In Dan’s reflections from his mission trip to the Dominican Republic, we’ve seen how God pushed Dan out of his comfort zone through the culture shocks he experienced and through the leadership challenges a student trip brings. Here’s Dan’s third reflection, where he shares about the work the CIY Engage team did while in the DR:
God pushed me out of my comfort zone through the work we did. We spent a few days working with the International Justice Mission (IJM) field team, which is working to eliminate child sex trafficking in the country. Though illegal, prostitution and trafficking of minors is widely accepted as “normal” in the local culture, and almost no traffickers encounter legal repercussions. IJM’s mission in the DR is to rescue and restore victims of sex trafficking while prosecuting traffickers and strengthening the legal system and police forces to better address the issue. One specific encounter I had when working with IJM happened while we were distributing awareness/support fliers in a reputably-promiscuous neighborhood. Most of the Dominicans we gave fliers to accepted them but ignored us. One man, though, actually followed me, yelling and obviously upset. I tried to keep walking and not get into an argument (especially because I could barely understand his broken English), but he persisted. Turns out, he wasn’t mad at me for giving him a flier; he was frustrated by the issue and was actually very grateful that we were bringing awareness to it. He and his co-worker asked for some fliers to put in their shop, and prayed with us. We agreed on one foundational truth that became my take-away from our work with IJM: our human hands can print fliers, rescue enslaved teens, and arrest traffickers, but only God can change the heart and truly heal the Dominican Republic. As much as we should pray for the IJM staff faithfully serving there, we need to pray for God’s Word and Gospel to take hold.
After a few days with the IJM staff, we worked more closely with El Circulo, the local church that hosted and coordinated our trip, to serve a community outside of Santo Domingo called Cotui. Located in the mountains two-and-a-half hours outside of Santo Domingo, Cotui was one of those dirt-road, run-down communities that blew our American mindsets to pieces. We spent three days repainting the local elementary school and its basketball court. El Circulo and other churches had sponsored the building on the school; before it was built, there was only one school in the area, which didn’t accept students until they were 10 years old. Because of the sponsorship from the local churches, the community was able to split their education into formal elementary and high-school levels. And through teams like ours, El Circulo was able to continue supporting the Cotui community.
The first day there, we started by doing prayer-walks around the village. Local children followed us around, wanting to hold our hands and play with us (in a weird twist, they said “white people” came to their village periodically, but they could never tell if they were the same people because we “all look the same”). We walked through the village, praying for the children, the community, and the work we came to do. At one point, my group stopped by the local church building. It wasn’t much to look at, but it impressed on me a truth which became my take-away from our time at Cotui: people in the DR don’t have much, especially by our American standards, but they do have access to the Gospel. Ultimately, everything is secondary to Christ, and the Gospel is preached in Cotui and in countless other communities in the DR. As much as we should work to provide those less fortunate with the things we take for granted, the most effective use for mission teams like ours is to support the local church that is already doing God’s work.
Locally, New Life is doing a lot in and around the Northern VA area. Where can you join the existing work and be used by God in a mighty way around Northern VA?