Journal Wonderings

“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”—Martin Luther

We may know a lot about the Bible.  We believe God’s promises.  We memorize verses and repeat sayings like: “Prayer changes things,” “With God all things are possible,” and “I can do all things through Christ.”  Perhaps the greatest benefit for mission trip participants happens when those words jump off the pages of our Bibles and are actualized through our experiences and our heightened dependence on God.

FBC Newark, FBC Canyon Lake, and FBC Corpus Christi joined Dr. Shane Scott and his family from Mississippi, to form possibly the most diverse mission trip of the summer.  A few days later, the veteran teams from FBC Kenedy and Trinity Baptist Church in Kerrville were joined by newcomers from Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Portland. Both mission weeks were full of opportunities to live out God’s promises.

When the estimated VBS crowd of 200 swelled to 325 children, the verse “my God will supply all your needs” became very real for the Oak Ridge team.  Somehow the VBS craft and refreshments stretched, and with the STCH Ministries International team and translators leading the way, the group celebrated a God-sized victory.

Pastors from the teams also led a day-long conference for Dominican pastors.

The previous week Pastor Brian from FBC Corpus Christi preached two sermons on Sunday, while others stepped up at the last minute to teach men, women, children, and teens at the Saturday evening Family Fiesta.  The team rushed back from their market-beach day and in record time took up their positions to serve hot dogs to the crowd. The verse “I can do all things through Christ” provided wisdom, energy, and stamina.

“With God all things are possible” proved true for inexperienced hands with no construction experience, who felt overwhelmed.  Moments later, they held drills, used electric sanders and routers, and made 15 bookshelves for schools.  The same promise foretold the resulting two-story home built for a Samuel’s Fund family.  Both experienced workers and greenhorns were joined by the family in a marathon construction endeavor.

Every mission team spends some time at one of the orphanages that STCH Ministries helps to sponsor. Teams took the Monte Plata children to see the underground caves, treated the Higuey orphanage boys to an outing at the aquarium, then shopped for shoes.

Another team packed an overnight bag and loaded on a bus to the Santiago orphanage.  Within minutes of arrival, they crossed the street to “love their neighbors as themselves.” Some taught and others played with the children. Some held babies, fed them, and changed their diapers.  So many beautiful children, so few workers, so little hope for their future opportunities. The experience profoundly impacted the team.  In a country with legal issues, a lack of resources, and a flawed concept of child care, there seems to be an impenetrable barrier for change.  Except…except we believe “prayer changes things.”

The question becomes: Will that promise jump off the pages of our Bibles?  Will those words run after us, become hands that lay hold of us?   In spite of our busy, scheduled lives here in America, can we remember to faithfully pray, believing that prayer WILL change things?  These children and many more depend on those prayers.

Reaping with Joy

Several young people and staff from STCH Ministries Homes for Children formed their own unique mission team last week—ministering to children and young people in the Dominican Republic. At the end of the trip they shared, “We loved the entire week.”

It was humbling, eye-opening, and “mucho caliente” (very hot) as they rebuilt a home for a Samuel’s Fund family. They also conducted VBS and spent some time at the Monte Plata orphanage where they gave manicures, baked, played with children, and shared their testimonies. When Ramon Prensa, founder of the home, shared his story, the STCH Ministries team marveled at the similarity between his faith journey and Laura Boothe’s journey to begin a children’s home in South Texas so many years ago.

This mission trip was especially unique for Patty Kinnamon, commissary supervisor at Boothe Campus. In 2007, Patty and her husband Marvin were houseparents and took part in one of our first mission trips to the DR. At the time, we did not have the infrastructure that our teams now enjoy, and the trip was a difficult experience. Over 100 children spoke in high decibels and all at the same time in Spanish. Tropical sun and heat, primitive conditions, along with a typical native diet of boiled green bananas and salami, altogether the circumstances created a significant level of culture shock for the team.

On the trip, Marvin had the responsibility of supervising the boys’ cabin at a summer camp. When he tried to get them to stay in their beds, one child threw a shoe at him and the rest impetuously joined, pelting him with their shoes. Despite his best efforts, he found the boys to be unmanageable. Marvin came away with the feeling that he just couldn’t get through to these children.

In 2015, Marvin Kinnamon passed away and moved his permanent home address to Heaven. He is still greatly missed by all of us at STCH Ministries.

When Patty returned to the DR, she was re-introduced to Victor and Argenis Berroa, twin brothers who participated in the infamous shoe assault directed at Marvin. Today they are Godly young men, leaders in the IBQ church, helpers for our mission teams, and recipients of CLEP scholarships for their university studies.

“When did you give your lives to Christ?” Patty asked.

“In 2007,” they answered.

For a minute Patty was wistful. “I wish Marvin could have seen this fruit from our efforts that seemed so hopeless back then.” Then she reflected, “From his perspective, I know he already does.”

One plants, others water and cultivate, but always God’s Spirit germinates His Word and brings forth changed lives and eternal life.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9, NKJV

Ablaze with the Glory of God’s Work

Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. When we dedicate our time and talents to God, when we serve others with excellence, we are both loving our neighbors and loving God. The Christian Medical and Dental Association of San Antonio joined STCH Ministries International to love Dominican children and families through medical and dental clinics hosted the last week of May 2018. More than 700 children and individuals were blessed.

It would be difficult to estimate the cumulative cost in terms of time away from work, transportation and lodging, medicines, equipment, etc. for this team of doctors, dentists, students, and helpers. The value of their ministry was priceless in terms of patients who were loved and prayed over, heard the Gospel, had their physical health impacted, had pain reduced or eliminated, and the enhanced welfare of families and children.

The work is not always glorious. The facilities (except for our modern and well-equipped dental clinic) were not designed for medical work. The weather alternated between tropical downpours, bright sun, and the sauna effect of that combination. Doctors and medical students sometimes sat in children’s desks to consult patients. Generators, fans, barking dogs, rain pounding on zinc roofs, children crying—together the sounds created a new definition of “white noise”. Questions and instructions began in Spanish, translated to English, then back to Spanish, then English again until “Si, entiendo,” was reached. (“Yes, I understand.”)

Jointly conducting dental and medical clinics with several dentists, doctors, and medical and dental students requires many helpers. Some cleaned instruments, others registered patients, and some served as runners between waiting patients, doctors, and the pharmacy. Others held babies or blew balloons with children while Mom consulted with the doctor. More than 18 translators joined with STCH Ministries staff and interns. Together they became an effective body of Christ, and fulfilled the mission to honor God, reach hurting children and families, and enable others to join us.

To paraphrase the words of Tim Keller in the book Every Good Endeavor: Our gospel-trained eyes saw the Dominican world ablaze with the glory of God’s work through the efforts of this mission team—in everything from the simplest actions of translating, or giving a cup of water, to the most skillfully trained medical and dental professionals. When we are engaged in work that enhances the welfare of families and children, we are engaged in work that matters to God.

Open The Eyes Of My Heart

Why go on a mission trip? Why sacrifice money and time needed for a hundred other things? What about the food and sleeping arrangements? I can’t speak the language, so how will I be effective? Would it be better if I just sent the money? Perhaps unintentionally, we bring a sense of anxiety as part of the baggage that accompanies our mission journey.

“Keep the eyes of your heart open to God,” the devotional urged on the first morning of the Lipscomb University mission trip. For the last four years, Lipscomb has sent groups of graduate pharmacy students, accompanied by staff and medical doctors, to conduct medical clinics in the DR. Although many were “newbies,” they were supported by more experienced members. Together they organized meds and supplies, and quickly picked up the rhythm of a medical clinic in the DR. Four clinics and over 500 patients later, they celebrated God’s amazing work through their efforts.

Reflecting on blessings and accomplishments over the week of ministry, one participant shared the experience in which God had spoken most clearly to him. His group was invited for supper in the home of a church family.

“We left the compound and drove for about 10 minutes into an area of town I had never seen before. Houses were in shambles, and things didn’t look very clean. Stray dogs seemed to be everywhere. We passed many people sitting or even laying around in the open.”

He continued to paint a verbal picture of the dirt road bordered by overgrown weeds, humble dwellings lining the road, many constructed of wood and palm boards with rusty zinc roofs. As they approached the home where they would be eating, the host family waited to welcome them outside the front door of their home–three small rooms, one in which everyone slept, and a kitchen where they also ate. There was no electricity. Curtains took the place of doors separating the rooms.

He continued saying, “From the moment we arrived, any uneasiness disappeared. We felt loved and welcomed. Sharing through a translator, we felt the presence of God. We were so different. Our two worlds seemingly had nothing in common. In spite of material poverty, they radiated gratitude, faith and love.”

He saw life through a different filter. God opened the eyes of his heart to “see” and remember what is most important in life.

On a mission trip, we can meet many needs, and bless many children and families. The greatest impact of a mission trip, however, is the change in the perspective of each participant. They are reminded that the true riches of life are not our material possessions, nor are they reflected in our bank statements. Rich is not what you have, but Who you have, and the faith, love, and joy that only He can provide.

Way Beyond Me

Last week as we traveled to Peru, my mind echoed with the words of a song, “God gave us the stars, but put them out of our reach, and calls us to waters, just a little too deep.” (Toby Mac, “Way Beyond Me”)

For 12 years STCH Ministries International has served in the Dominican Republic. We have learned how to adapt the mission of helping hurting children and families to another culture. We have successfully created collaborative partnerships that help local ministries more effectively carry out the calling God had given them. We discovered how to integrate families into our mission trips, providing an experience to strengthen and enrich family relationships and our own American churches. We have enlisted and trained an amazing Dominican staff. Now it’s time to “kick back” and enjoy, right?

It appears that is not the way God is leading STCH Ministries—not internationally, or in any of our other ministries. Perhaps you have heard the expression that “God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable!” As we follow Christ, how can you and I afford to be comfortable? Children are hungry and hurting. Families are broken. Homeless moms and children search for a safe place to rebuild their lives.

Instead of comfortable, we felt restless. Repeatedly, we heard in our hearts the same words that motivated the Apostle Paul 2000 years ago to cross into Macedonia, “Come over and help us!” After countless hours of conversation, research, planning, and prayer, last year we began to explore opportunities in Costa Rica. Now, gradually God is forming possibilities into probabilities for ministry in that country.

Last week we flew to Peru. The field of service is huge—Lima alone has over 11 million people. Only Los Angeles and New York City have a greater population. People and ministry opportunities populate mountainous regions, rainforests, and oceanfront vistas. Homes spring up overnight, perched precariously on the side of desert mountainsides. Churches can’t reach the exploding population fast enough and cry for assistance.

We met with the passionate and qualified leadership of orphanages, Christian schools, and churches. We experienced a God-ordained moment as doors for a collaborative partnership opened in a mutual awareness of kindred spirits and potential. We sensed the opportunity to share what God has given and taught us with other ministries in Peru, and perhaps throughout Latin America.

For 66 years here in the USA, and for the last 12 years in the Dominican Republic, God has prepared STCH Ministries for such a time as this. It’s God-sized, and definitely, WAY BEYOND ME!

Bendiciones,

Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries

Never the Same Again

I will never be the same again…nunca seremos los mismos! Words we love to hear in any language. Changing lives for God’s glory…changing lives to enable them to fulfill their potential…empowering others to become Light-bearers for their families, communities, and the world.

For over 10 years we have ministered to children and their families in the Dominican Republic—in orphanages, schools, churches and through our Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program. Most of these children have suffered trauma during critical stages of their development due to abandonment, hunger, and abuse in many forms. With limited knowledge and virtually no available training, the staff at orphanages, teachers in the local schools, and children’s caregivers struggle to handle the behavioral symptoms of this trauma. They work tirelessly to love the unlovable, set appropriate limits, heal wounds, and meet need.

After searching for some time, last fall God led us to find a training course, Trauma Competent Caregivers. Amazingly, certified facilitators offered this training in Spanish in April, 2018 in two different locations in the Dominican Republic. STCH Ministries sponsored a total of 33 staff members, teachers, and caregivers from the local community to attend. Additionally, our Dominican STCH staff stepped up, volunteered their time, and traveled to Santiago, spending two nights and two full days caring for those children, so that 18 caregivers could be trained.

Some of the comments we have received:

Janibel: “I learned to have empathy for the abuse that children have suffered, how to understand them better…the importance of listening to them, and even playing with them.”

Ruth Ester: “I learned the importance of three things for children—security, sense of permanency, meeting their needs for well-being.”

Alejandra: “I have better tools for disciplining children in my home, responding according to the occasion and the behavior. This will help me to better connect, empower, and correct their behavior.

Valentina Flores, one of our own STCH Ministries team members, summed up the experience for everyone, “In reality, the knowledge we received has impacted the lives of each of us, and we will never be the same again! Now that we learned about different temperaments, how to calm them, meet their needs and identify trauma, we will not see children as we did before.

You and I are the blessed ones, the ones God has entrusted with the privilege of caring for children, counseling for broken lives and marriages, teaching truths from God’s Word that can set people free. And we are blessed 100 times more to share these ministries with you–volunteers, churches, mission trip participants, and sponsors.

The Impact of a Mission Trip

How has this trip changed your heart?  In what ways has it strengthened your faith?  Has your experience caused you to redefine the meaning of poor? Rich? How has your being here brought glory to God?

Soul-searching questions to ponder as the FBC Allen family group and the West University Baptist Church (WUBC) college group from Rice University celebrated the end of their time in the Dominican Republic with a banquet, packed their suitcases, and loaded onto the buses traveling to the airports.  One group left for the Las Americas airport in Santo Domingo, and the other traveled to the Punta Cana airport the next morning.

In response to the questions presented at the banquet some shared an observation of what appeared to be an oxymoron—people poor in material things, but who were rich in joy and love.  Another learned that his faith grew when he let go of control, and trusted God to work in His own time.  Others reported, “I came thinking I was sacrificing to bless others and found that I received so much more than I gave.”

The two groups on this trip were comprised of both individuals and families, young and old.

“I brought my family so that my children would experience the priority of living out our faith,” a father shared.

Another man stated, “I have renewed my hope for the future of our country and our churches by sharing this trip with the college students from Rice University.”

Many commented that their faith was energized by the experience of evangelizing as they went door to door sharing their faith.

“I will be bolder in my witness for Christ when I return to my world,” reported many.

They were able to share their faith and pray with over 57 individuals during their time in the Dominican Republic.  Ten of the individuals that the group met with responded by praying to accept Christ, while another eight people promised to visit the Quisqueyana church.

The trip also included the FBC Allen group building a playground for the school in Monte Plata where the orphanage children attend.  At the same time, the WUBC group built bunk beds for the boys in the Betesda Home in La Romana and worked on the upstairs safety railings of the Villa Altagracia School.  The two groups’ ministry efforts made an eternal difference for many, and the projects will bless schools and children’s homes long after the trip.  But more than the projects, the value of a mission trip is the impact on the hearts and minds of the participants.

Anxiety: A Doorway to Deeper Faith

Anxiety is a common malady that affects many in our modern world, and Christians are not excluded. Some may assume that anxiety is a “sign” from God that there is something wrong, plans needs to be changed, or we need to stop activities that cause anxiety. Possibly for others anxiety is sinful, and causes guilt, because the Bible clearly states, “Be anxious for nothing.”

In our American world control is paramount. We have a security-driven mind set. The unknown creates a high level of anxiety. Our cure for anxiety often pushes us to focus on every detail, minimize the unknown, eliminate risk, prevent every unforeseen possibility, or stop all anxiety producing activities. On this mission trip, God had a different and better plan to deal with anxiety.

The recent Yorktown Baptist Dental and Medical trip was fertile ground for anxiety on several levels. The first morning they were challenged by the story of the eagle chicks, and mother eagle who pushed them out of the nest. While they flapped their wings frantically in terror, she swooped under them and lifted them back to the safety of the nest. After a few repetitions, the eagles gained strength and flew confidently on their own. They were assured that the same God who designed the eagles would also accompany their endeavors, and would never let them fall beyond His ability to sustain them.

One participant shared, “I was anxious about my husband’s health, so I signed up to support him.” An experienced nurse was anxious about the preparation and organization of a new-to-her ministry. Several had fears about the language barrier. Debbie Craver, who led the group, experienced anxiety at multiple junctures—would the team be cohesive? Would there be enough medicines? Would 30 pieces of checked luggage, which were filled with supplies, arrive on time? Dr. Francisco also battled anxiety as he spent hours answering questions, and emails of concern. He spent more hours organizing translators, purchasing supplies, making preparations for multiple sites, and planning for concurrent medical, opthomology, and dental clinics.

The results? Debbie said, “I learned that I only needed to do my part, and God took care of all the rest!”

God showed up for another participant with a mysterious note that said, “God will be with you and He will use you.”

For another, God confirmed His presence in spite of limited Spanish through prayer with a 13-year-old pregnant child.

Anxiety—an opportunity to overcome fear, to step out in Abraham-like faith who left his country, “not knowing whither he went,” as the Bible records. Anxiety can become an opportunity for obedience—to stretch outside of our comfort zones, to forget about ourselves as we focus on the needs of others in blessing them through actions of compassion. Anxiety requires a decision to use wisdom and to prepare diligently. It ultimately requires faith to step out into the unknown, the un-controllable.

“I learned that God expects me to do my part, and then relax, de-stress, and watch Him work,” Debbie stated.

Over 800 patients were treated in the clinics. Through diligent preparations, and faith to follow God’s leading, anxiety was overcome. “We learned that we can always depend on God—He will always show up, and He will never be late.” Is it possible that anxiety can become the doorway to a deeper relationship, a life of obedience and the kind of faith that overcomes fears?

A Life Worth Living

For almost 5 years, John Gilbert, Headmaster of Yorktown Christian Academy, dreamed and worked towards getting students and families involved in missions. He desired to help them see the needs of the world around them—both locally and internationally. John’s ultimate goal was to make YCA not only an excellent academic preparatory school, but also make the school a CALLING preparatory school.

“I want each student to discover and develop their unique gifts in order to fulfill the callingGod has for each of them,” he explained.

“Thank God for STCH Ministries family trips! Families serving together has had the greatest impact on both children and the entire family,” John stated at the end of their second annual mission trip.

Last week YCA took all of the eighth graders along with at least one parent from each family to the Dominican Republic. They ministered to children in both schools and orphanages. They taught English, performed skits, delivered groceries to needy families. They also built stools for the computer lab—sawing, screwing, sanding, painting—although most of them had never constructed anything before. During their orphanage visit, they shared manicures with the girls, played games with the boys, and the YCA moms shared a special mom-to-mom time with the housemoms.

Language was never a barrier, although it gave students a chance to use even the limited vocabulary they had learned in school. One student reported towards the end of the week, “You know, the faces are so different, but the trials and the difficulties are the same, even the way we can get close to God.” And others reported, “I have learned to appreciate what I have at home.”

As far as the total impact on the eighth graders, many of them challenged themselves, overcoming their shyness and overcoming the egocentricity that is often ingrained in children. Most enjoyed every moment.

A parent summed up the impact of the week in this way, “During our stay I learned about another culture, I saw people with another skin color. I heard people with another way to speak. But you know, that is just what we can see with our eyes. When you open your heart, you don’t see or you don’t hear that anymore. I saw my brother and my sister. This trip changed my life deeply. I know now I would like to serve God in the way He wants.

Mission accomplished! Each trip is unique. But on each trip, God speaks in a special way and has the opportunity to change our lives. Life, after all, is just a blink. Making it count—for the benefit of our loved ones, our communities, and ultimately for eternity—is what makes A LIFE WORTH LIVING.