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Missions: The Dominican Republic

By: Heather Wright (From: Volume 1 - Issue 1)

Andy Patterson, a Vision Trust representative from my church, invited me on a trip to the Dominican Republic in 2011. Vision Trust is an organization that helps children in many of the poorest regions in the world. Children can receive medical care, food, clothing, and an education. They hear the word of God and how much God loves them. They know that God loves them because they see evidence of this love. I was able to see first hand how sponsorship offers hope.

One cannot prepare for what they may see on a trip like this. Besides the family of five on a moped, the first image that comes to my mind was our plane landing. Are there no roofs in any of these communities? As the plane got closer to the ground, I saw dirt, trees, and pieces of metal or other non-permanent structures. I could see people and children but no permanent homes. Another image that is ingrained in my mind is a young child about 2 years old or younger. I looked out the window of our bus in passing, and I could see this little boy without clothes or shoes. He was sitting on a cement block and there were trash piles with metal, broken glass, and dirt all around him. Dogs that appeared malnourished were sniffing out the trash around him, and he did not appear to be with anyone when we passed. There were people and vendors everywhere, but I was hoping for a mother to be nearby. “Poverty by many definitions” would be the title if I had a snapshot of that moment.

I saw poverty everywhere, but our first stop that week was an orphanage for children with HIV. They are housed in a cement building with bars on the windows and barbed wire around the perimeter, and it is away from other communities and neighborhoods. It appears to offer protection but also isolates them. There is no playground and very few toys to speak of. Some of the children also have other medical problems like Muscular Dystrophy. Several Christian people give their lives in caring for these children, but they are out numbered. Besides the effects of the disease, these numerous orphans also face a social stigma with HIV and AIDS. Family members may abandon a child under these circumstances. Sponsoring a child there can be a source of hope and love. Pictures of our own family were a highlight for many of the kids. They were so excited that we would share our life and our love with them. They were not being judged and they were not being viewed as outcasts. We did return later on in our trip and took them to a water park nearby. They had a blast!

We traveled to Jackie’s House that week to pick up children there on the way to camp. She lives in a more mountainous area of the D.R. and her home is filled with love and warmth. Her story is a very unique one, but a testimony that God prevails. She and her husband moved to the Dominican Republic without specific direction from God. They knew God wanted them in the Dominican, so they went to a public park in the area and hoped that God would speak. Children of prostitutes and orphans soon started showing up. Jackie and her husband heard their stories and felt God’s tug at their heart. God led them to house these children and provide love and care. She and her husband now have 25 children there and have had as many as 50.

Remar HIV safe house. (Photo courtesy of Heather Wright)

www.jackieshouse.org (Photo courtesy of Heather Wright)

(Photo courtesy of Heather Wright)

Chapel at camp. (Photo courtesy of Heather Wright)

The love of God fills her place. She teaches them about God daily in the Bible, in prayer, and through her actions. Many children have suffered horribly through sexual abuse and severe neglect. Some even have handicaps and medical needs as well. Those children now know God and love God and have experienced healing there. One little boy in Jackie’s care asked to visit his mother who was dying of AIDS. His mother had neglected and abused her children. The little boy wanted to tell his mother that she needed Jesus, because he desired to see her again in heaven. That day the boy led his mother to Christ. His mother gained enough strength to call those she had wronged and ask for forgiveness. She died shortly thereafter. Weeks later he joined us for camp week, and on that last day he stood at the altar and sang Jesus loves me. We all cried, but God is our comforter and I now have a better understanding of this.

The camp I referenced earlier is a week long camp depending on the weather. Camp is a big deal for them each year, even bigger than Christmas. Our team and the Dominican Republic elders provide these children with love, hot meals, and God’s Word. Praise and Worship music is also provided by talented youth from the Dominican Republic. These young adults come to serve these children. Some have faced similar hardships, and some still do. Andy and Pam Patterson have been doing this camp for years, and it is awesome. The pool there was small and un-chlorinated, and I would guess that at least 100 kids got in the pool all at once. I have been a pediatric nurse for many years, but I have never seen so many beautiful smiles at once. Giving of our selves allowed each child to experience God’s love for them.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Wright)

Swimming pool at camp. (Photo courtesy of Heather Wright)

I cannot fix poverty or a poverty stricken country. Third world conditions can be overwhelming, but I have found that caring for one, two, or many children will make all the difference. The love of God spreads quickly with these children. I know I am changed, and I will continue to sponsor more children through Vision Trust and hope to see them again in the near future.

I urge parents to send their teenagers on a mission trip like this. They need to experience this for themselves. The enemy wants our youth to be weakened by self-gratification. Selfishness destroys us and steals our joy, and so many of our youth do not know that God has a plan for them. They are important to others, and they have talents to share. I hope and pray they will share these talents with those in need.

(Heather Wright is a member of Brookwood Church in Simpsonville, SC, and she is a nurse at Carolina Pediatrics in Greenville.)


From: Volume 1 - Issue 1


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