By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Two members and the pastor from the Dassel Church of Christ just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, a nation that shares an island with Haiti.
Pastor Billy Wallace and Dan and Jonette Schue of Darwin were among a team of seven who traveled to the country Feb. 23 through March 2. Four were from two other churches in Minnesota.
Missionaries from the church have been going there for six years, ministering to the Haitian population.
The church has also been supporting a combined church and school in a village called Amistad. The ministry supports eight different churches, which are overseen by one minister, Jean Paulite, Wallace explained.
This small, remote village is located an hour-and-a-half from Santiago, a larger town with a population of about 1 million, that is located on the northwestern side.
Though this was Wallace’s first time on the trip, the Schues have been going for six years.
With them, they brought Bibles in Creole, which is the Haitian language, though the majority of the country is Spanish-speaking, according to Wallace. The missionaries minister to the villagers and their churches.
Jonette also leads a women’s Bible study when there.
She likes seeing how, every year, the people are so happy and encouraging, despite the hardships they face.
“It brings me a lot of joy,” Jonette said.
All of the villages the missionaries visited contained Haitians who are permanent refugees living in the Dominican. Some were also refugees from the recent earthquake, Wallace said.
At every church they visited, they asked the congregation how many had family or friends in Port au Prince (Haiti’s capital and the most-devastated area) who were affected by the earthquake.
“Everyone raised their hands,” Wallace said. “Some have taken in family,” he added.
One of the coolest things for Wallace was going to a small church in a village made of mud huts.
The Haitian pastor asked the missionaries to preach, and nine people became Christians, Wallace said.
In such a poor country, Wallace was humbled to know that even the poor can have hope in Jesus.
“The poverty was overwhelming at times,” Wallace said, though the church people were still happy, and the services lively.
Worshipers are very passionate and charismatic, Jonette explained. There are no guidelines on time, nor are they particular about the comforts in a church, like seating, for example.
“They just want to be together and worship together,” she said.
One of Pastor Wallace’s most memorable moments was during a very crowded church service.
After ministering, he decided to go outside, since there was no place to sit inside of the church.
In the alley, he met 10 kids who were dancing to the loud and upbeat church music playing inside.
“It was a blast,” he said. The kids really got a kick out of some of the dances he taught them to do, like the robot, where one moves their arm like a pendulum.
Wallace described the villages with people living in huts, no running water, and little food.
“They just don’t have anything. They just live day-to-day,” Wallace said.
What was fun for Wallace was handing out candy to the children in the villages.
“They are so grateful for anything you can give them,” he said.
Leaving the villages, Wallace recalls feeling sad.
“You know how much you have, and how blessed you are,” he said.
The villagers taught him a lot about joy.
“You don’t need a lot to have it,” Wallace said.
In a small village named Juan Gomez, the church only has a dirt floor, which was unsafe and said to be filled with germs and disease, Wallace said.
The missions were able to pay for a cement floor.
“That was really neat,” Wallace said, who was happy to help provide for the small church.
As many missionaries can attest, “You go there to bless them, but you come back much more blessed,” Jonette said.