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.


God has redeemed Maria from a life of drugs and many hardships. She has been a resident of Homes for Families for six months and has done very well in the program. She was even baptized earlier this year! Our supportive staff have helped Maria address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that she and her two teenage daughters have in order to find hope for their future.

At a very young age Maria had a son who was raised by her mother. We have rejoiced with her over the last few months as she has reconnected with her son through phone conversations. Her son has recognized the change and peace in Maria, and they have begun to develop the relationship they never had.

Last month, Maria was able to spend a weekend with her son and grandchildren for the first time in two years. Praise God for His restoration of this family!

Do Child Sponsorship Programs Really Work?

Do Child Sponsorship Programs Really Work?

After ten years in the Dominican Republic, STCH Ministries can attest to the results.

Food. Water. Shelter. All things that most of us would agree are at the most basic level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Yet many people spend their lives without the assurance of these necessities. It is no secret that multitudes around the world are living below the poverty level—about 700 million, according to the World Bank. For them, it is a struggle to get adequate food and clothing, let alone medical care and an education. When parents are unable to supply their children with the most basic essentials of life, those children suffer not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually, and the resulting cycle of poverty becomes entrenched for generations. The sheer scale of global need is staggering, but there are ways for the typical American family to make a difference, such as international child sponsorship programs like Samuel’s Fund, operated by STCH Ministries.

The idea is simple: an individual or family in a relatively affluent country like America gives a monthly contribution to support a child in poverty overseas. The gift is scarcely a burden to most household budgets, but has life-changing value to the child. Beyond this basic principle, child sponsorship comes in many shapes and sizes. STCH Ministries, a Texas Baptist organization, has been operating Samuel’s Fund in the Dominican Republic for ten years. Inspired by the Old Testament prophet who heard and answered God’s call as a child, Samuel’s Fund was created to give the children of the Dominican Republic hope and a future, and to help them develop a personal relationship with God.

To meet these goals, Samuel’s Fund must be managed with laser-like focus. Joanna Berry, STCH Ministries Vice President of Family and International Ministries, puts it like this: “We have a teaspoon of resources for an ocean of need.”

To ensure that that “teaspoon” is administered in the place where it will do the most good, there are two criteria that all children must meet to be accepted into the program:

  1. Does the child have a need?
  2. Does the child have potential?

The first is a resounding yes in nearly all circumstances. These children desperately need food, clothing, shoes, and access to quality education, at the very least. The second is based on whether or not they have enough support in their social environment—family, for example—to make sure they are able to get to school and have encouragement to succeed. The child must also belong to some form of a Christian ministry where they can grow spiritually and fulfill the roles which God intended. And lastly, they must have stability in their home environment.

There are currently more than 200 children sponsored through Samuel’s Fund in the Dominican Republic, where STCH Ministries also brings short-term mission teams. This fact provides a way for many sponsors to meet their sponsored child and his or her family while taking part in a mission trip. STCH Ministries partners with local churches, orphanages, and Christian schools, creating a network of local support that compliments the organization’s own full-time Dominican team members. Collectively, this ecosystem of support drastically improves the odds that sponsorship will translate into lasting change.

For STCH Ministries, accountability for sponsorship dollars is just as important before they reach the Dominican Republic. When someone steps forward to sponsor a child, Berry says, “One hundred percent of the $35 per month they donate goes directly to the needs of the child, with zero going toward administrative costs.”

When additional costs for medical care and educational supplies arise, STCH Ministries frequently covers the cost out of its operating budget, which is funded by private donations and the Texas Baptist Cooperative Program. When a family faces a critical need for food, groceries are provided through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.

So, does child sponsorship work? For the children of Samuel’s Fund, the evidence is visible every day. It can be seen in homework assignments proudly pinned on a palm board wall, or the healthy smile of a child who now has regular medical checkups. It can even be seen in the man who gives those checkups, Dr. Francisco Paredes, who was once a Samuel’s Fund child and returned after medical school to work for STCH Ministries.

“Our goal is to help them become Christian leaders, become self-supporting, and to give back to their community,” says Berry.

In the past ten years, many children have graduated from the program and gone on to do exactly that, now playing the part of Christian role models for young children. Through the support of sponsors from thousands of miles away, a new generational cycle has taken root, replacing poverty with hope.

Originally published at http://txb.life/article/do-child-sponsorship-programs-really-work.

Blessed by the Ministry

Boothe Campus
Bee County, Texas

Recently a woman excitedly walked into one of our counseling offices in San Antonio and shared her “STCH story”. She once lived at Boothe Campus with her siblings. Her father had been left alone with several children and could not take care of all of them, so he placed them at South Texas Children’s Home. She told our staff member, “The children’s home saved me and my siblings.”

She spoke fondly of her memories at the children’s home–it was amazing to bear witness to the fruit of those that have poured countless hours of compassion and love on those who need it most. Now, as an adult she was able to look back on her childhood with memories of her time at Boothe Campus and share what a difference her stay had made on her life.

Sometimes the people we help come back to thank us, but more often than not as helpers we may be left to wonder if we helped. Being thanked isn’t the reason why we do what we do–for all of us that work in the helping profession, no matter what the role, we do it because ultimately we are called to the work and we are living out a passion that God has borne in our hearts. So we know that our work is never in vain. This woman and many, many others are a testament to that work.

Submitted by Family Counseling – San Antonio

Celebrating Mateo

The story is told of our great Texas forefather, Sam Houston, regarding his baptism and a conversation with his pastor, Rev. Burleson, who would later become the president of Baylor University. This was a widely talked about event with hundreds coming for the baptism from as far as Austin. Sam Houston had quite a reputation for behaviors not often associated with the church going folks.

On the morning of the baptism, the pastor discovered that several boys had pranked the church baptism pool with sticks and mud, so the ceremony was moved to the “Baptism Hole” on Rocky Creek, south of College Station, Texas.

Upon completion of the baptism, General Houston was greeted by friends on the river bank with one quoted as saying, “Well, General, all your sins have been washed away.”

General Sam Houston replied, “If that be the case, God help the fish down below.”

Mateo, 23 years of age, was baptized last month in the Boothe Campus pool. We have been privileged to know Mateo for many years. Mateo has been blessed by biological family, adopted family, friends, and staff of STCH Ministries who have stood by him, encouraging him through both difficult and triumphant times. The concept that it takes a village to raise a child goes without saying for Mateo. Numerous staff members have patiently been about the business of encouraging him and were excited about his decision to accept Christ. Upon completion of his baptism, I did not see any fish to help, but was concerned about a couple of frogs.

In an article by David Smith, it was reported of Sam Houston that, “Then he met Jesus and was baptized and everything changed.” We celebrate Mateo and pray for his continued spiritual growth. Not unlike most of us, he has come far.

Submitted by Mark Childs
Vice President of Homes for Children
STCH Ministries

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!


Joanna Berry
Vice President of Family and International Ministries

Counseling Testimony

God uses our family therapists on a daily basis to offer hope to hurting families from Corpus Christi to San Antonio to Houston. One client recently shared with his church his experience in marriage counseling at STCH Ministries.

“After the birth of our second son, my wife and I slowly slipped into some unhealthy patterns that were wreaking havoc on our relationship. We were both exhausted working multiple jobs and trying to raise our family – you know, just the normal everyday life stuff that comes with parenting a 2-year-old and a newborn. Then about 9 months later my wife was diagnosed with postpartum depression and we knew we were not in a good place in our marriage.

“A friend recommended that we contact STCH Ministries and we set up a meeting the next week. Like most couples we probably both went in hoping that our counselor would ‘fix’ the other person, but the reality was that she was able to hear what my wife and I had been saying/doing to one another and then helped translate it so we could each understand where the other person was coming from.

“We’ve had a number of breakthrough moments through our weekly counseling sessions. 2016 was an incredibly difficult year for us and without STCH there to walk alongside us we would have continued down a hopeless road and our story would likely have had a bad ending. Thank you for supporting STCH. Our experience with them has been absolutely incredible – it has changed our lives!”

At our Family Counseling ministry, we offer counseling that is clinically excellent and distinctively Christian. We believe in using scriptural principles as the foundation for viewing life’s problems. For over twenty years we have provided hope and direction from a biblical perspective for countless individuals, couples, children, and families. If your family needs help, call us at 1.833.83.STCHM to schedule an appointment.

Submitted by Family Counseling – Houston

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.

Finding Potential with Limited Resources

One of the most difficult aspects of the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program is choosing which children to sponsor. How we wish that resources were unlimited, but only God is limitless. So we must choose. We cannot go strictly on need. The criteria is not only need, but also potential.

Potential includes a reasonable degree of support in the child’s environment—someone who will provide accountability for school and church attendance. It also includes a good attitude and willingness to invest efforts in their schoolwork. When those standards are met, our STCH Ministries team invests whatever it takes to help that child succeed.

Recently Rebeca, our Samuel’s Fund Director in the Dominican Republic, traveled about two hours to visit a school in Bani.

I went to Bani to visit with Christopher Cabrera’s mom and teachers. I had received information that Christopher was stuck and not progressing in his learning. I talked to mom who admitted that she had failed to help him to do what the Special Ed. teacher had recommended in the past. I helped her explain to the homeroom teacher, who didn’t know his past difficulties, all that Christopher and his previous teacher had achieved.

As a result of this visit, an online group called “Christopher support group” was created. Both mom and the current teacher were encouraged and they promised to work hard. It was worth making this trip.

Once a child is accepted in the sponsorship program, we are dedicated to their success and to minister to their families. Staying in contact, finding resources, addressing issues, advocating for them—it’s intense and time-consuming. We make it a priority to be faithful stewards of our resources in an effort to develop the potential God has given to each child.