By Pastor Nancy Lee Gauche
It has been a rich dialogue on mission over the past month. As I reflect on this trip, I will bracket some key practices that shape my understanding around outreach and short-term mission to add to the conversation. Enjoy!
Not too long ago I led a Women’s Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic. http://doulosdiscovery.org/ [Know your audience, this women’s trip is different from intergenerational trips I’ve led] My goal was to introduce Doulos Discovery School to a group of women for whom this mission is “new”. [Bring new people every time and see the trip with “new eyes”!] We started our March Trip in December, meeting monthly and getting to know one-another [Building Community and living mission in daily life], reading a book together to reflect on our understanding of poverty and helping the poor, and praying with one another. [Emotional, intellectual, and spiritual preparation before the actual mission trip. I always write a devotional guide for before and during the trip.]
The church I attend has had a long investment and ongoing relationship with Doulos Discovery School in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. [Long Term Development Investment & On-going Relationship with local organization] We have learned tons about mission by staying committed and invested in this school over the past 10 years. More than 220 students arrive every morning at Doulos Discovery School on foot, on motorcycles, and some in cars. [No single sector can alleviate poverty on its own, education is one we have invested in with this organization] Many leave homes that are smaller than your living room to come stretch their minds for 8 hours a day. Parents who cannot read send their children to Doulos Discovery School to learn how to read and write in Spanish, English, and French. [Family Involvement: it’s a school for Pre-K through High School, but families are part of children and youth and are heavily involved with the school.] Students who have never heard about Jesus, hear parts of the Story each morning in devotions, worship, and Bible class. [Christian Narrative] Teachers who have never traveled abroad leave their world behind to serve at Doulos Discovery School for a 3 year period. [Leadership Development with anyone involved] Doulos Discovery School is the only bilingual college preparatory school in the DR where 50% of the students qualify and receive a scholarship while the other 50% have means to pay their way. [Bridge the class gap by educating rich and poor together, and building lasting relationships between socioeconomic classes]
The schedule for what we do together is based on the Service Learning Model where we have an opportunity to be a part of what they do at Doulos Discovery School —equipping and educating servant leaders. We do this by sharing in the learning and community of Doulos through expeditionary learning, service, and relationship building. [Join in with what is already being done.] Service includes a project on the Doulos campus where we painted a couple of rooms and landscaped an unattractive area by the school; [a men’s mission built the building, we painted the classrooms; collaborate on projects with other groups, you may not be able to do the entire project alone.] We also prepared for a project in the community. We purchased and then delivered 100 Spanish Pre-school books to the Public School where Doulos Discovery School has a partnership. [Our mission had a mission and books were requested by the public school…what they need, not what we need to give] At the end of our trip, the 12 women on the trip decided to sponsor a class with $50 each month for this year to keep the experience in front of us along with other commitments. One of our participants applied for a position to work at Doulos Discovery School and we will support her as well! [Connecting the mission to life back home.] All aspects of the week involved student and culture integration with the team. We looked deeply into the issue of education in the DR. Why do only half of current elementary student finish 4th grade, and only 10% graduate from high school? Why is there a shortage of teachers, buildings, and financial support for a public school system with school days of 3-4 hours and almost 50 children per class? Why according to a UNESCO’s SERCE, does the DR have the lowest student scores in Latin America for reading comprehension, mathematics, and science, while neighboring Cuba has the highest student scores? [Cultural Awareness and systemic learning] Finally, we looked at our own strengths as a group of people and at the strengths of the mission partner. We heightened our awareness around ABCD. [Asset Based Community Development) rather than need based]
For the week we were in the DR, we had a rhythm to our life together that everyone participated in. Each person was invited to share and lead within our group. Each morning we greeted the day together in devotions. Each night we gathered to reflect and process the day’s activities and to have our book discussion and Bible Study together. One thing I do know about the Dominican Republic or any adventure, expect the unexpected AND expect God to do the work he longs to do within us and within the mission. [Do your own work as well as the mission work with a Spirit of Adventure and Gracefulness with one another.]
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Nancy Lee is a pastor, leader and teacher/learner who gets a kick out of developing leaders for public ministry.
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