Today makes 10 years since the passing of my dad, Dr. Ronald B. Stringer. I was barely 25 at the time, married before kids, whatever that was like. Much has happened since October 11, 2005. To mark the occasion, here’s an excerpt from my essay, Pulling Teeth published last year in the book, Father Factor.
My father wasn’t always a jungle doctor.
By the time I entered kindergarten, he had grown a successful dental practice in downtown Honolulu, where patients appreciated his gentle touch and chair-side manner. My dad loved dentistry, but over a decade of fixing American teeth had failed to satisfy his desire to make a difference. His professional colleagues affirmed his skills and contributions, but Dad felt he wasn’t taking full advantage of his gifts. He wanted more of a challenge.
An active church leader, he helped start a cluster of new churches meeting in suburban homes like ours, where friends appreciated his ability to explain spiritual concepts in simple language. A faithful husband and playful father, he enjoyed living in Hawaii, but still wanted something more. As my dad understood it, his Christian faith demanded more.The restlessness began in 1979, the year before I was born, when Dad discovered the value of his skills as as oral surgeon during a two-week mission trip to the Dominican Republic, sponsored by the Christian Medical and Dental Association. He could brighten many smiles in America, but overseas, he could save lives and train others to do the same. Dad was not content to pray for the poor from a distance; he wanted to fix their teeth. Personally.
Following nearly a decade of prayerful discernment and discussion among trusted friends, my parents made a full-time commitment to international dentistry in 1987, signing on with the Presbyterian Church (USA) as mission co-workers in the Congo, then called Zaire. For the next 12 years, Dad lived his dream as an international missionary dentist. His young family of five would never be the same.