found he was able to buy the chair. Practically all the rest of his equipment has come in the same way. He needed a helper, and a young man in the church named Nataniel Rodriquez offered his services, and has given faithful assistance from that day to this. Brother Rodriquez, a senior medical student in the local government medical college, hopes to give full time to building up this medical unit in his city as soon as he graduates and receives a license to practice medicine. Thus every need has been providentially supplied, and our brethren have seen the hand of God at work for them at every turn.
The Caracas clinic is now visited by fifty to seventy-five persons daily. People once treated tell others, and so the word goes on. Somehow the story was started that "those Adventist 'doctors' in the Dispensario Adventista have 'divine hands,'" and so an increasing flow of Venezuelans seek our help daily. Today it is quite impossible to attend all who come to the clinic. When the people enter the room they are presented with a number which indicates when their turn conies. This has been found necessary, because the brethren are unable to attend to all who come in on any one day. Those whose numbers are not called are asked to come the following day for another number. Some come as early as four o'clock in the morning to be sure of getting treated.
One day the secretary to the President of Venezuela drove up in his car and came in for treatment. He stated that he had heard that "the dentists here have divine hands."
Recently one of the physicians of the city, hearing of our work, offered his services free on Sunday mornings for those needing general medical attention. Although this doctor is not an Adventist, he was found to be so much in harmony with our principles of medical work that his offer was gratefully accepted. It has now become necessary to enlarge this phase of the work. Brother Sherman writes, "We are now equipping our hydrotherapy. Already the word has gone out, and people are coming before we are ready for them. A few days ago the United States vice-consul of Venezuela came to receive treatments for pain in the arm and wrist, which seemed to be the beginning of arthritis. With the blessing of God, this gentleman received such relief that he does not cease talking about us in the consulate. Yesterday he returned for treatment, and he told me he is sending a friend who is suffering from pains in the knee."
So clients are coming even before the room is finished. We are soon going to have an electric cabinet installed, and if our money continues to come in as it has, we hope to install hot and cold running water in the room. Meanwhile, Dr. Dias Vargas is rendering most excellent assistance with the equipment and space available.
It is our plan that this medical work shall spread to other cities as wen. A second clinic has already been opened in Colombia by one of our Colombian brethren, whose name is Juan Meijia. This brother was associated with Brother Sherman for a while and is well prepared to do extractions and general dental work. It is hoped to have others of our workers join Brother Sherman from time to time so that the influence of this clinic may be felt throughout the field.
Our instruction from the Lord is that the medical work and the preaching of the gospel should go hand in hand. We believe in this instruction. We need help, however. We should have a married couple of trained nurses at once who could come to the aid of Brother Sherman. This brother is also superintendent of a large mission field, and he should be relieved of much of the burden of the clinic so as to give more time to the needs of the field. We need dental tools for our old clinic, and a dental chair for the new clinic. We are grateful that the first quarter's thirteenth Sabbath overflow for 1943 goes for medical work in the Inter-American Division. We trust we shall have a large overflow.
Pray for this important work. Already a number of persons have been baptized in Caracas as a result of the clinic. We believe this is the way God would have it. We long to see the "right arm" of the message accomplishing a greater work among the fourteen million people of this union field.