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My Aching Teeth in Yancy County


God is at work in Yancy County, North Carolina. Yancy County is the poorest county in one of the poorest states in the union. This is where we just completed a wonderful exploratory meeting with those interested in forming a FOCUS Center in Appalachia.

DSC03660While I was driving to the meeting, our good friend, Ron Moore, told me two stories that even with my years of experience on the hard streets of Nashville working in homeless ministry made me pause.

Ron told the story of our first two “guests” in January that received care from one of our first outreaches of our budding FOCUS Center in Appalachia. He drove the guests down the mountain to receive dental care from a faithful dentist who offered his services free to us.

Ron told me that the first guest was a taxidermist who recently lost his job after a tragic accident. He developed an abscessed tooth that needed to be pulled. Unable to pay $200 to pay for treatment, this man tried to use a rusty metal file from his workshop to file the tooth away. The second guest was in such great pain from a cavity that he tried to use a Dremel tool to relieve the pain.

Thank God through the FOCUS Center in formation here these men were able to get their teeth pulled for free and use their very limited resources for other basic necessities. These sad stories can unfortunately be multiplied over and over again. They give us an all too tangible sense of the extreme poverty even here in North America. They reinforce the real need for us to unite in ministry through FOCUS North America to serve.

In Romans 12:4 St. Paul says, “So we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let us use them…”

St. Paul’s words to us in Romans speak of being “members of one another,” connected in an intimate way by our humanity as living icons of God that transcends our normal understanding of family and responsibility for one another. We should rejoice when others are rejoicing but also ache when others are aching. In reality, the desperately aching teeth of the poor in Yancy County should cause me to ache as well.

Based on these words of St. Paul and the two stories I heard, I am convinced that a FOCUS Appalachia Center is not only possible, it is essential. Thank you for your generous gifts to FOCUS North America that are already helping to build FOCUS Centers to help the least of these here at home.


- Fr. Justin

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