Texas Mission of Mercy is partnering with Highland Church of Christ to aid in the restoration of smiles for as many underserved Texans as they can serve in two days.
Texas Mission of Mercy is a mobile dental clinic that provides dental care to people free of charge. The event, which will take place beginning at 7 a.m. on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 at the Abilene Civic Center, will be the second time Highland has partnered with the mobile dental clinic. The event was first held in 2013, where 851 Abilene-area residents were served free of charge.
Sara Harney, the missions coordinator for the Texas Dental Association Smiles Foundation, which sponsors TMOM, said the last time TMOM was in Abilene it was a big success.
“The 2013 event provided area residents with $601,193 in charitable dental care, and we expect to see a similar impact at this event,” Harney said.
The event brings together students, volunteer dentists and volunteers from Highland and the Abilene area to provide basic, pain-relieving care to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
Lauren Payne, a senior graphic design major from Lubbock, has attended Highland for four years and said she is not surprised her church is doing something like this for the Abilene community.
“It fits in with their mission of restoring Abilene,” Payne said. “I wouldn’t consider it unusual (for Highland), but I would consider it unique. I think it’s an inventive way to help the Abilene community.”
Dr. Ben Siburt, the executive minister at Highland, agrees.
“The Highland vision is to join in God’s great work of restoring Highland, Abilene and the world,” Siburt said. “We believe that the restoration of smiles is one of the purest forms of restoration that we can imagine.”
There are numerous examples of how TMOM helped people in need at the last Abilene event, but Siburt cites a particular one as his favorite.
“Last time, a woman received new teeth after going seven years without them because they were knocked out by an abusive spouse,” Siburt said. “We are thankful to play a small part in helping to create an environment for that care to happen for the people of Abilene.”
Highland was originally connected to TMOM through Norman Archibald, who is the mayor of Abilene as well as an elder at Highland. The church is responsible for providing food to the volunteers, dental professionals and patients at the event, an effort coordinated by Amanda Spell, a Highland member and local caterer.
Volunteers support the event by donating money or by helping register patients. Students are encouraged to help by signing up through Highland to prepare or serve food at the event. Siburt said he thinks it is a worthwhile endeavor.
“It can help change people’s lives and outlook on their lives in many positive ways,” Siburt said. “Students will be blessed if they get to engage for any amount of time.”