Beyond Fishing – Making Disciples

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus challenged Peter and Andrew. Short years later, Jesus refined and extended His calling, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.”

The key component of Jesus’ command is GO! Into all the world doesn’t eliminate my neighbor or work associates, but it does include the world beyond. Making disciples is substantially more than, “Share the Gospel.” Succinctly stated by David Platt, “We are to share the word, show the Word, teach the Word, serve the World.”

Showing the Word requires relationship. International missional effectiveness requires more than “throwing-seed-out-and-hoping-it-grows.” Consistent, personal involvement, doing “life” together– sharing testimonies over a meal, mixing concrete, building a bed, sewing, sponsoring a child—activities that build relationships. WUBC and Crosspoint churches from Houston (now known as City Rise) have served in the Dominican Republic since 2013. One young lady brought piles of costly fabrics inherited from a beloved grandmother and three sewing machines. Building relationships as they shared interests, and met needs, Dominicans and Americans created garments and curtains. One machine was donated to the orphanage, and the other two machines were awarded to a Haitian mother and an older grandmother. “God sent you! He answered my prayers to help me provide for my family.”

The Guaricanos school ministers to children trapped in cycles of poverty, abuse, abandonment, and alcohol. Jesus and education are their only hope. Each day the team shared the Gospel and taught the Word through drama and songs at  VBS. The staff will visit the families and follow up with children who made decisions.

Small groups of 3-5 shared life with Dominican families at supper one evening. They served other destitute families with donations of food. They sponsored a special tea for young ladies with handcraft and a devotional.

At the medical clinics, patients received prayer and spiritual support, in addition to meeting their physical needs. Back at the IBQ site, others built benches, and helped build a home for a Samuel’s Fund sponsored family—serving Christ through hammering, sanding, digging, mixing cement, and carrying cinder blocks. Lives and entire families are changed through the work of mission teams, who return year after year to live out Christ’s call to “make disciples.”

“I was a falling-down drunk who could only provide a two-room shack with a shared neighborhood outhouse. My family accepted Christ through an evangelistic service. They kept telling me about their Jesus, but I ignored them. Our situation became desperate. Bags of sugar, flour, rice and beans made God’s love real. Soon their Jesus became MY Jesus.”

“My children accepted Christ through VBS and my wife followed. They were chosen for sponsorship. I saw the difference in their lives, and I reached out to Christ. We grew in our Christian walk through continued ministries–VBS, English camps, children’s activities and construction projects. They even rebuilt our house. People have seen the change in our lives, and they listen when I tell them about Jesus.”

WUBC-Crosspoint has shared the love of Christ and helped others to experience the life of Christ through teaching, showing and serving for many years. Not a one-and-done mission trip. International missional effectiveness requires a long-term commitment to the process of making disciples, empowering those disciples to reproduce God’s call in their own language to their own families and neighborhoods.

 
Blessing young women with tea, testimonies and handcrafts 

Bendiciones,

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

Kingdom Impact

When it’s all said and done, at the end of our lives or at the end of a mission trip, what will remain?

For those who follow Christ, this thought accompanies our actions—an unvoiced whisper in our subconscious or a louder drumbeat in our hearts—perhaps alternating between both extremes. Possibly for mission team participants who make the effort to step out in faith, to fly our uncertain skies, to disembark into an unfamiliar country surrounded by loud, unintelligible voices–for those individuals, the answer to “What impact will my life make?  Is it worthy?” is crucial.

Calvert Grace from Maryland and Trinity Baptist from Kerrville, Texas made an unusual team—only God could have put them together seamlessly, united in heart and purpose. Combining talents allowed them tremendous versatility in ministries. Mornings were spent sewing curtains, training teachers, rebuilding a house and building beds for Samuel’s Fund children. In the afternoon they joined the IBQ church in developing the unevangelized area of La Ceiba with a VBS for younger children and a sports camp for the older ones, where several children gave their hearts and lives to Christ.

Early one morning they loaded a bus for the orphanage in Santiago—in some ways a heart-heavy experience, loving on children marked with severe abuse and tragedy. Although they receive food, clothing, medical, education and the knowledge of a loving Savior, they are raised without a personal family environment. It was encouraging to learn that the majority are now spending weekends, or longer with a Dominican family (known as missionary families) and some have been permanently placed in those families. Permanent couples would be ideal, and they are committed to search for these. With only a few hours to invest, what can a group do in Jesus’ name? The only answer, “Love.”  One team, many children, few hours. Yet, for those hours, children smiled and laughed. Children were heard—not as a group, but individually. You are loved. You are important. We trust the Spirit will continue to confirm and reaffirm their worth and value through more visits, and through others who invest on a consistent basis in these children.  And we trust that the team members will continue an earnest prayer ministry for these children and the Mercy Network Home. 

Unforgettable Moments

The Comical and the Inspirational

On a mission trip, God speaks individually to each person—through laughter, in singing or in a child’s eyes, during painting, playing, devotions on the rooftop, or a food delivery.  In early June, Hunters Glen Baptist from Plano joined First Baptist from Kenedy to serve together in the Dominican Republic.
Sunday morning at IBQ church was “a picture of heaven,” reported Marcia.

The Spanish and English words of hymns sung at full volume,
gave new meaning to the ancient words,
“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long!”
One afternoon the group gathered groceries and visited the humble zinc-roofed home of Meisy Mercedes, a sponsored child living with her grandmother. “How can we pray for you?”  Her response? Not toys, or clothes, or an Iphone. “Pray that my family will be complete in Christ, that my grandmother will accept Jesus.”

Ladies took turns sewing curtains for Raquel’s school.  Some would measure, others would cut, and others would sew.  But no matter how diligently they worked, the curtains weren’t coming out the same size. Frustration turned to laughter when they compared their measuring tapes—tapes marked 60 inches were different lengths!

Meeting their sponsored child in person provided special memories.  Celine Alvarez cried with joy and disbelief when she was told that her sponsors wanted to meet her.  She had been sponsored for 7 years by the children’s ministry of Hunter’s Glen.

On the opposite end of those emotions was Enmanuel.  Tina’s family have been sponsoring for 2 years, and they knew that Enmanuel was misbehaving and failing in school.  Imagine his surprise and embarrassment when his sponsor showed up, speaking Spanish, and talked with him about his behaviors. “I’ll be back next year to check on you!”

The group traveled to the Higuey boys home, and spent two days with them.  Building a porch, painting, sharing devotional time along with a mountain of pizzas—but their most precious memories were loving and playing with 25 boys.
“I was reminded that God is always good, always faithful.”  “I was blessed to see love in action.” “ I was nudged to invest in our youth at home.” “I met a child that needs a sponsor.”  God spoke personally, and willing hearts responded to His call.

One Life

A family group from First Woodway Baptist Church, joined a group of pre-PA students from Baylor to give Spring Break, 2022, a special meaning—for themselves and for over 350 children and families in the Dominican Republic.  Arriving at the Las Americas airport, any lingering COVID-concerns were swept away in the flood of excited, “Welcome!  Bienvenidos!” from the STCH Ministries Dominican partners.  Mountains of luggage were hurriedly pushed through torrents of rain to load on the bus.  The aroma of arroz con pollo, plantains, and salad awaited as they arrived at the Quisqueyana Baptist Church, mission headquarters for the week.

The diverse group was hosted by STCH Ministries (formerly South Texas Children’s Home), a BGCT supported ministry since 1960.  STCH Ministries International has been actively serving children and families in the Dominican Republic for 15 years, and through the heritage of one student’s great-grandparents, they have been connected with the Dominican Republic since 1947.  STCH Ministries customizes the ministry activities of each mission team according to their gifts.  This week included four medical clinics with the pre-PA students, a day at an orphanage, plus repair of a rotting palm-board house, VBS classes, and food deliveries to families and widows living with food insecurity.

Sunday afternoon Maria Luisa, a widow for many years, was surprised and grateful to receive the food offering.  She brushed away tears, took several deep breaths and willingly shared her story.

“I was married, with a baby boy just a little over a year old, when my world was shattered by the accident that killed my husband. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God, although I knew about Him. Darkness closed in. I spent months in deep depression, barely able to care for my son.  Desperate, I asked a distant relative to take me to church. There, at the Quisqueyana Baptist Church, I met the Savior and began a long healing journey. At first, I grew angrier with God as I began to read the Bible. ‘You have all power! You could have prevented the accident and my husband’s death! Why?’ my broken heart continued to cry.
“God’s purpose, I read, was to show the glory of God.  It didn’t really make sense and it didn’t take away the loneliness and pain that filled every waking hour. But somehow, it brought a tiny ray of hope into my dark world.  Maybe there was some purpose for my life?  I began teaching a children’s Bible class in my home.  Children, and then neighbors began to attend.  As time passed, many others became believers.”

Maria Luisa’s eyes were bright with joy as she shared that today almost every home in her neighborhood has passed from death to eternal life by faith in Christ. “My husband’s death brought me to Jesus, and the changes in my life brought Jesus to my neighbors!”

The team also shared the love of Jesus to over 350 individuals through medical clinics. Their medical needs varied from common colds and viruses, high blood pressure and related illnesses, many types of tropical fungi and skin lesions.  Approximately 75% of their needs could be met in the clinics through the doctor’s advice and medicines, while more serious cases were given appropriate referrals to specialists.
The students reported they were impacted by the opportunity to share God’s love through the practice of medicine.  As one student said, “I felt we were showing God off, by the way we loved and ministered to the needs of many who had no other options for medical care.”  Another student reported, “We watched the doctors take time with each patient, and listen compassionately to their complaints.  I want to be the kind of PA that takes time with my patient and shows genuine interest and values them.”
Throughout the week, in many diverse ministries, team members were blessed and challenged in their own lives. They were empowered to see the impact of their efforts in the lives of children and families.
     
Throughout the week, in many diverse ministries, team members were blessed and challenged in their own lives. They were empowered to see the impact of their efforts in the lives of children and families.

“Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
One life.  The impact continues.

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