Through the Eyes of a Short-Term Missionary
The alarm clock rattles and screams—it’s Sunday night. No, it’s Monday morning at 1:30 a.m. My heart begins to pound, and my body suddenly awakens. I put my feet on the floor and head to the shower. After what seems like forever, the water finally warms up enough for me to get my head wet. In a few minutes, I am dressed and ready; our ride arrives. It’s 2:15 a.m., and we need to be at the airport by 4:00 a.m., which is only an hour and a half away. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time. At Exit 33, we stop at a deserted gas station and pick up Pam and her luggage. The five of us and our luggage pack into the Barnes’s tiny little car. Prissy sits in the back seat, wedged in between the luggage and backpacks. And off we go, luckily there isn’t much traffic at this time of night or morning… I’m still a little confused about why I am out of my warm bed at this hour. After a short while, we see the bright lights of the Savannah Airport. Relieved that we made it on time, we still have miles to travel. The TSA line is short and seems too easy. I walk through the body X-ray machine, and the TSA operator tells me to turn around and look at the screen. I do, and he points out that my private parts lit up the security screen. With a firm voice, he tells me that he needs to do a body search, and I can do it in front of everyone or go behind the screen. I say, “Let’s just get it over with right here.” Obviously, he doesn’t find anything, but it was an uncomfortable way to start the morning.
WE FINALLY MADE IT!
Around lunchtime, we land in the DR where our hosts are there to greet us. The purpose of our trip is to meet with a local mission. We want to learn about how they operate and see if we can develop a symbiotic relationship. Our hosts are Stephanie Smith of Love Serves, and our drivers, Pastor Daniel, and Jochi. Their organization’s purpose is to equip churches so that they can restore the community. In other words, they partner with local churches, train the pastors, provide support, and walk beside them as mentors. Most pastors in the DR don’t go to seminary. They are trained by their local pastor or a family member in the ministry. Love Serves steps in and gives the pastors organization and systems they can use, along with a coach to help them learn. Love Serves has been doing this for the last 25-plus years and has helped over 3,200 churches. It is the concept Jesus taught to his disciples:
“Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of Men”.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND
We only have two days, so we start early on Tuesday morning. Our first stop is just outside Santo Domingo, in a valley of sugarcane fields with a sugar factory. The church is located in the center of the village. We tour the church, the school, and the civic center. The pastor gives testimony to how Love Serves has gotten his church on track by serving the community. They taught him that if he loves the people in the community, then they will come and be the body of Christ. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Not quite Cuba
On the way back to the city, we stop by a rural community church. It is led by a pastor who has been there for many years. He immigrated from Cuba and has been with Love Serves for many of those years. We tour his church and listen to him testify about Love Serves. While we are talking, we can see his community kitchen feeding some of the community. He has been using the Love Serves program for many years and has been loving on his community and reaping the rewards.
OVER THE HILLS AND INTO THE MOUNTAINS
On Wednesday, we only have time for two churches. We drive up into the mountains of the DR. There, we find cows, horses, and more sugarcane fields. It is somewhere in the Hato Mayor province. This place is a breath of fresh air—real peace on earth. We find the church quite charming, located just outside a cow pasture with the mountains as the backdrop. The elder pastor invites us into the church. We gather and are mesmerized by his stories of his community and how he pours out love and showers the light of Jesus on this community. When we are finished, he smiles and says that he has made us some cocoa from his garden. The Holy Spirit is surely in this place.
LIONS AND TIGERS AND MOTORCYCLES?
Back to the car for one last visit. It is another inner-city church in Santo Domingo. This trip is a little harder than the rest. The traffic is heavy, and the motorcycles buzz in every direction. Soon we realize that the stoplight is only meant for us. The moto drivers follow an entirely different playbook. All we can do is pray and close our eyes. We finally arrive at the church but can’t find anywhere to park. So our drivers drop us off, and we go inside. The ride was long, and we all need to use the facilities. The pastor’s wife shows us the steps to the upper room. To get there, we have to climb a set of rickety steep steps. At the top of the stairs, we find a small room with several sewing machines and a tiny bathroom. The sewing machines are used to teach the illegal Haitians how to sew. This provides a way for them to make a living. After the break, we make our way back down to the sanctuary. We meet with the pastor, his wife (they call the pastor’s wife “pastorate”), and his son. They are all grateful for Love Serves’ programs and coaching. They use it to open a music school taught by the son and a sewing program taught by the pastorate. The music program is growing so fast that they don’t have the money to buy all the instruments they need. They say they are blessed by their community and Love Serves.
A TRIP TO HQ
Our final destination for the day is Love Serves’ headquarters, where we meet the staff and a few coaches. We have a pleasant lunch, good conversation, and an afternoon coffee. There’s nothing better than talking about Jesus with new friends!
We have decided to plan a mission trip to the Dominican Republic in the near future. We will definitely be partnering with Love Serves to love on these communities.
We hope that you will join us!
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).