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.