God Provides – Costa Rica

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.”


Spring Awakening

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.


Surprised By God

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.

A Grain of Sand

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:

Pushing Back The Dark

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)

Where God Sees Beauty

A single mom in the Dominican Republic once said to our staff, “I can tell you love us. Not because of the things you give us, but because you aren’t afraid to touch us, even though we are poor.”

At our Homes for Families ministry, there was nothing associated with beauty to attract attention—a preschooler with matted hair, soiled clothing, apprehension reflected in her eyes. Loving hands touched and embraced her, drew her close, bathed and washed her hair, clothed her with a donated dress, and put a bow in her hair.  She gazed at her reflection and exclaimed wonderingly, “Look!  I’m bee-oo-tiful!”

Recently the ladies in our Homes for Families ministry to single moms and their children, took a craft break from their studies and caring for their children.  They created beautiful flowers out of colorful paper.  It was a reminder of the beauty God is creating within each of them through this ministry.

In The Message, Isaiah declares prophetically that God will return his children from faraway places, showering them with splendor.  Whether in the Dominican Republic or here in South Texas, STCH Ministries specializes in helping God’s children (no matter what their age) return from the faraway places where sin and abuse has abandoned them.  We help them discover the One who sees beauty under the ashes of life, and come to know the God who delights in them, and “festoons plain folk with salvation garlands.” Psalm 149:4

Each day, in every ministry our goal is to touch others with God’s love. We strive to help them discover the beauty that God has designed for them.  Whether helping our moms create beauty out of paper, or transforming a negative view of themselves into a “bee-oo-tiful” child of God, STCH Ministries works to fulfill the mission to which God has called us, “Honoring God, reaching hurting children and families, and enabling others to join us.”

Rosa Elena Pointing Heavenward

For the many people who knew her, the memory of Rosa Elena lives on.  Dark-skinned, turbaned elegantly, and dressed in flowing white, she often pointed one thumb heavenward.  It was her signature gesture as she deflected all the glory to God. Rosa Elena inspired everyone with her amazing faith and her dedication to the forgotten, yet priceless to God, children of Hatillo—chained by ignorance, generational poverty, and immorality.

Shortly after she opened her heart to Christ, God gave her a passion for these children living in the Hatillo area.  Their location and poverty isolated them without access to education, without knowledge of God’s love, without hope for the future. Rosa Elena began educating 7 children in 1996, and labored faithfully with minimal resources for 10 years.  When STCH Ministries began to partner with the school in 2007, a former graduated student recounted, “We had to break a crayon in four pieces to share!”  In 2012, STCH Ministries received significant funding for this project.  With the help of partnering churches they replaced the deteriorating wooden buildings with new concrete structures.  The school grew to over 100 students.

Unexpectedly, Rosa Elena’s health began to deteriorate and on September 26, 2016 she passed away.  A crisis developed as the school struggled with decreasing attendance, teacher resignations, and financial stress.  STCH Ministries staff and donors, along with the IBQ church staff and a newly formed board, stepped up their support. New staff was trained, salaries were increased, additional investments were made in uniforms, computers, and other equipment. Gradually the school stabilized and began to grow. Today, the goals for the future of Rosa Elena’s school are excellence with self-sustainability.

Since the time Rosa Elena began to educate children and share the hope of the Gospel, many years have passed and countless children have been impacted.  “La Gloria a Dios,” was Rosa Elena’s refrain, as she pointed with her thumb to the skies.  Two years ago Rosa Elena left our planet to reside in that Glory-land to which she often pointed.

Higüey Boys Home – A Better World

Did you know that the average person who works 40 years will spend 2,000 hours in church, and 90,000 hours at work?   To be good stewards of the life God has given us, we must continually listen for God’s guidance. We must look for opportunities to bless others during the normal activities of each day.  And when God speaks to us, we must step forward in faith to follow His leading.

Cesar exemplifies someone who allowed God’s Spirit to speak through him during the ordinary activities of his work-life.  Cesar was a taxi driver in the small town of Higuey in the Dominican Republic. Every day was a challenge, as he drove up and down city streets, always looking for another fare, a few more pesos to meet the necessities of his family.  Lunch time was a prime opportunity for fares, and he often drove customers to eat at various restaurants. In the midst of his work pressures and responsibilities, God’s Spirit spoke to his heart. Cesar began to notice the ragged boys who hung out behind the restaurants, scavenging the uneaten food out of the trash.

Cesar had enough to worry about. Just making enough pesos to live was hard. And he wasn’t doing too badly in the serving God department, either.  He was a leader in his church, and supported a wife and several children.  He could have ignored the sight of the hungry boys, looked the other way, and busied himself with his own responsibilities.  But God’s Spirit continued to whisper, “Those are MY boys, my special creation.”  Compassion for the children grew, and Cesar shared the need with other church members.  In time they formed a board, found a rental home and the boys were accepted into their hearts and lives.

STCH Ministries was introduced to the Home, named “A Better World” about two years ago, and we began to help with food and maintenance projects. We slowly developed a relationship with the boys and the staff. Although their rent house was shabby, the owner of the house allowed them to live in the home for only $1.00 per year.  Last spring, however, the elderly owner became ill.  As a result her family required the orphanage to move out of the home by the end of 2018.

The board had acquired a small piece of land, and now they turned to STCH Ministries for help.  Could we help to build a permanent home for the children?  Plans have been drawn and the estimate to build a home for the 15 boys is $100,000.00. We have received donations totaling $30,000 for this project. We are trusting by faith for the remaining balance.

(Building Plans)

Cesar stepped out in faith when God’s Spirit stirred compassion in his heart for abandoned street boys.  We are also trusting God to provide this need.  We hope many of you will partner with us and with the boys home of Higuey to build a permanent home and to truly create “A Better World” for them.

Better than Light and Safer than a Known Way

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”  And He replied:  “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
– From “The Gate of the Year” by Minnie Louise Haskins

How many times have you and I stood at the “gate” of the unknown?  “Lord, give me light and wisdom for the future.”  Not so long ago we “stood” at the gate of our summer 2018 mission trips—myriads of details unknown.  Great opportunities accompanied possible obstacles and concerns.

This summer many teams left the “known” for the “unknown” to spend the night closer to the orphanage sites—different food, different beds, sometimes no A/C.  Building trust and sharing God’s love with traumatized children required more time invested. How would that work?  By God’s grace…

  • Teams consistently shared that the time spent with those children was the most rewarding.

Our teams had higher number of participants than ever before. Could our staff manage the additional pressures and sacrifices required?

  • Additional Dominican translators were recruited, plus five American and Dominican interns.
  • Staff enjoyed good health for the entire summer.
  • Coordination between staff improved with additional staff meetings and the “WhatsApp” communication app.
Would the teams come prepared for more complex ministry opportunities?
  • Teachers, seminar and leadership presenters were of the highest quality.
  •  Medical and dental personnel, accompanied by an unprecedented number of Dominican personnel, had their best clinics ever.
  •  Artistically gifted members on several teams painted beautiful murals at the Santiago orphanage to brighten the children’s play area.
Construction tasks were daunting—with volunteer labor, unpredictable weather, and design-as-you-go building plans.
  • Experienced engineers, contractor, even an architect, were among our mission team volunteers.
  • Young summer interns stepped up and gave 110%.  Although not what they expected to do, they gave their best—a living sacrifice—to get the work done.
  • Completed projects included playhouses at one orphanage, painting roofs and ceilings at another, and rebuilding four homes for our Samuel’s Fund children’s families, in addition to beds, tables, and more.
We can joyfully share a smattering of results.
  • 346 participants from 17 churches and organizations
  • Over 450 prayed to receive Christ
  • More than 1,136 children were reached through VBS classes
  • 1,844 patients in our medical and dental clinics
  • We spent 22 days with orphanage children, compared to 10 days in 2017

We give God all the glory for what He has done.  We celebrate with you what can be accomplished through partnership between STCH Ministries and American and Dominican ministries.

Today the 2018 summer mission trips are behind us.  Now we stand at another “gate” as we plan for 2019 in the DR and continue to explore the possibility of ministry expansion into Peru, Costa Rica, or wherever God leads.  The future is unknown.  God’s hand and your prayers, encouragement, and ministry support are “better than light, and safer than a known way.”

Germinating Seeds of Love

For the last 10 years, every mission team has included at least one day of orphanage ministry in their busy schedules–providing training and needed resources, building needed projects, and sharing enrichment activities like an outing to the aquarium or the underground caves. Through every activity, our desire was to share Christ’s love and encourage the staff.

Over the last year, however, we sensed God drawing our attention to the ineffectiveness of our “hit-and-run” ministry to those children. Because our IBQ headquarters are between 1.5 and 3 hours distance from the orphanages, a “day” with the children actually consisted of 4-5 hours—a shared meal, a few games, and a devotional—and we were loading up the bus and saying goodbye. We realized that spending more time at the orphanages was a prerequisite for building a relationship, and a relationship was necessary to effectively share love and encouragement.

This summer we are grateful for the flexibility of teams as we have experimented with more time invested at the orphanages. This required packing an overnight bag, towels and a favorite pillow, groceries, and the all-essential coffee maker; loading up sports equipment, baking supplies, crafts and paint, saws, hammers, screws and nails. It also required spending several nights in unfamiliar situations, sometimes without air conditioning, and adjusting to a menu not quite up to the standards of the IBQ kitchen.

Each mission team came prepared for various activities. Bear Creek Baptist Church from Katy painted orphanage roofs and ceilings, added screens to windows, and shelves for clothes. University Baptist Church from Clear Lake built playhouses–a workshop complete with toy hammers, saws, and measuring tapes. And a kitchen with plastic fruits and vegetables, pots, and dishes. They shared training for caregivers in one orphanage and nurturing activities and Bible studies for the staff at another. All spent quality time with the children.

How can a mission team give value to a child who has been traumatized and placed in an orphanage? We can love. We can get on their level and make eye contact. We can listen. We can hug. We can sing and play and laugh with them. We can admire and affirm their “wins” in games or crafts. By faith we can plant seeds of love, and trust God to germinate in each heart. We may never see the results, but sometimes God gives us a glimpse of His work.

Jose sat angrily, arms folded on the sidelines, refusing to participate. “Can we talk together?” asked Emelin. “No, I don’t want to talk to anybody.” “Okay, can I give you a hug?” “No, I don’t want anyone to touch me!” Emelin affirmed him and the activity continued. The next day Jose approached Emelin. “Today, I would like to talk to you.” The conversation began and ended with a hug…which Jose initiated!

Spending more time at the orphanage created a relationship. Love germinated and sprouted a hug!