|March 28, 2012|
AMERICAN MISSION TEAMS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The call to mission is given to us at Baptism and is strengthened at our confirmation. Mission is about being a witness to other Christians, and is about people stepping out of one’s normal role and reaching out to others. Clearly the Spirit is moving more Christians than ever, as more people are becoming involved in this effort.
A person who goes on a mission and comes in contact with a different culture is transformed by being able to see life in the eyes of a different reality. Like Saul, for whom the scales fell from his eyes (Acts 9:18), mission participants return viewing life differently and not taking for granted what he/she may have.
In short-term mission to the Dominican Republic, we have learned that mission is not about having the Americans as the givers and the Dominicans as the receivers. The key is reciprocity. Mission has to work for both sides. Mission is successful where there is a mutuality of giving and receiving. We need each other, as Christ is incarnated in us; we are all givers and receivers.
Some believe that people go on mission trips as a way to have a free vacation or simply do “religious tourism.” Perhaps this might be the case in some places, but the evidence is that the Dominican Republic has avoided most problems that critics have identified. Several elements are responsible for the success of mission in the Dominican Republic:
• Institutional support of teams from parishes, their dioceses in the United States
• A receptive Dominican community
• A well organized Dominican diocese that is involved in mission work with a coordinator assigned to assisting mission teams
• A mutuality of expectations among both sides
• Seeing actual results on well planned worthwhile projects
• A renewal of the faith of mission participants and recipients
Another assertion among critics of mission is that everyone would be better off if money were sent to the recipients rather than persons going to the expense of travel. The overwhelming response from participants in Dominican mission is that writing a check is not the same as the person actually participating. Transferring money resources might be helpful, but it is not the object of mission. Only by participating, by going down to the field and being a part of what is being done, getting to know the locals, sharing experiences and actually seeing with one own eyes the positive results of personal efforts can mission be considered successful.
In the short-term missions the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome cultural impediments. At the end of the day, the greatest benefit comes from the relationships that are developed between Christians of two different cultures.
Bishop Julio Cesar Holguin of the Dominican Episcopal Church said this about the future of missionary work done by American mission teams in the next 20-25 years:
In 20 years the companionship in mission will enter a new dimension. Maybe we are going to be sending missionaries to the United States to support the work of the Episcopal Church there. Americans now give to the Dominican Episcopal Church but later the Dominicans are going to share with the Episcopal Church in the United States what they might need. Companionship in mission has neither time nor border. This has to be continuous giving until the second coming of our Lord. (1)
The Rev. Adolfo Moronta, M.A. 2012
Diocese of the Dominican Republic
(1) Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín, personal interview by Adolfo Moronta, December 23, 2011.