Grateful in Gratitude.

“Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace — as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand.”
— Brennan Manning

Before we serve our first patients each morning, we gather as a team to study scripture, prepare our hearts to love each other and our patients well, and talk about the challenges we are facing each day with our work — and how we can embrace them together. This past week we realized it’s been just over a year since we moved to our new building — we moved our equipment from the cramped, sauna-like room on Lubas Road to our current location on Kiira Road with 4 operatories and a reception room on November 15, 2015. Anne, Anna, David and I (our team members who were present then) were particularly amazed to think about how far God has brought us over the past year. The word we kept repeating over and over?



We are grateful for how our team has grown over the past year. We now have __ team members. Each member of our team completely believes in our mission of making quality, compassionate dental care that transforms lives accessible to every Ugandan. We do not have anyone just going through the motions. Our team is invested in our mission because they have experienced the transformation in themselves and in the lives of our patients. We’ve seen that transformation only comes after belief, and that belief fuels the spiritual strength and disciplined work habits which allows us to enjoy the fruits of transformation in the lives of our patients. We have seen this is true on the deepest level. The daily stance of our hearts, each thought we think, each word we speak, and how we execute every detail of our daily duties on our team can either bring us closer to our vision or allow us to drift away from that vision. We are grateful to be a part of a team committed to a vision greater than ourselves.

We also are grateful that this gratitude is grounded in reality. It isn’t naïve or divorced from the struggles of the world we live in. Our gratitude does not exist in spite of the struggles we face…it is enhanced because of them. We are grateful God has given us the opportunity to provide quality, compassionate dental care that transforms lives to people who otherwise would not have access to it. We are grateful BECAUSE this is not easy. No one can simply show up and go though the motions and build the relationships necessary to transform lives. Each day we learn about the struggles our patients face. We learn more about their worlds, which broadens ours. Personally I continue to learn about our teammates both individually and collectively so we can best develop relationships and processes to transform lives. It isn’t always as smooth as we like, but it is authentic. The struggle and striving and teaching and listening brings us to a place where we recognize the need to lay down our pride and ego and replace them with the love and grace God has shown us in Jesus. Bonhoeffer once said “we live in the penultimate while we believe in the ultimate.” This gives us real hope and encouragement in the face of financial, relational, educational, and systemic challenges that are real and need to be addressed.

We also are grateful for our patients, who trust us with their health. We are grateful for parents who listen as we counsel them on who to care for their health of their children — and enthusiastically put into practice proper oral hygiene and diet counseling at home. We think of patients who have had their smiles transformed — patients who have committed to health. Patients who have said goodbye to old habits and embraced new ones to maintain their new smiles. We are grateful for the joy filled stories they tell us about how Hope Smiles has transformed their lives. They inspire us to keep pursuing our vision!


We are grateful for the people around the world who have financially supported Hope Smiles Uganda over the past 3 years! While we certainly have big plans to grown in 2017 and beyond, we know we would not be here without the support of people all over the planet who have generously supported the vision of Hope Smiles. You have truly transformed lives — provided empowering jobs, life-changing dental care, and initiated educational programs that will reduce the prevalence of oral disease in Uganda! We would not be where we are without people who believe in the vision, recognize its importance, and invest in transformation through access to quality, compassionate dental care!

We are grateful for the dental professionals who visited us over the past year — Dr. Anil Idiculla, Dr. Sheldon Salins, Dr. Kristy Dye, and Dr. Natasha Bramley. They have not only shared their expertise with our team and given us the ability provide more treatment options to our patients. They have led what we hope will be a paradigm shift in how health care professionals from the West can promote long-term shifts in the accessibility of their expertise in under resourced nations. Their influence and expertise extends beyond their short time here. Their investment in our Ugandan teammates makes treatment options (even orthodontics) available to people who otherwise would not have access to transformative dental care. Which allows our Ugandan teammates to lead the development of these treatment modalities in their own country.

Most of all, we are grateful to serve a God who has provided us with a hope that will not fail. We can use wisdom, develop our talents, take risks, and work passionately as we dream about what is possible — and do all of this free of fear — because He has given us all we need.


God has shown us love and grace on the cross. He freed us from our constant need to prove ourselves. He has shown us real humility. He is God, yet He became like us. He shows us we were not created to maneuver and position ourselves simply to be comfortable and respected here on Earth. He has given us the freedom to love Him, love others, work hard, and build his Kingdom because of the life, death, resurrection of Jesus. We know that hope will not fail us, and we press on because of it.

Finally, to all of my family and friends in America — Happy Thanksgiving!

Gradi Ellis