Activities During 2015

The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia
Companion Diocese Commission
Annual Report
October 1, 2015

During 2015 five mission teams from the Diocese of Georgia worked alongside Episcopal congregations in five separate locations in our Companion Diocese of the Dominican Republic. These five teams had a total of 65 missioners, and each team was successful in accomplishing its goals. This companion relationship between our two dioceses extends back to the first mission trip in 2001, and remains a vibrant part of our diocesan ministries, both home and abroad.

A missioner from the Southeastern Convocation with schoolchildren in El Carretón.

The Southeastern Convocation sponsored a team of 7 missioners who worked in the village of El Carretón from January 12-20, 2015. Their primary mission was to facilitate the drilling of a well on the grounds of the local Episcopal school to provide a source of potable water for the community. Other activities included conducting classes for the schoolchildren on the cultures of other countries and replacing the roof on a villager’s house. The well was drilled, and the next step will be the installation of a solar-powered pump and filtration system. The Rev. Dee Shaffer (St. Paul’s, Jesup) was the team leader, and this trip marked the fourth consecutive year that the Southeastern Convocation team has worked in this village. For a report from this trip, click here.

A missioner on the optical mission team with patients in the clinic.

St. Peter’s (Savannah) sponsored a team of 16 missioners who conducted an optical clinic in an Episcopal medical facility, Clínica Esperanza y Caridad (Hope and Charity Clinic) in the city of San Pedro de Macorís from January 31 – February 5, 2015. They examined the vision of 790 patients and dispensed 640 pairs of prescription and non-prescription glasses. The medical staff on the team included an ophthalmologist and two optometrists, and they established a relationship with a local Dominican eye clinic for follow-up treatment for those patients with conditions that could not be addressed by the team during the trip. They left behind several valuable pieces of diagnostic equipment including an examination chair shipped before the visit, 3,000 pairs of prescription glasses and readers to be dispensed by the clinic to its patients, and several large cartons of medical supplies and medicines. The clinic is now in a position to offer diagnostic examinations and some basic eye care on its own. David Sweeterman was the team leader, and this trip marked the second consecutive year that this team has worked at this location. For a report from this trip, click here.

Missioners from St. Anne's Tifton working alongside members of the congregation in Las Carreras to mix concrete for the church floor.

St. Anne’s (Tifton) sponsored a team of 7 missioners who worked in the village of Las Carreras from March 7-14, 2015. They continued the construction of a church building for the local Episcopal congregation, a project that is a multi-year partnership with teams from St. Patrick’s (Albany) and Grace Church (Charleston, SC). The main goal of the construction activity was the pouring of the concrete floor for the church. This was accomplished successfully and the team was able to join with the local congregation for the first worship service on the new surface. Another activity was the pouring of a concrete floor for the house of a local villager. The Rev. Lonnie Lacy was the team leader, and this trip marked the fourth consecutive year that this team has worked at this location. For a report from this trip, click here.

Missioners on the Christ Church Valdosta team working alongside village residents to build a house.

Christ Church (Valdosta) sponsored a team of 21 missioners who worked in the village of El Pedregal from June 15-22, 2015. Their primary activities were the construction of a concrete-block house for a village family, replacing a wooden structure; the renovation of an existing house to serve as a day care center for the local Episcopal school; and the teaching of classes in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and fabric arts. The two construction activities were carried out in partnership with the youth mission team from the Diocese of Nebraska, which worked in this location during the following week. Significant gifts to the local community included five sewing machines, acolyte vestments, altar linens, sports equipment, and 70 scholarships for students at the Episcopal school plus another scholarship for a teenager who attends a special education program in the nearby city of Jarabacoa. Fred Richter (Trinity, Statesboro) was the team leader, and this trip marked the eleventh consecutive year that this team has worked in this location. For a report from this trip, click here.

One of the VBS sessions conducted by the Diocesan Youth Team.

The Diocese of Georgia sponsored a youth team of 14 missioners, representing thirteen congregations, who worked in the town of Santana Baní from June 22-30, 2015. Their primary activity was to conduct Vacation Bible School classes for the local youth, and other activities included painting sections of the local Episcopal school. One of their VBS sessions was attended by approximately 300 people. The Rev. Joshua Varner (St. Patrick’s, Pooler) was the team leader, and this trip marked the second time in recent years that the Diocese has sponsored a youth team in the Dominican Republic. The previous trip was in 2013, when the team worked in the town of Mao. For a report from this trip, click here.

Members and visitors at the DDG Board meeting in Santo Domingo on February 16, 2015. Front row, from left: The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith (Southwest Florida), The Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs (Michigan), The Rt. Rev. Julio Holguín (Dominican Republic - First Vice-President); Virginia Norman (Dominican Republic - Treasurer), The Rt. Rev. William Skilton (Dominican Republic), The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley (Eastern Michigan), Bill Kunkle (Executive Director). Back row: The Rev. Deacon Alexander Romero (Dominican Republic), David Morrow (President), Sally Thompson (Southwest Florida), Karen Carroll (Dominican Republic), the Rev. Tar Drazdowski (Nebraska), the Rev. Deacon Bob Snow (Nebraska), The Rev. David Somerville (Georgia), the Rev. Emily Griffin (Virginia), Joy Holl (South Carolina), Elizabeth Welch (Central Gulf Coast), the Rev. Deacon Beth Drew (Western Michigan - Secretary), Julia Ariail (Georgia), Julius Ariail (Georgia.

In January 2015, the Rt. Rev. Scott A. Benhase appointed Julia and Julius Ariail (Christ Church, Valdosta) as co-chairs of the Companion Diocese Commission, replacing the Rev. Tar Drazdowski who had moved to the Diocese of Nebraska in November 2014. As Bishop Benhase’s representatives on the board of the Dominican Development Group (DDG), a coordinating agency for the dioceses with companion relationships with the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, Julia and Julius attended the board meetings of the DDG in Santo Domingo (February 16) and plan to attend the next meeting in Lake Charles, LA (October 26). They also participated in the mission trip sponsored by Christ Church (Valdosta). Julius made three additional trips to the Dominican Republic in April for an exploration trip sponsored by the DDG; in July for the dedication of a church built by mission teams from the Companion Dioceses of Eastern Michigan, Michigan and Western Michigan and to observe the election of the Bishop Coadjutor; and in December (planned) for the dedication of a church built by mission teams from the Companion Diocese of Southwest Florida. For the website of the Dominican Development Group, click here.

Our diocesan budget allocates $12,000 annually to support the work of the Dominican Development Group, which in turn supports the development of the facilities and the programs of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic and also coordinates the work of the approximately 50 mission teams that come from the United States each year to work alongside Episcopal congregations in the Dominican Republic.

For a PDF copy of this annual report without photographs, click here.

For more information on the work of the Companion Diocese Commission, click here for our webpage.

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Summary Report from the SE Convocation Mission Team
January 12-20, 2015

An article about this mission trip was in From the Field on January 20, 2015. To access that issue, click here.

The members of the Southeastern Convocation's mission team.

Seven missioners from the Southeastern Convocation of the Diocese of Georgia worked in the village of El Carretón in the Dominican Republic from January 12-20, 2015. The Rev. Dee Shaffer of St. Paul’s Jesup was the team leader. This trip marked the fourth consecutive year that this team has worked at this location. Their main activity was to drill a well on the grounds of the local Episcopal school to provide safe water for the community, but they also conducted classes on world cultures for the schoolchildren and replaced the roof on a local resident’s house.

A detailed report of the activities of the Southeastern Convocation’s mission team in the Dominican Republic from January 12-20, 2015, is contained in the blog post by the Rev. David Somerville, copied below. To see this blog post as a separate document, click here.

The Episcopal school in the village of El Carretón.

The Rev. David Somerville painting metal roofing panels.

When Life seems to be Working God comes in and fixes it
Posted on January 19, 2015 by summerdave
A Reflection on Mark 1:14-20,
the Gospel for January 25th,
The Third Sunday after Epiphany

by David Somerville+

The Call to discipleship is a very strange thing. While blindly following the Call makes no logical sense because we do not know where it will take us, it nevertheless cannot be refused as the creator of our being is in charge, using the call for our soul’s development to be integral parts of the Church, the earthly continuation of Christ in the world.

American poet, short story writer, and wise cracking critic, Dorothy Parker (1892-1967) was best known for her wit, and eye for modern, urban foibles. She was of the opinion that “They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm”.

As I write this, I am on a trip with some wonderful friends that I have been growing to appreciate while serving as a “volunteer chaplain” for a mission group to the Dominican Republic. For several reasons the trip’s original objectives were modified due to things not being in place upon our arrival at El Colegio Episcopal, the Caribani neighborhood school, where the southeast convocation of our diocese has had a steady relationship for several years. We had planned to assist in drilling a much needed well for fresh water. But instead of the well driller, paint was delivered instead! So what then? A delightful couple of seasoned world travelers, Jacob and Mary Jo Nickodem, brought with them a wonderfully entertaining program of “Other Countries and Cultures”. They kept us busy, introducing the Republic’s beautiful elementary school-aged children, to the ways of foreign places. They challenged the kids by giving each a pair of chopsticks to use as an alternative to the more familiar fork and spoon. They also handed out pictures to color. They were of German volksmarchers in their native lederhosen. They introduced the kids to several other countries in a style that was as non pedantic as it was entertaining.

Classes with the school children.

Classes with the school children.

Eventually a well driller was procured for the fresh water project, but its progress was interrupted when its drill hit rock. There would be a delay of an unknown number of days before the rock-worthy drill bit could be put into the machine. All this led to our coping with the fact that our original plans were going to be impossible to carry out, so we found different things to do. It all turned out to be fun, but I had some misgivings at the onset – Were we really being useful? My penchant for orderly predictability made me feel a little restless.

The well-drilling rig.

The Rev. Dee Shaffer, interim priest-in-charge at St. Paul’s Church in Jesup, is our trip leader. She has a wonderful gift of the spirit: the ability to see an administrative or logistical snafu as a challenging new opportunity to learn! I am growing with Dee. Too often I, under circumstances like the paint mix-up, tend to throw up my hands and murmur something that does not bear repeating, and then write it all off as a failure that is somebody else’s fault.

We were not idled for long to wallow in our frustrations. Luz Mercedes Carbona, the school’s principal took us on a walking tour through her draught-stressed neighborhood of plain, cinder block three, or four room dwellings, only a few of which were equipped with indoor plumbing. Others had smelly, corrugated metal outhouses in their yards. We saw children playing in the nearly empty canal while their mothers, with tubs in hand, did laundry, The canal ditch had only the depth of a foot to eighteen inches of water and was littered with trash and raw sewage. I commented that the children splashing in the brownish green water seemed to look healthy. Charlie Nakash, our on-sight missionary guide, a communicant of Christ Church, Tom’ River New Jersey, said “Yes, they do look healthy – from a distance.”

The polluted canal that currently serves as the village's main source of water.

Luz proudly invited us into her home. The rooms were small, but her furnishings were arranged to make good use of the limited space. It had a cozy feel, but nothing about the house was cramped. The roof (no ceiling) was corrugated steel. It was riddled with a constellation of holes with the sun shining through giving it the appearance of a starry sky. But this was a roof intended to keep the rain out! Luz explained that when it rains at night, she and her husband have to move to the living room sofa. What’s more the fragile, drift wood rafters that had been tied together in place for the corrugated roof, and then wrapped with newspaper, were a cause of a respiratory problem. Dry rot dust was getting into her lungs.

Working to replace the roof on a house in the village.

Working to replace the house in the village.

We asked what it would cost to replace the roof. The answer was about $650 USD worth of Dominican pesos. Before the sun set that day, we all dipped into our pockets for this non-budgeted expense, and bought the pesos at a local bank. Within the next few months we expect to see this little house made rain free, and Luz’s health begin to improve. It is easy to come up with a few hundred dollars because we know that a beautiful face like Luz’s, will smile in joyful gratitude. Her happiness, as she continues to serve her teachers and pupils so well, will be engraved into our memories.

Then the bit for the well driller arrived, and enough of a water source to produce just five gallons per minute eventually was the result. Disappointing, but at least a beginning.

At about half way through our seven-day mission, I am certain that we will return home with wonderful thoughts of how what looks to us like abject poverty is spiritual wealth in disguise. These kinds of experiences are the product of changed circumstances that ended up probably better than the fruit of our original plans! The great lesson we are learning once again is that committed discipleship involves living with uncertainty.

A missioner with children in the school.

It seems to me that the gospel for the first day of any given week is read through the lens of the reader’s experiences of the week before. So I beheld Mark 1:14-20. What did I see? Something that made no logical sense, but, fortunately, not all things invaluable are things logical.

All of a sudden a stranger appears by the shore of Galilee. He commanded without explanation, “Follow Me” to Simon and Andrew, who were doing the logical thing of their occupational world–mending their nets. Then they illogically drop their work on the beach, and go! It may well have been that this happened not too far along the shore from Mr. Zebedee’s location to see his neighbors, suddenly departing. I wonder what the father of James and John thought as the stranger approached his party of workers – “Will this man come with an offer that cannot be refused? He certainly got something into Simon and Andrew’s heads…. What was it? An irresistibly attractive job offer? Will my sons react the same way? Not to worry” he may have reassured himself. “Opportunities are very scarce in the sleepy north. Certainly nothing that could beat the prosperous security of the family business here – like this dependable source of income we have been doing for generations.” Mr. Zebedee must have been fairly confident, as he continued with getting the boat ready to go out for another, no doubt, successful catch.

Then without hesitation, the Zebedee boys drop everything and go — just like Simon and Andrew! So what did their father then wonder to himself? “Hey, if life ain’t broke, don’t fix it! What is the matter with you kids? Are you nuts? You are throwing away your secured future.” James and John, their wives, and their children were destined to inherit the business, which it took years for the senior Zebedee to build up!

In the work of discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught, we are called to count its cost, and if it is cheap, then what we are doing is not discipleship. It involves risk. It involves surprises, most of which will not be of our own choosing. It involves the death of egocentric agendas, and personal ambitiousness – things which in the last analysis tend to be of limited value anyway. It involves the prospect of stormy weather, and sometimes it will break our connections with everything comfortably familiar, including our families of origin.

I really did not like Dorothy Parker’s observation when I first checked it out. But I could not let it go either. Her poetic assertion was weirdly enigmatic. I was not sure that I could agree with it whole-heartedly. Words like They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm seems too much like a death wish.
Whenever I go out to sea, I must remember that I am prone to motion sickness, and need to take the medication two hours before disembarkation. Motion sickness is a miserable experience. I have had it. So the first time I read Parker’s assertion, I was convinced that the statement was nonsense. But having experienced a little of the adventure of discipleship, and the growth in Christian stature that comes with it, I am convinced that without some turbulence, life can become like a stagnant puddle. So even with those occasional bouts of spiritual motion sickness (anxiety), God has better things for us to become than to continue always doing what we have always done.

Pursuing an honest trade like a fishing business is fine – if, like any other line of work it is done for the glory of God. But if the pursuit of worldly security is its only purpose, then one could be left anchored in the stagnant puddle of an unchallenged existence — where the mosquitos of discontent tend to be bred.

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MISSION REPORT ON THE VISION CLINIC IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
January 30 – February 7, 2015
By David Sweeterman

Articles about this mission trip appeared in these issues of From the Field: February 2 | February 9

Mission Team:

David Sweeterman, leader, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Savannah GA
Judy Sweeterman, St. Peter’s
Jim Toedtman, St. Peter’s
Haydee Toedtman, St. Peter’s
David Howell, St. Peter’s
Cindy Howell, St. Peter’s
Adrienne Williams, St. Peter’s
Cissy Brennan, St. Peter’s
Jurgen Dinger, Skidaway Island
Ximena Dinger, Skidaway Island
Dr. Alan Peaslee, Optometrist, South Georgia/North Florida Eye Partners, Mission Medical Director. Member and Sr. Warden, St. Anne’s, Tifton, Ga.
Jason Peaslee, Optician, South Georgia/North Florida Eye Partners, St. Anne’s, Tifton, Ga.
Dr. Henry Croci, Ophthalmologist, Skidaway Island, Ga.
Suzanne Croci, M.S. nursing, Skidaway Island, Ga.
Dr. Sally Freeman, Optometrist, Effingham Eye Care, Rincon, Ga., St. Lukes Episcopal
Gina Overstreet, optical technician, Effingham Eye Care, Rincon, Ga.

The optical doctors on this team, from left: Dr. Alan Peaslee, Optometrist; Dr. Henry Croci, Ophthalmologist; Dr. Sally Freeman, Optometrist.

The Mission Team of 16, with approximately 1000 pounds of baggage, arrived in Santo Domingo, Saturday, Jan.31, 2015. After attending a rousing 2 hour service at St. Esteban’s Episcopal Church on Sunday in the city of San Pedro de Macoris, the team went to work setting up furniture and equipment for the 5 day eye clinic. La Clinica de Esperanza y Caridad, adjacent to San Esteban’s was our work site, and we lodged and took our meals at the Kellogg Center, which is also on church property across the street from the clinic. The Kellogg Center is named for Bishop Paul Kellogg, past Bishop of the D.R. It serves as a retreat house and conference center for the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. Bishop Julio Holguin, who paid us a visit during our stay, has presided over remarkable growth of the diocese over the past 24 years. He has led the expansion from about 20 congregations, 16 clergy, 10 churches and 7 schools in 1992, to 70 congregations, 47 clergy, 30 churches, 24 schools and 3 clinics today. In recent years, a Seminary has been established in Santo Domingo.

Dominicans on a bus on the way to the optical clinic.

With 3 doctors’ examination rooms, an optical shop, station for fitting reading glasses, nursing station for administering eye drops, visual acuity testing station (eye charts), admitting station, and crowd control (led by clinic staff), we established a pretty efficient work flow.

In addition to our team of Georgians, we also had four paid local translators. Rector Ramon Canela; Clinic Director Esther Baez and her staff; and Karen Carroll, Mission Coordinator for Bishop Holguin, played major roles in bringing in patients, managing the crowds, providing transportation and many other organizational tasks necessary to a successful mission. The vision mission was successful by any measure:

Admitted: 790, 158/day
Normal vision: 115 (15%)
Doctor’s exam: 427 (54%)
Readers: 463 (59%)
Rx glasses dispensed: 177 (22%)
Rx glasses referred: 93 (12%)
Rx glasses ordered: 20

Dr. Henry Croci was able to establish a relationship with a Dominican Clinic, El Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos, with five branches, which will provide free followup care to patients needing surgeries, treatment for glaucoma, or other procedures that we were not able to provide. This represents a major step forward, as we had no such help last year.

In addition to the diagnostic equipment that we took with us, we had sent 4,000 pairs of donated glasses, as well as hundreds of pounds of equipment, medical supplies and medicines in the weeks prior to our departure. The value of the equipment, medical supplies, medicines and other items needed to conduct the clinic, would normally cost several thousand dollars. The great majority of these were donated, without which the clinic could not be held. As you can imagine, it was a significant organizational and logistical challenge.

Some of the optical examination equipment donated to the clinic.

We left some very valuable pieces of diagnostic equipment as a donation to La Clinica de Esperanza y Caridad. We also left 3,000 pairs of prescription glasses and readers to be prescribed by the clinic to its patients, as well as several large cartons of medical supplies and medicines. The Clinic is now in a position to offer diagnostic examinations and some basic eye care on its own.

The optical examination waiting room.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, DONOR’S LIST, AND SPECIAL ASSISTANCE GENEROUSLY GIVEN:

St. Peter’s Outreach Committee $13,000 est. Final figures are still being calculated. About 50% was prepaid – 2014.

Lion’s Club, Valdosta, Ga. through Dr. Alan Peaslee $1,000

Lion’s Club, State of Delaware through Jim Toedtman 3,000 pairs of Rx glasses and readers

Jim and Haydee for sourcing, sorting, packing and shipping the glasses

Dr. and Mrs. Henry Croci Charitable Gift Acct. $1,000 to be used to purchase Rx glasses for prescriptions that could not be filled in Dominican Republic

South Ga./North Fl. Eye Partners, Valdosta, Ga., (Dr. Alan and Jason Peaslee) donations of equipment, medical supplies, medicines

Effingham Eye Care, Rincon, Ga. (Dr. Sally Freeman, Gina Overstreet) Donations of equipment, medical supplies, medicines.

One Sight, Mason, Ohio (charitable outreach arm of Luxottica Corp.) Donation of 1000 pr. readers, through Dr. Croci

George and Diane Young through Jurgen and Ximena Dinger $100

All the members of St. Peter’s and Skidaway Island residents who donated Rx eye glasses and readers

There may be other contributors of who we are not aware. We thank you all.

Respectfully submitted,
David A. Sweeterman

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Report on St. Anne’s Mission Trip in the Dominican Republic
March 7-14, 2015

Articles about this trip were in these issues of From the Field: March 10 | March 17

Mixing the concrete for the church floor.

The St. Anne’s mission team returned home on Saturday, March 14, after working for a week in the village of Las Carreras near the large city of Azua on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. Their primary task was to clear the rubble from the floor of the building being constructed for the congregation of the Church of the Holy Spirit and then to pour the concrete for the new permanent floor, but they also were able to assist a needy villager by pouring a floor for that villager’s house and participating in several worship services with the vicar of the three congregations in the area, the Very Rev. Jesús Mosquea, including the first service on the new floor of the Las Carreras church. They also found time for a visit to the nearby beach and for lots of playing with the local children and visiting with the villagers.

The members of the St. Anne's mission team in Epiphany Cathedral in Santo Domingo on Sunday, March 8.

After landing on March 7 and spending the night in a hotel in Santo Domingo, the team attended Sunday morning worship services at the Episcopal Cathedral in Santo Domingo before proceeding by chartered bus to Azua for another worship service Sunday evening at the Church of the Reconciliation in Azua. They began work on Monday morning, and their first job was to remove rubble and to grade the dirt floor of the church building. After that grading is done, then the second job for the St. Anne’s team was to mix and pour the concrete for the church floor.

Preparing the church floor.

Preparing the church floor.

The first worship service on the new concrete floor of the church building.

St. Anne’s current work on the building for the Church of the Holy Spirit is part of a multi-year project in partnership with two other Episcopal churches: St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Albany GA, and Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston SC. Three more steps remain to complete the building: plastering the interior and exterior, installing windows and doors, and painting the interior and exterior. The Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguin, Bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, is hoping that this building can be completed and dedicated in 2016, one of several new churches that were constructed by mission teams. Bishop Holguín’s episcopate has featured a steady expansion of the number of Episcopal churches, schools and other social welfare institutions in the Dominican Republic.

An evening meal at a sidewalk restaurant.

After returning home, the Rev. Lonnie Lacy and other members of the St. Anne's mission team discussed the results of their trip with the congregation of St. Anne's.

For an album of photographs from this trip is available on St. Anne’s Facebook page, click here.

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2015 Dominican Republic Mission Trip Report
Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia
By Julia and Julius Ariail
Posted on September 23, 2015

The 2015 mission team members. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Photographs from this mission trip are available here.

Articles about this mission trip were included in these issues of From the Field, the weekly newsletter of the Diocese of Georgia: June 17, 2015 | June 24, 2015

SUMMARY

The mission team sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church (Valdosta, Georgia) was in the Dominican Republic from June 15-22, 2015. The missioners lived and worked at the Campamento Monte de la Transfiguración in the village of El Pedregal, just outside the city of Jarabacoa. Major activities of the team included the replacement of a wooden frame house with a concrete block house for a family in the village; renovation of an existing house on the grounds of the Episcopal school to be used as a day care center; conducting classes in knitting, crocheting, fabric arts, and sewing; and sponsoring a half-day “splash party” for the village children. The two construction projects were carried out in partnership with the Youth Mission Team from the Diocese of Nebraska, whose members were in the Dominican Republic the week following our team’s visit from June 22-29, 2015. Significant presentations included funds for 70 scholarships for use by students at the K-8 Episcopal school during the 2015-16 academic year, plus another scholarship for use by a student enrolled in a special education program at a school in Jarabacoa; 8 sets of acolyte vestments and 4 sets of altar linens; softball and basketball sports equipment; and five sewing machines. Christ Church’s mission work at the Campamento in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic began in 2001, and so this 2015 trip marked the 15th year of that missional relationship at this location.

The twenty-one members of this team represented six Episcopal dioceses: Atlanta, Central Florida, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Nebraska, and North Carolina. The team members were Julia Ariail (Lake Park, GA); Julius Ariail (Lake Park, GA); Allison Carroll (Statesboro, GA); The Rev. Sonia Clifton (Orlando, FL); Dan Cook, (Orlando, FL); Jim Drazdowski (Sidney, NE); Emily Gibson (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic); The Rev. Dave Johnson (Valdosta, GA); Grady Lacy (Woodstock, GA); Charlie Nakash (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic); Eben Nelson (Statesboro, GA); Gavin Nelson (Statesboro, GA); Pepi Nelson (Valdosta, GA); Andrew Nutting (Orlando FL); Bert Power (Woodstock, GA); Bill Querin (Valdosta, GA); Fred Richter (Statesboro, GA); Rylan Smith (Orlando, GA); Paul Stevenson (Valdosta, GA); Mary Stowe (Chapel Hill, NC); and Debby Wunderly (Orlando, FL). Emily Gibson and Charlie Nakash were resident missionaries on the staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and joined us for this week at the Campamento. Each team member wore a missioner’s cross that was designed and hand-crafted by a former missioner from the Diocese of Alabama, Jim Ellis Fisher. The team members also received missioner lapel pins from the Diocese of the Dominican Republic in recognition of their work.

The team members gathering at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Orlando. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

NARRATIVE

Most of the team members assembled at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Orlando, Fl, on the evening of June 14, 2015, for supper and a team meeting. Five of the team members were from St. Matthew’s, and their congregation graciously hosted our supper meal in their parish hall. During the team meeting, the members met team leaders Fred Richter and Julius and Julia Ariail, introduced themselves, and received their team t-shirts and instructions for assembling at the Orlando airport on June 15 and then passing through the check-in and security procedures. Julia and Julius assigned a black duffle bag they had packed with supplies needed for our activities at the Campamento, and the team members brought these duffle bags to the airport the next day along with their personal luggage. All airport procedures on June 15 went smoothly with the exception of our flight’s departure, which was delayed about two hours due to mechanical difficulties with the original airplane. We were switched to an alternate airplane, and arrived safely in Santo Domingo.

On left: Karen Carroll, one of the resident missionaries in Santo Domingo. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Once there, we passed through Dominican immigration and security procedures smoothly and then met Karen Carroll and two fellow missioners, Mary Stowe and Emily Gibson, in the airport arrivals area. Karen is a resident missionary on the staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and is in charge of coordinating logistics for all mission teams coming from the United States. Mary had flown directly from North Carolina earlier on the 15th, and Emily lives in Santo Domingo as a member of Karen’s support office at the Dominican diocesan headquarters and came to the airport with Karen to greet us. Emily was one of our three translators during the week, and the others were our team member, Grady Lacy, and a local village resident, Leidy Rosario.

Arrival at the Campamento. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Karen helped us board our chartered bus, and then we were on the road to El Pedregal. We stopped once for a supper break at the Jacaranda restaurant north of Bonao, and then again about two hours later for our driver to fix a flat tire on our luggage trailer. We arrived at the Campamento around 11:30 p.m. and moved into our rooms on the second floor of the Stevens Dormitory.

One of our dormitory rooms. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

A meal in the dining hall. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

During the six days we were at the Campamento, we found our accommodations in the Stevens Dormitory to be very comfortable. There were eight bedrooms, each with four single beds, two bathrooms with shower and toilet, one washstand, and a large ventilation fan. We had adequate hot water in the showers all week. All bedrooms shared a large common room, and that common room opened onto a porch that overlooked the front lawn where we could rest and review the day’s activities. The food served in the Campamento’s dining hall was outstanding. We appreciated the efforts of the kitchen staff, Ángela, Luz, and Tomasina, to prepare such a variety of good food for us all week.

A fabric arts class session. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Twenty-one village women and girls arrived for the sewing, knitting, crocheting and crafts classes at 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The women missioners taught classes in three sections. Seven women and girls learned how to use a sewing machine, cut out fabric and sew a skirt. The mission team brought 5 sewing machines which were left at the camp with the priest’s wife, Ángela, at the end of the week. A local seamstress, Belkis, helped teach the women to sew. Seven others learned how to knit or crochet with t-shirt yarn, make custom designed t-shirts, make headbands, flowers and ruffles for shirts and dresses. The third group of seven knitted or crocheted with yarn brought by the group to make scarves, shawls or blankets. Each day the groups traded places to learn a new craft. On the last day the women got to choose which craft they preferred. The women also brought their handmade crafts on the last day and set up a market where the team members could browse and purchase items to take home. Belkis and Ángela planned to hold sewing classes during the year using our donated sewing machines. The team also left lots of yarn, fabric and related supplies to be used during the year.

Construction work on the day care center. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Construction work on the house for a family. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Charlie Nakash, the resident construction supervisor on the staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, was our liaison between the local construction foremen and Padre Álvaro. The two construction projects were funded jointly by the Christ Church team and the Nebraska Youth team, and each cost US$5,000. An additional US$800 was made available for the supervision of local workers to demolish the wooden house structure, to dig the footers for the new concrete block walls, and to lay the first three rows of blocks for the new house. These funds also paid for the removal of the roof on the house that was to be renovated to serve as a day care center and for demolition of some of the interior walls that were no longer needed. All of these preparation activities took place before the Christ Church team arrived. Once the Christ Church team began work on June 16, the construction workers split into two groups to work on the house and the day care center projects simultaneously. For various reasons related to the timely delivery of building supplies and the complexities of coordination with the local construction crew, work progressed more slowly than the team members had hoped. The same problems also hindered the construction progress of the Nebraska team when they arrived on June 22. Although much work was accomplished by the Georgia and Nebraska team members, neither project was completed by the time the Nebraska team left the Campamento on June 28. However, enough funds had been left in the construction account to pay for local workers to complete both projects later under the supervision of Padre Álvaro. The house was completed on July 23 with a concrete floor, doors, windows, running water in the indoor bathroom and kitchen, electricity, and septic tank connection, and the family moved in from their temporary housing nearby. On August 18, the day care center was completed, again with concrete floor, doors, windows, running water in the two bathrooms, and septic tank connection.

In the background: the Episcopal K-8 school. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

We were pleased to be able to present 69 scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year for children at the local K-8 Episcopal school. Each scholarship represents US$350 in contributions, which were received from the following Episcopal churches where our current or former mission team members worship: Christ Church, Valdosta GA; Church of the Nativity, Dothan AL; St. Matthew’s, Orlando FL; St. Paul’s, Savannah GA; and Trinity, Statesboro GA. After our team returned home, we received funds for a 70th scholarship that was donated in memory of a recently-deceased family member of one of our missioners, and those funds have also been transmitted to the Diocese of the Dominican Republic for use at the Campamento’s school. In partnership with a former team member, we also made arrangements to fund a scholarship for a village resident who attends a special education school in Jarabacoa. This 71st scholarship includes support for the student’s daily transportation from El Pedregal to Jarabacoa, and the monitoring of his attendance record and progress in his program. These 71 scholarships represent the largest number that our team has ever given, twice as many as in 2014, and we deeply appreciate the generosity of the donors who made them possible.

At the waterfall. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

Our trip was not all work. Recreational activities enjoyed by the team members included a walk to the local swimming hole at the Rio Yaque del Norte, the river that runs below the Campamento’s bluff, about 20 minutes from the Campamento; a shopping trip into Jarabacoa for souvenirs, coffee, and vanilla to take home; a truck ride to a softball game in Jarabacoa; and a walk to the Salto Jimenoa, one of the local waterfalls, about 45 minutes from the Campamento. The team also had two walks through the village of El Pedregal to visit the sites of construction projects for the Christ Church team in earlier years and to visit with the villagers. These walks through the village also included stops at the work sites of other mission teams who had come to the village, both from other Episcopal congregations and from other faith traditions. Other group activities included Morning Prayer after breakfasts, Evening Prayer after suppers, and yoga exercises led by Fred Richter each evening in our dormitory’s common room.

The splash party. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

One of the favorite things our team does each year is host a splash party for the village children. With money we donated, Padre Álvaro purchased 8 plastic swimming pools, had them inflated by an electric pump, and arranged with a local water supply company to fill the pools with water. Three tarps served as slip-n-slides for the 200 children who came to the party on Friday morning and stayed until the afternoon. The party was held on the front lawn of the camp on a sunny day as the five palm trees waved in the breeze. We served hot dogs, chips and drinks for lunch, and cake and ice cream for dessert. Recorded music and a DJ entertained the group for hours. Several of the teachers from the school and our missioners helped monitor the merriment and serve food and drink to the children.

The fashion show at the fiesta party. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

The fashion show at the fiesta party. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

On our last night at the Campamento, we enjoyed a fiesta featuring delicious food prepared once again by Ángela, Luz, and Tomasina; music from loudspeakers, dancing, and a fashion show by the women and girls in their new skirts. We presented gifts of team t-shirts and team crosses to the local villagers who helped us with construction, crafts and translating.

Passing the Peace on Sunday morning in the local Episcopal Church. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

On Sunday, June 20, the team worshiped with our village friends at the local Episcopal Church, Iglesia Monte de la Transfiguración. Bill Kunkle, the Executive Director of the Dominican Development Group who had come to greet our team members and to see the results of our construction projects, joined the team for the service. After the service, most of the team loaded up their luggage on the chartered bus and left the Campamento for the drive back to Santo Domingo. Two members, Jim Drazdowski and Charlie Nakash, stayed at the Campamento to work with the Nebraska team that arrived on June 21. There was a lunch stop at the Jacaranda again, and then the team arrived at the Hodelpa Caribe Colonial in Santo Domingo where we were once again greeted by Karen Carroll who helped us check into the hotel. When that check-in process was completed, the team members began to explore the shops, museums, and restaurants in the Colonial Zone in small, informal groups.

Breakfast in our hotel Monday morning. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

On Monday, June 21, the team said goodbye to Mary Stowe in the morning as she headed to the airport for her flight back to North Carolina. Then after a morning of exploration and lunch in the Colonial Zone, the team checked out of the hotel, boarded the chartered bus, and rode to the airport. The flight back to Orlando was smooth and uneventful. Some team members elected to drive to their homes that same night, but others stayed overnight in Orlando to rest before driving home on June 22. Once everyone arrived home safely, the mission trip came to an end.

REFLECTIONS

Team members submitted these reflections for this report:

El Pedregal is changing. Most of the small alleyways among the houses are newly paved with concrete (although still not the main street into the village). There are more solid block houses now, in part thanks to our work and that of many other mission teams, Episcopalian and others. Still far too many tin shacks, future builds for future missionaries. Our accommodations were the best ever​, as was the food. The children are still and always have been the highlight of our visits — eager to hold hands, to be carried, to work, to be photographed, and to walk out with us as we explore the village. And they grow up, but still remember us joyfully. The team too was a best ever, kindness, courtesy and love abounding. Many good conversations and lots of laughter. And then there’s the frustration and guilt over our language limitations. We muddle through, with God’s help. Glad to be home, and reflecting on another successful trip.

Seeing our friends in the village from previous years — always a highlight of any mission trip. Another highlight is seeing the families now living in sturdy houses that our team has built over the years, replacing wooden structures without indoor plumbing. And, of course, there’s the Passing of the Peace during the worship service at the local church. How can one experience that and not be moved?

The people of El Pedregal are truly our friends. When we return to their village year after year, they greet us with open arms and joy in their faces. They work as hard as we do to accomplish improvements to their village, church and school. The women and girls seem delighted to learn something new in knitting, sewing and crafts. We share Christ’s love in worship, work and play. They are so grateful. I receive so much more than I give every year.

Each year we take many blessings with us to El Pedregal, and then we return home with even more.

The group photo of the two teams from Georgia and Nebraska (enhanced by Photoshop; the two teams never met in person, but were together in spirit). Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

After our team and our partner team from Nebraska returned home, the construction of the house was completed in late July using funds that we had left behind, and the family moved in. This photograph shows a meal that was prepared in the house being served to guests. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

The construction of the day care center was completed in August using funds that we had left behind. Click this image to see more photographs from this trip.

THANK YOU!

So much preparation goes on behind the scenes before a mission team arrives. Thanks to our partners in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic — Karen, Charlie, Emily, Patricia Martin, Padre Álvaro and Ángela, camp staff Luz and Tomasina — who make sure we get to our destination, house and feed us, and lay the groundwork for the success of our projects. Thanks to our partner team from Nebraska for months of helping to plan and fund the construction projects and for coordinating our “back to back” trip schedules. Thanks to Bill Kunkle of the DDG for coming to visit us and for helping to see that our projects were finally completed later in the summer. Thanks to the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Orlando for their hospitality in hosting our first team meeting, for feeding us there, and for housing some of the team members. A Special thank-you to our “Home Team” at Christ Episcopal Church who make it possible for our “Go Team” to accomplish so much on every trip.

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Trip Report from the Diocesan Youth Team
June 22-30, 2015

Articles about this mission trip appeared in these two issues of From the Field: June 23 | July 1

The members of the Diocese of Georgia's Youth Mission Team.

The youth missioners from the Diocese of Georgia worked at San Matías Episcopal Church in Santana from July 22-30, 2015. Youth and adults from 13 different congregations in the Diocese of Georgia took part in the trip, supported by a network of family, congregations, and friends throughout Georgia and beyond. The group participated in a Vacation Bible School program at San Matías which began the week with roughly 100 children participating, and ended the week with over 300 participants from the community! Our Georgia youth led crafts, participated in music sessions, played games and sports, and even showed off their dance moves! At the end of the week, the group attended Sunday worship and then joined our Dominican hosts for an afternoon beach.

A missioner in a VBS session.

For a map of the Episcopal Churches in the Dominican Republic, click here. Click on the icon in the top left corner of the map and scroll down to “Iglesia San Matías” to see exactly where our group was serving.

Painting the steps of the local school.

Of course one of the primary purposes of any mission work is to work with and serve the people of God wherever we go. However, a longer-lasting, and perhaps deeper, purpose is to enable us to form new patterns of behavior, patterns that will, with God’s help, inform and transform our day-to-day lives once the trip itself is over. In many ways, this is one of the deepest purposes of the Church itself, to transform the world into God’s dream.

One of the VBS sessions.

For photographs of this journey in several albums on the Facebook page of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia Youth, click here. For more information about this trip, contact the Rev. Joshua Varner (St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Pooler GA).


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