As an orphan in a remote village on the border of Haiti, Robert appeared destined to live an insignificant life, constricted by poverty, isolation, lack of education and family support.  He heard about Jesus through children’s Bible classes and became a disciple, a learner, of Jesus’ ways.  Dominicans and Americans invested in him through children’s Bible classes, medical clinics and construction projects.  Soon, he was chosen by a Houston family for a Samuel’s Fund sponsorship.  In addition to repeated visits with him while on mission trips, they encouraged Robert through facetime and emails while STCH Ministries’ staff also discipled him. After graduating high school, he moved to the capital city, Santo Domingo, for University, where he joined Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana (IBQ).  His sponsors continued to invest in Robert’s life through a CLEP scholarship (Christian Leadership and Educational Program).  Soon, Robert fell in love with a beautiful Christian girl.  As an orphan in that culture, moving in together seemed a normal next step.  The discipling process (learning of Jesus’ ways) continued as staff and Robert’s sponsors intervened to encourage pre-marital counseling with IBQ’s Pastor, Pastor Rudy.  Soon, a wedding was planned, complete with a borrowed wedding dress and a traditional marriage supper prepared by STCH Ministries International’s cooks.  Although Robert had no family or resources, over thirty-five Christian brothers and sisters from the church witnessed and celebrated this marriage.

Numerous individuals, both Americans and Dominicans, invested in Robert; changing his destiny. The Apostle Paul wrote that one plants, while others water, but God gives the increase.  Today Robert is educated, married to a Christian wife and shares his faith with others through his life and his church.  His future children will have the opportunity to grow while learning about Jesus, with the potential to impact countless others for Christ.

Salvation is first, a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ. However, we are not only saved FROM the penalty of sin but also to BECOME disciples, lifelong learners of Jesus.  Jesus’ last words reveal his priorities, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus spent three years, approximately 1056 days, focused on teaching twelve disciples.  In our numbers-focused American culture, the method that Jesus employed would not have earned Him recognition or promotion in any business that we know of.  It’s all about mathematics; how much money did it cost, and how many numbers, clients, projects were accomplished?  Were Jesus’ methods a failure?

Today, we know that through those disciples, Jesus changed the world. When the disciples heard Jesus say, “Go and make disciples,” they had a clear picture of what to do.  Jesus invested His time training and teaching the twelve disciples.  Compassion for the least of these was His trademark; feeding the hungry, healing the sick, blessing children.  He spent His time with tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes and many more.  These activities did not distract from His mission, they were the means by which He accomplished His mission.  He wedded the Gospel message to loving your neighbor, feeding the hungry and meeting needs.

There are many creative ways in which mission trip participants use their talents in this process.  Sometimes they present seminars for school teachers and share school supplies to under-resourced teachers.  Many of the public-school teachers must manage up to fifty students in a classroom without any helpers. One might ask how teaching classroom management, or creative teaching methods for math can be effective methods of sharing the Gospel?  These teaching seminars inspired our Dominican staff to meet with Christian principals in an effort to encourage and support them.  They have a two-fold goal; communicate to the community a better understanding of the purpose of the Christian school, and help teachers apply Biblical integration in the classroom.  Samuel’s Fund Director, Rebeca Dinzey, wrote, “This is a great opportunity to bring the gospel to our communities.”

Small actions can encourage the discipleship process in the life of a child.  One sponsor purchased a guitar for a young student.   As he learned to play, he began to lead worship in the youth services.  Alex Castillo will soon become Dr. Castillo when he graduates from medical school.  Uncounted numbers of American mission trip participants, as well as the IBQ church, have invested in Alex’s life.  He has been counseled through difficulties by the STCH Ministries staff, both Americans and Dominicans.  His sponsors paid for his education all the way through medical school.  As a Christian Leadership and Educational Program (CLEP) scholarship recipient, he disciples younger Samuel’s Fund children, through Bible studies and teaching English. Recently, he presented a study to Samuel’s Fund boys on the human brain and the Creator God who designed it.

Construction projects provide another opportunity to meet needs and intentionally invest in the discipleship process.  The Berroa twins, hyperactive, incorrigible little boys, accepted Christ at a children’s camp.  Adult believers needed a lot of patience and perseverance to continue to work with these boys since learning about the Bible was not high on their list of priorities.   As they grew, they became interested in construction projects because they wanted to learn English from Americans. They were discipled as they experienced a Christian testimony lived out through hammers, saws and paint by Americans and their Dominican peers.  Today they share with others while they attend college.

Francisco lived in a two-room home on dirt floors when he came to know Jesus and was discipled through Bible classes, VBS, mission teams and the church. Today he ministers as Dr. Francisco Paredes with STCH Ministries International in the Dominican Republic.  He leads and organizes medical mission trips in collaboration with small chapels, Christian ministries and schools.  Patients hear the Gospel and experience the love of God while their desperate physical needs are met.  Countless dozens have come to faith and been discipled by the local ministries where the clinics are held.

To be effective, the primary goal of all mission trips must follow Jesus’ recipe for success: “Go and make disciples…teaching them to observe all I have commanded.” Matthew 28:19-20.  Short-term mission trips must be more than entertaining, sight-seeing, painting or constructing buildings for schools and orphanages.  They must be more than delivering food to a hungry family, coloring a craft project in a VBS class or sewing a dress. They also need to be more than sharing the Four Spiritual Laws or other soul-winning formulas.

The Dominican Republic is a small country, only one of 195 countries.  What is the most effective way to evangelize the Dominican Republic, or any other country? On a short-term mission trip, can individuals coming from a different culture and speaking a different language effectively evangelize through a narrow focus on sharing the Gospel? Is it possible to weld the Gospel message to discipleship, relationship-building and teaching?  Working in partnership with local ministries, can we empower local individuals to evangelize, disciple and build Jesus’ kingdom in their own neighborhoods?

A personal relationship with God through faith in Christ is a priority.  STCH Ministries International’s mission trips integrate sharing the Gospel in partnership with local ministries while teaching and meeting needs in creative ways.  These collaborative partnerships with national churches and individuals ensure that the seeds sown in an admittedly short mission trip week will be watered and cultivated.  STCH Ministries International’s short-term mission trips are not about a one-time event, but a part of a long-term process of investing in qualified Dominican leadership so that the work of discipleship can be accomplished.  Jesus said, “GO!” STCH Ministries invites you to “COME”, and invest your life and resources with local ministries in making disciples.