News Articles

Dentist’s Frequent Flyer miles carry him to overseas missions

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–It was a long house call for Joseph Pipkin. The 75-year-old Florida dentist traveled 24,000 miles to spend a month in Indonesia recently as a volunteer with the International Mission Board.
“We’re just there to help them any way we can,” he said.
The Indonesian people are predominately Muslim, though their bill of rights also includes a freedom to choose religions. In its Indonesian setting, meanwhile, the Baptist hospital in Kediri offers an outreach with health care to all the people, with the help of volunteers like Pipkin.
Most of the hospital’s patients come “because of the cleanliness, the good care and the evidence that the patients are treated as creations of God,” explained Donald Duvall, medical director and general surgeon.
Duvall’s wife, Sarah, is an obstetrician at the hospital. Together they have worked 29 years there as Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries.
“In the last four years, an average of over 1,000 (nationals) per year have expressed an interest in knowing more about the gospel,” Duvall said.
“It’s like going to your second home,” Pipkin said of his trips to the hospital. “We can’t talk the language but we can put a foundation of love under it.”
Pipkin helped design the hospital’s dental clinic four years ago. He also brings new dental equipment and updates on technique during his visits.
Pipkin attends dental meetings around the United States – – and those Frequent Flier miles help cover travel expenses for his Indonesia trips.
“The Pipkins are a joy to be with,” Duvall said. “Both Joe and Katherine have been a great help to the hospital.”
The Baptist Medical-Dental Fellowship has 1,700 physicians and dentists around the world who volunteer in short mission projects.
Pipkin is a member of Orlando College Park Baptist Church who was the fellowship’s 1983-84 president.
“We have friends all over the world,” he said, of missionaries with whom he has shared joys and sorrows.
Pipkin’s dental practice began 47 years ago. For 32 of those years, he has worked 11 months at home and then volunteered four weeks on medical missions. That took his wife and him to countries like Indonesia, Yemen, India, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
“Anybody that will go and work for free is very welcome,” he said.
Emeritus missionary Kathleen Jones started the Baptist hospital in Kediri after going to Indonesia in 1953. They had 10 patients then. Now the mission has a publishing house, seminary, radio and television outreach and church planting center.
Jones helped establish three churches from the hospital in her 35-year career.
“That’s why we started the hospital,” she said. “We found that medical work does open doors.”
According to the Indonesian Department of Information, the country is a collection of 13,667 islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Approximately 6,000 are inhabited with more than 180 million people. That makes it the fifth most populated country in the world.
Pipkin grew up attending First Baptist Church in Athens, Tenn. He went to Italy in World War II as an information and education officer.
“It was the beginning of being interested in foreign missions,” he said.
He returned home after the war and finished his education at Ouachita Baptist University and the University of Tennessee college of dentistry.
“There were not many dentists around the world doing dental missions,” he explained, adding, “I’m a better dentist than if I hadn’t gone.”

    About the Author

  • Clay Renick