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

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

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.

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

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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May, 2019—STCH Ministries International expanded into Costa Rica!  Amanda Longoria, associate director for International, led the BSM college group from Texas State on this faith adventure.  STCH Ministries therapist, Leslee O’Neal  and her husband, Johnny, also accompanied the group.  Excitement, blunted by apprehension, gripped their hearts as the trip began.  “Would their skills and resources be enough for the needs they would encounter?

After the short flight to San Jose, they began their first assignment at Excelencia Familiar children’s home. Asked to paint the girls bedrooms a hot pink color, the team went to work.  On the last bedroom…Oh no! Big brown eyes reflected disappointment with the announcement, “We have run out of the pink color.” Hesitating momentarily, Amanda responded, “If Jesus made water into wine, we can make more pink paint!” They hurriedly mixed the remaining pink paint with leftover beige and red, and Presto! A unique Pepto Bismol paint job resulted.  The girls expressed delight.

The team next moved into the rain forest to work with Nicaraguan refugees.  During VBS, Leslee was “volun-told” to take charge of making chicken soup for the large group of children and moms.  Panic set in as she viewed three WHOLE chickens.  Her US-grocery- store chicken was pre-cut!  Bravely, she picked up the helpless chicken, grabbed a knife, and set to work.  After sabotaging one chicken, she noticed the Costa Rican ladies patiently watching, and cried, “Help!”  Immediately one stepped forward. Whack, whack, whack!  The chicken was ready for the soup pot.

While the soup cooked, Leslee presented on depression and grief to grateful moms. Then it was time to serve the soup to 120 children and moms.  Anxiety increased, as the amount of soup dwindled.  Would there be enough?  Like the Biblical widow’s oil, they had just enough!

Repeatedly, God proved his faithfulness.  The men mixed concrete for a cement floor in the community worship center.  The supply was just enough for the floor, and a sidewalk. Later, the community gathered on the new cement floor for popcorn and the movie, Left Behind.  Johnny spontaneously was asked to speak to the crowd. Exhausted from the unaccustomed concrete work, the life-long dread of public speaking threatened to overwhelm him.  Then he thought, “I don’t want any of these people to be left behind.” God’s peace replaced fear as Johnny shared the Good News of salvation through faith in Christ.

After the event, they planned to distribute groceries to the first 50 families.  Too late they realized the supplies filled only 41 bags. Miraculously, only 41 families stayed to receive the food.


Reflecting back on their experiences, Amanda reported, “The greatest lesson we learned was to trust God with everything because, He IS able. Every day we learned to lean on him for strength and energy, and all of our needs.”

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The idea of a Spring Break medical mission trip originated early in the Fall of 2018 in the hearts of a few Baylor University students preparing for a career as a PA (Physicians Assistant).  The plans quickly proceeded as 17 students paid their deposits and filled out their applications.

In the Dominican Republic, Dr. Francisco’s eyes widened as he heard the news that so many students, with little experience, were coming to help with medical clinics.  What could they do?  How could this work?  What would be the benefit both to the students and to the patients at the medical clinics?  And so the journey of faith began….

It was an Abraham-like experience—who went out not knowing whither he went, to a land he did not know, but went at God’s direction.  The students trusted God to lead them where they had never been, their parents trusted God AND their students to venture to a foreign country with a ministry (STCH Ministries International) of which many were not acquainted, and Dr. Francisco trusted God for wisdom to provide the resources for an effective medical clinic experience.

And God abundantly provided.  One licensed PA who accompanied the students, a family practice Physician from San Antonio, and 6 young English-speaking Dominican doctors shared their knowledge as they treated each patient. The students were divided between doctors in groups of 2, or in the pharmacy.  Accompanying the team, God provided all of the necessary logistics of food, transportation, pharmacy help, children’s ministry volunteers, and translators.  In the three days of medical clinics, spread across different communities, they saw over 400 patients. Their ailments were heard and diagnosed with compassion.  Available medicines were provided. And for each patient, a prayer of blessing over their needs and families was shared.

A day at the orphanage in Santiago capped off the week.  Whether reading, or playing soccer and basketball and jumping rope with children, or sharing laps, smiles, and hugs, the students shared God’s love with each one.  One child’s response touched all of our hearts in a special way.  When asked, “What do you want most for your life in the future?”  “A family,” was the response.  So it is throughout the world in every child’s heart, a deep longing to belong to a family.

Spring Break 2019—a moment in time.  Time to re-set priorities, slow down the pace of life enough to hear God, and see the needs of others.  Time to strengthen relationships. And make new relationships with Christian brothers and sisters 2,000 miles away.  A sacrifice of time and resources, accompanied by a significant step of faith.  We hope these moments will live on in each student’s heart, and produce a rich harvest of faith and service to others as God continues to lead them in their journey of life.

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A mission trip requires each person to step out of the ordinary, leave the known for the unknown. “Does God really want me to do this? Will God be enough for the unknown,” we wonder?  When we step out in obedience and faith, we open ourselves to God-sized surprises.

The Yorktown Baptist medical team had a mission–sharing the love of Christ through medical clinics, and ministries with children.  The team included several nurses, but no doctors.  How could they assess in a different language, and how would they prescribe medications accurately without a doctor?  Dr. Francisco Paredes was up to the challenge.  He recruited 4 additional Dominican doctors who spoke English.  He divided the group into 5 teams of nurses, doctors and translators.  What could be more perfect?  With 5 teams there was time to assess and treat medical issues, and also to share Christ and to pray with each patient.

The children’s team had shared the love of Christ with children in many venues.  Their concern was, “How can we effectively communicate Jesus’ love for each child when we can’t speak the language?” They prepared colorful cards with their pictures to give each child that stated, “Hemos venido a compartir el amor de Jesus.”  (We have come to share the love of Jesus).  The team was paired with Valentina, a translator whose passion to share Jesus’ love with children, rivaled their own. Word for word, gesture for gesture, her tone of voice mirrored the presenter. To their surprise, the communication obstacle vanished in the unity of spirit they experienced.

God’s surprises varied from overcoming financial barriers through generous donors to helping a team member find peace in her personal relationship with Christ. Others exclaimed, “I expected to serve others, instead I was the one served. Love was so freely given, it was infectious!” And God surprised during home visits. “The home was so small we sat outside, the only source of light a small candle at the table. We ate and shared our testimonies. The presence of God was so apparent in those moments. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in a different country having an experience like this one.”

When we follow God by faith, He will surprise us by giving more than we hoped for, abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.

We just finished our annual Vision Trip to the Dominican Republic.  Some participants were first-timers, others returned to update past ministry accomplishments. We toured two-story concrete school buildings which replaced both a former chicken shack, and also a crowded apartment in another village.  A spacious concrete home now houses the Betesda boys and a beautiful apartment building accommodates graduated young adults in Monte Plata as they transition to full independence.

There were many comments as people reminisced about what God had done over the last few years. They noted the changes and growth in people. The teachers busied about with big smiles and heads held high in schools which can now offer English and computer classes. Gone was the former half-embarrassed body language and muted voice of the school Director as he directed the children’s choir.  “Aleluia, Aleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns,” their voices beautifully intoned in English.  An orphan boy from Monte Plata Orphanage, now a young man in dental school, shared his gratitude to those who loved, educated and taught him about Jesus, and for his sponsor (he calls her his gran-mama) who is paying for his dental school.

Perhaps most humbling was the realization that as we serve our King of Kings, each one of us can only do a little.  When the needs are so great, it is tempting to think, “I can’t do much.”  Or, “I haven’t been able to make that big of a difference.”  When acknowledging a contribution, large or small, Dominicans will often say, “I added a grain of sand (un granito de arena).”  A grain of sand by itself is a very small thing.  Although we often have limited vision and puny faith, our all-powerful, all-gracious God accepts our little grain of sand, and accomplishes His great purposes.

When we give what we have, no matter how small; when we respond to the small voice of the Spirit in our hearts; when by faith we invest our sweat, our efforts, we are sometimes granted the privilege of seeing just a smidgen of what God has done through our combined efforts.  Sometimes God also allows a tiny peek into the future and by faith we dare to dream even bigger Kingdom dreams.  One of those dreams for the future is a new home for the Higuey boys Home, known as “A Better World.” During the Vision Trip we received a promise of a matching contribution of $15,000.  Please consider adding your “grain of sand” to this project.  The need is urgent, and we hope to start construction this Spring. 

Donations can be made online https://www.stchm.org/ways-to-help/. Please be sure and designate in the comment box that your donation is for the Higuey Boys Home. For more information, please call 361.994.0940.
For more information and pictures regarding the Higuey Orphanage click link below:

Mission Trips 2019 began in January with the First Baptist mission team from Allen, Texas.  Their main focus was evangelism. Villa Altagracia is a village where STCHM mission teams have built a two-story school building. Rodney and Nilsia lead the school, but recently the IBQ church under the leadership of Pastor Rudy have commissioned this couple to begin a church in the school facilities.  They have also pledged some monthly support to help them plant this church.

The Allen group partnered with the ministry in Villa Altagracia for a significant part of their activities.  They traveled to Villa Altagracia for children’s meetings in the afternoon.  After that activity they divided into groups of 4-5 and walked the streets of Villa Altagracia sharing their testimonies and the Gospel.  They also invited the community to attend evangelistic services on two nights at the school.  Rented chairs, and a make-shift canvas tent hoped to shield a few people from the expected rain.  But God held back the rain!

God also performed another miracle that first night.  Directly outside of the school a crew of men and a huge rented machine were digging a well.  Boom!  Boom! Boom!  All through the children’s Bible classes the noise was deafening.  Surely, we asked, they would stop when night came?  Wrong!  The machine was rented per day at a very high cost, and they planned to dig through the night until the job was done.  Now what to do?  It was one thing to tolerate that noise over 100 noisy children, but an evening church service and a message to adults?  We asked Russell, “What do we do now?”  O ye of little faith.  Russell’s answer?  “Don’t worry.  All Satan has is a machine.  We have God on our side!”  At exactly 7 pm, the men paused their machine for one hour and we held our evangelistic service!!  An even greater miracle was the 3 adults who accepted Christ as a result of these efforts.

As an integral part of evangelism, the Bible was highlighted through Bible memory competitions, the purchase and gifting of Bibles in the Spanish language, and a training for leaders of Bible classes for children.  How can you motivate children (and adults) to memorize Scriptures?  The Allen group demonstrated some unique methods through drills, competitions and games.  Even the boys at the Betesda Home joined in the competition to find books of the Bible with the new Bible that the team had given them.

Through the efforts of this mission team, God’s Spirit pushed back the darkness in the Villa Altagracia village, and especially in the lives of the many individuals who heard the Gospel, those that accepted Christ, and many more who received Bibles. As the Allen trip ended, they knew that the Word of God that they left behind would continue to be alive and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, and penetrating to the soul and spirit.  (From Hebrews 4:12)