The Dominican Republic is a wonderful vacation site, one that we enjoyed for many years. Through those years we met and befriended Santiago Gil a Dominican who worked in the resort where we stayed each year. After one of the hurricanes the resort was closed for a year and Santiago followed his life’s calling to be a minister. As Christians we were happy to donate to his mother church in La Romana and were happy for Santiago when he was asked to start a church in a poor area outside of the city called Villa Hermosa.
On our next annual visit we asked Santiago if we could visit his church – a visit that has forever changed our lives. We had never been on a mission trip so although as medical professionals we have seen poverty and the devastation that results; third world poverty was a different story. We pulled off the paved road that we traveled many times before and started bumping our way past a very large garbage dump that holds the remains of everything unwanted from La Romana. It was an ugly sight but far more appalling was the adults and children wading through the garbage to find food to eat because they were starving. We continued on the bumpy unpaved road past what seemed to be miles of shacks made of scrap corrugated metal constructed by leaning all four sides together and putting more scrap metal on the roof. Some homes were just plastic material secured to trees. Children were running in the dust, some without clothing or shoes. There were many Haitians as well as Dominicans in this village. My husband asked Santiago what “Villa Hermosa” meant in English and he said “Beautiful City”…. There was nothing beautiful about this city. No septic, no drinking water, limited electricity (if you could string wire together from the pole to your shack). Wow! This was not what we expected to see.
We arrived at the church which was remarkably one of the only block structures in the village. At least there was somewhere the community members could go during the hurricane season. There were about 50 people in the church service which was of course in Spanish so we couldn’t understand what was happening but we were struck by how JOYFUL these Christians were. They trusted their very existence to the Lord and seemed much less burdened than Bill and me! When it was time to leave, a little girl gave us a doll she had made (it is still on my bed stand 7 years later). We did not speak at all on the way home as we tried to put our thoughts around what we had just seen. About 60 minutes after we returned to our resort Bill looked at me and said, “We have to do something about what we just saw – We have to help them.”
So how do you help people who you see once a year, thousands of miles from your home? Our son-in-law who is a Methodist minister warned us against sending money for food or other material things. He pointed out that the people of Villa Hermosa needed something that would sustain them and develop their community. We had assets (Bill’s medical practice and the large building in which it resided) but we did not have the money it would take to do something meaningful for this community. Within 6 months Bill had a serious health issue that led him to sell his practice and the building to the local hospital. Now we had the money we needed to help the Dominicans, but finding a partner on the ground in the Dominican was another issue.
We looked for two years and followed many leads that went nowhere and finally we found World Servants an organization that specialized in community development in third world countries. Praise God, they even had a branch in the Dominican Republic. So we started to build, and build, and build. Our church, Hampton Bible Chapel, did a lot of the building with the help of the Dominican men in Villa Hermosa. The first project was a grade school because the children often could not attend schools because they were too far away or they did not have the necessary citizen paperwork. We were told to start small so we expected 50 children to sign up the first week… but God works BIG and we had 220 children two weeks after the school was opened. Those children are so beautiful and sweet – what a blessing! Today there are 400 children in the school which brings it to maximum capacity. Next, we needed to get drinking water for the community so a well was drilled and water purification plant constructed. The plant can produce 4000 gallons per hour and the water is sold to provide the community with an economic driver. Then the church needed to be bigger so a team of men from another church in our area, Living Work Evangelical Free Church, helped the Dominicans to build a larger church. As healthcare professionals, building a medical clinic/surgical center was high on our list. Construction of the medical clinic was completed in January 2012. It is being run by Centro Cristiano de Servicios Médicos, Inc.; a Dominican medical organization.
There were times that the work in this mission seemed slower than we expected or that Christian organizations that we felt would be a good fit were not. What we learned from those times is that a project like Villa Hermosa comes in God’s time, not ours and He knows what is best for His people whether they are in Villa Hermosa or Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Waiting for God’s perfect time is not a choice so now we wait to see where He takes us next.
Dr. Bill & Marge DiCuccio[/x_text]