This discussion was shared at our first 2016 team meeting on February 8.
Take a couple minutes and think about these questions:
If someone in an elevator asked you, “Why do you go to the DR?” what would you tell them?
Why do we want to help people in other countries when there is so much brokenness right here in our city?
These are big questions. In response, our first answer and BIG IDEA is this,
We go because we believe we have a calling to spread the love of God here in our city, in our nation, and in our world.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. —2 Corinthians 5:11-15
In yesterday’s message at REUNION, this is what Chris and Tim called the Missio Dei, or the “Mission of God.” Our God is a sending God, and that means we must look for opportunities to be sent. DR Leader Emeritus Nate Oaks talks about this in a pretty bold way,
If we really believe that God loves ALL people equally and that the starving child in the Dominican Republic is just as important as the homeless vet in the Common who is just as important as the big banker on State Street, then don’t we have a responsibility to spend time in all of these places?
We choose to go to the DR because we believe we have a calling to love our neighbors in the DR. There are great things happening in the DR and great people who need our love, support, and prayer. To some of us, these people have become like family. That bond and that understanding that the work they are doing is hard and important keeps us coming back for more year after year. That brings us to the second BIG IDEA.
We go to be in relationship with and encourage those who do the hard work every day.
God is big, and like it or not, God’s mission is too big for one person. Which is why God also calls us to be in community. REUNION chooses to partner with organizations like GO Ministries, whose mission and values align with our own, so we can more effectively participate in God’s mission. Nate says it this way,
We want to find organizations and ministries we can support in a way that builds on the core values of REUNION. GO also places a high value on relationships within ministry.
But how do we live out those values? What does it look like to partner with an organization and people who do the hard work every day? Here’s another snippet from Nate (he’s kind of my hero, if you can’t tell),
We aren’t just feeding poor Dominican and Haitian kids, because ultimately feeding a kid doesn’t introduce them to Christ (it’s a start, but it’s not the end). We build a relationship with Pastor Luis, so that he can build a relationship with the community of La Mosca, and ultimately the people of La Mosca can build a relationship with Christ. Feeding and educating are important, but if they do not lead to Christ, then a person is just as broken, hungry, and hurting as they were before they were fed and educated.
In the trash dump community of La Mosca, there are a lot of needs. Water, medicine, food for kids, nourishment for the body and soul. Pastor Luis’s church is a haven where people can find all those things. That small one-room church has a big impact in the neighborhood. Pastor Luis, his wife, Reina, and their boys, Yeison and Dilson, work hard to make that big impact. Our team’s presence in La Mosca for one week a year makes a difference in the work, but it makes an even bigger difference in encouraging the Vargas family to keep up the hard work every day.
And other people need to hear about this hard work, which brings us to our final BIG IDEA.
We go so we can share our stories.
The fact of the matter is your experiences and your story matter. And other people need to hear it. Think about that—if you are bold enough to share your story with someone else, it just might affect them. That’s not simply building a relationship with someone; when it’s about what God has done, it’s building the Kingdom of God.
Nate says it well when he talks about some of his experiences on a previous DR trip. He talks about this place called The Hole. The Hole is a scary place. It’s a neighborhood located in the heart of Santiago next to the former city dump. Walking through this neighborhood is like walking through a maze. The neighborhood is run by drug lords and if you’re on their bad side, bad things happen. Lots of crime and violence and oppression happen here.
GO Ministries supports a pastor named Felix, who lives and works in The Hole. Felix felt called to love and care for the people in this community. Felix’s family and church host a nutrition center, feeding the neighborhood kids a square meal almost every day of the week. For some kids, it’s the only one they get. So many positive things have come from this program and from the light that Felix is, and the drug lords took notice. But they didn’t respond with violence; instead, they saw Felix for what he’s been—an ambassador and worker with an immensely positive impact on the neighborhood. Felix has built a relationship with these guys. They see firsthand the good work that God has called Felix to do, and some of them have totally changed their ways and met Jesus. Here’s where Nate’s point hits home,
I was struck the first year, when we went to The Hole and Felix told us that we have a responsibility to take the story of the things we see back home and tell it to our communities… How many more people will be inspired to join in this mission if [we all] tell [our stories]?
That’s such a powerful point. And that’s how God works through us to bring heaven to earth.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —2 Corinthians 5:16-21