Partner Update – HaitiLove / Missions Trip to the Dominican Republic

Missions: what does the term mean? Should it mean different things to different people, or have the same exact definition for everyone? Most if not all Christians would agree that the purpose of missions is to spread the gospel of Christ: for people from every tribe, nation and tongue to repent of their sins and turn to Him. Although I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, on my recent trip to the Dominican Republic I was shocked to come to the realization that the image I had of missions was characterized by something else.


I knew we wouldn’t be able to go down and build an elementary school, or dig 100 fresh water wells in just six days. But I thought that in these poor, impoverished neighborhoods we could at least meet basic needs for clothing, food and resources. Isn’t that how missions should work? You meet a physical need and only then will it be appropriate to address the spiritual need. I am in no way trying to undermine the effectiveness in that approach, but rather simply unravel the potential danger it posed for me. I became so overwhelmed with the social, economic, physical and emotional challenges of the Haitian refugees who we ministered to, that I was uneasy with only giving them Christ when so many other needs were visible.


Upon returning to the states, people asked how the trip went or what we did while we were there. I replied “We did a lot of evangelism.” I felt embarrassed that on a missions trip all we did was preach the gospel and offer the people Christ. How absurd! The Son of God, sinless, spotless and perfect, who lived a perfect life, who lived to serve and love, who accepted the lowly and afflicted, who addressed and freed people from sin and exposed injustice and hypocrisy. Christ, who was despised and rejected, beaten and bruised, who willingly endured the wrath of God, the punishment of vile sinners, so that they could be free and return to God. Christ, who was risen from the grave, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. Who else can sympathize with a people who are scorned and rejected, a people who feel forgotten and alone if not Christ? Needless to say, the Lord graciously corrected my faulty thinking, which for me was a common theme on the trip. He showed me that no matter how much food I gave they would still run out, clothes would tear, and resources would grow scarce, but the word of the Lord would never fade. Drinking of the living water that only Jesus offers meant they will never thirst again. This is true not only in the Dominican Republic, but also in my interactions with the lost here in Tampa. Christ is the greatest need of every human soul—such a basic truth that is so easily misplaced at times.


What a gift it was, being part of a ministry not embarrassed by the gospel, whose core and foundation is the gospel, to build up local indigenous pastors and equip them with the tools to effectively preach God’s word and shepherd His people. Although we were only there for a short time, our days were jam-packed with gospel-centered ministry opportunities. We saw firsthand how the reach of Hispaniola Institute of Theology (HIT) does not end in the classroom. Rather, its reach stretches into the local hurting communities, as students who are also pastors or future pastors minister to not only people in their church, but people on the outside. It was so humbling to watch Noah, the President of HIT, in the background, laboring to not be seen as the one in charge, but to empower these leaders he is raising up. He is sensitive to their culture and patiently does life with them. HIT truly embodies the vision of Christ-centered ministry by singling out the despised, lowly and afflicted within society, and communicating to them they are not forgotten—that the last shall be the first in the Kingdom of God.


Our trip to D.R is an experience that I will never forget. Even our downtime there was fruitful. From encouraging conversations and receiving wisdom and encouragement from Noah’s wife, Stephanie, to games and laughter with their beautiful children, and the in between times walking to destinations where we grew as a team and learned and appreciated so much more about each other, these are all memories I will keep for a lifetime.

Tiffany Cato

Photos by April Burgess

Posted on: September 22, 2014 - 9:50AM

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