The COVID-19 virus has created many emotions and concerns. We have all been affected in many ways – creating new challenges as we adjust to a “new” way of life. During this challenging season, we want you to know that God is working in mighty ways and He continues to open doors for ministry. Because of YOU, we can continue to share many examples of how God is using STCH Ministries.

As we begin this week leading up to Easter, we want to thank our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for His continued provisions over our ministry, with the good news that our MINISTRY CONTINUES!

We are continuing to help those who we serve as they deal with life challenges. 
During times like these, our pastors and church leaders need even more prayer and continuous support. Our Pastor Care ministry has been helping churches facilitate digital worship services during the COVID-19 crisis. Tim Williams, Director of Church Relations, has been consulting with several churches and pastors as they prepare their first-ever video worship. He has also participated in leading online sermons for churches without pastors and has been asked to lead an Easter sermon online.
 
We are privileged to offer Pastor Care – especially in times of crisis. 
  “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” – Ephesians 4:12
     
    STCH Ministries Family Counseling Facebook Group
  We are excited to provide this free resource which will provide ways to cope during this time. This group has been created to provide encouragement and hope through counseling resources. The resources shared will be from multiple sources, and will help with anxiety, depression, family issues and many other topics as it relates to coping with a crisis, such as COVID-19. 
To join the Family Counseling Facebook Group, click here   

  PRAYER
  “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In all times, we must pray, and pray together. Please know we are praying for you and your families. So many are facing uncertainty with jobs, financial instability, health, isolation, and much more. 

We also ask you for your prayers as well. We specifically need prayers for those in our ministries: Our children and school work. This can be exhausting and challenging. Pray for our houseparents, single moms and staff who are assisting with our children’s schooling needs. Individuals in counseling. Many of us are facing more time with each other and for those which have challenged relationships – this situation can intensify emotions and reactions. Pray for our counselors working through distance video counseling to provide helpful and Biblical guidance.  Our pastors. They are under new challenging circumstances as they navigate this season, and as they prepare for how to deliver their Easter Sunday sermon from a distance as they share the good news: Christ has Risen!
 
Click here for a great resource on ways to pray for your pastor during the COVID-19 crisis.  PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR    

We are here to share hope and heal hearts, and we are grateful for your ongoing support.   
With sincere gratitude,

Kyle Luke
Vice President of Development and Communications
STCH Ministries
 

Dear Friends,   Like you, we have been watching how the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertain times. We are waiting with faithful hope in the One we know and trust – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We want to remind you of the good that continues to remain as God is Good, and as supporters […]

During these days of uncertainty, as believers, our greatest recourse for strength and direction remains seeking God’s face through prayer. Tim Williams, Director of Church Relations serves as a staff pastor for STCH Ministries and wrote this guideline for praying together as we draw near to God seeking to glorify Him in obedience to the task He calls us to fulfill. Will you pray with us?

Sensitivity to the Spirit

– Pray that we would “walk with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) in making decisions that impact those we minister to, our staff,  those who join us on trips and those who join us in ministry – that we would not give in to fear nor give way to neglect.

Togetherness

– Ask God to deepen our “love for one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9) so that it leads to a greater sense of unity and cooperation as we face new, never before seen and changing issues in ministry.

Christ Centeredness

– Ask the Father during the chaos of all the new demands upon us to enable us to keep Jesus at the center of all we think or do and that this verse would be seen in us:

“To them, God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Health – physical, emotional and spiritual

– Join us as we ask for protection from the coronavirus and pray for the health of those in our care, our clients, our staff, our volunteers and of all those with whom we come into contact.

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3 John 1:2

Ministry

– In these days of unprecedented challenges, pray that we would rise to challenge and find ways to continue our ministry and new ways to follow God to greater ministry.

 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

Maria Hart entered the program in 2018, not long after asking Jesus to forgive her sin and enter her life as her Savior and Lord. Looking back on the course of her life, she can see His love through His relentless pursuit of her heart and she gives thanks for a program where she has learned to live each day with God as her guide. Homes for Families consists of four phases designed to keep families together while moms receive one-on-one training and counseling to help them succeed with their children and in life. She began the month of September 2019, by moving into her own home and entering Phase IV.

Maria opened a savings account while in Phase II as part of preparing herself for independence. Maria faithfully made regular deposits into the account. Her confidence in her ability to achieve a healthy start on her own grew alongside the total in her account.

Starting a job or going to school allows participants to move into Phase III. Maria began to work at the Blue Quail Deli serving customers and preparing sandwiches on March 28, 2019, exactly two years from the day a heart attack turned her life around. The job perfectly fits for her schedule allowing her to be available to her girls each evening after school.

Before long, Maria recognized the desire to have a home of her own. To move into Phase IV, a mom must be employed or in school, have a vehicle and an approved place to live off of the Marshall Ranch Campus. Her host family, another important support piece of the Homes for Families program, helped Maria to decide what type of vehicle best suited her. Knowing her budget and what she wanted to buy, they sought a car for Maria.

Maria searched for a new place to live. Her daughters’ success in school compelled her to stay in the same district. Valerie, a senior this year, plans to pursue a career in forensic science after graduation. Brooke joined the track team and enjoys running cross country. Maria applied at a couple of apartment complexes and felt frustrated by their rejections. During her prayer time one morning, she felt God reminding her to wait on His timing.

Maria did not have to wait much longer, just before Labor Day 2019 she accepted the gift of a car from an anonymous donor! A few days later, she received word that she had been approved for a two-bedroom apartment located close to both the girls’ school and her job! The whirlwind of preparations began, she had to buy car insurance, look for furniture, turn on the utilities under her name and keep it all within her budget.

Maria’s church family stepped in with offers of support. Perpetual Help, a ministry in Victoria, donated three twin beds and a dresser to the family. Maria’s pastor volunteered to deliver the furniture to the new apartment, and along the way, he met up with another church member who wanted to bless Maria too. They allowed her to choose a couch, recliner, dining table with chairs and a study desk from their store as a gift to celebrate her new beginning.

September 3, 2019, the Hart family moved into a new home. Phase IV provides a gentle release into complete independence which required Maria to continue in a relationship with her case manager at Homes for Families. For several months she met the benchmarks of going to church, keeping her job, turning in receipts and bank statements and no co-habiting allowing her to graduate from the program, God taught and guided Maria during the four phases of the program for single mothers. As she explains the biggest lesson she has learned, she radiates with joy, “it pays to listen to God, to be patient and obedient.” Since beginning the program, Maria has dealt with the trauma of her past, come to understand her value and built loving relationships with her teenage daughters. She has become a woman who pursues God.

For more details of Maria’s story see: https://www.STCHM.org/2018/10/relentlessly-pursued-by-god/

Danielle, a Phase II resident at Homes for Families, wrestled with substance abuse for years. She thought she had overcome the problem after working through a recovery program and surrendering her life to Jesus several years ago. During that time, she divorced her husband and fought for custody of her daughters; Alexi, 6 and Jess, 15. She obtained sobriety long enough to keep her daughters, start college classes and begin to build a new life. However, anxiety overwhelmed her and prescription pills tempted her to believe they would take her cares away.

Danielle recognized the danger she faced. Child Protective Services had been in and out of her life and she worried another slip up would result in permanent loss of her girls. Although she had not prioritized her relationship with Jesus, she knew it was His presence in her heart that helped her remember the steps she had learned in the first recovery program. She contacted Theresa Klacman, Director of STCH Ministries Homes for Families and explained her fears. Theresa encouraged Danielle to apply for the program.

“All my dysfunction and brokenness spilled over into my children’s lives,” Danielle said. Her oldest daughter Jess began to struggle with cutting, self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts. Due to this, Danielle placed Jess into the residential program at Restoration House Ministries in Victoria. As she watched her daughter submit to God and become healthier, Danielle found the courage to move to Homes for Families and get more help for herself. She sold everything from her apartment and moved to the Marshall Ranch Campus on September 2, 2019.

Recently, Alexi approached Danielle with her coloring book and asked her mom to rip out a page for her. But Alexi wouldn’t let go of the coloring book. Baffled, Danielle told her, “I can’t take it out if you don’t give it to me.” At that exact moment Danielle heard God speak to her, for the Lord to remove her hurt from her past, she must first give it to Him.

In the few months she has been in the program, Danielle has felt loved, supported and most importantly, safe. She relies on her resident coordinator for counsel, knowing she can talk about anything and helps her to trust she will overcome the bad habits of her previous lifestyle. Bible study, professional Christian counseling and a nurturing environment allow Danielle to work through and process her issues as God helps her to understand them. She is learning to change old thoughts and behaviors by replacing them with healthy practices through prayer and the supportive staff at Homes for Families.

As she considers the future, Danielle hopes to return to nursing school, but knows she needs time to truly heal. She asks for prayer as she continues to seek God’s direction for her family. Danielle knows that the last time she committed to the challenging work of changing her life, she quit too soon. This time, she is determined to wait on God and do it right. Will you pray with and for her?

Without even the CRACK! of a starting gun, the 2020 decade arrived, racing down the corridors of time.  On January 7, STCH Ministries International hosted the eighth annual Vision Trip in the Dominican Republic.  Christian leaders, donors, board members and staff from several of our nine ministries received invitations to review and renew—review what God has been doing, and to renew Vision for the ministry and each participant in their own lives.

The invitation read in part,

Catch an overview of what God is doing in the Dominican Republic through STCH Ministries and individuals and churches like yours! Visit schools and orphanages and ministry sites, which though poor in resources, are rich in faith in an all-sufficient God! It will renew your vision of what faith in God can accomplish.

Was this purpose accomplished on the Vision 2020 trip?

Landing first in Punta Cana, we visited the first children’s home STCH Ministries had built.  Over the last 10 years, dozens of boys have passed through the La Romana boy’s home—some becoming permanent residents, while others experienced a loving, Christ-centered home until a safe kinship placement could be found.  The team enjoyed painting cinder blocks to make decorative planters and giving the inside walls a fresh touch of paint.  A group of ladies from the team made a quick trip to the grocery store to fill their pantry.  Although their pantry shelves are frequently bare, this was not a great concern for them, since they daily trust God to provide all of their needs.  Their testimony?  God is a faithful God.

We continued the next day to the town of Higuey.  About 20 years ago Miguel, a taxi driver, was delivering clients to various restaurants for their noon meal.  He was moved with compassion for “ninos de la calle,” known as street boys.  Abandoned by their families, numberless boys daily scavenged through piles of garbage containing uneaten food scraped from patron’s dishes.  Miguel talked to some friends. After long hours of prayer and planning, 18 fellow-Christians, without any financial backing, formed a board, by faith. They named their children’s home, “A Better World for Abandoned Boys.”  Soon they began to accept boys into a rented house.  Food trickled in—donations of eggs, oatmeal, plantains, rice and once in a while a chicken to share!  About 4 years ago STCH Ministries began to minister to the Home, traveling over three hours to do Bible classes, medical clinics, sports activities and share food.  Eventually, through a series of miracles and generous donations, the Vision Trip team celebrated the opening of their first home with them.  God provided not one, but two buildings.  The buildings provide three apartments for boys and their house parents, plus space for their administrative functions.

As we traveled throughout the island, we saw many more examples of what partnership between mission teams and Dominican ministries could accomplish through faith.  At Raquel’s school, we saw a former chicken shack transformed into two new school buildings.  Today it has twice the capacity to provide a Christian education to over 200 children trapped in poverty.  Uncounted children and their families have come to saving faith through their outreach.  Similarly, when we originally met another school in Villa Altagracia, a sun-bleached banner hung above the over-crowded school housed in a shabby apartment. “Educando para la Eternidad” (educating for eternity) proclaimed their motto.  God saw their faith, and led STCH Ministries, in partnership with mission teams, donors and churches, to build a two-story building.  Today many more children are “educated for eternity” in a facility worthy of the God they serve.  By faith, plans for an additional pre-school building have already been drawn.

Faith-activated ministries and projects included a transition home for orphans who age out of the Monte Plata home.  At Guaricanos we worshipped with over 200 children in a new auditorium.  In partnership with others, STCH Ministries replaced the leaky tin roof with cement, enabling the construction of the auditorium.  The home of three children with alcoholic parents was changed as mother and dad came to faith in Christ.  Reconstructed from the ground up, the family now proclaims faith in Christ visually, louder than any megaphone, “God’s power to redeem and restore!”

We experienced faith personally one evening as we shared a meal with a Dominican family. Crowded knee-to-knee with dark-skinned brothers and sisters speaking a language we could not understand; the humble home was filled with the glory of God.  The faith we shared in Christ transformed our surroundings into a mansion fit for the King of Kings.  We were reminded that wealth is not the stuff we own or the house we live in.  These people possessed priceless riches of joy, faith in God who meets every need, and in peace of heart and mind.

Their stories of perseverance and patience challenged us to examine our faith in what God can accomplish in our lives.  They prayed and worked, prayed and waited and prayed and continued to believe.  12 years to receive government permission to build a church, 18 years for a permanent home for orphan boys, many more years for the salvation of a spouse or a dad. By contrast, we live in a microwave culture.  The baked potato is ready in 5 minutes…popcorn only takes 2.  God reminded us that His purposes cannot be denied.  He has always been and will continue to be faithful.  He cannot deny Himself.

Vision and faith—each essential for any work to succeed, to stay on track, to win the prize, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Vision to plan, but perhaps more importantly, faith.  Faith sustains perseverance through the obstacles and patience to wait for God’s timing. Faith empowers boldness to step out of the boat and provides courage to take a step when you cannot see the end results.  Faith that enables trust in God’s promises, and releases flexibility and creativity to find another way when the way seems blocked.

One participant declared, “I have been challenged—no more excuses!  When God calls me to do something, I will step forward boldly, in faith.”  This is a worthy goal for each of us to place at the top of our prayer list as we journey through 2020.

“I did not know what integrity was until I came to the ranch,” said Brittany Nicholson, currently in Phase 2 of STCH Ministries Homes for Families on the Marshall Ranch Campus. Learning to live honestly and showing a consistent, uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles marks a distinct difference from her life before obtaining her sobriety and surrendering her life to Jesus Christ as her Savior.

Brittany described her childhood relationship with her dad as toxic and began using drugs to defy him. Rebellion turned into an addiction that cost over fifteen years of her life, ruining every relationship she had and nearly losing custody of her children. She knew programs existed that could help her reclaim her life and even made occasional, half-hearted attempts to do so – but the effort required proved more than she was willing to commit to doing.

Child Protective Services informed Brittany that her children would be removed from her custody again, and her parental rights would be terminated if she did not make significant changes. She made plans for her girls and moved into Restoration House Ministries in Victoria, Texas, on September 11, 2018. Restoration House Ministries exists to serve women like Brittany who desire to be free from addiction and bondage based on the promise of God found in Joel 2:25 “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts have eaten.” The program allowed Brittany to overcome her dependence on drugs and brought her to the place where she gave her life to Jesus. Following her baptism, she felt as if “the veil was lifted” and she knew clearly, “How I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.”

The rigorous schedule and sense of community found living in a group environment provided the stability and accountability Brittany knew were necessary to continue to change her life. Brittany knew she needed more help before she could be successful as a sober, single mom on her own. After completing the Restoration House Ministries program she moved into Phase 2 – Equipping of Homes for Families on the Marshall Ranch Campus along with her daughters, Haven and Cheyanne. The goal of the equipping phase is for women to face and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of their future success. Besides Bible study, Brittany took parenting and financial courses. Brittany dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and not having a diploma is an obstacle to her future success. She joined the S.P.A.R.K. program at the local high school to finish the course work and prepare for the GED.

Homes for Families provided a peaceful, healthy environment to adjust to Brittany’s life without chaos and dysfunction. The staff and other moms living on the Marshall Ranch Campus helped her to find her true identity. “Knowing the past does not determine who I am – Jesus says who I am – I am loved.”

Brittany treasured the second chance to be a good mother, daughter and friend. She worked hard to reestablish healthy relationships with her family and looks forward to a bright future. She plans to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse and gives thanks to God for showing her His love through the people at Homes for Families.

Summer interns have assisted STCH Ministries International in the Dominican Republic (DR) for 3 years. This year, three college students lived at International’s DR base of operation inside Iglesia Bautista Quisequayana (IBQ), near the capital city of Santo Domingo from May through August. Amanda Longoria, Associate Director of International said the interns helped in many different ways. Their upbeat spirit and endless energy made the summer weeks go by without a hitch. They connected not only with the Dominican nationals but also with Americans traveling to the DR on mission trips. They offered comfort and accommodations to the needs of the groups and served as the hands and feet of Jesus in the Dominican Republic.

Kali, a recent finance graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, resisted the idea of spending six weeks out of the country when she needed to study for her CPA exam. However, God revealed to her the unique opportunity she had. “It hit me that never again (until retirement most likely) would I have six weeks free to go overseas,”

A few of the interns shared their experience in the DR and what they learned about themselves and God as they served. This is Kali’s story, in her own words:

I never expected I would spend six weeks after college graduation in a foreign country without my family or a complete understanding of everything I would be doing while there. However, I have been reminded how much greater God’s plan is than my own. I am so grateful God revealed to me His desire for me to step out of my comfort zone and serve as an intern this summer.

I first went to the DR with STCH Ministries International in March 2018. I was gripped by the work God was doing there. When the trip came to an end, I felt God telling me that I would be back. Nine months later, I returned with another group from my church. I did not know I could love the DR any more than I did, but sure enough, it was possible.

When I learned of the internship position my first instinct was to say no. My last college class ended in May and I already had a job to start in January. I planned to use every week of the six months in between to study and take all four parts of the CPA exam, but God revealed to me the unique opportunity that I had. The dates of the internship were June 18th through August 3rd. My summer master’s classes ended June 15th – graduation was August 16th. God couldn’t have made it any clearer that this is where He wanted me to be.

It’s so hard to sum up everything I experienced, learned and saw God do during my six weeks in the DR. How do you begin to explain the unexplainable joy? Poverty? The friendships made? The endless amounts of VBS, construction projects, ESL classes, orphanage visits, church services, etc.

If I had to choose one word to describe Dominicans, it would be “joy”. The children and their families radiate joy: universal joy, joy independent of material things and joy that radiates Christ. I had several opportunities to go with groups and help deliver groceries to families in need. The homes that I went to typically had dirt floors, no kitchen, one bedroom and poor roofing. You would think someone living in those conditions would be frustrated, perhaps even bitter at God, right? I was blown away with how happy and joyful they were. It was so special to hear them tell their story and list ways God has faithfully provided.

I learned from STCH Ministries International the power of investing in relationships. Being in the DR for six weeks allowed me to witness things groups are not always able to see on a week-long trip. A couple of times throughout the summer we returned to a school or orphanage that we had visited a few weeks prior. It was amazing to watch the kids grow spiritually and see their faces light up as they ran to me for a hug.

I learned that as cliché as it sounds, love has no language barriers. Knowing very little Spanish, I doubted I could be a strong leader in a Spanish speaking country. Yet, I quickly learned that the kids did not care if I could not communicate entirely in Spanish. They simply wanted love. Spending time with the kids at schools and orphanages, loving them and laughing together made me excited for the day we will all be in Heaven, laughing, loving and worshiping God with people from all nations. I remembered that we are all more alike than we are different. This is something that would hit me during the church services when we sang worship songs in Spanish that I knew in English. We all worship the same God, how crazy amazing is that?

My biggest takeaway was a renewed passion to share the Gospel. God reassured me that sharing our faith did not have to be a big, scary thing. A few times throughout the summer I shared my testimony with various Dominicans and Americans. It still amazes me how God can use me and my story to point others to Christ. God is so good.

Getting to know the children and families at IBQ encouraged me. We had so much fun working on my Spanish and their English, playing games and laughing together. In my first week, one eight-year-old girl became my church buddy. We sat together most Sundays – dancing in the pew, reading from a Spanish/English Bible, her copying my English sermon notes while looking at me with a big smile, proud of her work; she stole my heart. Halfway through the summer, I learned that the groups who came last summer built a home for her and her family. She’s gone through so much but you would never guess it, she has so much joy.

Each American volunteer team was different from the others, yet each team welcomed me into their group. Working in the heat was exhausting but time after time groups did it without complaining and set a wonderful example of how the body of Christ is to be.

I cannot talk about my wonderful experience in the DR without talking about the wonderful staff and translators I was blessed to work with. They serve the Lord so fervently and give of their time and energy abundantly. I am so thankful for the staff and translators (and my co-interns) who made this summer the amazing experience that it was.

If you are interested in serving as a summer intern, applications for summer 2020 are open now; those chosen will be notified in early 2020. Please see https://www.STCHM.org/international/summer-intern-application/  for more information.

Summer interns have assisted Homes for Children (HFC) on the Boothe Campus for nearly thirty years. Enabling others to join in the ministry of reaching hurting children and families with God’s love and truth is essential to the mission of STCH Ministries and the intern program is one way to achieve that. This year, five college students lived among our students at Boothe Campus from May to August. The staff feels interns make summers richer providing guidance and friendship to the students on campus.

College students provide unique friendships as they pour into the lives and hearts of the kids, friendships they probably do not have with their houseparents, their caseworkers or other staff.

Grace Skaggs, a nursing major at the University of Texas, was described by her peers as gentle, compassionate and hardworking. She stayed in tune with God’s heart, working to show love to every kid in the same way and help anywhere she could. Grace was incredible with the younger kids showing rare patience and compassion for the smallest of them.

A few of the interns shared their experience at HFC and what they learned about themselves and God as they served. This is Grace’s story, in her own words:

Working at HFC last summer was amazing. I enjoyed the unique place I got to have in the kids’ lives as an intern. The job description, to love the kids, allowed me to spend time every day playing games, swimming, listening and sharing their lives. In many ways, it was hard but in the end, I found myself to be so thankful for the opportunity.

My favorite part of the summer was spending time reading with one of the boys. My heart broke for the little third grader and I started to read with him daily. By the end of the summer, he recited the alphabet with confidence, knew a handful of sight-words and could sound out words. Every day before I left his cottage, I would give him a high five and say, “You did awesome today.” One day towards the end of the summer he responded, “Hey Grace, I bet I will do awesome tomorrow too.” He discovered he can learn the same as the others in his class.

I felt God gently and patiently reminding me that I need to trust Him. At the beginning of the summer, I held onto everything so tightly. I took all the pain and the brokenness I saw and let it completely overwhelm me. The stories I heard felt like an unbearable weight on me.  As soon as I handed the burden to God, peace overwhelmed me; I stopped crying all the time, found I could sleep again and for the first time in weeks, believed I could serve Him the way I wanted to from the beginning.

God taught me that His plan is better than mine. This was not how I planned to spend my summer. I am going into my fourth year of nursing school and this is the summer I expected to do an internship. All of my friends applied for internships at hospitals and I conceded to doing a mission trip to do something medical. In my heart, I knew I could not ignore His voice calling me to HFC. When I started working with the kids, I immediately knew that this summer would be a gift more special than I could have imagined. I thank God all the time for how He blessed my life when He led me to HFC.

I think a lot about the special place HFC now holds in my heart, and I have peace in knowing God will bring everything together if I’m meant to come back one day. He did it before, and I trust He has the power to do it again.

I would tell anyone considering interning at HFC next year to listen first. If this is where He has called you then He has a reason. Trust Him and be obedient. He will bless you beyond imagination through the adults you will work with, the children you will serve and the time you will spend in His presence.

Applications for summer 2020 will be accepted beginning January 2020 for anyone interested. Please call our office at 367-375-2101 or send an email to intake-homesforchildren@stchm.org for more information.

Summer interns have assisted STCH Ministries International in the Dominican Republic (DR) for 3 years. This year, three college students lived at International’s DR base of operation inside Iglesia Bautista Quisequayana (IBQ), near the capital city of Santo Domingo from May-August. Amanda Longoria, Associate Director of International said the interns helped in many different ways. Their upbeat spirit and endless energy made the summer weeks go by without a hitch. They connected not only with the Dominican nationals but also with Americans traveling to the DR on mission trips. They offered comfort and accommodations to the needs of the groups. Summer Interns served as the hands and feet of Jesus in the Dominican Republic.

Katie, a speech therapy major at Stephen F. Austin State University visited the DR in 2018 on her first mission trip. Amanda remembered Katie being shy and quiet and believed working as a summer intern would take Katie outside of her comfort zone. The staff agreed God wanted Katie on the team and knew He would provide the strength she needed. Watching her work with the groups and connecting with people Amanda knew they made the right decision. Katie came out of her shell and had the time of her life.

A few of the interns shared their experience in the DR and what they learned about themselves and God as they served. This is Katie’s story, in her own words:

My time in the Dominican Republic was a real blessing for me. When I found out I had been picked for the internship in January, I’m going to be brutally honest: I was EXTREMELY nervous. As it got closer to the time for me to leave, it got worse.

After my grandpa passed away in March, I began to question the entire trip. Finding out I made the Dean’s List at the end of the semester helped to calm my nerves. I thought to myself, “Wow, Katie, if you can get on the Dean’s List during the hardest semester yet in your personal life, you can absolutely go on this mission trip and get out of your comfort zone.”

I continued to doubt and talked with many different people I trust. My biggest concern, the fact that I am VERY shy, made me hesitant to commit. My best friend, Hannah Glasson, helped me realize Grandpa would be so mad if I did not go – this was the last major thing I told him I was going to do before he passed. I had to do this.

I made a list on the airplane of what I wanted to do while in the DR.

1) Get out of your comfort zone! (Biggest one)

2) Be open and honest with as many people as possible to make new friendships.

3) Play with tons of kids.

4) Learn as much as possible/take everything in and grow my relationship with God – a lot.

I exceeded all the items on my list and so much more than I could have ever imagined or expected. I went over there expecting to serve people; in the end, I was the one that had the pleasure of being served by everybody surrounding me. The first week was rough for me. It was a new place, I was with a huge group of adult professionals in the medical field and I felt out of place. As the week went by, working with STCH Ministries staff worker, Valentina, and all the kids helped me to start coming out of my shell. Moving in to share a room with Margaret Magallanes Leyba was honestly the best thing that could have happened.

Ashley Beck arrived on June 3rd and changed everything, life was a blast from there on out. I had been nervous about relationships with the other interns, but as soon as we picked Ashley up at the airport I knew we would get along perfectly! Kali Scholle and I only worked together for two weeks before I left, but I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her there. She fit in like the missing puzzle piece. These two girls were both so sweet, we learned to trust one another and talk about anything.

I did so many days of VBS (which were an absolute blast and such a joy) and a few days of construction. We went to orphanages and schools to help out with everything from organizing books in their library to planning activity days with the kids. I embraced everything I did and took in so much more than I ever expected to (including some Spanish words and phrases).

Last summer on the short term trip, I took pictures of different things around me because I thought they were awesome and fascinating. This year, I didn’t take pictures of things. I took pictures with people because they taught me more than I could ever put into words.

The biggest thing I learned from each person was love. Dominicans spread love all over to every single person they come across and do it with a smile no matter what. It was inspiring. They’re the hardest working people I know and never give up on anything until it’s done. Every one of these people made me a better person in some way.

Now that I am back in the United States, I feel a need to show A LOT more love to everybody around me. While in the DR, I remember every Sunday morning at church, receiving a hug or a kiss on the cheek and hearing, “God bless you” from nearly everyone. I can start with something as simple as that. I need to do better at REALLY knowing Jesus and the Bible. The Dominican people put me to shame. They know the Bible like the back of their hand and it amazes me. I take too much for granted here. I complain too much when I have WAY more than I actually need.

The most important thing I realized over my weeks there was this: we are not that different. Yes, we have different skin colors and speak a different language (which definitely isn’t a barrier) and do things a little bit differently, but we are no different than every person standing right next to us. We need to love (Jesus and people) more and hate less.

Thank you again to all the staff, translators and interns that made my time the absolute best experience. I left my heart there and I will without a doubt be back. Until next time, Te Quiero Mucho República Dominicana

If you are interested in serving as a summer intern, applications for summer 2020 are open now; those chosen will be notified in early 2020. Please see: https://www.STCHM.org/international/summer-intern-application/  for more information.