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February 16, 2013

Local churches aid those in need in Dominican

Twenty-four people, representing four different LaGrange County-area churches, recently returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

The LaGrange County team was joined at the Miami, Fla., airport by four others from Wisconsin. The trip was organized by Solid Rock International, a Christian non-profit organization focused on ‘transforming the body, mind, and soul of the poor in the Dominican Republic.”

Dave Wenger of Shore Mennonite Church, located east of Shipshewana, became involved with Solid Rock International close to 15 years ago and in those 15 years has led many groups ministering to the people of the Dominican Republic through the agency in building schools and churches.

Jerry Yoder of Emma Mennonite Church, located north of Topeka, who joined Wenger’s group in 2005, led this latest mission trip. Yoder over-saw the part of this group in construction efforts. They worked on a water filtration system plant and at an area school building as well as painting and making needed repairs at the “guesthouse” in San Juan where volunteers and SRI staff stayed, he said.

But, unlike previous trips to the Dominican Republic that dealt strictly with construction of churches and schools, part of this trip was geared to medical teams which visited in small villages (barrios) setting up health clinics.

“In the Dominican Republic, many people either live far from a health care facility, or may not have the means to afford regular check-ups and basic medicines,” Yoder said. “Volunteers travel to different rural locations each day, providing and assisting with outpatient medical care for those in need. Non-medical team members of this group were also useful with crowd control, entertaining the children, and assisting the on-site pastor.”

Attending the mission group for the first time was Dr. Daryl Hershberger of Redi-Care Inc., north of LaGrange, a member of Marion Mennonite Church, located west of Howe. Hershberger and a doctor from the Wisconsin group were accompanied by about 15 other volunteers who assisted with the crowds, child care, etc. Several SRI translators also preached to the people as they waited in line at the clinics, conveying that the team cared for and loved them as Christ loved us because they took time to care for their physical needs, he said.

According to Hershberger, more than 500 patients of varying ages were seen in a four-day span. Days began at 8 a.m. with a hearty breakfast at the guesthouse, then it was on the road to outlying barrios. Crowds gathered for clinics at schools and churches, depending on the barrio, by 9 a.m. Sack lunch breaks were staggered, with the clinic closing usually by 4 p.m.

A number of the ministry team brought their own supplies, coloring books for kids by team assistants and medical supplies and medical exam equipment, with them on the trip. Some of the mission group also packed extra suitcases of clothing. SRI staff dispersed items of clothing to those that visited the clinic that day that they found in need of shirts and shoes.  

“Considering the number of people I saw, there was virtually no evidence of obesity, very little high blood pressure or diabetes,” Hershberger said. “What surprised me was how healthy the people were for as poor as they are. How happy and well-adjusted for what little they have. People here have opportunities available that they don’t have. They have no opportunity to get out of poverty.”

Hershberger said that he planned to return to assist SRI in providing care for the poor people of the Dominican Republic.

“Our group was just part of the “big impact” that Solid Rock International has on the Dominican Republic,” Hershberger said. “Shore church has gone yearly and worked construction projects on schools and churches. Admission to their schools is highly sought after.” He noted that in the most recent trip, construction projects included a water purification plant, as well as additional school classrooms.   

Along with Shore, Emma and Marion Mennonite churches, members of New Life Fellowship, south of Shipshewana, also participated in this mission trip. Another SRI trip is being scheduled for July 20-27. For more information on this trip, contact Jerry Yoder at 463-1891.

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