Twenty-two people, many of us strangers to each other, were brought together through Discovery Church, a non-denominational church serving Winter Garden, downtown Orlando and East Orlando, for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Our purpose was to minister to the forgotten people of the bateyes.
A batey is a company town that houses workers who harvest sugarcane fields. Multiple families live together in shanty homes with no running water, no electricity, no cooking facilities and no bathrooms. Workers often toil from sun up to sun down with a daily wage that’s barely enough to buy one meal. Often, the cane cutters and their families have nothing to eat but the very sugarcane they cut.
This was my first mission trip, so I didn’t know what to expect. What I experienced was 22 people bonding together in a supernatural way to create a beautiful symphony of love. From singing on the bus rides to prayers, hugs and encouragement, we were aligned in sharing the love of Christ. We weren’t talkers; we were doers, immersed in the lives of the batey’s people.
We started with relationship – a smile and welcome to show that we were not on vacation but instead we paid or raised money so we could come and meet them. As we made introductions in English, diligent translators shared our message in both Spanish and Creole.
One group of men installed water filtration systems to cleanse the dirty water they drank daily while others played sports and set up a portable barber shop to cut the men’s hair and trim their beards. The women created a spa day for the women. I massaged lotion onto tired, worn, gnarled hands that never had one day of ease in this life. Others filed and painted nails. We then sat in the dirt, giving joy and relief to dirty feet that had never been touched before. We became the hands and feet of Jesus. I never understood the phrase until that moment, as we showed love through touch and caress without thinking of ourselves.
Several members volunteered to work with the children, painting faces, playing games and sharing the story of Jesus. A small group of women, one named Daisy, rubbed the tummy of a young woman and prayed for the healthy birth of her baby, which was expected anytime. When we returned the next day, we were welcomed with smiles, hugs and news that the baby had been born. To our surprise, the mother named the tiny girl Daisy, forever memorializing the moment our lives were entwined.
We provided school supplies for the children and distributed rice and beans to the adults. Our beautiful symphony’s crescendo was a touching moment where we collectively prayed for each person who came forward. Tears flowed freely. Hearts were changed. Transformation took place as more than 12 forgotten people became Christians.
Many would praise our work, but our mission team members know that we’re the fortunate ones – forever changed by this experience.