Introduction to World Vision in the Dominican Republic
May 16-20, 2011
During the third week of May, as a guest of World Vision. I visited the Dominican Republic, one half of a large island in the Caribbean shared with Haiti.
“Discovered” by Columbus and home to the oldest city in the New World, Santo Domingo, the DR is far more prosperous than Haiti. Yet it has its share of extraordinary problems, many of which are the result of large numbers of Haitians crossing the border to find work in the DR.
With hundreds of ministry locations in over a hundred nations, World Vision has a staggering annual budget of $1.2 billion for Christ-centered humanitarian ministry. I’m embarrassed to confess I knew virtually nothing of their work, but I spent five days in the DR learning with ten other Christian leaders from from California, Oregon, Arkansas, Massachusetts and New York.
At our hotel in Santo Domingo: orientation to the work of World Vision internationally. Three hour drive to one of several Area Development Projects (ADPs) a hundred or so miles west of Santo Domingo.
Orientation visit with their ADP Team at their central ministry offices for the region. World Vision has multiple areas they’ve targeted in the DR for word-and-deed evangelism through comprehensive and holistic comm unity development. See http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/ow-home?open&lpos=top_drp_OurWork
Visited a sponsored child at her family home in a village that looks like something you’d see in National Geographic. World Vision contributors support 4 million children worldwide! The money generated from these sponsorships is used for community development that benefits each child directly and transforms their villages and surrounding areas.
Met with about 20 pastors at another WV center for children’s services. These church leaders from shared how World Vision had done two things for their local churches: (1) they got churches to think of ministry holistically outside the walls of their buildings to serve the community, and (2) they got pastors to work together. Two miracles! We asked these pastors if the community work they were doing was leading people to Christ. They responded enthusiastically, “Yes!” Several of them had wonderful stories of individuals and families coming to Christ as a result of a gospel of both word and deed.
The goat farm. World vision, through a micro-loan, has partnered with several women working together to purchase goats. They breed them, sell the males, and breed them again. In a short time they will be selling goat milk and making cheese.
Water! A short distance from the goat farm is a huge water tower providing fresh, pure water for an entire community of several hundred people. It was a $500,000 cooperative project with the European Union and the government of the DR.
Not too many miles from there, we visited another community where the only water source is bacteria ridden. The contrast is striking.
Day Three (in the same ADP)
A two acre, shaded vegetable farm operated by a co-op of several women. World Vision, providing agricultural expertise, has schooled the women in how to raise the and market their produce.
A Haitian refugee village. Again, in striking contrast, we saw the deprivation of a community not assisted by World Vision. We met a female pastor in this desperate place and prayed with her. At the entrance of the village is a witch doctor’s crude “church” (photo top right below). One of the women we met later in the week shared with us how her neighbors believed her children were cursed because they were born with aids. People in many of these outlying villages live in spiritual darkness and practical ignorance.
Nutrition. When World Vision began their work in the area just a few years ago, they identified 266 children in critical condition from malnutrition. They’ve reduced that to 76. Met five young mothers whose children were dying of malnutrition. With tears of joy, the moms told us their stories. Additionally, this group of women, with the assistance of World Vision experts, are managing a micro-business cereal company, producing and selling packages of well-balanced, ground grains and beans.
The clinic. The waiting room was filled with mothers and their children waiting to see a physician or to receive inoculations, neither of which is available in the ADP other than what’s provided by World Vision.
Day Four: Overview of World Vision urban centers in Santo Domingo
Our first visit of the day is with an enterprising middle age woman featured in a World Vision video. She and her three children were all infected with HIV/AIDS. They had no hope. She had told the World Vision team that she was praying for her children to die before she did, because if they didn’t, there would be no one to care for them. Her prayer was answered. She lost two of her children. Subsequently, she and her other child were cared for by World Vision medical personnel, treated for AIDS, and assisted her in starting a small business. Recently, she told us, she received a prayer for healing. A checkup found she was free of the AIDS virus! She now owns two tiny stores, raises chickens and vegetables, and makes clothing. Remarkable!
Another visit with pastors, this time in the Santo Domingo ADP. Same radiant faces. Same testimonies: churches becoming outwardly focused and working together.
Music and arts. Within walking distance is a music and arts school providing lessons and musical instruments to a couple hundred kids who would never have this opportunity without the efforts of World Vision. Some of the kids give us a little concert!
Vocational school. Just a few more blocks away is a World Vision sponsored vocational school where students are learning cooking, baking, hairstyling, upholstery, and clothing manufacture. The efforts of World Vision to reach people for Christ by providing life-changing practical help is incredible. We are filled with joy–and utterly exhausted.
A little history and r and r. Day ended with a short tour of the extraordinary colonial center of Santo Domingo, where buildings in beautifully maintained condition are over 500 years old. After chicken, beans and rice for a good part of the week, our team leader treated us to wonderful dinner in the plaza of the former palace of Diego Colon, Christopher Columbus’ son.