BUC Youth Ministries Mission Trip 2019: The Dominican Republic
5th April 2019
I remember sitting here in the boardroom of the British Union Conference office in Watford, waiting for the Teens, Pathfinder and Youth Advisory to start and as the regional directors and I were catching up with each other, we spoke about the terrible hurricane that had recently hit the Caribbean. Pastor Juan Carlos Patrick, Teens & Chaplaincy Director at the South England Conference mentioned how, for some time, he had not been able to contact or locate some of his family members. We sympathised with him, of course, but there was a general feeling of wanting to do more. And this was the birth of the British Union Conference (BUC) mission trip to the Dominican Republic (DR). After starting the meeting with prayer, it occurred to us that this was an additional point which should be added to the agenda, one which was more important perhaps than any of the others. Someone suggested that we could go to the DR and help Pastor Juan and the people living on that storm-damaged island.
Very quickly we started to develop strategies for fundraising, recruiting people, and how best to help once we arrived. Pastor Juan managed to get in touch with the Dominican Conference and this year in 2019 we worked with the Dominican Union to establish how and where we could help the most. They were so nice to us and provided great accommodation and food, and they also assisted with our paperwork by sending a list of the volunteers to the local immigration office for speedier processing. This meant that when we arrived at the airport in Santo Domingo, most of us received a stamp in our passport and were waved through with no delays.
During the February 2018 project we worked on five houses and it was such a blessing for us to see that they had been completed during the 12 months between our visits. In February 2019 we worked on three houses being a mixture of wood and brick. Some had been destroyed by the wind during the storms, and others had been damaged by fallen trees and debris. The daily routine consisted of mainly 4 tasks: 1) carrying bricks, 2) mixing cement, 3) drinking a lot of water, and 4) having as much fun as we could with each other. Some of the parts of the work were more difficult than others and they were bestowed with code words and nicknames which you will only be able to discover for yourselves if you join the project next year!
Some people thought that their skill set would not be good enough for this, but soon they realised that we were not there as specialist tradesmen or engineers but mainly as labourers, and all that was needed was enthusiasm. And as we carried the bricks, the cement, the sand and other items, people living in the other houses around came to join us. It was so beautiful to meet so many local people and it was wonderful that we as a team could grow to know and rely on each other; it was also so amazing to see that the happiness of the people living there was not determined by the latest iPhone or Samsung gadget but rather through family, good food and whatever they had as a community.
As our experience grew, so did our roles while we were there. Many upgraded their tasks from just carrying bricks to laying bricks, from mixing cement to plastering walls, and it was not just wood stacking but actually building roofs too. And the projects continued apace so that we were able to take some time out on Thursday to view some of the sights of that lovely island.
Sabbath morning seemed to be like a typical Saturday morning – we went to the local church, some of us preached and some shared some songs; but what came afterwards was something that moved so many of us. The Dominican Conference representative, Fiordaliza Suero Herrera, organised a medical clinic. Straight after the service, the Pathfinders came out of the church and went out into the local community. People started pouring into the church for a chance to attend the free medical clinic that had been advertised. As in many other countries, medication is costly, and health care is not very accessible. When the clinic opened there were 300 or 400 people gathered around waiting to enter the church. Sister Fiordaliza had arranged for several local Adventist doctors with different specialities to run a few clinics at the church to address the needs of the community. Our role was not a medical one as we were not trained for this, but we were able to help carry and sort the medication once it had been dispensed by the medical staff and to keep the clinic areas tidy and arranged.
The reason why this was so moving for many of us is because lack of finances meant the local community did not have ready access to care and the necessary medicines. Some people had tears in their eyes as their child was given the help needed for his or her illness, and it was the same for others as they received medicines free of charge. And as we observed these touching scenes, we realised how little we had contributed (financially and practically) but how it meant so much to these people. That day, the organisers told me that the £450 we had contributed to run the clinic, had helped around 650 people.
After the trip in 2018, SEC Treasurer, Fred Shone, who had been with us, visited several churches in his district and showed the video of the mission trip, including the story of the medical clinic. After the service in one church, one of the senior members went to see Brother Fred and asked him to accept £450 from her so that they could run another medical clinic. He sent the money to the Dominican Republic soon after, and this is exactly what happened. This year we were able to run yet another clinic while we were there also.
I heard somebody say, "Life is better when you make something." I guess it depends on what you are making, but when you can help make a house for someone who needs somewhere to live, then this statement is so true. And if you can help someone gain access to better health care and improve their condition, it is such a blessed project to be a part of. The people of the Dominican Republic have no idea how they truly blessed us! We grew together as a team and at the same time we were reminded of the true value of life, family and health.
I would love it if you were able to join us next year. We are hoping to go at least one more time to continue to make a small difference in that part of the world. Or if you are unable to attend, but are able to raise and send £450, we have a secure way of sending this money to Sister Fiordaliza at the DR Conference office and she will be able to organise another well-need medical clinic to benefit the people living locally.
And finally, I would like to say a huge thank you to the 2018 and 2019 teams who worked so hard to make a big difference. Thank you also to Pastor Juan who helped to organise this trip and others such as Fred Shone at the SEC Treasury Department with whom we have worked so well in partnership along the way. And thank you also to all those who have already donated, and those who are impressed to donate after hearing about the need there.
God bless you all as you do your bit to make the world that bit better.
Dejan Stojkovic, BUC Youth Ministries Director
For more information about next year's mission trip, please visit www.adventistyouth.org.uk. Please call Pastor Dejan Stojkovic at the British Union Youth Ministries office for information or to arrange a donation.
[Pr Dejan Stojkovic]