The Honesty We're After

Hope Smiles has a BIG vision: to fully develop our God-given talents and resources to build God’s Kingdom by providing quality, compassionate dental care that transforms lives all over the planet.

Here in Uganda, our team recognizes it is not enough to focus on transforming lives solely in Uganda. Our challenge is to do thatand develop ownership of our organizational culture, core values, and standard operating procedures to the point where we can replicate our clinic elsewhere: both in Uganda and all over the world. For instance, Anna, our lead assistant, knows she will eventually be training future Hope Smiles assistants in other towns throughout Uganda as well as in Haiti and beyond.


Since you are reading this, you are part of this big vision of ours. YOU make our team here in Uganda (and in Haiti and the USA) possible, and we want you to know how we carry out that vision. We want you to know our successes and our challenges. Since you make this possible, you should know what we are learning. Maybe in some small way it can help you as you navigate your path.

One of our highest values as an organization is honesty. It’s simple, but it needs to be said. If our vision is to make quality, compassionate dental care that transforms lives a reality in unreached places, every member of our team needs to be sold out in the persistent pursuit of excellence. Currently we have 19 people on our team on the ground in Uganda. With the amount of need here, each of us has to chase after that vision with all of our mind, body, and soul.

There’s no other way.


Each team member plays a critical role as we pursue our vision. Because we rely on each other, it is absolutely essential that we trust each other. I need to know my teammates have my back, and they need to know I have theirs. If I have doubts about whether my teammate is telling me the truth or not, we’ve already failed.

The only way we develop that trust is through honesty — obviously in our words, but also in our work ethic. To us, honesty in work ethic means coming prepared to face the challenges of the day. We don’t just roll out of bed and show up on time because we have to. We prepare our minds to lead each other and our patients throughout the day. Early in the morning, we are preparing our spirit — reading Scripture, praying, repenting where we need to repent — to face the challenges God gives us.

Can I look my teammates in the eye and tell them I’ve done my best with the time and talents God gave me today? If the answer is yes, I’ve been honest in my work ethic.

Here’s another simple way this plays out: How do we react to making mistakes? Do we cover it up? Or do we fix it and learn from it? We need to be honest with ourselves and each other in how we are carrying out our daily responsibilities. We recognize no one is trying to make a mistake, so we are all responsible for developing a culture that encourages us to embrace our mistakes, correct them, and learn from them so we can continuously improve. In doing this, we help our teammates avoid the same pitfalls. Ignoring or denying our mistakes denies us that growth.


What’s more, we don’t have time for shame… and we are not going to have that in our culture. When we witness a teammate making a mistake, we are going to speak the truth in love to that person. We are going to talk about the problem, not the person. We are going to come back to why we do things the way do. We are going to understand where and why the mistake took place. We are going to continuously improve.

If we are honest about developing a healthy culture that will sustain itself for generations, that’s how we are going to correct each other. That’s the honesty we are after.

Persistently pursuing our vision in honesty means we come together fully acknowledging that none of us are perfect. None of us are Jesus. Yet we have been called by Him to bring what we have to the table — warts and all— offering our lives as a living sacrifice to Him. We can do it confidently because He did it for us. He has shown us the way. And it’s in that struggle, as we honestly pursue the vision placed before us, we see our lives becoming more like His.

Gradi Ellis