When the Corona Virus arrived in the DR, President Danilo reacted quickly and forcefully with a curfew between 5:00pm and 8:00am. Only groceries, health facilities, and banks still open. We knew Samuel’s Fund families live a subsistence existence, where the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” is a constant petition.
The biggest potential hurdle–how to pay for the food that was needed? By faith, Eron approved the expense, saying, “The ministry continues.” During the days of implementing the plan, donors responded with gifts of $20 up to $2,000. God is always faithful.
Our staff here in the US and in the DR mobilized to determine best approach. Which families have lost all income? How to manage crowded grocery stores without exposing themselves to the virus? How to distribute food to needy families? What were most critical food items?
Interesting perspectives from our Dominican ministry partners on which food items were most essential. Powdered milk, said one. Ugh! Children hate that stuff! said Russell, father of four. Some canned goods in case they don’t have gas to cook, said Rebeca. Believe me, everyone can cook over a charcoal “anafe,” commented Dr. Francisco, who had survived many years of food deprivation. So, it was decided–rice, beans, oatmeal, spaghetti, tomato sauce, oil, sugar, milk and sardines.
As the pandemic effects worsened, it became clear that a better approach was needed to feed the families of Samuel’s Fund and CLEP children. Could we buy a larger quantity of food at a better price from the Bravo grocery chain, enough to last 4-6 weeks? “Yes, but you have to take a full palette.” We never dreamed a pallet of spaghetti contained 2480 packages of spaghetti, a pallet of tomato sauce contained 1540 cans of tomato sauce and the list went on!
Zoom meetings on both sides of the Caribbean. Could we push the beds and furniture back and store the food on the first floor of the Koinonia house? Who would be there to organize and help divide into amounts for each family? What days of the week will be delivery times, how many hours, how many families can safely pick up?
Russell was asked to direct the pandemic response. Rebeca, Valentina and Maria contacted families and assigned appointment times. Dr. Francisco supervised the process to provide maximum safety—wearing of masks, gloves, social distancing.
DR ministry partners together with CLEP volunteers counseled with each one, praying and reading scripture together as they gifted each family with the precious bags of food.
Orphanages received generous amounts of food depending on how many children they had.
Schools were thrown into crisis. Teachers in the schools of Raquel, Guaricanos, Villa Altagracia, Hatillo also received food packets. In addition, since children could not pay tuition, the teachers had no income.
STCH Ministries used hunger donations to give each teacher 50% of their salary for the last two months of the school year.
Just like here in the USA, teachers taught over the internet, or sent packets of worksheets home. Many children needed help to understand and complete the school assignments. CLEP college students were assigned weekly visits by phone, or internet to tutor the children. Additionally, they read portions of the Bible, prayed with them about their fears, and even played games. The Samuel’s Fund children came to look forward to this special time each week.
As the weeks of quarantine continued, other means were developed to help families earn a little money while ministering to others. The sewing ladies made masks for all the Samuel’s Fund children and their siblings.
Women, men and young people repaired, sanded, and painted over 273 benches at the IBQ church, as Russell and Oscar led them. Some stood on scaffolding and painted the ceiling supports at the church. Others sanded and painted the furniture at Raquel’s school. The Dominicans were grateful for the opportunity to work and supply their own food needs.
Currently, the Dominican Republic is gradually opening up, and many people are back to work, although the major industry of tourism has not recovered. STCH Ministries has reduced the amount of food, as the number of at-risk families has declined. Going forward, we will continue to help the orphanages, who have many growing children to feed.
Today we all face uncertainty and chaos and loss. We feel worried and overwhelmed, as we think, “The problems are huge, and I’m only one person. What can I do?” Jesus’ answer to each one of us is to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Jesus’ last words command us, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel.” Thank you for your partnership in fulfilling that command.
Vice President of Family and International Ministries