Pedregal is barely a blip on a radar. A grain of sand on a beach. A flea on an elephant. Most of the world remains unaware that this village in the mountains of a little island in the Caribbean even exists, and yet it is bursting at the seams with souls of inestimable value. Gap-toothed little boys run through the streets with their imaginations in full gear, bow-legged toddlers explore the corners of their tiny world with unbridled curiosity, pig-tailed school girls giggle and tease one another while trying their best to keep their dresses clean in an environment dominated by dirt, wrinkly old grandmothers lug naked babies around on their hips, and proud young men eager to show off their strength strut in hopes of attracting the attention of a lovely young lady. This is a place teeming with life, hopes, dreams, pain and disappointments just like our own.
One thing common to every person ever born on this earth is the lack of opportunity to choose our place of birth. Had I been given that choice, where would it be? Someplace exquisitely beautiful? Someplace with a certain type of government? Someplace with my idea of perfect weather? One thing for sure, I would have chosen a place with clean water and plenty of it. The 2,000 residents of Pedregal have water in abundance. But clean? Not so much, unless you don't mind parasites wriggling in your stomach and turning the contents of your intestines to liquid.
We may not get to choose where we are born, but those with adequate means may choose where they go, and our team of nine eager missionary wanna-be's chose to go to the Dominican Republic for a week of serving the people there who are lacking the resources to meet all their own needs. To whom much has been given much will be required, and we were not only willing, but indeed anxious to give out of our abundance.
Before we could go, however, there had to be someone there with the vision, the commitment, and the foundation of relationships already in place to welcome us. Enter Paul & Sharyn Branson, long-term missionaries to the DR with House Upon the Rock Ministry. Fifteen years ago Paul & Sharyn chose to make this place their home, responding to God's call on their lives to take the love of Jesus to these people through evangelism, construction services, school sponsorships for children, and a medical clinic which serves an expanded population area of 100,000 people with one doctor and one nurse.
Paul, Sharyn & daughter Samantha at home
Current rates (in pesos) for services
Paul & Sharyn in clinic
Dr. Wendy in her office/exam room
A critical piece in the effectiveness of Paul & Sharyn's ministry is the hosting of mission teams like ours from the U.S. and Canada, whom Paul puts to work on various construction projects when they arrive. Managing a team of unskilled laborers at a construction site is no small task, but Paul does it masterfully and with grace. He gets teased a lot about his coffee drinking, porch leaning, chit chatting habits during work hours, but he is in fact an expert in overseeing and directing the energy and enthusiasm of a bunch of untrained volunteers. What we lacked in skills and experience we more than made up for in willingness and gusto. And so, with full confidence that God would be able to accomplish something of significance to His glory with our paltry offering, we threw ourselves into our assigned construction projects.
Hi-hoed, hi-hoed, it's off to work we goed.