“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5
Field story by Hope Garcia, Back2Back Staff in the Dominican Republic.
“I want you to meet someone very important,” Megan, our guide for the day, said. As a missionary with seven years’ experience, we were visiting her with the intention of learning more about ministry in the Dominican culture. As she led us through the village of Caraballo, we met a Dominican man near sixty who sat in the shade with his shirt off, proudly sporting a Yankees cap. He motioned to empty plastic chairs, inviting us to sit down, and kindly offered cold water bottles from his corner store.
“This is the community leader,” Megan said. “He doesn’t actually have a position in government, but he is, by all means, the one the community follows. It is important to empower the local leadership and work closely with them. I want you to hear from the expert on this community.” After introductions and small talk, the leader confided in us the biggest challenges he saw in Caraballo were work ethic and maintaining peace between Dominicans and Haitian immigrants, two populations with a long history of tension between them. My husband, Cheque, and I talked in the shade with this aging sage, gleaning from his wisdom.
Pioneering a new site begins with listening and learning. Even though we have served with Back2Back for over ten years in Monterrey, Mexico, we are not experts on missions in this country. Making a wise start takes time, patience, and humility. It’s too easy to want to jump into serving without taking time to understand the real need, the people, the culture, the local leadership, and the spiritual climate.
Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” So with that in mind, we are learning from those who have more experience than us in the DR. To date, we’ve visited and interviewed 23 different ministries to understand how they do their work and their perspective on the Dominican orphaned and vulnerable child. We’ve asked countless questions and listened for the last six months to better understand how God is calling Back2Back to serve.
The things we do know: there is much need in the Dominican Republic, God desperately loves the people here, and He has a hope and a plan for their future.
We will pursue answers to the things we’re still curious about. How do we cultivate more locally led ministries? What are the challenges single moms face? What does the rampant prostitution have to do with overall employment rate? We have begun offering trauma competent care training to neighboring ministries, training nearly 200 individuals, and have seen an incredible hunger and desire to learn more. One organization told us, after nearly 20 years of ministry to impoverished children in the DR, they finally feel like they have found “the missing piece of the puzzle” in trauma competent care practices. While we still have questions about the next phase, we feel certain trauma competent care will be a part of it.
Taking the time to understand the reasons behind the problems, will help focus the ministry for lasting impact. Like we often teach caregivers working with children from hard places, the problems we see on the outside are expressions of deeper needs. The Back2Back DR team will pursue opportunities to serve, seeking God’s will for the next steps.
We trust and ask you to join us in prayer, that He will lead us to the exact children whose need He sees, and desires to use us in response.