DRACUT -- It's hard to keep track of Dr. Jack Mitchell.
The Dracut dentist, who for many years had a successful practice in Lowell, has traveled to about 35 different countries around the world, ministering to missionaries in the field as well as natives in very remote areas.
Mitchell, who grew up in Lowell and graduated from Keith Academy and Ohio University, earned his degree from Tufts Dental School in 1975. His Merrimack Street office was very successful and he volunteered his services in several local nursing homes.
"I was very busy and making a good income," said Mitchell, who frequently travels with his wife, Jennifer, by his side. "I was enjoying all the comforts of this world and wasn't too concerned about what happens after death. I believed in God and I believed in heaven and hell. I thought I was a good person, but I wasn't truly happy. Something was missing."
Mitchell says that in 1987 he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior and his life just took a completely different direction. Not long after his conversion, he made the difficult decision to leave his practice to work with the elderly in area nursing homes.
While attending a Bible conference in Burlington, Mitchell met a missionary from Senegal, West Africa, who was home on furlough and needed work done on his teeth. Mitchell soon realized that the portable equipment he used in the nursing homes could be brought anywhere in the world.
Thus was born the Grace Dental Mission, a nonprofit ministry that has grown exponentially since its inception in 1994. In 2009, the ministry expanded to include medical doctors and is now called Grace Dental and Medical Mission.
And although he no longer works in the nursing homes as a dentist, he still conducts a Bible study with the residents.
Q: What was the reason behind the name change?
A: "The reason was twofold. First, when we would go on a ministry trip with just a dentist, people would ask us if we had a medical doctor with us. It was hard for us to say no. So we knew there was a need for medical help as well as dental. Second, since our purpose is to bring people into contact with the teaching of the Bible related to how to be sure you will go to heaven when you die, we felt that we could bring that message to more people if we had medical as well as dental personnel involved."
Q: Is most of your time on the field spent fixing missionaries' teeth or those of the natives?
A: "We do both, but now most of our efforts are directed toward the native peoples. The physical needs of people around the world are staggering."
Q: Where has your ministry taken you?
A: "Our ministry has now taken us to about 35 countries, some on multiple occasions. We've been from Africa to Eastern Europe to the Pacific Islands to the Caribbean Islands to Central America, to South America, to Indian Reservations in the United States, to Southeast Asia, to India and so on."
Q: How many people accompany you on the average missionary trip?
A: "Our trips average out to include about eight to 10 people."
Q: What's next for Jack and Jennifer Mitchell and Grace Dental and Medical Missions?
A: "Next month, December, we'll be going to Southeast Asia and in January we will be going to the African country of Benin. Also, our mission was recently about to rent a larger facility in Methuen and we will begin operating from there this month. We're thankful to God for providing the means to be able to rent this building. God has been very faithful to us over the years."