As I write this article, I am sitting in a bungalow on the beach in the Dominican Republic (DR), a brief respite for the mission team after a tough week working at a church in Santo Domingo, the capitol.
Each year our church plans a mission trip somewhere in the world. Our first trip to the DR was in 2006. For those of you who have been reading my articles for a while, you may recall I wrote two articles about that trip: Locks of Laughs, and Adios Santo Domingo (Check my web site for past articles at: www.chuckroots.com).
Thirteen people from our church signed on for this trip, ten of who were on the last one. Several have made all five trips since we began these short-term mission trips in 2002. We took a pass on 2004 because I was still on active duty serving in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom.
One of the points I emphasize to the team is that we are to be a blessing to those we serve in whatever country we are in. We come as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, helping our Free Methodist churches in various projects that will in turn, assist them in providing greater ministry in their communities. The men are usually involved in strenuous, labor-intensive work, constructing some building, or as is the case this trip, we are building an additional floor on top of the church building. We mix our own cement by hand; haul the sand and gravel in buckets using a pulley system from ground level; carry ninety-four pound bags of cement mix; form chain-gangs to pass cinder blocks or buckets of cement for the walls; and we cut and build our own rebar forms for the support structure. It is hard work! At the end of the day we are hot, sweaty, tired, and filthy. The weather is tropical, so the sun is very hot along with a constant humidity. It rains sometime every day – often more than once. At times it comes down so violently that all work stops and we seek shelter until it passes.
The ladies on the team usually are ministering to the children who come for crafts and Bible study lessons. There is much singing and memorizing of Scripture, along with Bible stories told with great animation by one of the ladies. Two sessions a day were offered to the children. The morning session averaged seventy kids, and the afternoon session had nearly two hundred! A lot of preparation went into this trip before we ever left the United States. The women would meet periodically at our church to make the different crafts that would be used for the children. These crafts would then be loaded into spare suitcases and brought down with us. Invariably the ladies always want to bring the children home with them!
The question is debated on every trip: Who was blessed more? The people we came to serve? Or those of us on the team? It has been my experience that we are the ones most blessed. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” Therein lays the blessing! You are truly blessed when you serve others. That is the true heart and soul of the church.
Today as the team spent time together in devotions, Daniel, our youngest member at seventeen, was responsible for leading us. He shared from I Corinthians 13, “The Great Love Chapter” in the Bible. He remarked how we have been shown such great love by our hosts, particularly the Dominican ladies of the church who prepare meals for us three times a day, serving us with loving spirits, wanting to make our stay as pleasant as possible. They arrive early each morning to prepare a bounteous amount of food. No sooner do we finish breakfast then the ladies begin preparing lunch, and then dinner. When the men come in for lunch or dinner after slogging around in cement, we at first would remove our shoes. The ladies would have none of that! They told us to come right in and eat. They didn’t mind mopping the tile floors. It took us a couple of days to accept this, but we finally gave in.
On this trip our team accomplished three weeks of work in three days. The foreman (here in the DR they call him, “Maestro”) was so pleased with our work that he is having the whole team to his home for dinner tonight. One of the team members, Rueben, stopped to buy some gum and candy from a street vendor. The vendor observed that Rueben was not Dominican. He was curious why we were here, since we were obviously not dressed as tourists on vacation. Rueben explained that we were here to build additional rooms for the church in order to expand the children’s ministry. The man said, “For what you are doing for us here in the Dominican: No charge.”
During our shopping trip yesterday afternoon at the Mercado, Dennis was asked by one of the merchants what we were doing here. After Dennis explained to him our mission, the man said, “I see something in you that I don’t have. I might have to become a Christian.”
This is why I know with certainty that we are the ones blessed!