A desire to help others led Dr. Rebecca Runyan Temp to become a dentist. This same desire recently took her to Guatemala with “Smiles for Central America,” an organization that helps prepare prospective LDS missionaries by providing medical and dental care and more. Sister Temp and her husband, Archie, are members of the Crosspoint Ward, Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stake. They are the parents of four children.
Volunteers on these expeditions pay all of their own expenses as well as bring the medical and dental supplies they need. In addition to providing the dental and medical services to help prepare young Central American men and women to serve fulltime LDS missions, “Smiles for Central America” also provides hope, love, and support to those in Central America. The organization’s expeditions include a variety of community service projects.
Becky says, once the group arrived, a “clinic” was set up in a local stake center. Becky says her group included 25 dentists, 5 endodontists and 7 oral surgeons. Her sister, Randi Harris (from Littleton, Colorado), went as her assistant.
“There were also people to run sterilization, check-in, to help with the missionary photos, haircuts, paperwork, medical labs, etc. There were about 130 people all together on this trip,” says Dr. Temp. “We saw, helped and treated 811 prospective missionaries.”
The clinic days were long, tiring, and rewarding, Becky says.
“The kids would travel up to three hours by bus. After they completed considerable paperwork, we could start working with them. Some days we worked until about 10 p.m., but usually we wrapped up by about 7. We did lots of cleanings and fillings, as well as root canals and extractions. After five full days in the clinic, each volunteer took a half-day humanitarian trip.”
On Sunday, the volunteers drove two hours to attend Sacrament Meeting in a small village. After the meeting, they gave out clothes, toiletries, blankets, white shirts and ties to the members there. They even had donation of princess dresses, superhero capes, and CTR rings to share with the members.
That night they returned to Guatemala City, where they held a fireside for all the prospective missionaries and their families. Afterward, they walked around Guatemala City Temple grounds.
“This trip was much more than just their caring for their teeth. It gave me new perspective about the sacrifices made to serve missions. In the states, it’s more about the missionaries putting their own lives on hold while they serve. In Guatemala, these kids are often caregivers and financial supporters for their families. For them to be able to set aside money for a mission is a true hardship. To have them gone for 18 to 24 months, while not supporting their families is a much different situation than we have here,” says Sister Temp.
“However,” she says, “many blessings come to them and their families when they serve. Returned missionaries acting as translators in the clinic told us how serving a mission changed their lives. They learned languages, organization and commitment that would’ve been difficult to learn otherwise.”
Dr. Temp is a partner at Mountain View Family Dentistry in Mesa. She enjoys being with her family, boating, quilting, and playing board games. She loves serving in the church and has been a nursery leader, Primary chorister, Visiting Teacher coordinator, Relief Society president and teacher, and Sunday School teacher, among other callings.
Sister Temp is looking forward to another missionary prep trip, once her high schoolers graduate.
Along with the dentists and doctors, the Smiles for Central America expeditions require non-professional volunteers as well. Trips are held twice a year. More information can be found at: http://www.smilesforcentralamerica.com/.