On Jan. 20, the Sons of the Utah Pioneers held their monthly chapter meeting with guest speaker Dr. Theron Crowther, of Milton.
Crowther is a local dentist in Morgan. He works with his son Lance. Each year Theron and Lance take 10 days out of their busy practices and travel with 28 other LDS dental workers to perform volunteer dental services for the Guatemalan people. He and his team have been doing this for over 20 years.
At the meeting Theron held the audience spell bound with stories about his work over the years. The team members pay all their own expenses (about $3,000 per person). They bring their own medications, tools and equipment with them. They travel into the more rural parts of the country where such services are not usually available.
The area is dangerous, and the team encounters major difficulties while they are there. Even though they must have armed guards travel with them, they treat bus loads of patients each day. Theron says he has personally extracted as many as 100 teeth in a single day.
Last year’s work was among the Quechan people. He related a story about the mayor of a small Quechan town. She did all she could to make their stay good. There were so many trying to get into the clinic that Lance had to stand on top of the building and throw small packages into the crowd to divert their attention so the workers could get into and out of the clinic. This mayor had had her own husband murdered two months before their visit, but she was determined to make the work available for her people.
At times the dentists come across corrupt local governments that try to take political credit for the team’s work. The team tries diligently to avoid this type of exploitation. “It is just better for no one to know we’re there,” says Theron. “But local news people throng our sites.”
The people have so little and are extremely poor. One older woman asked Theron to come to her home, which was only a shack about 15’ by 15’. She slept with a tattered piece of plastic over her bed to keep off the rain. The team did all they could to help alleviate her plight.
Sometimes people would come into the clinic and ask the dentists to pull all of their teeth. Theron would say, “But how will you chew?” They didn’t care; the pain they were experiencing was so great that they just wanted to be free of it.
Sometimes the dentists got tainted food. Theron remembers one small hostel. They had eaten food brought to them by locals. All of the team got sick. The privy was a community source, so they were all lined up to use it. But they kept on doing their dental procedures, nevertheless.
One time, after they had finished the day’s work, a double rainbow appeared over the clinic at 5 p.m. One of the local people said it was a sign from God that what they were doing was a great miracle. There was a common understanding that seemed to go from village to village warning the locals “not to hurt these guys.”
Elder McKay Kearsley, of the Milton Ward, serves among the Quechan people. “He is getting along wonderfully,” says Theron. “It is a mark of courage that they’re out there on the Lord’s errand. They certainly are protected.”