The youth at Triad Baptist Church have been waiting for the past four years to take a mission trip outside of the country. This year they were finally able to do that when they visited the Dominican Republic to share the gospel and give hope to those less fortunate.
Sarah McGraw, 18, her brother, John, 15, and High School Student Pastor Jared Hoots, along with 36 other high school students and 11 other adults headed out for their trip on June 22, returning six days later on June 28.
Hoots said he had been to the Dominican Republic three times before, but he hadn’t worked with SCORE International, the organization they went with for the event mission, called Kosmos.
For Sarah and John, it was their first time visiting the country.
“We have both always wanted to go on a mission trip, our parents knew that, and they felt it would be a good opportunity for us,” Sarah said.
Sarah noted that one of the first places they worked at was Pasitos de Jesus, an orphanage for girls.
“We also gave out food, through a project called Feed a Village, in bags to certain families selected by a church in the area,” John added. “We also gave them our testimonies when we gave them the food.”
Sarah recalled how interested the families were in hearing what they had to say.
“They took the time to listen to what we had to say, and not just wanted to listen because we were giving them things,” she said.
Another place the mission team worked at was the Lily House, a rescue ministry reaching women enslaved in prostitution in the Dominican Republic.
“They would teach them different life skills, such as baking and making things they could sell so they could help their families and become self-sufficient and could get out of prostitution,” Sarah said.
Hoots said the children often stayed at the Lily House with their mothers.
“We also went to the Emanuel House, which was after school care for children,” Hoots said.
He explained that students in the Dominican Republic are only in school for a half day and they must have their birth certificate in order to attend.
“The Emanuel House is a place for children to go, where they have an extra half day to do their homework, have recreation, and devotion. It’s also a safe place for them to go,” Hoots added. “It was also available for children who didn’t have their birth certificates.”
John said there were specialized programs within the Emanuel House.
“They had groups for special needs kids and groups for deaf kids,” he said, noting that all of the students at the Emanuel House are sponsored. “The sponsorships are the way they pay for their meals and uniforms.”
Hoots said the Emanuel House hopes to have an organization built next year to provide a full day program since the Dominican Republic will be going to a full-day school program next year.
“The organization will cost them $50,000, which will help them become a school and to help them build a whole new wing,” he said.
Sarah said another day on their mission trip, they put in water filters for two families in a nearby village, while working with the Emanuel House.
“One of the ladies that took us through her house was so proud of her house even though she had so little,” she said.
“Their kitchen was half the size of a regular bathroom in the U.S. and the restrooms were pretty much a bucket on the floor,” John added, noting they were in the more poverty stricken area of the Dominican Republic. “For their beds, they just had a mattress sitting on the floor with a pillow and most of the homes had bars on the doors and windows so no one could break in.”
“A lot of the families hadn’t eaten in several days and a lot of us had snacks in our bags, so we gave them to the families, though we knew it wouldn’t be enough,” Sarah said.
Hoots said the organizations they worked with in the Dominican Republic were well run.
“They were all well run and filled a spiritual and physical need,” he said. “Our goal while we were there was to make sure we always shared the gospel with the people we met and they were very receptive,” he remarked.
John said they also passed out tracts and bracelets.
Sarah explained that since they were new to mission work, while they were at the Lily House they were taught how to do mission work successfully.
“They taught us how to do mission work so the people didn’t become dependent upon us and so they would be more receptive,” she said.
Through their experience in the Dominican Republic, John said he learned to be more thankful for what he has here in the U.S.
“The experience taught me to be thankful for what I’ve got because they have so little over there,” he said.
Sarah noted that the experience taught her to open up more about her faith.
“It helped me to be able to share my testimony better and to share my faith,” she said. “It helped me to break out of my shell.”
Sarah explained that through her experience, she also learned that God uses even the smallest of talents to help people.
“While we were at the Lily House, we came in and got some ice cream and were going to get our nails painted,” she said. “While I was getting my nails done I asked the lady that was painting my nails if I could return the favor and the woman seemed shocked by the question.”
Sarah then asked her if she had any designs. After finding out the woman didn’t have any, Sarah decided to show her a few simple designs she could use in the future.
“She was so excited because this would now allow her to charge more and make more money for her family,” she explained.
Although they had many great experiences, John and Sarah said there were challenges.
“It was hard seeing all of the children running around and their parents not knowing where they were. They would ask for food and water and just wanted to help all of them,” John said.
Sarah said her favorite part about the trip was spending time with the children.
“I enjoyed being with the kids and spending time with them,” she said.
John said during the mission trip, they had the chance to grow not only as individuals but as a youth group as well.
“Every night, we would come back to the mission conference and have a service and then have church time to talk about the day,” he said. “It helped bring us closer.”
Sarah said she and her brother also grew closer through the experience.
“I am glad I got to go with my brother. We never really got to bond like we did while we were there,” she said.