Dr. Marlin Meharry (left) of Harvey, ND, received the 2011 North Dakota Dental Association Outstanding Achievement Award.

Marlin Meharry is not just a dreamer, although he dreamed all his life of serving others across the world and pursued a dental degree to help achieve his dream. He is not just a doer, although he uses his resources and influence to do more as a dentist than most full time missionaries. Dr. Meharry is not an ordinary man; he is one of those rare individuals who combines dreaming and doing to bring positive change in the world around him.

After graduating from Loma Linda University Dental School in 1980, Marlin jumped into dental service with both feet; literally, landing smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He began as a traveling dentist through the Micronesian Marshall Islands, bringing dental care to the previously underserved local population. From there, Marlin decided to stretch his legs closer to the mainland, stopping to serve in Taiwan for a short time.

After transferring to Okinawa, Japan in 1982, Marlin reconnected with an old high school friend, Jan, who soon became his wife and partner in service. Marlin and Jan share a passion for overseas ministry that not only brought them together but has kept them by each other’s side for 29 years. Although Marlin enjoyed his work as director for clinics associated with the Adventist Medical Center in Naha, Japan, the couple felt called to show their three young children more of the world. After carefully considering their options and working in California for a couple of years, Marlin and Jan accepted a call to Nairobi, Kenya. Marlin served as director for the Adventist clinic there from 1989 through 1995, improving dental care for church workers and the people of Nairobi as well as creating a mobile dental unit to serve remote villages that previously had no access to basic dental necessities.

While living in Kenya, the Meharrys completed their family with the adoption of their youngest son, a native Kenyan. Jan particularly fell in love with the Maasai tribe and felt a burden to help them navigate the modern world that was fast claiming their country. Maasai Development Project (MDP), a non-profit organization committed to the survival and education of the Maasai people, was born from this burden. Although the Meharry family returned to the United States in 1996, Jan and Marlin continue to partially finance and provide total leadership to this organization of lay pastors, literacy teachers and educational rescue centers. Marlin is not only MDP’s most faithful philanthropic supporter, he also uses his own vacation time to conduct medical and dental mission trips to underserved areas of Kenya three times each year.

Marlin also lends his wisdom and service to a variety of organizations back home in North Dakota. Besides running his beloved dental practice in Harvey since 1996, Marlin also serves as Wells County Health Board chairman, chairman for the Black Hills Health and Education Center Board of Directors and sits on the Loma Linda University Alumni Association Board of Directors.

In his limited spare time, Marlin enjoys seeing the world through the eyes of his three grandchildren and doing everything he can to spend time with his family. His four children are now scattered across the country pursuing their own dreams, inspired by their hard-working, dream-chasing father and mother.

Indeed, Marlin Meharry is no ordinary man—his extraordinary life and accomplishments prove that he dreams big, does much and lives to serve others humbly, compassionately, fully.

This article from the North Dakota Dental Association newsletter accompanied the announcement of Dr Marlin Meharry’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Author Nicole Meharry is Meharry’s daughter-in-law.