Over a year ago, Cru’s global missions team for my region asked me to lead a 6-week summer mission trip to Maracaibo, Venezuela. After praying for a month, Jenn and I said YES! We moved forward piecing together our team of 9 students and 2 other staff (one of which was my co-director) from across the Mid-Atlantic. Over 13 universities were represented from this small American team, which was ready to go to Venezuela and share Christ’s GREAT news of salvation!
But because of the protests in Venezuela, our leadership (along with Venezuelan leaders) had to prayerfully consider redirecting our mission. And with God leading, they did: to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic! The ministry in Santo Domingo is budding, but they have a huge vision to not only be in the capitol, but to cover the entire country with student-led campus movements!
Our team was assigned the Univ. of Santo Domingo, where over 120,000 students attend. It is the oldest university of the Americas, and much of the Caribbean’s future leaders come from this school. What did our ministry look like? Below are some highlights from our 6 weeks in country.
(Please visit www.SforzaGrams.com to get even more AND to watch the VIDEO from our trip.)
1 – Our first week in country was a wild one of adjustments. We immediately studied the lay of the land, the university and adjusted to having our 2 sons! Thankfully, we had Jesus and an awesome welcome team of in-country staff and students. We prayer-walked several schools in the city, as a foundation for the next week’s evangelism. By the end of this week, we were mostly adjusted. We knew where to eat (haha), and our team was beginning to know each other.
2 – As day-to-day, Mon-Fri evangelism began during our second week in country, so did other things: friendships with Dominican students, stories of faith and sickness. Many on our team felt weak or sick once we hit the ground running. This was likely because of cultural adjustments (food, language, transportation, etc.) but also because Satan is at war with the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom. We made sure to pray against him daily and asked God to fill us with the strength of His Holy Spirit! By the end of this second week, we all felt much more energized, but sickness came later in project – in the form of stomach viruses and “chikungunye,” a mosquito-born illness, which I contracted. In fact, sickness didn’t stop, but Jesus also didn’t stop giving our team strength and motivation to continue sharing the Gospel.
3 – Maturity and steps of faith were present all throughout the project. God gave me the opportunity to preach at our first weekly meeting! Jenn got to translate from Spanish to English at another. Two of our male students (Tyler and Derek) also preached. And all of our team had to take steps of faith in approaching students to share the gospel. Mostly this was in English, since many students speak English, but many times we had to use our broken Spanish to share. This was scary, but God used it! I was able to enjoy one-on-one discipleship with three of our male students, Will, Danny and David. These were also sweet times of growth, along with men’s/women’s time and other gatherings. The girls got to participate in an off-campus event where 39 women indicated decisions for JESUS!
4 – Dominican students were very open to talking about Jesus, which was refreshing. We had no instances where people shunned us, thankfully. Two experiences were especially moving for me!
First, on one particular afternoon, Will and I paired up to share. We came across three English-speaking students, and we were able to engage them. They were very friendly, and were glad to talk about their lives and beliefs! After sharing the love, life, work and purpose of JESUS with them, we asked if they wanted to give their lives to Him. They understood everything, and even claimed to believe in God and Jesus. But sadly, they all said right now, they would rather lead their own lives the way they want, even though they know God wouldn’t approve. We then explained the concept of “grace,” and how it not only gives you what you don’t deserve (salvation), but through it, God gives us new desires! Ultimately, they did not want to be hypocrites, and claim to have given their lives to Jesus while living sinfully. We thanked them for being honest, and then they had to run. Afterwards, we tried again and again to meet with them over lunch or at the weekly meetings, but they didn’t respond. Pray for Christopher, Junior and Christopher! That the seed which was planted would grow!!
Second, on the very last week on campus evangelizing, God did amazing things! In fact, on the last day, one of our students (Danny) got to lead students to Jesus! Hear it from him:
“I knew little Spanish going into this project, but being in DR for 6 weeks helped polish my Spanish. The FINAL day on campus, I got to share with the gospel with two guys all in Spanish. Both of them ended up accepting Christ that day! It was awesome to see God use His Word and me as an instrument with the Holy Spirit to draw these two guys into a relationship with HIM!!”
Danny and I also were able to meet a second time with a student named Ricardo, who accepted Christ earlier in project. He came to a weekly meeting, and we introduced him to the Dominican student leaders.
PRAISE GOD for new life!! In all, God used our team of 9 students, 4 staff and 2 children (hehe) to:
– INITIATE with over 450 students (where we tried to share, but couldn’t because of time or language)
– Have SPIRITUAL (where we were not able to share the full gospel for some reason or another) conversations with 207 students
– PRESENT the gospel to over 135 students
– MEET 14 other Christian students (many of whom got plugged into Cru).
– See 16 students INDICATE decisions for JESUS!!
– FOLLOW-UP with over 21 of these students to get to know them over lunch or at weekly meetings
THANK YOU for praying and/or giving. This was truly an amazing experience. There was SO MUCH MORE that God did. It was hard to keep track. Please visit www.SforzaGrams.com to see all the posts we wrote during the 6 weeks. AND there is a VIDEO of our project!!