Cascade Vols Team Up In Dominican
by Rowanne Haley –
As the new short term missions chair at my large suburban church, it was my responsibility to find short term mission opportunities and recruit our members to participate in them. As the Portland Salvation Army City Programs Coordinator I had long sought ways to link my church to my Army.
Devastation by Hurricane Georges provided the opportunity. An E-mail inquiry to Colonel Dennis Phillips, territorial commander, offering volunteers brought an immediate reply: “God is so good!” He had just received a grant of $200,000 for supplies but didn’t know where he’d get the workers.
Major Kurt Burger, Cascade divisional commander, encouraged me to use some of the money in my conference budget to make a site visit to look for possibilities. My church offered to cover half the costs for members who participated and gave me a trip fee of $2,500 to cover any local needs the team desired to meet.
After a chaotic trip, eight volunteers who paid their own expenses arrived in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, with the conviction that the Lord was indeed in charge of this madcap adventure. We were embarking upon a spiritual journey that was intended to change a lot of lives: especially ours.
San Juan, at the western edge of the country by the Haitian border, is one of the poorest communities. Their poorest barrio was beyond our worst imaginings. Some houses no larger than our tool sheds housed three families. No plumbing; dirt floors; cooking done in pots over charcoal.
As the days passed I saw things that gave me food for thought. Despite the poverty, I saw that these Dominicans were full of joy. Several generations were living in harmony and caring for their elders. Children were cherished. We saw these same people in the evening meetings, scrubbed clean and dressed up nicely, worshipping with joy and hope.
It did not take long for the team to overcome its shocked inertia and launch into action. Bonds began to form between us and the residents, despite the language barriers.
There were surprising talents among team members. A doctor found therapeutic diversion in hard labor on the construction sites. A computer programmer proved to be a good jack-of-all-trades, but his special contribution was his love of and ability to connect with the local children. The Vice President of Portland’s Advisory Board enjoyed both building homes and playing baseball with the children. An electrician contributed safe wiring and overhead lighting for nine families.
By the end of the week, shells of two houses were up; six buildings were wired and five houses painted. During nightly evangelistic meetings, 16 had made decisions for Christ. Lasting friendships had formed, and the team and local church members had strengthened and encouraged each others’ walks with Christ.