A new book, Missionary Memories, written by an American Baptist layman, Dr. Ron Dingee, is an inspiring memoir of his extraordinary experiences as a part-time volunteer medical missionary that took him from his dental office in western Pennsylvania to remote villages of Africa, Haiti, Mexico, Latin America and Thailand.
It all started when Ron accepted the invitation of Rev. Richard Christeleit, a representative of ABCUSA Division of World Mission Support for Pennsylvania and Delaware, to go on a mission trip that included El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala back in 1978. His life has never been the same.
While in Nicaragua, Ron met Rev. Maurice Phillips of West Virginia, also a representative of ABCUSA Division of World Mission Support, who later invited him several times to Mexico and Haiti. The book also details a work trip sponsored by his church, FBC of Greensburg, PA, and the miracle that helped to replace a huge sidewalk and reinforce a collapsing utility room at a Spanish Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
One evening, while attending a church function in Meadville, PA with other IM missionaries, the missionary representing Zaire invited him to go to Africa. At first, he declined saying that a trip like that would be impossible, but six months later, awoke in the middle of the night and announced to his sleepy wife that he was going to Africa. While there, in Zaire the first time, he lived with Leon and Martha Emmert, former IM missionaries.
Of Leon and Martha Emmert in Zaire, Ron recalls the magnificent cross Martha built for the church in Matadi., and about how important the mail was to the missionaries.
Ron recalls, “Every once in a while they’d get a check in the mail to use ‘as they saw fit’ the letter would say. Then late at night, someone would come begging for food or medical care. Later, I’d hear her [Martha] shuffle back to her bedroom, open the drawer that squeeked and shuffle back where he’d hear, ‘Merci Mama Emmert, Merci.’”
While in Zaire, living with the Emmerts, Ron met Dr. Dan Fountain, a former IM missionary at the Vanga hospital who invited him to Vanga. His name also appears in Missionary Memories.
Ron says, “After seeing Dr. Dan’s White Flag public health program in the Vanga area, and the hill tribe’s medical outreach program in Thailand, I was prompted to go to graduate school for my Masters degree in Public Health. with advanced studies at the University of London’s School of Tropical Medicine.
A year or so later, while he and his wife, Evelyn, were attending an IM World Mission Conference, Dr. Bina Sawyer, a former IM missionary, invited them to Thailand. They eagerly accepted and a year later lived with Dr. Sawyer in Thailand.
“Bina was a real doll,” he recalls. “Many times, in the middle of the night, she’d get a call from the hospital. Never once did I ever hear her raise her voice or show impatience.”
While in Thailand living with Dr. Sawyer, they met Dr. Phil McDaniel, another former IM missionary who invited them to visit the Kwai River Missionary Hospital. They spent a month there.
Dr. Dingee remembers with a smile, “Phil would deliver a baby in the morning, remove a cataract before lunch, set a broken bone and repair a gun shot wound before dinner. He could do anything.”
Ron and Evelyn twice sought appointment as full-time IM
missionaries. The right match with the partners’ needs and invitations was not
found, however, until they received a call from IM and were asked to consider
co-managing the Bangkok Christian Guest House in Bangkok, Thailand.
Within a couple of months, they sold their home and his dental practice to serve from 1991 to 1995.
Written with humor and compassion, Ron not only writes of his experiences on the mission field that forever changed his life, but creatively weaves in the story of the events and heart-breaking decisions surrounding the failing health of a loved one, concluding with the advice he received from a friend that, “No matter what you do, or don’t do, or whatever you say, or don’t say, there will always be regrets.”
In a recent interview with Dr. Dingee, he was asked what important message he would like everyone to get from his book. His reply was, “Don’t underestimate the power of an invitation.”
Missionary Memories by Dr. Ron Dingee can be found in print and ebook formats at Amazon.com. Ron welcomes comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron and Evelyn, currently retired, divide their time between California and Pennsylvania.