Below are some highlights from Pathway Vineyard Church’s youth mission trip to Neyba, DR this past summer.
This past July we stepped out of the Jetblue terminal anxious to get to Neyba, a small community in the southeastern section of the Dominican Republic. Some of us were anxious about meeting new people in a new culture while others couldn’t wait to reconnect with the children we had met on previous trips. One person was Manuel, a shoe shine boy who we befriended just two summers earlier. Every morning of our trip he had waited patiently outside the hotel, ready to shine our shoes. I can remember Rian Emano getting his kicks (wow, that makes me sound old) shined up every morning and getting all of the rest of our team to get theirs done as well.
It only took us two days into this year’s trip to reconnect with Manuel. He had grown to be about 6’4”, a substantial difference from the 5’3” boy from two summers ago. This is the best part for us. When we go back to either Santiago or Neyba in the DR we are returning to an area where we have already established relationships. I can’t wait to return next year and see all of our newly acquired friends!
During the trip we invited Manuel to join us whenever possible. He jumped right in attending services, playing with the kids, even helping with some construction projects. The best part was that our interactions with Manuel felt so natural and supernatural. More on that below!
So why should you go on a mission’s trip or plan a trip with the teens within your sphere of influence?
- God is all about missions! I’ve heard it said that mission trips won’t change the life of a teenager. I have seen both sides of this come true, there have been teens that go and come back unchanged. This does not mean that they have not been challenged! I have also seen where teens have thrived on a missions trip. I have witnessed first-hand how God has used a mission trip experience to change a life, to bring new perspective, to enhance gifting and reveal life-long plans to teenagers. If we aren’t striving to put teenagers into the very context where God can mold and shape them I believe we are coming up short as youth and mission minded leaders.
- We are joining in on what God is already doing! I love the aspect of mission work that declares God is already working. This brings freedom into the mission trip and helps promote a healthy outlook about missions in general. We are not the Americans bringing God with us into a heathen culture. We are the Americans coming with encouragement and edification to what God is doing in the local church, the families, the children and the community. He is already present and we are joining in on that presence and cheering and celebrating what is already present. We make it clear that we are going to connect kids, families, and individuals to the Living God and to the local church.
- God answers prayer– Here is Elliot’s account of what happened:
Before going on my first missions trip I was bombarded with an intensified illness that I have. I have a skin disease called atopic-dermatitus, it’s basically an intense version of eczema. I could barely turn my head because of the sores on my neck. I was talking with my best friend, Andrew, about my situation and mentioned to him that it would be cool if what I have is common in the DR and they had some special ointment or medication that would help? The team prayed for me multiple times at youth group, at the Sunday morning service, and along the way. I decided to go to the DR even though I was in severe pain. I’m not sure how I even got on the plane other than sheer determination. While in the DR we met up with Manuel, this Dominican teen who the team had met in previous years. One night while we were praying Mike had team members come over and lay hands on my neck and pray. While we were praying Andrew spoke up and said he felt like Manuel was suppose to pray for me. Manuel came over and prayed in Spanish….. still nothing. We got done praying and then Manuel started talking to Grimaldi. We asked Grimaldi what Manuel was saying and he translated, “You know, this kind of thing is common here and we have an ointment that we use…. I could go get some and bring it with me tomorrow.” Immediately I knew that God was at work. Manuel got the ointment to me and with a visit to the clinic I received other medications that would help. Our local nurse Jo began treating my sores and within 45 minutes my skin disease cleared. God is awesome. I see now how God brought the necessary people together to bring me healing and answer our prayers. Elliot Manocal
- The Holy Spirit is a great communicator– You may be thinking, “I can’t go on a missions trip. I don’t know their language. I don’t have enough money or time for that Rosetta Stone software.” I would respond, “That’s okay, you don’t have to know the language that well.” Trust me, I’ve had that thought many times over of learning Spanish so that I could be more effective. I do believe that I would be more effective but at the same time I haven’t allowed my weaknesses to dictate whether or not I go. I have learned that as I put forth effort or willpower to see God move he usually shows up! As Janet Strout so profoundly told me before my first trip to Santiago, “Querer es Poder” which loosely translated means, “If you have the will to do something, you can do it.”
You can’t afford not to go on a missions trip! Well let me rephrase that. You should do whatever you can to be mission minded in your local community, in your local church and if possible in the context of an international experience. Dream God sized dreams and make good choices!