March 31 Through April 7, 2018
The 2018 Spring GOC School Camp was a huge success, and already we are seeing much spiritual fruit as a direct result of the work. Since we finished up our week-long camp, many students are hungry to learn more and have started meeting several times a week with Franklin Lopez and others to study the Bible and discuss the Christian faith! Also, a large number of students have now enrolled in a weekly GOC academy, where they will be mentored in the Christian faith and continue to receive regular training in the arts. Thank you for partnering with us by supporting this mission; we are excited to tell you about it!
The Mission Group
On the Saturday morning of March 31st, Carissa Hayes, Denise Marble, Debbie Gerard, Ella Starkjohn, Galadriel Miller, Lorien Miller, and Susan and Roger Wedel left Omaha, Nebraska and flew to the city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. We assisted Franklin Lopez and his team from the Generation of Change ministry (GOC) to teach painting, drama, and music to 640 students in two different schools each day for a week. These public schools suspended their curriculums as we taught the students painting, drama, and music. The students heard the Gospel of Christ Jesus very clearly every day, and the entire curriculum was taught through the lens of the beauty and wonder of the creation of color, sound, language, and physical expression by a holy, good, and loving God.
A lot of work goes into preparing for a large mission trip. For months we were recruiting the participants, meeting with the volunteers, building name lists and sending out mission support letters, collecting and tracking donations, purchasing and packing hundreds of mission supply items, acquiring passports, educating the volunteers on the trip and the work, booking all the airplane tickets, arranging all the luggage staging, and transportation to the airport.
Then there are all the arrangements in the Dominican Republic such as hotel, transportation and driver, meals, security, translators, schedule, and many other details. A generous donor helped us purchase 261 soprano recorders, which we packed up in suitcases, along with all the other art supplies, ready to fly with us to the Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, Franklin Lopez and his team from the Generation of Change ministry were hard at work in the Dominican Republic assigning responsibilities, preparing the camp schedule, and practicing for the GOC classes.
We were very thankful for another generous donation that enabled us to purchase some professional walkie-talkies for the mission. The security team used them on the perimeter of the schools and whenever we were out for our evening meals. Now we will have these available for all our future mission trips!
Airplanes and Airports
On Saturday morning, the mission group gathered at the Wedel’s house to stage and organize all our personal luggage as well as 7 suitcases full of camp supplies, and 261 soprano recorders! We prayed together for a safe journey, and for a mission trip filled with Gospel fruit. Then Tom and Elaine Starkjohn drove the group to the airport and unloaded all the luggage, and we checked in to get our boarding passes.
We got everyone through security and boarded the first flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. Everyone ate lunch on the plane. We landed and walked clear across the long airport to the opposite end of the terminal, and in only a few minutes we boarded our next flight to Miami, Florida. An hour later we boarded our plane for Santo Domingo and arrived hours later at Las Americas Internacional Aeroporto near the capitol city of Santo Domingo.
Our good friends Franklin Lopez, Starlin Matos, and Paul Segura were waiting for us. They loaded up all our luggage in our rented van and drove us to the Antigua Europa Hotel, in the downtown historical district of Santo Domingo. For security and translation, Starlin and Paul stayed at the hotel with us all week. After a day of 7 hours in the air and 4 airports, we slept well!
We woke up to a nice breakfast at our hotel on Sunday morning, and then our driver Jorge arrived. Starlin (our security leader) stepped into the street with his military uniform and stopped the traffic while we all crossed the street to get into the van. (Our group has named him “Captain Courageous”) On Sunday morning, we drove to pastor Miguel’s church, Iglesia Fundamento Biblico, which we always look forward to. Roger gave the Easter sermon as Ariel Castillo translated for him, followed by the Lord’s Supper. Then pastor Castillo had the entire U.S. team come to the front of the church and they prayed for our mission that week. Susan, Roger, and Carissa know many of the church members there, and they enjoyed introducing the church to the rest of the U.S. team.
After lunch we drove to Franklin’s house where we met and visited with the Dominican GOC team members. We all walked to both schools, where school officials met us to open the security gates and tour the classrooms where we would be working. After visiting more with our Dominican partners, we drove to a park in the central historic square across from the oceanfront.
Easter is a major annual holiday in the Dominican Republic. We watched as a hundred people of all ages were flying traditional Easter kites they purchased from vendors in the expansive park. Other vendors sold balloons, Dominican snacks, and ice cream as thousands of people came out with their families to visit and play games together. We ended our Easter Sunday eating supper at a seaside restaurant near our hotel. This was a relaxing afternoon before a week of hard, hot work.
Our Daily Routine
On Monday morning we started our week’s routine. Each morning we had breakfast at the hotel. At 7:30am Jorge would pick us up and drive us to the first school called La Altagracia. We would have classes there until 11:30 am, and then ladies from the church would set up a lunch for the entire GOC team in one of the classrooms. Every day after lunch, we gathered up our supplies and all walked three blocks to the second school, Max Henriquez Ureña. We would start classes there at 2:00pm until 5:00pm. The entire Dominican/U.S. team gathered together after the last class to discuss the day’s work, and how we could improve what we were doing. Then they would drive the U.S. team to a fast-food restaurant for a quick supper before heading back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
The School Camp Starts!
On Monday morning it was a little chaotic and it took some time to get organized and figure out what each person was responsible for, but by 9:00am we were well under way at La Altagracia School. Franklin and his numerous GOC helpers were very busy distributing supplies and equipment to the different classrooms. Between his other duties, Roger Wedel was the mission photographer and videographer. He enjoyed walking from class to class, taking impromptu pictures and videos of the constant activities in both schools.
The Pre-School Classes
Denise Campbell and Ella Starkjohn worked with their Dominican partners, Lizbeth Albuquerque and Omar Rodriquez, to teach the preschool children. They had a regimen of Bible songs (with lots of hand motions), Bible lessons, puppet story time, coloring, and face-painting! These preschool students were very curious and full of energy, and a joy to work with. They were captivated by the stories from the Bible, and very focused on the songs they sang very loudly together. They were delighted to watch each other get their faces painted and loved getting their pictures taken. It took all four of these teachers, along with other GOC helpers, to keep these young students in their seats during the activities!
The Painting Classes
There were so many painting students that in both schools we had to divide them into two classes. Debbie Gerard and Paul Segura (translator) were the teachers in one class, and Carissa Hayes, Lorien Miller, and Jose Rojas (translator) taught the second class. The students were instructed in the primary color wheel and shown how to make secondary colors by mixing the paint in various amounts. They each drew and then painted a rainbow using the colors they mixed themselves.
Then they were all encouraged to draw and paint scenes from the Gospel stories they were taught, including the crucifixion and resurrection. In both classes, the teachers taught a Bible lesson each day that related back to the good news of the Gospel. At the end of each day, their paintings were all laid out in the floor to dry, and then collected to display at the end of the week. The students were very excited for their parents to see their work!
The Drama Classes
Galadriel Miller taught the drama classes, with the help of her interpreter, Magdiel Susaña. She had 10 students in the morning and about 25 in the afternoon. At both schools Galadriel was able to share the gospel on the first day by telling her own personal testimony.
She introduced some basic drama concepts and illustrated some of them by acting out an impromptu scene with the interpreter. When Galadriel passed out the scripts and assigned parts, Franklin carefully explained the gospel to each group before they went through the play the first time. The play was about a boy who was abused by his father and bullied at school who was eventually led to Christ by one of the former bullies. The students practiced through the script as Galadriel taught them drama techniques. Each day the classes had a time of sharing the gospel message again. Galadriel said that without exception, the students sat with rapt attention, soaking in every word. Being used to the concept of being good and trying to earn salvation by works, she saw that this gospel of faith by grace was a hard concept to wrap their heads around. On Thursday she opened it up for questions about Jesus and salvation. The students asked very good questions, including, “Was there ever a time when you doubted your faith?”, and, “When you believed in Jesus, what did you do?”. On Thursday, the classes gave a dress rehearsal to the GOC team and received a long round of applause!
The Music Classes
Luis Arias, Susan Wedel, Paola Wilson (translator), and Erick Hidalgo taught the music class. First, the students were introduced to a fun hand clapping-table slapping rhythm for them to mimic. Then they each colored a sheet with a large “G Staff/Treble Clef and became familiar with the symbol. They learned that each staff has notes and learned “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do”.
After this rudimentary instruction, we handed out a recorder to each child and wrote their names on the carrying bags. They learned how to hold the recorder and the proper way to blow. After practicing this, they learned the fingering for the note “sol” and practiced playing that note together, while learning how to start, stop, and control their breathing. All the teachers walked around the room listening to see if the note was being played correctly and helping those who needed assistance.
It was immediately obvious to the teachers that the students were excited to have and play a musical instrument. Each day we practiced rhythm clapping and recorder playing. We added more rhythms and more notes as the week progressed. The students were very pleased with themselves when they would get something right! We often separated into smaller groups to practice and get individual instruction. We also taught the importance of watching the director and following instructions to play together as a group.
Each day, one of the GOC leaders presented the Gospel to the entire class. Many of the students engaged in these discussions and asked questions. At the end of the week, the students presented a small song on their recorders for the other students and their parents.
The Final Day
On Friday, the GOC teachers and morning students were excited and very busy making final preparations for our presentation to the parents, showing what the students had learned and accomplished the first 4 days. The music students went over what they had learned on their flutes, the painting students hung their artwork on the school walls for all to see, and the drama class put the finishing touches on their one-act play.
At mid-morning, the parents poured through the school gate and assembled with the students and teachers in the school courtyard. The music students began the program by performing a song on their recorders. Then the drama students presented their skit and ended by singing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. Franklin ended the presentation with a clear Gospel message for all to hear, and he invited the students to attend a local GOC Academy in their area.
The afternoon school presentation audience was very large. The music group also added a performance of table pounding rhythm, which surprised and delighted their parents! Many parents came up afterward and thanked us for taking the time to teach the children these various art forms. They were excited for their children to learn more in a GOC weekly academy.
This camp was the largest short-term mission outreach MMI has organized. We asked you to pray for this mission until we returned, and we are eye-witnesses that God heard and answered your many prayers! The report of our school-camp has spread throughout the school community in Santo Domingo, and Franklin has arranged for us to be at a school October 8-12 this fall. We will be sharing the Gospel with 920 students daily!