Serving in La Mosca is hard, often heartbreaking work, and so we are thankful for the reminders that it is also significant and life changing. Thank you, Weng, for sharing your story and serving alongside the Vargas family!
Esperanzado is a Spanish word meaning hopeful. That is exactly how I felt over a year ago when I traveled to the DR with Reunion Christian Church, who partners with a local church in Santa Lucia to serve the community. Santa Lucia is located directly at the bottom of a landfill and residents suffer from poverty, disease, crime, and addiction. Santa Lucia is often referred to as La Mosca due to the flies thriving around the trash dump. We learn from Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan for us, plans to give us hope and a future. But how does one maintain such perspective when we see pain and brokenness around the world? Sometimes I get overwhelmed and lose sight of this truth. Going on this trip helped me remember there is hope when we go and serve in hopeless places. I’ve listed a few reasons why I came home full of hope and continue to serve where God has led me.
There is hope when we obey the call to serve.
In Ephesians 2:8-10 we learn we are saved by grace through faith. And we are created to do “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are God’s masterpiece, created and saved to serve. I have seen the leaders, organizers, and team members of this mission trip live up to this truth with faithfulness. When we arrived in Santiago, we were introduced to Dolores. She is an American who is serving as a nurse in the community through GO Ministries. On our first day, she led us in organizing medicine and preparing the equipment for the medical clinic the next day. She explained the ins and outs and the developments of the clinic through the years. She would refer to the Dominicans as people who are very dear to her and precious in God’s eyes. Every morning as we headed to the medical clinic site in La Mosca, she would start our day by giving us a short briefing. She was cheerful and enthusiastic, like it was the best day to go out and treat people with sickness. She held the Dominican people who came to the clinic like family. She is away from home but she obeyed the call to serve and her life gives hope to the people in La Mosca.
There is hope when we do not give up loving people.
We arrived in La Mosca with a warm welcome and hugs from the people in the community. I introduced myself to the kids, to the men and women, but one person caught my attention. He was exuberant. He talked to me like we were old friends. I think he is the most joyful person I have ever met. His name is Pastor Luis Vargas. REUNION partners with Luis, Reina, and their boys, to serve the community in La Mosca. Through the medical clinic held in his church, people’s needs for medicine, food, and water are met. In the four days that we spent serving together, I saw him faithfully reach out to the community with gladness. In one of the dinners we had I sat beside him and Reina to get to know them better. With tears in his eyes, he said (in Spanish) “I just go out to serve and not give up loving people, even when they do not respond.” He works tirelessly to share God’s light and love to the community. This is the place to see God’s love doing redemptive work through faithful servants like Luis. Truly, there is hope in the darkest places when we serve and do not give up on loving people well.
There is hope when we seek to understand first, rather than to be understood.
On this trip I served with people from different walks of life. Little girls to grandmas came aboard. I was amazed at how everybody worked together with humility and a willingness to learn. For two days we held the medical clinic and painted houses under the heat of the sun. Everybody came out serving with grace and encouragement to each other. At the triage table, I worked with my teammate Patsy. She is a young lady from Vermont who has a heart full of compassion. I would hear her trying her best to communicate in Spanish. And she would listen hard until she understood the concerns of kids and mothers holding babies.
And when was the last time we listened hard to understand our broken world? We see division in our country. We see abuse and chaos all around the world. We fight our own battles that are sometimes too much to handle. But how do we respond? Where do we begin? When we take time to listen and understand other people’s pain, we give hope. And hope gives us the strength to move forward even in the midst of a difficult circumstance. We can do our part. We can reach out, one step at a time, one soul at a time.
There is hope when we share life together.
Since 2008, REUNION has been going back to La Mosca every summer. REUNION is committed to its partnership with Pastor Luis and his family in serving the community. Last year we saw 500+ patients in the medical clinic. But they aren’t just numbers. Each one has a name, has a face, and has a story. We saw little children who suffer from malnutrition. We saw men and women who have respiratory issues. We saw very young mothers carrying children with health needs. Being there with them was more than just meeting their physical needs. It was a privilege to get to know them and hear their hearts, see their smiles, and share life with them. One of the girls we spoke with dreams of becoming a hair dresser. Another boy wants to become a basketball player, and the story goes on and on. We took the opportunity to hold hands and say honest prayers. On the third day we prepared pancakes and lunch for them. We played with the kids and visited some residents in their houses. We may not be able to fix all the problems of the world, but a commitment to build relationships and share God’s love gives hope and light to the broken. A listening ear and a simple hug go far beyond, because God is in the business of redeeming souls.
There is hope when we choose to give thanks.
During our last day in La Mosca we had the chance to attend a worship service in the church of Pastor Luis. Men, women, and children sing in joyful praises. And I saw a young man speaking boldly but I did not understand a single Spanish word he said. So I asked my teammate and I was told that he was giving thanks.
“Neglecting to give thanks only deepens the wound of the world.” says Ann Voskamp. In the midst of suffering from poverty, sickness, and oppression, this young man was giving thanks like he was blessed more than words can express. But how can we have that kind of hope? Only when we choose to give thanks to the one whose love endures forever. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29
There is hope when we step out in faith and trust God with the results.
At first I was skeptical about going on this trip. I am a Filipino citizen working in the US, and my work visa was about to expire. Travelling out of the country and coming back may have caused some issues. My friends who had invited me on this trip prayed with me, as I worked things out with my immigration lawyer. They encouraged me to sign up by faith while I was still preparing all the requirements to travel. My anxious heart started to have some doubts; my job could be put in jeopardy. But we continued to pray and God gave wisdom and peace to move forward. I was then cleared by my immigration lawyer to travel. I went and came back to the US safe and sound. How amazing is our God!
In Jeremiah 29:11-12 God not only promised to give us hope and a future, but he also promised to listen to us when we come to him and pray. Seeing the brokenness in the world may be overwhelming, but we can trust God hears us and sees the suffering around us. Instead of being angry and prejudiced, we can pray and we can serve. We may not need to cross the sea to fulfill our mission. We can start where God has planted us — in our homes, our workplaces, and our own communities. We can only serve with the hope and strength that God has given us. Because when we put our trust in the one who knows our future, our hope will be boundless. And we will be amazed at what he can accomplish through us.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. —Ephesians 3:20