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Jun 17, 2015

Three Congregations Join for Mission to Dominican Republic

Photo: Installing a water filter in the Dominican Republic.



Three congregations from the Diocese of Texas traveled to the Dominican Republic June 7 for a joint mission trip among the sugar plantation workers.


Thirty-nine parishioners from St. Dunstan’s, St. Mary’s and Good Shepherd in the Great Houston area, met over six months to plan the coordinated week-long trip. They were hosted by the Maranatha Baptist Church in a large compound complete with bunk beds, clean showers and three “very adequate meals a day” according to Bob Butler, director of ministries at St. Dunstan’s.


“The fact that we returned to the same batey for the third time allowed us to renew and strengthen relationships. It's the personal connections [that] are invaluable,” said team member Vicki Ginger.


Sugar workers are usually Haitians who live in communities called “bateys,” which are barely connected with the rest of the world. To reach them, missioners traveled on long dusty roads through the fields. “The housing is pitiful--tiny wooden shacks with a concrete floor and a metal roof, owned by the sugar company,” Butler explained. “They have no electricity, water or plumbing of any kind. The women carry water in plastic buckets from a community well. The Haitian cane workers are essentially slaves who are paid a couple of dollars a day for back-breaking labor,” he said.  Most of the workers are of Haitian descent.


The mission team focused on several ministries. Thanks in part to a diocesan grant, the group installed bio sand water filters in 112 homes, allowing people to filter potable water for their families. The missioners treated 372 patients in a medical clinic and provided more than $1800 of needed medication. They fitted 170 people with eyeglasses and provided de-worming medication to entire bateys. More than 500 children enjoyed crafts, games and a meal in Vacation Bible School while older children were engaged in sports. The group also distributed hundreds of pounds of clothing, shoes and toiletries. They also photographed and printed more than 100 family portraits.


“When we fitted an elderly lady with glasses, she beamed as if seeing the world for the first time. She couldn’t stop hugging us!” Butler said.


“We went with the desire to help in Jesus’ name and returned renewed, encouraged and blessed by these humble,” Butler said. “We struggle with wi-fi band width, they struggle to feed their kids. They taught us that happiness has nothing to do with comfort or possessions. They showed us Jesus’ love in their smiles, their hugs, and the joy on their faces,” he added.


Today, Huffington Post reports that more than 250,000 people of Haitian descent are threatened with imminent deportation from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, where many who have lived in the Dominican Republic for generations, no longer have connections.