Many of you know me, as I have been a part of Gulf Coast for as long as I can remember. But for those of you who don’t know me yet, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Charissa. I am a Pediatric Intensive Care nurse at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. I have been a Christian for most of my life, but have been struggling lately. Actually, I have been doing the opposite of struggling, I’ve been coasting.
In the last nine months I have been reexamining my priorities and asking God to pull me closer. In fact I asked God to take me by the hand and pull me out of my comfort zone, by force if necessary. Less than 48 hours after this conversation with God, one of my friends at work mentioned a trip her and her fiancé were leading this summer. “A medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic” she said. And before I had even processed a response I heard myself saying “Can I come?”
Now, I have felt called to missions for several years, but the pieces had yet to align for me to go. It wasn’t until I was telling Steven that I was going on this amazing 9 day mission trip that I realized I couldn’t answer any questions. Why are we going there? Who are we serving? Who are we going with? So I did some research; here is what I learned.
I am going to spend nine days in the Dominican Republic bringing clinics to the Bateys. “Bateys are villages of squalor, hidden in the sugar cane fields, far away from Dominican Life.” These villages house the field workers and their families. There are over 400 bateyes and they contain somewhere between 250,000 to 2 million people. These are Haitian people, or descendants of those, who have been brought into the Dominican Republic either by force, or by the offer of a better job than they can get in Haiti.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic have years of war and prejudice dividing the Island of Hispaniola. As a result, these Haitians have no Dominican papers; their children have no birth certificates, and are therefore not allowed access to Dominican healthcare, schools, or other social services. Over the last twenty years humanitarian organizations have begun improving the situation by building schools and churches in many of the bateys. While the living conditions are still terrible, one of the biggest problems remaining is healthcare. There is now a hospital and a church in La Romana that will allow both Haitians and Dominicans, however the hospital is too far from most of the bateys for maintenance health care. This is where we come in.
Team Tampa Bay Missions is one of many groups who come to bring health care and medication to the bateys. Each summer they travel to the D.R. where they team up with two Dominican doctors and a Dominican dentist and will go to a different village each day. We will set up a clinic on the spot and treat every patient who comes to us, including those in the surrounding villages who are able to walk to us. We will dispense medications, dress wounds, and pass out clothing and shoes. This year we have a group of 17 individuals. Not all of us are medical but there are several nurses, paramedics, and a nurse practitioner going this year.
Our goal is to see patients at seven different Bateys while in country. We will distribute a 90 day supply of vitamins, pain medications, and maintenance meds to each patient in order to tide them over until the next group comes. (Typically the rotating groups aim to see each village every three months.)
This year we have one of our largest groups yet, and we are hoping this will allow for down time to play with children and talk to the villagers, (with the help of our wonderful translators, of course). I have been praying that God will use me for his purposes on this trip, as I believe he is sending me on it.
Please keep me in your prayers as we prepare for the trip, and especially between July 29th and August 6th while I am in country, that God would use our actions to minister to these people, and that he would give me words when he wants me to speak. Pray that he would make me bold in my faith and use me to show his love to my teammates and those we are there to serve. – Thank You