The Broken Tooth: Guest Post from Sister Deb Roundy, New Missionary in Vanuatu

of Shanghai’s most interesting and famous foreigners, Debra Roundy from
Idaho, has left Shanghai to serve with her husband, Carlos Roundy, as a
missionary couple in Vanuatu. She was famous in Shanghai partially because of her years of work in dance with local Shanghai social dance groups and has been on TV and in the newspaper numerous times. Now she’s in a much smaller and very different place, a mysterious island nation that has the world’s greatest
diversity in languages. 

One of her recent posts reflecting on her
service and her experiences in Shanghai caught my eye, and I asked if
she would be willing to share it here on Mormanity. After further work
and additions, she has kindly submitted the following account in a story
called “The Broken Tooth.”

“The Broken Tooth”

Guest post by Sister Deb Roundy, missionary in Vanuatu

For several years in the 1980’s-1990’s, I was able to attend LDS Woman’s Conference in Provo. One year they told us that soon they would be starting a Humanitarian arm of the church. I was excited. I listened, watched and waited. Finally it started up. At first we were given simple directions to make school, hygiene and new baby kits to mail into Salt Lake. Then things grew, eventually they started having projects at the Woman’s Conference. By then I had made many kits. A friend of mine, Kathy Duncan, started taking shipments down to Salt Lake. She was put in the stake Relief Society Presidency and started two Humanitarian Days a year. Soon she was taking her horse trailer filled with donations from the good sisters of the Rupert area.

When my daughter Seresa was a senior in high school, about 1996, she was working on her senior project for learning skills such as leadership and organization as seniors do something good to help the world.  She chose to make school bags to be given to the Humanitarian Center for distribution wherever needed in the world.

That year we had Inga, an exchange student from Russia, living with us. I was also a counselor for exchange students and our area had been able to sponsor two students from Russia. It was the first year Russian Exchange students were sent to the USA and it was on a special scholarship.   I was able to get funds thanks to a donation by a local bank to take Inga and another student from Russia, Kirill, to a BSA Scout camp, Philmont.

We decided to take the school bags down to the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City on the way to Philmont.  We arrived at the center and turned in the bags, then took a tour.  We started at a big blackboard covered with names of places. Our guide informed us that this is where the next shipments of supplies would be going. To our great surprise and delight one shipment was going to an orphanage in the town where Inga lived and another to the very town that Kirill lived.  What an amazing occurrence.  Both of them were thrilled that their people would be helped.

We continued on visiting the rooms full of supplies. We saw bundles of good clothes compressed in 100 pound bundles.  They would be sent to Africa and sold for very little money to clothing sellers in Africa who would, in turn, sell the clothes cheaply to the people in their village.  We had learned that if you just give the people clothing, the clothes seller has no income to feed his family so instead we sell it for what they can afford, and then the entire economy of the village can improve. People buy his clothes so he has money to buy food and goods from other villagers who in turn have money to buy more clothes.

We saw lots of medical supplies ready for shipment.  Hospitals might donate their excess or doctors might clean their offices and then donate so they could have tidy offices.

We saw school kits such as my daughter made being prepared for shipment.  The guide told us stories of places in Africa where paper was so priceless that children would take a gum wrapper to write assignments on. They would first write back and forth, then up and down. Then they would turn the wrapper to the side and write diagonally.  Last they would turn the wrapper to the other side and write yet one more time.  Erasing was done with care so as not to tear the paper.  Every scrap was precious. Pencils donated and sent to Africa might be broken in two to be passed to more children.  Things that we have a lot of we learned were precious commodities in some places in the world.  Some of these children would now have notebooks full of paper and pencils to share as well as other needed supplies.  We learned that they always share when they get a school kit.

School kits being assembled for shipment and then a distribution point

We had toured most of the facility and the teens were a bit tired so she invited them to sit down for a few minutes and rest. She then signaled me to follow her as she had something she wanted me to see while the kids rested. The guide took me into a special room. She was excited. It was filled floor to ceiling with medical textbooks. Row after row and shelf after shelf after shelf of brand new medical text books donated by book companies.  “See all these medical text books, they are ready for shipment,” she said excitedly.

We have to translate all of the books into many of the world’s languages. It takes five years.  By then the text books are obsolete but it is all we could do.  Now we are starting a new program sending English teachers throughout the world to teach English.  Then the doctors can read the text books themselves and have the latest in research and development immediately available to them.  (This was before the internet, think of it now!) This was a passion for her.

She then said, you are a teacher, maybe someday when you retire you’ll be teaching English somewhere in the world and helping us to bring the latest in medical developments to the entire world.  These doctors are very intelligent, they just need one tool to help them, English. It is more time effective and cost effective to send teachers to teach them English than it is to translate books that will be obsolete before we can get them in the hands of those who need them. We are just starting now. Think of the possibilities!

That was about in 1996, so almost 20 years have passed. In those twenty years we have seen an unprecedented explosion of knowledge as the world has never seen before.  The internet is available in almost every place on the entire planet, and much of it is in English. It has been interesting to watch the internet grow and flourish.

Last week [Deb wrote this while in Shanghai] on October 31, 2015 I broke off a big chunk of my back right molar tooth. I would have to see a dentist, and soon. I worried. Would he have the latest technology? Maybe he would just pull the tooth, but the roots were still good. What would happen?

I arrived at the dental clinic, sponsored by my university, Tongji University [a prominent university in northeastern Shanghai]. Some of my students were studying to be dentists. A friend of mine who lives in the Xuhui area [in western Shanghai, near the French Concession region] travels clear across town to go to the dental hospital there so it must be a good one. Still I was a bit apprehensive.

When I arrived someone came to help me fill out the paperwork. He was very polite and helpful. He had good English. I went to see the doctor and she looked at the tooth. It was bad, worse than they had expected. I had not been able to explain it adequately to the person who was my liaison and would help me. She had sent me to a regular dentist. I was sent to a specialist in the same building.

The new dentist was apprehensive. He felt he did not speak good enough English and he was worried. The dental nurse told him to use sign language and we both laughed. It put us at ease. I was assuring him that it would be alright, instead of him assuring me.

He looked at the tooth and at the x-ray I had brought. The entire upper surface of the tooth would need to be rebuilt. He could not tell me what he was doing but soon I relaxed as I knew what he was doing. My dentist in the USA had done the same. He took an impression of my mouth. I knew he was going to make a new porcelain tooth. He did it just like my dentist in the USA had. I recognized all of the steps. He had all of the latest equipment and the latest training.

He had to hammer the old tooth off, but when he saw that it hurt, even just a little, he gave me a shot with some stuff to numb it and just a little, not too much so my mouth was ok. I do not like too much and he was able to understand my sign language and limited, very limited Mandarin.

He took an impression then put a temporary tooth on. He patiently drilled the temporary down just right so it would be comfortable for the week I needed it. He would then have a new tooth made. We even chose out a good color to match the other teeth so it would look right.

Soon enough it was done. I left the clinic assured that I had a good dentist with the latest technology.

Then as I walked to the metro station I remembered long ago going to the Humanitarian Center and seeing the room full of medical text books. I knew that Brigham Young University had had teachers at Tongji for almost 20 years. The first teachers had come in 1997, about a year after I had been at the Humanitarian Center with my daughter and been invited to someday be an English teacher overseas. I realized that the doctor had possibly had a BYU-CTP teacher for a semester or two. If not him, then others at the clinic may have. Those doctors may have read the English medical text books and share the information with their colleges. In some way it is likely that my dentist had been given knowledge as a result of the BYU-CTP. I was directly helped by the program as my dentist had communicated with me. I was literally experiencing the results of our program to share with the world to bring to the world the latest in medical technology. Not only can we share our technology but they can share theirs. My work with students will help them have the knowledge and courage to travel, and to share their discoveries as they research, experiment and present at conferences all over the world.

As I searched the web I learned that now we provide English lessons free of charge. Free English lessons are available all over the world, even in Utah and Idaho for people who have come to the USA from other countries.

Sister Roundy doing a community service volunteer presentation for the Tianping Community Center

I wrote one of my dental students and he was so pleased to hear it. I think it will give him the drive to learn English even better. I know it gives me the will to teach English the best I can to my students.

What a special opportunity a broken tooth became for me, it enriched my life.

Carlos and me with some BYU-CTP teachers. We can only stay with this program for three years so we are “graduated” with the BYU-CTP but continued on for two more years, then returned and volunteered with the community we had grown to love for 3 months, until we returned to the USA to prepare for a humanitarian mission in Vanuatu.

Here are a few pictures of Humanitarian Days we had in Idaho and I used to be involved in.

The pictures up to the x-ray of the tooth all came from the church website.

The tooth x-ray was made by my dentist. The other pictures are mine. My student gave me permission to use his picture to share with others.

The large picture of sisters was taken by someone, not me.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

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