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.
Vice President of Family and International Ministries