Living Intentionally in 2021

Goodbye 2020. Flickering hopes for a better 2021 compete with dire predictions from pastors, politicians, the economy and health officials. How shall each of us respond?

The Houston First Baptist Cypress family mission team, joined by the Kemp family from Allen First Baptist chose not to wait for a future time to serve. Ignoring fearful “what-ifs,” they focused their eyes on Dominican children and families most cruelly impacted by the pandemic. As one participant shared, “I don’t want to put life on hold. In 2021 I want to trust God in new ways and live intentionally for His kingdom.” 

Masked and COVID-weary, the team easily passed through Dominican customs on December 26, 2020. They gave a hallelujah shout-out that not one of the mountainous pile of suitcases was lost or delayed! Mounting their bus, they rode to the IBQ mission compound down streets jammed with cars, as motorcycles zipped dangerously in between. Crowds of people drifted on streets and sidewalks, and clustered on the corners with no apparent destination. People competed for the chance to sell food, water and household items at every intersection. Others desperately squirted water on the windshield of passing vehicles, hoping for a paltry tip of pesos—food for today their vital goal. Unemployment is critically high, largely due to the devastation of the tourism industry.

In spite of negative circumstances on both sides of the Caribbean, the Christmas team purposed to live out the Gospel message, “Joy to the world, the Lord HAS come!” Through words and deeds, and in PRESENCE, they communicated that “neither angels or demons, neither our fears for today, nor our worries about tomorrow (not even a pandemic) can separate us from God’s love.”

During the varied ministries, appropriate COVID-precautions were observed—pre-screening, limited group size, masks and outdoor activities. The team delivered groceries from Texas Baptist Hunger Offering to needy families. Construction of desks and cubbies for the Villa Altagracia school took place in the open-air workshop on site. At Villa Altagracia they participated in an Evangelism walk through the neighborhoods, distributing tracts and rejoicing with those who responded. Children’s ministries included singing, games and the Jonah story shared through drama. After presenting the drama, participants switched places with Dominican children and coached them through the same drama, making the story and the lessons doubly impactful.

We shared our customary meal with Dominican families by inviting them to fellowship with an American family at the IBQ compound. Decorated tables were set up under the zinc roof in separate corners of the church, and the Americans served the Dominicans. The fellowship was delightful and personal.

During the day at the Higuey orphanage, the team rotated between painting walls and building relationships–singing, playing games, baking and frosting cupcakes, blowing bubbles, holding them, loving as Jesus’ disciples. While fitting them with new shoes, they also shared the Gospel with each boy.

At the conclusion of the trip, one mother concluded, “There are many reasons to be discouraged by COVID and current events, but God is greater than all of these things, and our time in the DR reminded us of this.”

STCH Ministries and our Dominican partners are grateful for the investment of this Christmas mission team. Although we face a lot of unknowns, we know God’s Word never fails, and He is ultimately sovereign. May we respond by living intentionally in 2021 as Christ-followers, knowing that whatever we invest in Kingdom ministry is never lost.

 

Bendiciones,

Joanna Berry
Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries
STCH Ministries

Celebrate God’s Faithfulness in Pictures

If I had to pick two words that defined STCH Ministries International during this COVID-2020 year, I would have to choose perseverance and flexibility.  Perseverance to overcome obstacles, take calculated risks while exercising appropriate protocols, replace fear with faith in God’s provision and faithfulness.  And flexibility.  In the past we depended on mission teams to meet many needs of children and families, and to support the ministries of orphanages, schools and churches through our presence, resources and “sweat equity.”  Without mission teams, our STCH Ministries partners stepped forward and organized, distributed responsibilities, substituted in-person for WhatsApp, Zoom, phone, email and text and continued to serve.

At the same time, the STCH Ministries family of donors responded to the increased needs—food to feed children and families, computers to aid distance learning.  Eron Green captured our call to action and service during this time with, “THE MINISTRY CONTINUES.”  Click on the link below to see a short video of all that was accomplished, and celebrate our God who “always supplies our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.”

May your Christmas be blessed and the New Year welcomed, with an eternal perspective.  ”God is still on the throne, Almighty God is He, and He cares for His own through all eternity.”

Bendiciones,

Joanna Berry
Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries
STCH Ministries

Click here to view the video!

Chosen to Serve Through Technology

As Covid-19 cases diminish in the Dominican Republic, the aftereffects send shock waves through the entire social, economic, and educational systems. The newly elected government threads their way between the needs of school children, panicked parents, unprepared teachers and administrators. They delayed the new school year to November, and mandated distance learning. Paper, pencil, chalkboards suddenly became inadequate tools. Computers, internet access, learning platforms—all inaccessible to impoverished teachers and children.

 

 







STCH Ministries donors became angels, (messengers sent by God). Within a few weeks more than 65 computers and notebooks were in the hands of the teachers, and available for children in the tutoring room and orphanages. Teachers worked to adapt to virtual lessons, and struggled with spotty internet signal, and limited band width when several computers were online at the same time.

 

At Raquel’s school, teachers were grateful for the computers, but definitely frustrated as they tried to meet the needs of their students. They moved around to hallways or perched on stair steps, sat on the floor, or crammed together in one room for best internet reception. 

 

Raquel, never one to stare at a problem for long, began to search for ways to improve the situation. She bought a device that was supposed to boost the signal—didn’t help. She considered a router, but couldn’t afford $35.00. Raquel prayed. She told the teachers that by the following Monday they would have a solution. Her daughter, Michell asked, “But, Mom, how are you going to do this?” More prayer.

In Austin, God was already answering those prayers. Marco Leal and Will Krauss, owner and president of the Loyal IT firm, and STCH Ministries staff boarded flights for the Dominican Republic. We hoped they could review and make suggestions to improve. However, Marco and Will came with two huge bags of equipment to RESOLVE, not just review. Much of the high-tech equipment was donated by Austin Retina Associates and Central Texas Eye Center, who also wanted to help. God never does anything halfway!

 

They toured and assessed the problems, while speaking a third language, besides English and Spanish…granular control, access points, 48 watts to 5.8 gigahertz, 8 Port, 12-Port, maybe a 24-port Switch, Packets, and TCIP/IP Transmission Control Protocol. Russell reported, “We installed outdoor-rated Network cable for durability, one Access Point on the second floor of the school, which will boost Wi-Fi signal to all of the second floor of the main building and some of the second building as well. This was the first of 3 Access points along with a switch that will manage the 3 Access Points. Plus another device that will grant us access to their Network via the Internet….with greater speeds of data transfer and a higher number of devices connected.”

Raquel may not have understood the words or the concepts. What she DID know was that God had answered her prayers. Tears welled up in her eyes, and rolled down her cheeks. Giddy with excitement, the next morning she shared in the teachers’ amazement when they turned on their computers and saw that they had internet access. In addition to the work at Raquel’s school, the team traveled to the school at Villa Altagracia to do similar work, and then returned to the headquarters area at the IBQ church to significantly improve the internet capacity there. We are grateful to Loyal IT and to all of our Ministry Partners in schools, churches and orphanages who do such amazing work for God. An old poem states, “God chooses whom He uses.” We are honored to serve with others whom God has chosen for this work.

 

 

 




 


Bendiciones,

Joanna Berry
Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries
STCH Ministries

We Are Zooming These Days

If there were ever a time when we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, it is during these days. When we laser-focus on Jesus, all around us gets a bit out of focus. It fades in the Light of the eternal. Chaos? We know God is still in control. Negative predictions? The Alpha and Omega has always been, and will always be enough. Fears for our health and the economy? There have always been stormy seasons in our country and in our lives. The winds and waves cannot overwhelm God’s promises. “Fear not, I am with you even to the end of the age.”

When we lift our eyes over the chaos and uncertainty, we may see new horizons of opportunity. It was devastating to see the Dominican economy shut down and so many precious Christian families facing extreme hunger. But God, who is rich in mercy, allowed STCH Ministries to be perfectly positioned. You generously gave for those needs. Our Dominican ministry partners were full of joy to be chosen by God to make a difference. Through the darkest times, God’s love can shine through each of us.

Recently we have developed another opportunity for ministry—Zooming! That’s right. Eight of our DR ministry partners took the Faith and Finances class. For eight weeks Darrell Jackson from Houston taught this curriculum to the DR staff. Hopefully a few of them will become certified facilitators to teach these principles to others in the DR. Next month Amanda and Stephanie from our Corpus Christi office (both fluent in Spanish) will be teaching a discipleship class over Zoom to some of our CLEP students.

           

Now we are offering YOU the opportunity to ZOOM with your Samuel’s Fund or CLEP sponsored child. We will make all of the arrangements, including helping download the Zoom app (it’s free), and having the child ready with a translator at the appointed time. Our US staff will also connect. We have “tested” it with a few individuals, and they report they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Of course, the children were out-of-this-world joyful to participate.

One more opportunity to pray about. If any of you would like to ZOOM on a plane personally to the DR, we would love to include you in a special mercy mission trip. On August 30 – September 3 our staff is planning a trip to the DR to encourage our ministry partners and to deliver much needed supplies that have been donated for ministry and school needs. We would appreciate any volunteers who would want to make the trip and enable us to take more supplies. We have school supplies and backpacks for schools, equipment such as a computer for medical records, and other resources that are desperately needed. We will be staying on site at the Koinonia, and limiting contacts to ministry leaders and staff, wearing masks, and feel we can do this safely. Please contact Amanda Yanez (ayanez@stchm.org) or Mark Lozuk (mlozuk@stchm.org) 361-994-0940 for more information.

 

Bendiciones,

Joanna Berry
Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries
STCH Ministries

The Trunk of a Tree

Thank you for being the trunk of a tree that sustains so many branches—being mindful of needs in so many different places,” wrote Ruth from the Dominican Republic, mother of five and Director of the school in the village of Hatillo.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shattered life in the Dominican Republic. Abruptly, quarantine was strictly enforced with jail time, as 90% of individuals lost their jobs. Although Americans have experienced anxiety and loss due to the pandemic, it doesn’t compare with the terror of impending starvation.

How do we minister to 299 sponsored children who are quarantined in their homes, disbursed throughout the island? STCH Ministries swiftly mobilized to address their emotional and spiritual needs, as well as the interrupted education of the children. The Dominican team, led by Rebeca Dinzey, began an innovative approach to meet this need. As a condition of their scholarship, our 25 CLEP college students “give back” 10 hours per month in support of younger Samuel’s Fund kids. Promptly, each college student was assigned 2-3 Samuel’s Fund children. They now call them once a week, ask about their individual situations, pray and share a scripture with them and help them with homework received over the internet or the WhatsApp platform. When one CLEP student, Vladimir, discovered a family who couldn’t afford internet, he began paying for this service himself! CLEP students send weekly reports:

“We have begun reading a chapter each week of James, and I call them the next week and quiz them. They enjoy our visits.”

“I video chat with my students. We talk about their homework. I encourage their mother because she is very overwhelmed.”

“My student says she is not a Christian because she is afraid of God. I am helping her understand how to have a relationship with Him.”

Through the generous support from many individuals to date, we have received $16,710. STCH Ministries also began to meet the physical needs of food for the children and their families. Our concern also included the ladies who cook and care for our mission teams, the teachers in our Christian schools and the orphanages. We quickly contacted the Bravo grocery chain and purchased palettes of 9 basic food items—milk, rice, beans, sugar, oatmeal and spaghetti, oil, cornmeal and tomato paste.

Russell has directed the team in the logistics of this effort. He hired 2 trucks. He re-purposed our team lodging, Koinonia house to store the food, and organize into smaller packets for each family. Dr. Francisco supervised and guided the delivery process to ensure safety and health for everyone. Rebeca, Valentina and Maria identified and called the neediest families, “We have a packet of food for you!” Assigned a date and time, they came for pick up at the IBQ compound. As the packets of food are delivered, time is spent with each one, reflecting on God’s promises, and praying for their families. We anticipate we will deplete this food in 4-5 weeks.

Ruth’s reference of a tree with branches was a beautiful analogy of STCH Ministries. Rooted in God’s promises to supply ALL of our needs, our “branches” continue to support children and families–providing Christian counseling, homes for children and families, pastoral ministry, classes on the impact of faith on finances and work, in addition to the work in the Dominican Republic. During this pandemic, the ministry continues.
 

Bendiciones, 

Joanna Berry
Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries
STCH Ministries

Christmas in Costa Rica

What gift do you think the wise men brought to Jesus? A chupon! A baby bottle was the eager answer.

Sharing the good news of Jesus’ birth, our mission team traveled to Costa Rica in December. We turned an old table on its side, and draped it with a blanket, creating an improvised puppet stage. Crouched behind, team members held stick puppets while a narrator told the story of angels, and shepherds and wise men, and best of all, a baby! The children responded to questions in their language. “Jesus was born in a “corral” and laid in the dry grass in a pesebre, surrounded by stinky, noisy pigs, chickens and a rooster!” The children could visualize a baby born in the midst of those surroundings. After all, the surroundings in which they lived were not so very different from this stable.

The Christmas story continued. The wise men were very rich and they brought gifts to the baby Jesus. What do you think they brought? One little boy shot his hand straight up and said for all to hear,

“A bottle!”

Of course, what else? Gold, silver and frankincense were foreign concepts in a village with dirt roads, and hovels made of tin and scraps of wood. In any case, what would a baby do with gold, silver and frankincense? A bottle made perfect sense, and it brought a smile to all of our faces.

The story ended with the question, “Do you know that Jesus is still looking for a place to live?” Perplexed looks responded. “That’s right. Jesus wants to live in our hearts, in my heart and in your heart. Can you hear him knocking right now? Do you want to invite him to come in?”

God chose to announce his arrival in terms that even a poor, uneducated, isolated child could understand. Hearts open, there was nothing in their lives to distract, to compete with the amazing angelic announcement, “This day, a Savior is born and lies in a manger!”

As we closed, the children joined in singing a carol about Jesus birth—a song translated into many languages around the world, “Noche de paz, noche de amor” (Silent night, holy night).

Bendiciones,

Joanna Berry

Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries
STCH Ministries

Overflowing into-your-lap Blessings

We all know Jesus’ words about giving and receiving, right? “Give and you will receive.” He elaborated on the receiving part, “in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” As if this wasn’t incentive enough, Jesus goes on to hammer His point by adding, “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back!” (NLT)

A mission trip experience repeatedly lives out this truth, “I came to give, but I received so much more!”

The recent experiences of two men’s groups met a significant need for our International ministry. Every year our summer mission teams tackle some big projects and accomplish amazing projects in a short week-long mission trip. But after the last, “Adios. Dios te bendiga,” as they board the flight home, Russell faces a daunting list—finishing, painting, installing, delivering, disposing.

We prayed, and before we could advertise, God answered with not one but two groups of men with the desire to do construction, who each came for a week Cypress FBC and WUBC-Crosspoint. They came to give but experienced “overflowing into your lap” blessings.

Some of the construction tasks included building 15 shelving units for the Higuey orphanage, attaching them to the walls. The home of a Samuel’s Fund child needed interior walls, and siding. At another home two corners of the roof needed to be installed, the siding completed and walls varnished. At Hatillo, they finished roofing the new gazebo and other tasks.

But the overflowing blessings were the personal ones experienced by the men on both teams. As Russell reported, “It is quite hard to verbalize what happens in the life of people when on a mission trip.”

Russell shared about what he referred to as not a coincidence, but a God-incidence. God brought one man from Florida to join the Houston team. He shared about his troubled son with another man. Only to discover that this man had walked a similar destructive path in his youth and could now witness about how God had forgiven and transformed the ashes into the beauty of a life with purpose.

One pastor shared, “My desire and vision for the trip was to take a small group of men to work side-by-side in a mission setting, with the prayer that Jesus would change their perspectives. In turn, their life priorities and practices would be changed as well. Through our experience with STCH Ministries, that is exactly what the Lord did. They came back loving Jesus at a deeper level. Our lives will never be the same! Since returning home, some of the guys have sponsored kids through the Samuels Fund, have made adjustments in their personal lives and priorities, and have sought Jesus more deeply.

Excellence, new vision, life transformation—these goals far surpass any medical clinic, children’s ministry or construction project we may accomplish. Every team sacrifices money, time, resources. We trust God to pour into each person rich blessings, “overflowing into their laps” as a result. We give the glory to God when he uses a STCH Ministries International mission trip to realize these eternal goals.

Llego La Luz

Frequent blackouts in the Dominican Republic plummet whole neighborhoods into darkness—blacker than a hundred midnights.* They light candles and continue their activities without a hiccup.  When the lights are suddenly restored, a joyous cry echoes from house to house. “Llego la luz!”  The light has come!

The Figueroa family represents a composite of many families in which the LIGHT has transformed their lives.  The three children attended a VBS class held by a mission team. They accepted Christ. A small candle of hope glimmered. A medical team met physical needs and counseled for spiritual needs. Mom glimpsed an answer to the darkness and chaos of their alcoholic family.

Other teams visited the Figueroa family and shared an evening meal and the love of Christ. Eventually, the children were sponsored through Samuel’s Fund. Teams shared groceries from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. Mom accepted Christ. The LIGHT grew.

Dad continued to drink constantly. Teams and church members continue to visit. More discipleship. More VBS. The LIGHT could not be restrained. Hallelujah time! Dad accepts Christ. Mom and Dad’s marriage is restored.

Now the LIGHT is blazing out of that home and family into the entire neighborhood. “I want what you have,” neighbors and family declare. Eventually, other teams rebuild their home. Today, their family of five shares the LIGHT of the Gospel message into countless other homes.

How many teams invested in that family? How long did it take?  Possibly 8-9 teams, over a four-year period, plus the donations from many more, and the sponsors of the children. Is it worth it?  Wouldn’t the time be better spent sharing 500 tracts and testimonies door-to-door? Possibly. How much time and effort did Jesus invest during his short time on earth to disciple only 12?   They began a multiplication process that has extended throughout the world and continues into each of our lives.

This summer 22 churches and over 369 participants ministered in the Dominican Republic and in Costa Rica. 127 made a decision to open their hearts to the LIGHT! The teams also discipled, taught, and met many needs of children and families. With one heart they shared life-transforming LIGHT.

In Costa Rica, Kenedy/Kerrville teamed up to do maintenance at an orphanage in San Jose and then traveled into the interior to minister to Nicaraguan refugees trapped in desperate poverty.

In late June, Bear Creek team was joined by FBC San Antonio and FBC Kenedy. Their ministry activities included building on the Higuey orphanage, VBS, sports camp, a ladies Bible study, preaching and teaching.

University Baptist church flew into Santiago for the 5th year.  They built a playground for orphanage children and Trauma Competent Caregiving to the staff.

FBC Corpus Christi and Parkway Victoria joined together to bless the school at Guaricanos with bookshelves for the library and a VBS, in addition to a pastor’s conference, marriage seminar and youth activities.

WUBC-Crosspoint brought a record 60+ team members.  Construction on the orphanage and the home of a Samuel’s Fund child, sports camp, medical clinic and ESL and VBS classes kept them especially busy.

Crossroads Baptist teachers team held training workshops in La Romana, in addition to IBQ.  They overlapped with FBC Beeville, Emmanuel, and Bay City as they worked in Hatillo.

“Go into all the world,” commanded Jesus just before He returned to His Father.  Sharing the LIGHT of the Gospel is essential.  What about the rest of the commandment?  “Make disciples… teaching them to observe all things I have commanded.” Teams who return annually and continue to pour into Dominican and Costa Rican ministries can truly fulfill Jesus’ Kingdom-building commandment.

*James Weldon Johnson, poet

Summer Update

Recent Peru trip—Flying directly from Houston to Lima, Peru then another short flight, we arrived in Pucallpa, an area of about 750,000 people. For 2 years we explored the possibilities for STCH Ministries in Peru. So much to consider—political stability, family-friendly logistics, ministry opportunities to children and families, and partnerships led by committed local staff.  We believe we have found that in the TEC center—focused on children and families in a holistic manner—sharing the Gospel while reinforcing education, and basic hygiene and nutrition. There are multiple opportunities to serve an orphanage, several schools, including a school in English that ministers to the children of missionaries. Wonderful Peruvian staff—hearts dedicated 24-7 to children and families. More news coming with details about future trips.

High-Five to medical and dental teams for repeated mission trips to the DR.  Lipscomb University for their 5th mission trip to the DR, in addition to sending 3 pharmacy interns to the Dominican Republic for 4 weeks.  Through their skills they shared Christ’s love and met physical needs.

CMDA—a record number of 43 professionals and students in the medical and dental field joined together to share their abilities in ministering to the health needs of Dominican children and adults, as they also intentionally shared the Gospel.

Higuey orphanage—the boys faced expulsion from their rental home. God provided funds through generous donors, plans were drawn, and then delay, delay, and more delay.  But GOD…never count Him out!  Our wonderful friend and Christian contractor, Luis Pichardo, voluntarily paused the construction of other projects.  “God’s work comes first,” he stated, and he literally moved his entire crew to live temporarily in Higuey.  Working around the clock they worked on this home, and even started on the administration building.

In early June four churches combined—not an easy task. The 2019 theme song, “Only Jesus” drew our hearts together in one great prayer, “I’ve only got one life to live…I’ll make every second count for Him.” Morning devotionals challenged each one to use their gifts, … follow Jeremiah’s example, “the prophet that didn’t quit.” Whenever and wherever God calls, He will sustain us. This mission team set the bar for unity and common purpose through VBS, and as they built benches for children’s Bible classes, ministered to orphanages, and celebrated with Samuel’s Fund sponsored children.

After a nightmare of missed flights, and midnight arrivals in distant cities, teams from Portland and Maryland  threw their best efforts into the tasks of ministry–construction and VBS at Villa Altagracia and Hatillo schools, plus the Higuey and Monte Plata orphanages.

Together with our Dominican staff, each team rose to the
challenge—old-hands and “new-bies,” translators, interns, helpers, cooks, led by our Super-Hero staff.  Sometimes they had to bob and weave, as planned events changed or grew beyond projected numbers. “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it for me,” Jesus said.  Focused on serving the King of Kings, each group overcame obstacles to minister to the “least of these.”

A child recently asked, “Why are you here?”  Good question.  Why so much effort?  Why the sacrifice of time and resources?  Participants report, “In giving, I received so much more—joy, faith, personal renewal.”

One person summarized, “I think it is what James calls pure religion.  It is compassion for the neediest.  Not just social, but spiritual.  We address their physical needs, but also their need for the Gospel.”  

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