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Dr. Mike and Debbie Durnin

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A Mission to the Third World

What began as a simple mission trip has turned into a new way of life for the Durnin Family.

Originally, Dr. Mike Durnin and his wife, Debbie, just wanted their teenagers to understand what life was like in a third world country, so they would understand and appreciate all the opportunities they were given. Now, they go to the small bay island of Helene, in the Honduras, several times a year to bring dental services to the people there.

This small island  has no roads, no power and the dental clinic brings their own generator to the mission. The mission itself brings clean water to the islanders. Dr. Durnin takes dive tanks and portable equipment to run the dental clinic, and even bring their own chairs.

While they are there for a minimum of two weeks at a time, the impact they have on the island is huge. Helene has a strong sense of community already and they are learning through this mission’s program to become cleaner and stronger. Dr. Durnin’s girls were immediately impressed by the children’s happiness at simply finding an empty water bottle to play with - toys are not commonplace among them.

On an island with a population of just 800 to 1,000 people, they see an abundance of islanders during their stay of all ages. However, you see the passion in the Durnin’s eyes as they speak of the island’s children.

It takes 45 minutes to ride from the airport to the boat that will take them to Helene, and another hour boat ride in a very tropical climate to actually make it to Helene.  The mission in Helene has also been teaching two of the native girls to clean teeth, and one of them is making plans to go to dental school.

While the Durnin’s trips are mostly self funded, local Sandpoint dentists contribute a great deal of supplies; last year one trip around town to the dentists netted over 300 pounds of very needed  dental supplies. One patient of Dr. Durnin collects teddy bears of all shapes and sizes for the children who attend the dental clinic on the island, which is a cause for great excitement among the kids there.

Now plans are underway for a new clinic at Guanaja, another bay island in the Honduras, with a larger population than Helene. Guanaja was leveled 10 years ago by hurricane Mitch, leaving nothing in its wake but devastation.

Dr. Durnin and Debbie visit Helene through Alternative Missions, a non-denominational group that pioneers and runs ministry projects in various countries. To learn more, visit their website at alternativemissions.com.

When asked what he was most impressed with about the people on Helene, Dr. Durnin shook his head and said, “They have nothing but each other. They have no worldly goods, most have no education, but these simple people are happier than nine out of ten people you will ever meet in America.”

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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