news from the DR | 06.2014

Before our June 9 team meeting, we had the opportunity to Skype with Luis, Reina, and Dilson. We’re thankful technology provides a way to stay connected between trips.

The Vargas family has had plenty to celebrate as of late. On May 26, Reina managed to pull off a surprise birthday party to celebrate Luis turning 50! Luis and Reina also were happy to tell us they both have lost weight and feel better thanks to their newfound focus on a healthy diet and exercise. Dilson passed all of his classes with flying colors, and is on to high school. His dream is to be a pilot (we told him if he achieves this goal, he can fly his family to Boston to visit). Yeison is preparing for a big test (otherwise he would have joined our call). He will be a senior and is turning 18 soon. And to think he was only 11 when REUNION began partnering with them! The family recently moved to a new house that is closer to both the boys’ schools and closer to the church.

Luis and Reina also gave us a few updates on the Dominican Republic. The entire country is in school-building mode in response to a big UN push to improve their education system. The government has not invested in education, and as a result, many children do not have access to a quality learning environment. Many classrooms, if they exist at all, are crowded, and teachers do not have appropriate qualifications or resources. Enrollment rates are low, and dropout rates are high, even in elementary schools. While we are encouraged to hear the government is finally dedicating more resources to education, we are reminded of the importance of the GO Ministries supported school in Santiago. Education is vital for social progress.

Luis and Reina also informed us the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya has arrived in the Dominican Republic. They compared it to dengue fever but, thankfully, it does not come with the same blood-related complications and therefore is not deadly. Unfortunately, it does cause rash and joint paint which can last for months. We’re making sure that our medical team is prepared to treat the symptoms and also to calm hysteria from false alarms. We’ve also added mosquito nets to our packing list, and will be making sure we bring along effective bug repellent!

The La Mosca church has been offering community game nights—opportunities to connect more with the community, especially people not connected to the church. They are saving up for the next one to make sure they have enough money to cover the food they provide. The youth group is is preparing for a Cristo Urbano camp with GO.

The nutrition clinic is going strong, providing food for 108 kids every day (up since April!). They did have to let one of the cooks go, but Reina stepped in, helping cook and teaching a bible study for the kids using curriculum from GO Ministries. She loves spending six days a week getting to know the kids and making a difference in their lives. She told us the story of a seven-year-old boy who was violated. He received no support at home, and he was suffering from bad dreams. Thanks to Reina’s psychology background, she has been able to help him through this traumatic and tragic event.

The Vargas family asked us to pray for health, especially with chikungunya in the DR. They also asked for prayers regarding future baptisms in the church community. The young man Luis mentioned in April, who wanted to get baptized but his parents were not in support, moved away, so Luis also asked for prayers for him in his new situation.

As we prepared to sign off, Luis said Boston came up a few days ago, and he proudly exclaimed, “I have family in Boston!” We feel the same sentiments for the Vargas family and community of La Mosca, and can’t wait to see them in person in August!