Field report for my Dominican trip….
This was a small mission but packed with people that were very mission-minded. Phil Bennett was the team leader. It’s hard to hide his heart for God. He wears it on him everywhere he goes. He is wise and slow with his words, but they are impactful when they do arrive. He is always thinking about the right way to speak the truth in love. His wife Kim accompanies us also. She has a great big heart and a boisterous personality. Tori is their daughter and it is her first trip. She seems reserved and I don’t know her that well but after watching her teaching the kids I know that she has the heart for it. Todd Parker is here and there’s not much to say except the fact that he just loves it.. I mean really loves just coming here and loving on the people. Sharing Christ and all that it entails. Andrew Mantha is my roommate and we have become good friends. He has a heart for missions. I can see him on the mission field one day. Tim claprood is the new guy. He covers his anxiety with a joking demeanor but it’s ok. He is here and many are not. Stepping out in faith and coming is when you win the battle. Not the fancy words you may or may not come up with. Of course he makes a few new guy mistakes, but it’s ok. God is good and we are glad to have him with us.
Completing the team and the force that brings it all together is Milca. What a wonderful soul. Always smiling and laughing. She has a heart for God that you can’t hide. She is the centerpiece of every mission. Always choreographing every place we will go. I don’t know how she does it. Every move we make this week will be set in motion by her management and Gods direction.
Arriving Saturday we get settled in the room and pretty much just hang out. We take a swim and then go to dinner. We are all tired from the day of travel.
Sunday was filled with worship. First we travelled to pastor Braulio’s church. It is a very large church in the center of town. We spent two hours there listening to singing and then get a short message by the grandson of Braulio. Braulio is usually here but on this trip he happens to be in Israel. Afterwards we ate lunch that they provided. Every meal here is given with love and care. Home-cooked and served by our gracious hosts.
In the afternoon we rested for awhile before going to pastor Samuel’s church in the evening. He always accompanies us in the field so we like to attend his service and worship with him. We see some old friends like Franklin and Ray and all the people of the church. They also fix a meal for us that is basically like a Sunday dinner at grandmas.
Monday morning is when the real work begins. We start the day at 7 am with breakfast and leave the hotel at 8. On this day our team leader, Phil Bennett falls ill with a stomach bug. It’s his fifth mission here, and this would be his first “sick day”. It happens and there is nothing you can do about it. It requires that you stay back in order not to hinder the mission. On the way we always stop at Braulio’s as a rally point. On the way Phil asks me to come up with a small devotional so I read from 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.
My point was simple. We are the workers but it is God that gives the increase. He is the one that does the real work in the hearts and the lives of the people we talk to.
Around 9 we take off to the field and the medical mission. It’s about a 45 minute bus ride into the other side of the city. This mission is basically in a downtown area that is densely populated.
Setting up we begin with spiritual stations where we evangelize and are the first contact for the people. After that they go to “triage” and then they see the doctor. After the doctor the last stage would be the pharmacy where we dispense the meds we have brought with us. At all stations is a translator. They are invaluable to us as they are our connection to the people. Mostly they are students at the local college who are on fire for God and excited about the idea of spreading the message as a team effort.
Today we began with two stations. Tim has no experience in evangelism so he worked with me and my translator for the first few people we saw. After about three or four he went and began working on his own station.
In total we saw about twelve to fifteen at my station today. My translators name was Roudy. He was a courteous young gentlemen. You could tell he was “thinker” type and we got along well. There were a few that “said” they were Christian but I had my doubts. We shared the gospel and prayed with them anyways. There was one whom was a verified Christian. Proclaiming confidence in the fact that Jesus was in her heart and was the source of her salvation.
There were three “memorable” meetings for me today. The first was a 65 year old man that thought he had “missed his chance” with the gospel. We assured him that in Gods eyes it was never too late. A man called at the eleventh hour got to see the same heaven as the one who accepted Christ earlier in life.
The next was an older lady I can’t remember her name. As we spoke you could see the hurt and the pain in her eyes. Her soul was hurting and you could just feel it as we talked and prayed. You could see the weight being lifted off her heart as she prayed and accepted Christ.
And then there was Beatrice. She was 23 and it was immediately noticeable that God was knocking on her heart. As soon as we told her we were there to talk about spiritual things you could see God working on her. Her eyes were like sieves and the tears no matter how hard she tried could not be held back. My translator and I both were moved to tears by the end of the presentation. It was no doubt when I got to the end and asked did she want to receive Christ. The biggest smile then slipped across her face and broke through the tears. It is all so humbling when you see someone reach out to God in that intimate moment. It never gets old no matter how many times you see it.
In the afternoon the medical station runs its course and we go nearby to pastor Israel’s church to eat lunch. It is a small church but very quaint and nice. They also treat us very well. We rest and then come back around four to minister to the children of the neighborhood and to have our first of three discipleship classes. Today Todd Parker leads and when we begin only about 3 are there but then it grows to about 10-12 by the time it is over. He does a good job.
After that we begin to walk the neighborhood and invite people to the movie that starts at @6. After a few trips I’m beginning to learn that Dominican time is always relative. It’s ok. There’s no rush, I mean where do I have to go?
After the first day in the field we were exhausted. As always we came back to Pastor Braulios church for dinner where we are well fed. Every meal like I said is home cooked to perfection. From there a short bus ride back to the hotel where we go to the room and head straight to bed.
Tuesday morning I get up about five and read my bible. Today I will be teaching lesson two at the discipleship and need to study John 4. I will be teaching about the woman at the well and her new found faith. Breakfast at seven and then out the door at eight. We arrive and I am blessed with the assignment of being in a spiritual station again. Today I work with Natalie. She’s a sweet college student with a nice temperament and the ability to “fix” a lot of what I’m saying.
The team of translators are the backbone of the trip. Without them we are useless, because of the communication gap. We cannot operate without them and they are imperative to the mission.
At the beginning it’s always hard till you find your rhythm. Then you sort of figure out what “works” with each translator. The right way to say things so that the idea you are presenting to them never gets lost. Things such as my testimony and things of that nature may come out wrong if not spoken carefully. Of course the gospel is the gospel and the translators know it well. But it is best to start each session with small talk and to generally get to know the people. They are very perceptive and can detect when you are just putting a “sales pitch” on them. You must find a way to connect and care about each of them as they come through. One way or another you have to show them the love of Christ. Even though by the end of the morning you will probably forget there names. I always remember the faces though. I never forget them.
Today was a little tougher. I believe I saw between 10-12. I lost count. I don’t like to keep up with numbers here too much. Yes it is nice to know that you are winning souls to Christ but I don’t want it to become some sort of vain competition where all I focus on are numbers. A few were Christians already. We had two that just said plain no. Amazingly enough I had a 94 year old woman come through my station today. She was with her 67 year old daughter. Honestly I could see the daughter heart melting as I told her about Jesus. How much He loved us no matter what. But I didn’t think her mom was paying too much attention. But I kept going anyways. By the end of my presentation she had begin to sit up in her chair. When I ask did she want to accept Christ she said… Yes!! Yes!! It was an amazing moment.
But today’s moment for me was the last guy. His name was Henri’. When he walked around the corner honestly I almost got up. I hadn’t moved out of my chair in over three hours. I was tired and looking at him I could see the hurt and the anger in his eyes. He had this pain about him. And it rested in the body of a 32 year old man that was 6’3 250 lbs of rock and muscle. Arms tatted from years of life on the street.
I wasn’t judging him, but his physical presence was very intimidating. But God told me… look at his eyes. In there I could see so much pain. So much anger. So much heartbreak.
We asked him why he was there and he said he had never been to a doctor and wanted to get his blood pressure checked. Then we asked if we could talk to him about God. Sometime I ask the people about God to see what they know about Jesus and what direction I should head into.
As I began to talk to him God gave me a simple thought. The heart is relatively the same size on all men. So I continued to share with him my story. About being lost most of my life and looking for answers and things to fill my heart in all the wrong places.
It was then that he asked… but why would a good God let bad things happen to good people?? His father had passed away a few years earlier. Then I knew that this was a divine meeting arranged in heaven.
I told him about the story of my dad. How he was the best guy I know and that he had went to the doctor and they had given him 3 months to live. How in my mind back then that it seemed so hard to swallow.
But when I got saved that God slowly began to give me understanding about how our time is limited. And no matter how much time here God gives us it is still short in light of eternity. Also I shared with him even though I miss my dad I will see him again in heaven one day.
There are days in life that seem meaningless. There are days when I don’t know exactly where I’m supposed to be. On this day and at this time there was no doubt whatsoever that I was right where God wanted me to be. I’m so thankful I didn’t shy away from the opportunity to talk to this young man.
Further and further along I could see God breaking him down. Just working on him and his heart getting ready for that moment in eternity we must all make a choice.
Honestly when I looked across and asked… will you accept Christ today?? I wasn’t for sure if he would give in. Yes he was visually shaken but that doesn’t mean they will accept.
A broken smile came across his face as he said… yes I will accept Christ today. So we prayed an then he prayed and confessed and asked Jesus to come into his heart. To save him from his sin.
It was an awesome experience. One that I will never forget.
After that we went to lunch again at Israel’s church. It was good and quick and we got to rest for awhile. The translators always come up with games and fun things to do. They laugh and enjoy themselves and are always singing and having fun.
At four we go back and I teach the lesson 2 of the discipleship. It goes well.
By this time it’s time to get back on the bus and head back to the main church for dinner. Tonight there is more traffic and it takes us about an hour and a half to get back. Once again it’s great food. We enjoy and laugh and eat and just hang for a while. Then head back to the room. Todd comes over and we spend the next few hours talking and cutting up.
Wed morning comes quick. Up at six, read my bible a little. Then off to breakfast. Before we know it we are back in the field again.
Today I start in the spiritual station, and marcelle is my translator. She is sweet, and I take a moment to take her through “my style” . It occurred to me it would be a good idea to let her know what I would expect from her before we began.
Also I like to reassure each translator that “my words” or “her words” are really not that important as much as the order and faith that we speak with them. I tell her if God moves… you go. Talk all you need or lead a prayer. Never wait on me if you feel God guiding you in another direction.
We only saw a few but the one this morning that I remember was Julian. He was 27 years old and seemed like he wasn’t listening. But the more we talked the more I could see God and the Holy Spirit working on the inside. Working on his heart. Some people might think they have a “poker face” but the eyes never lie. Whoever came up with the saying, the eyes are the windows of the soul were absolutely correct.
He accepted Christ that day.
After a few more people Andrew and I switched roles and I moved to the pharmacy. I was working with a lady name “Fanny” I didn’t have a translator so it was a little difficult. We tried to make small talk in between people but the few words I know in Spanish only take me so far. From her demeanor and her actions you can tell fanny is a nurturing soul. She’s dispenses the medicine with a smile and a warm heart. It doesn’t take long to realize I’m pretty useless back here today. But it’s ok. It’s been a rather eventful week.
Soon it was lunch time. Once again we headed to pastor Israel’s church. Today we had a long lunch break. Maybe it just felt that way because it was nearing the end of the work week. One more discipleship lesson and meeting with the kids and we were pretty much done.
Today I challenged Sammie, pastor Samuel’s son to a arm wrestling match. Just a friendly competition. We went at it awhile before we called it a draw. It was fun. I’m not sure his age…17-18? But it seems like he grows about a foot each trip. I’m thinking he’s about 6’3 this time! He has also been helping to translate. His English is getting pretty good.
As lunch is going on I’m pretty sure Israel is evangelizing to a kid that has came in off the street, or praying for him, or something. He’s usually doing something of that nature but you don’t notice. He’s not a “look at me, look at me” kind of person. He’s very laid back, yet when the work comes in he just steps in and does it.
Before we leave I thank him for allowing us to use his church as our lunch hangout. I ask him for a picture to show him respect for what he’s done for the mission.
Heading back to the site Tory and I lead the children’s activity for the day as Andrew teaches the final discipleship lesson…. well Tory lead and shared the story of Peter while I handed out beads, lol. But it was good. I liked the way that she asked questions as she went along to the children. It was an easy way to get an idea how much of our material was sinking in.
Soon enough the lessons were over and it was time for the movie to begin. At 6 each night they had a movie about Jesus, and then they would present the gospel after. Because of our distance and the travel we had ahead of us, we would leave as it started and begin the journey back. Each night we would enjoy dinner at the church and then head back to the hotel.
Tonite there was a certain somberness at the dinner. We all realize the work is over. It’s tonight that it hits me how hard this work is for the translators. So many teams that come and go. Of course you don’t make friends with everyone, but some you do. In the intimate setting of sharing the gospel you become close. And then it’s time to go.
They open themselves up to us each time… and then we are gone. It can’t be easy. I admire them for their dedication to the cause of Christ. Nicole, Joseph, Ray, Tana, Elias, the list of people I have worked with is many. I smile when I think of them. I know there are too many to list here. I love them all. They are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thursday is more a less a “free day” we go to old town and hangout. Santo Domingo is a very interesting place to visit. So many sites to see we choose a few. Also we do some shopping. We eat lunch at a local restaurant and I get the fish. It is awesome. You can’t hide the taste of freshness!
Leaving we head back to the room. We spend a few hours hanging out before suiting up for the last hoorah. One final dinner together as a team. Of course the meal is cooked to perfection and after we share a few testimonies about what God has done this week through, and for us.
Roudy stands and gives his testimony and he begins to talk about Beatrice. As soon as he starts I can feel the emotions welling up inside. His testimony was confirmation for me of just how real this moment was in her life. He had been in contact with her and she was telling him in the days since we had met how much God was already beginning to change her. It was amazing to hear about it from another angle. From how he saw it. It made it come alive that much more for me.
Also it got me to thinking about the work we do. The day before pulling back in I had saw a boy on his motorcycle that had accepted Christ on Monday. I wondered to God… how much of the work that we do takes hold? Do they just go back to their old ways??
It was then that I felt the Holy Spirit tell me…You did what I asked you to do on this mission… you shared the love and hope of Christ.
Now leave the rest up to me.
And then it was over.