NAOMI ARIZA WAS JUST A CHILD when she became involved with STCH Ministries’ mission teams. “I didn’t know anything, not even a word of English, but they let me hang around doing little things to help. They loved me and helped me to grow into the person I am today. Everything I know—my values, how to work and even my English—I learned at the feet of Jesus through their guidance.” In the past, Naomi and her four siblings lacked basic necessities, often going to sleep not knowing if there would be food to eat in the morning. Today, Naomi is a lovely young lady majoring in chemistry at one of the top universities in the Dominican Republic, through the CLEP (Christian Leadership Education Project) scholarship. She is a leader in the IBQ church, helps with children’s ministries and is a wonderful translator.
Naomi served as part of STCH Ministries’ staff with the recent 2020 Christmas mission team to the Dominican Republic. With gritty faith, twenty-one people overcame obstacles, like passport delays and COVID-19 fears. They resolved to serve children and families devastated by the pandemic.
The team delivered groceries to needy families, constructed desks and cubbies for the Villa Altagracia school, and shared the gospel as they distributed tracts up and down neighborhood streets. Children’s ministries included singing, games and a Bible-story drama. A day at the Higuey orphanage capped off their week as they rotated between painting walls, fitting the boys with new shoes and building relationships with the children.
STCH Ministries International has led similar mission trips in the Dominican Republic since 2007. In addition to children’s ministries, they have hosted pastors’ conferences and training for teachers and orphanage caregivers. Most teams have participated in construction projects, some ambitious as a new school building or as useful as school furniture, beds and playgrounds. Regularly, groups deliver food, targeting the neediest families.
Each team arrives and then leaves a week later. What is the cumulative impact of their efforts? A few days of construction, sewing, playing games, baking cupcakes, holding babies, shoe fittings and delivering groceries. What is the lasting value of these mission trips? Sharing the gospel through each activity, teaching, loving and discipling.
We surveyed dozens of parents, students, pastors, school educators and orphanage leaders. Their audio interviews, expressed in their unique Dominican style, are transcribed and represent only a few of the many responses we received.
Ondina is our head cook for our mission teams who regularly brags about her food. She said, “It’s a great privilege to work for STCH Ministries. It moves me greatly, like wow! When I see the mission teams joining their efforts and hearts to help, it gives me energies for my work. I see how hard they work, even the small children work, and it is contagious to the rest of us. During the pandemic, the ministry has been a special blessing, frequently supplying groceries, medical help and clothing to us.”
As part of the kitchen staff, Maria Luisa spoke about the impact on her life, when a mission team rebuilt her squalid home. “God calls us to serve Him, but often we are divided between working to exist and working for God’s kingdom. The team left their comforts and worked to improve my housing so I can serve God better. Their sacrifice reminds me of what Jesus did when He left His place beside God to die on a cross for us.”
Mission team participants often choose a child to sponsor through the Samuel’s Fund program and the Christian Leadership Educational Project (CLEP). Countless donors have invested themselves generously and consistently in these children. Scarlett is one of the CLEP students, and she responded, “In my consideration, I see that STCH Ministries is a holistic ministry that helps with physical needs, spiritual needs and education. The base of everything they do is Jesus. In medical clinics, at VBS, even if it’s diversion, it’s still about sharing the gospel. I translate for them, and it has helped me to grow. And the economic help also reflects God’s hands. STCH Ministries has provided my college education through the CLEP program. During the pandemic, I became seriously ill, and we didn’t have food either. They were there to meet our needs.”
One of the most lasting impacts of a mission team is the efforts they pour into the orphanages. Ramon and Juana Prensa responded from Monte Plata. “The groups are extraordinarily beneficial because they love our children. Their repeated visits build relationships and help to teach and disciple them. The teams come to us as a gift from heaven, not only a monthly donation, but also unexpected grocery purchases. They helped built the transition home for young people aging out of the home and met the need for computers to enable distance learning during this pandemic. Above all, the sponsorship of our children has been a source of strength and encouragement for us as leaders to continue to serve God.”
Nieves, the director of the Higuey boys’ home, reflected, “In our timeline, there is BS and AS—Before and After STCH Ministries. After God, the mission teams have had the greatest impact on our ministry. Today, we never have to run around desperately begging for a chicken to feed them. We are able to pay our staff, instead of putting them off. Our boys see how hard they work. As the director, I have been impacted spiritually by their example. The simplicity, the humility with which they serve, has inspired me to keep on serving.”
Raquel has worked with our mission teams for over ten years in her school. “Next to God, I am thankful for STCH Ministries. We had a dream to evangelize our community, our families and children and then to teach them in a school. He has used mission teams to accomplish this dream. New buildings, teacher training and supplies and child sponsorships. When schools shut down because of the pandemic, we had only one resource for online teaching. Only God. Now we have a computer laboratory. Glory to God in the highest! How He has blessed us! I am very sure that STCH Ministries is actually a blessing to the entire country of Dominican Republic. Because when a child leaves here, he spreads the greatness of God through his education.”
Their answers triggered an imaginary time-lapse video. A chicken coop morphs into a beautiful school building as cement block stacks upon block, and one mission team follows another. Young Alex holding his guitar fades, then dons a doctor’s coat. Elementary children transform into university students working as mission team translators. Dark and angry Franklin blurs, then smiles, embracing his wife and baby as he describes his job designing web-based programs for Dominican Republic customs. He gives God the glory as he expresses his gratitude for STCH Ministries, his sponsor and the opportunity to get an education.
As the Christmas 2020 mission trip ended and 2021 began, we stood on the rooftop at the IBQ compound. We watched the tropical sky as night swiftly blotted out the light. We reflected on the fog of uncertainty and turmoil all around the world which has heightened a pervasive atmosphere of anxiety. As Christians we may question, “How then shall we live? How shall we respond?” More than ever before, we need to invest wisely our small “cup” of resources in the lives of others and to hear with a sense of urgency Jesus’ words echoing down the hallways of time, “As long as it is day, I must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4