The two young women, with their music and singing, had won the hearts of boys from a Dominican Republic children’s home. At the film’s viewing, the two were surrounded by the boys who obviously were filled with admiration for the two Americans visiting some 1,850 miles east of their home in George West,
Then one of the boys looking at Elizabeth and Mary said, “Tu eres angel.”
It took a moment to figure out what the boy had said, but Elizabeth and Mary realized the boy was telling them they were angels.
“It summed up what they meant to us and what we meant to them,” said David Valverde, First Baptist Church George West youth pastor.
Valverde and a group consisting of 13 from First Baptist Church George West and one from the South Texas Children’s Home had journeyed to the Dominican Republic for a one-week mission trip from June 2 to June 9.
“The group of boys who we mostly hung out with were wonderful; they opened their arms to us and took the time to explain things to all of us silly Americanos just so we could have a conversation – usually the conversation involved a lot of pointing, nodding in recognition, then laughing because we still didn’t really know what was going on but we were having fun,” said Katheryn Cansino, one of the mision members.
“Our church had networked with South Texas Children’s Home – in Beeville and Goliad,” Valverde said.
“They have a counseling ministry, as well as a children’s home,” he added.
Valverde said he also worked with international ministry vice president Joann Berry.
He said she has the connections. Her parents were the first Baptist missionaries there. Now, the mission has grown to schools, homes and churches.
“We began considering the trip a year ago in August 2011. And we began a year of planning and preparations,” Valverde said.
The group flew in on a Saturday and stayed the first night next to the main church. Lots of teams start there – dental teams, church teams and other various teams.
“Sunday, we went to the main church and did a one-day program,” Valverde said.
Then the group traveled to Bethesda Boys Home; the orphanage is home to 12 boys and one girl, ranging in age from 14 years old to 10 months old.
“All were Dominican except for two, who were Haitian,” Valverde said.
“In the morning, we went to the boys home and Christian school. We did painting and refurbishing of desks,” he said.
“And we were helping to rebuild the security wall around the school,” he added.
That afternoon, a vacation Bible school type of program was presented at the church.
“We had music, arts and crafts, games and recreation,” Valverde said.
“Those were the main things we did Monday through Wednesday,” he said.
Thursday, the missionary group took the boys and girl out for pizza, the park, pool and playgrounds about 90 miles east of the home.
He noted that the Baptist General Convention of Texas collects coins, rolls them up and sends them to the world Hunger Offering.
“Members collect that throughout the year at the First Baptist Church George West. Thursday afternoon, we were able to use that money to go and buy food for a particular home,” he said.
Valverde said it was great to see how the money is actually used.
After a fun day, the group took the boys back to their home in La Romana, Dominican Republic
“Friday, we played tourists. We went to the capital – Santo Domingo, then to the beach,” Valverde said.
“We flew home on Saturday,” he said.
“Personally, I loved the trip to the Dominican Republic. Completely immersing yourself in a culture for a week is very eye opening. Then at the same time it was very comforting to see how God’s love transcends country boarders and breaks down any walls of difference,” Cansino said.
She said the people in the Dominican Republic mostly live in poverty and yet the tourist industry is booming there.
“...It made me sick to think of how selfish I am, and so many of the people of the United States are,” she said.
“The thing is these boys have next to nothing. They have a basket of clothes with maybe three shirts and a couple pants, and yet they were willing to share food, which can also be a scarcity for them, and expected nothing in return,” Cansino said.
Cansino posed the question: “Wouldn’t it be nice if more people lived that way? Never expecting anything back and being surprised when you do. It’s a lesson many have learned but many more still need too.”
Valverde said the group plans to come back to the Dominican Republic.
“I don’t know when. We need to raise the funds again, but it is the desire of the group,” he said.
Cansino confirmed that desire to return.
“It was truly an experience of a lifetime, I am thankful that I was able to participate, and I hope to be able to go back again one day,” she said.