Life Outside the Contemporary American “Bubble”

As we complete our summer mission trips to the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, we reflect with gratitude over all that God did through the hands of 18 mission teams and 258 participants from Maryland to Texas.
Grateful for over 200 children and adults who professed faith in Christ. Grateful for health and safety. Grateful for growth in ministries, growth in our staff leadership and in the lives of our sponsored children. Grateful for mission teams, for their willingness to endure a very hot summer without complaints, for their energy and dedication and their willingness to flex when plans went awry. Their personal reflections affirmed the work of God’s Spirit in lives and families.

The Hung family has returned multiple times to serve since 2014. Sophia shared, “At a young age I was able to recognize and see God working. When I was about 10 or 11, I made the decision to live for God and to get baptized during the mission trip. This year a special moment for me was at the boys’ orphanage when I complimented Ezekiel on his grades and sports ability. He replied, “Gracias a Dios,” (Thanks to God). I thought about what he said the rest of the day because I was shocked to see how strong his faith in God was at such a young age. The faith that people hold in the Dominican Republic has made me realize the works of God and how powerful it can really be.”

From FBC Port Lavaca, Pastor Whittle wrote, “It was a trip that lit the fires of missions for our group. The staff in the DR were full of energy and we loved that they got their ‘hands dirty’ with us.”
One doctor reported his experience, as he worked in a medical clinic, performing ultrasound exams. He shared with some of the children the miracle of creation, allowing them to see a baby sucking his thumb in the mother’s womb!
Our team witnessed 54 children invite Jesus into their hearts and have ordered a Bible for each one.
At the Higuey boys’ home, one group reported, “Our children did an amazing job of connecting with the boys, playing baseball and various games. The day ended with pizza, s’mores and rain!”  Another team treated the boys with a special trip to a local park, where both team members and the boys played, swam and enjoyed a cookout together. It was definitely a highlight for these boys.
The IBQ church always inspires—their prayer time together on Wednesday night, their unreserved, heart-felt singing, their dedication to come to church–walking, riding a Moped with several children perched on the back or in a sputtering public car.  One team shared a marriage conference with the IBQ couples and also a devotional time with the Moms while the children participated in VBS. Another group prepared a first-ever event for the families of IBQ church, complete with games, face-painting, competitions, hot dogs and an illustrated Bible lesson that impacted both young and old.
Collectively, participants shared, ”We saw the world as it really is in God’s sight. Fears of differentness, barriers of language, skin color and poverty melted away. Our service became a worship experience—building, delivering beds and food to needy families, singing, playing and dancing with children, teaching Bible stories or English lessons and joining our Dominican family in joyful praise.”
As a “newbie,” Clark McCormick, 15 years old, added her perspective, “I experienced life outside of the contemporary American bubble. Even though we can’t speak the same language, we have the same God. They are so passionate about their faith. Serving others pushed me out of my comfort zone, and has made me less afraid to reach out to others.”

Aligned with God’s Dreams

“It can be a Salvadoran dream, or an American dream, but most important is to make sure we are aligning with God’s dreams,” shared Edgar Borja, Salvadoran ministry leader. Reflecting on their mission week, the group from Calvert Grace in Maryland was impacted by the dreams of the Peniel churches to meet practical life needs, while making opportunities to share the Gospel and grow disciples.

Education is crucial for the future of children. Accordingly, every church in the Peniel network either already has a school, or is in the process of growing one, starting from preschool. Parents who wish to enroll their children receive a significant tuition discount if they also attend church once a week. The mission team spent 4 afternoons doing teacher training and introducing effective teaching techniques. The team reported, “Before we left, teachers were already adapting new strategies to use in their classrooms.” Jobs are scarce, and competition is fierce. The Peniel churches have partnered with the government to create a job-training center. Although religious teaching is forbidden, breakfast is served to those who come early along with a Bible lesson and testimonies. And after the training, there are free ESL classes, which use the Bible as their textbook.

Soccer is a huge attraction in El Salvador. Churches develop their own leagues and for those willing to come to church once a week, all fees are waived. The Calvert Grace team brought a sports camp to the school at El Riel. In addition to Bible lessons, they rotated between 6 different sports, including Ga-ga ball, baseball, football and frisbee. They ended with giving each child their own soccer ball!

Team members reflected,
“We got to interact with a beautiful little girl and chose to sponsor her. I will always remember the light in her eyes, and later the joy radiating from the mother when they were informed of our sponsorship.”

“The children lined up and cheered for us. It was a hero’s welcome!”

“I was inspired by the Salvadorans to be intentional in meeting needs while sharing the Gospel.”

“Families, previously isolated due to violence and Covid, are coming out of the shadows.  It’s a great time for STCH Ministries to be involved.”

Pray with us as we take the next steps in our partnership with the Peniel churches, and the future involvement of more partner teams.

We Have Lift-Off

After months of prayer, and four vision trips with staff and select pastors and leaders, Schulenberg Baptist Church became the first official STCH Ministries team to serve in El Salvador!

They traveled to El Riel and met pastor Anselmo. STCH Ministries had previously assisted them to put a roof, and later windows on their multi-purpose church building. The Schulenberg team used that resource to impact the surrounding community. As the pastor shared, “The church building has given us a higher level of credibility and influence in this poverty-bound community.”

The children waited expectantly for the group to arrive, waving from the upper level of the rugged terrain, and the welcome continued in the newly windowed church building with banners, balloons and songs. The atmosphere of joy and celebration continued through the week as the mission team participated in a uniquely STCH MINISTRIES-SALVADORAN ministry event with children, family and leaders.

The group built tables, held VBS classes and taught ESL during school hours. In the afternoons, families came down from the surrounding hills and formed fellowship circles with the group. “We bonded instantly. We weren’t ready for them to return home as we loaded them up with a generous bag of groceries!” One group trudged up hills and down, over and around creeks, to visit a child on the waiting list for sponsorship. It was a unique God appointment for sponsorship. Three additional children were also chosen for sponsorship.

The following day they celebrated a PUPUSA FELLOWSHIP. Some of the moms taught the team how to make the Salvadoran national dish—a thick flatbread made of corn masa, and stuffed with various fillings. What fun they enjoyed as they mashed the sticky dough, patted and slapped it into the right shape, then grilled them and ate together.

In the evenings Pastor Dave brought the message in two different churches. “The Spirit of God moved freely,” one participant reported. “We had great translators, but even in situations where there wasn’t a translator, we realized that language is never a barrier for God.”

STCH Ministries is grateful for this first joyful mission week in partnership with the Peniel network of churches. Our goal for 2024 is to host small teams of 10-15 participants, especially in the fall and spring of the year. Please pray with us about this opportunity, and let us know if your church would like to join in this mission opportunity.

Mission Trip Guarantee

On every mission trip, there will be bumps on the road—100% GUARANTEED! Canceled, or rescheduled flights, miscommunication, a power outage and no A/C, noisy music, a mattress that is too hard, a child with a queasy stomach or fudge at the boy’s home that won’t firm up because of the heat. Teachers scheduled to teach canceled at the last minute because of illness. Gospel presentations were drowned out by trucks with loudspeakers blaring their wares. But GUARANTEED—on every mission trip God shows up in unique ways. We are challenged to yield our desires and plans to the sovereign God we serve. Families are blessed, pastors and leaders are strengthened, life-long connections are formed, children find their “forever-sponsor-family” and others are born into “God’s-forever-family” through faith in Christ. 

Pastors, leaders and wives from the eastern part of the Dominican Republic met for a day-long conference. Wives, who did not know each other, enjoyed fellowship and encouragement from God’s Word. They lingered afterward to set up a WhatsApp group and make plans for a future fellowship event. Pastors connected with other leaders, perhaps known in the past, but disconnected by the pressures of ministry. Through their interactions, the Holy Spirit provided healing sandpaper to smooth the calluses of distance and misunderstanding, and bind hearts in unity and common purpose.

A grandmother brought her daughter and two granddaughters on the trip. She shared what a joy it was to serve together. Not intimidated by culture and language, she saw growth in her granddaughter’s leadership skills.

A courageous mom with three young children eagerly signed up for the trip, returning from the year before. Tearfully, she shared the impact of the trip on her family. “We were surrounded and supported by love every moment.”

God showed up when a pastor invested in a STCH Ministries leader, and changed his perspective on leadership. He showed up in the dedication of an endodontist who courageously treated difficult issues with excellence, while also training Jose Regalado, our Dominican third-year dental student.

One of the most impactful experiences happened on the banquet night. A young Dominican translator, Elias, shared his testimony. He told of the benefits of sponsorship—his education in grade school and now in college, food deliveries from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offerings during times of duress when his dad didn’t have a job, and the time he received his own bed at 10 years of age. Elias’ testimony gave meaning to all of the investment and work that teams do! Some of the team members who delivered the bed to this young man over eight years ago were present. 

Yes, there are obstacles, as there are with any worthy endeavor. Ultimately, the efforts invested by mission teams are worthy, because HE IS WORTHY!


Watching God Work

One mission trip, 3 teams from 3 churches—FBC Kenedy, Trinity Baptist Church in Kerrville, Parkway Church in Victoria.

A video set on fast-forward blurs with any attempt to view all they accomplished! A simple list is inadequate, even the imagination falls short of any attempt to convey multiple co-occurring ministries, with individuals of varied ages and wide-ranging skills. One common thread ran through every activity—relationships. The goal was not to have the perfect medical clinic, the most skillful drama of the Bible story at VBS, the artistic quality of a mural on an orphanage wall, devotionals and singing that inspired and motivated or even an impactful pastor’s conference. The goal was the people, and the relationships created and expanded through the ministries. Getting to know the Dominican pastors—their frustrations and obstacles—and sharing empathy through conversations around the table, as well as encouragement from God’s Word. More than hearing, participants truly listened, past the physical ailments, and connected with the fear and pain that patients shared. They offered love along with medications and advice.

Relationships were made while delighting in moments that matter, whether it was laughing over a game, hugging a child at the orphanage or sharing a meal with a Dominican family. While purchasing and delivering groceries, sharing new clothes and school supplies, sanding and sawing and hammering together with young and old, relationships were deepened. While decorating for ladies’ tea, or a banquet celebration, praying, clapping and singing, relationships were nurtured. In the background of all these activities, almost unnoticed, the REAL work of a mission trip goes on. Sharing love, time for meaningful conversations, encouragement and reconnecting with God’s purpose for our lives. Building relationships.


Why God?

Why, God? It is a common question surrounding the misfortunes of life—illness, accidents, disappointments, betrayals and any difficulties and obstacles confronted during the course of our journey. Especially, when we are attempting to do good things, it feels that “God should have my back,” as we commonly express between friends.

“Why, God?” was the first thought that arose when the medical and dental team from CMDA arrived in the Dominican Republic. The preparations had begun months before—the team signed up with passports and QR codes for entry visas, licensed doctors and dentists recruited to accompany students from the San Antonio medical center, 11 bright red trunks of supplies carefully packed and inventoried, sites of clinics identified and reserved, transportation, translators, rooming assignments and the ALL-IMPORTANT Dominican health department permission signed and in-hand. Finally, the last item was checked off of the seemingly endless list of details, and the team boarded their flights.

“My ways are higher than your ways,” God reminds us and reminds us again and again, throughout our lives. The team arrived safely in the DR, but as they passed through customs, all 11 trunks of medical and dental supplies were confiscated! In spite of the official legal document giving permission for these clinics, they were informed that now there were NEW regulations, and the trunks would be held until they left the country again. Why, God?

Frustrated, disappointed and anxious, the team tried to adjust, and reconsider,  “What can we accomplish without  our supplies?” Prayer was the first and the only recourse. For many, although faith was an untested resource, they earnestly asked God to intervene. Disheartened, they began their first clinics on Monday morning, determined to do what they could.

For STCH Ministries for over 70 years, God has answered countless prayers in the mission of “healing hearts and sharing hope with children and families.” He is sovereign. God is not taken by surprise by life’s events. He is always faithful. Although His ways are not our ways, He will always make A WAY. 

STCH Ministries is grateful for the friends God has provided through the last 16 years of ministry in the Dominican Republic. As texts, emails and phone calls flew over the ocean, representatives from our staff returned to the customs agents to try and plead our case. At first there was no change, but as the individuals with the necessary authority were contacted, the staff suddenly received a message, “Come and get your supplies!” By the end of the week, over 652 patients were seen and received medical and dental attention.

“Why, God?” is never fully understood from this earth-bound perspective. But through these circumstances, we can be sure of some of His purposes; the power of prayer, the reality that God knows us, and hears us was affirmed; important connections were formed through our Dominican friends; faith-building occurred in many hearts. Above all else, God received the glory and affirmed to all of us that He is sovereign and He is in control.

Love Crosses Oceans

When God called missionary John Gilbert to become Headmaster of Yorktown Christian Academy, John brought his passion for a world lost without Christ into his goals and responsibilities. God formed a perfect partnership with a school that purposed to impart a world vision and the STCH Ministries focus on children and families. In February 2023, the Academy put into action their motto, “Love Crosses Oceans” for the 6th year with a large group of 38 children and parents in the Dominican Republic.

Eighth graders were invited on a week-long mission trip, accompanied by at least one parent. The impact goes beyond the individual to touch family and school relationships. They delivered food to hungry families and built and delivered beds for children. Little Maria will never lead a normal life due to crippling brain seizures and a speech disorder. She had never had her own bed and when the group delivered her bed, she couldn’t stop saying gracias, gracias, gracias! They worked to build a home for a family with 3 children who lived in a window-less zinc hovel that shared a neighborhood outhouse. They also prepared and presented a VBS program on the Armor of God. And as they prepared to teach and share they also learned, “Be equipped! Share your testimony. Speak truth boldly. Live a righteous life.”

One evening the mission team divided into small groups to share a meal in the homes of IBQ church families. Their gracious hospitality and love overlaid their humble circumstances. Adalisa Paredes and her children have been praying for such a long time for their husband and father, so when the YCA group asked, “How can we pray for you?” the children boldly responded in their father’s presence, “Pray that our Dad will go to church and come to know Jesus.” The team prayed right on the spot, and the father promised to come to the Sunday service the next morning! Excited to see God answer their prayers, the families embraced and prayed together after the service. They promised to keep each other in their prayers that Dad will soon make his decision to accept Christ. The YCA leadership is careful to emphasize flexibility–that this trip is NOT a vacation. The focus is, “Here am I, Lord, send me.” They purposed to serve, to work, to adjust to the unexpected with a great attitude! The love of Christ expressed in actions crossed an ocean. God so loved, that He gave His only Son. Yorktown Academy’s eighth-grade students and their parents shared that love to children and families in the Dominican Republic.



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

Family Counseling Goes International

Pastor Rudy in the Dominican Republic was living out, “The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few,” as he shared that the IBQ church was growing, and many new couples were attending. “They are desperately seeking God’s help, as they struggle with economic stress, generational family dysfunction and pandemic-related effects of isolation. They need specific Christian guidance for their marriages. Can STCH Ministries help us?”

We began to pray. Could STCH Ministries Family Counseling staff be helpful? Every endeavor requires faith, effort and a decision. With a heart to meet the critical needs of marriages, Eron Green and Family Counseling leadership took a faith step, and plans began. Counselors, Mark Kass, from Houston and Caleb Barnet (Counseling Director in the Rio Grande Valley) volunteered and on October 6 they boarded a plane for the Dominican Republic for a three-day marriage conference. They were joined by three American couples from City Rise in Houston.

Plans included morning sessions with the American couples joined by STCH Ministries partners, Russell, his wife, Mio, Dr. Francisco and Robert Alcantara. The therapists reviewed the material and verified it was relevant to the Dominican culture. In the evening the sessions were repeated–a large group presentation, followed by small group discussions.

Coed groups of couples were a new experience in that environment. Would Dominican men talk if the wives were present? However, it was decided that a small group would allow couples to apply material personally and culturally, which was critical for the benefit of the teaching.

God’s Spirit was present in an amazing way, as the therapists shared information on God’s vision for marriage, building a friendship, conflict resolutions, forgiveness and communication strategies. More than 50 couples attended all three days. As they broke up into ten small groups and shared a small snack, the conversations began. Bonds were quickly formed. Men and women both participated, and at end of the discussion time, the couples were not ready to leave!

As they left the conference, many couples shared the impact on their marriages. Comments included, “We decided to pray together. We now have tools to resolve our conflicts. I understand what forgiveness requires. I never knew my husband and I were supposed to build a friendship. We have decided together what God’s purpose is for our marriage. We need to prioritize couple-time, communication is critical. We renewed our love for each other.”

Pastor Rudy and Patria were almost speechless with wonder and gratitude. God’s Spirit impacted every heart–newly married, older couples, marriage partners who previously refused to come to church, unbelievers, new believers and mature Christians. As the conference ended, Pastor Rudy handed out a book to each small group for them to continue meeting over the next few weeks.

“Go into all the world, and make disciples,” Jesus commanded.  Sometimes disciple-making happens through a marriage conference.


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

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 


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.