And So We Go

At the end of July, eleven us of from our Diocese, including eight from the Shenango Valley, spent eight days on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. After spending the weekend getting acclimated, preparing, and attending worship, we helped with a Vacation Bible School in the morning and ran an eyeglass clinic in the afternoon.  We also had opportunities to build relationships with a number of people from the church over meals and other fellowship time.

The trip was successful, based on the outcomes we could see.  The Bible school grew each day as children from the neighborhood invited their friends, and the games and crafts we brought to accompany the local teachers’ Bible lessons seemed to go well.  We were also able to match up over 100 people with eyeglasses that met their needs, including some for senior citizens who had never had glasses before.  Seeing the joy on their faces as they could see clearly for the first time in decades or even in their entire lives was a real blessing.  Everyone on our team was able to find God at work during the week and learned something about themselves and life in the Dominican Republic.

Mission trips, regardless of the destination, are important because our God is a sending God.  In the scriptures, we hear God repeatedly telling people to “Go!”  Abraham is told to “Go!”  Moses is told to “Go!” Isaiah is told to “Go!”  Jesus sends out the 12 and the 70 and tells them to “Go!”  Jesus’ Great Commission begins with “Go!”  In those rare instances where Jesus says to “stay,” the staying is only temporary.  “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” Jesus says to his disciples before ascending (Luke 24:49).  After the Holy Spirit descends those same disciples will be witnesses, going from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  We know that God even sent his only Son to come into the world. God is all about sending.

If God is telling us to “Go!” then we need to listen.  We need to pay attention, however, to where God is sending us.  Abraham was sent to another land.  Moses was sent to Pharaoh.  Isaiah was sent to his own people. Sometimes we are sent to unknown people on the other side of the world, but sometimes we are sent to people we know very well.  Not everybody is going to take a mission trip to another country.  Yet all of us have family members, friends, neighbors, or others within our circles of relationships who need to experience the love and good news of Jesus.  The important thing is that we get up and “Go!”

Going means that we leave behind our security and our established ways of doing things so that we can be open to what God might have in mind. Going means caring more about sharing God’s love and good news with someone else than our own comfort and convenience.  Going means that we offer ourselves to be used by God however he can use us to touch other lives.

When we are sent on a mission trip to another country, we may be giving up our language, our familiar foods, and potable tap water.  We may have a program to implement, but have never met the individuals with whom we will be sharing Christ’s love.  When we are sent within our own communities however, what we are giving up can be much more difficult.  We may need to give up our judgments and resentments toward someone.  We may need to give up our certainty that nothing will change.  We may need to give up our control or our comfort with a situation or relationship.  Instead we can offer God the gifts we have and use them where we are sent without any expectations except that God will be at work.  We might cook a meal, watch someone’s children, share some music, offer prayers, or just be a listening ear.  If we are obedient to God and go where God sends us, we can rest assured that God will do the rest.

We saw God show up in numerous places when we went to the Dominican Republic.  Imagine how you will see God at work when you go where you are sent.

The Rev. Adam Trambley is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon. 

DR Mission Trip Day 7 – Friday

The eye clinic was a success!!! There were lots of people that got glasses, and we are even ordering some for other people! Some people that came in didn’t even need glasses – they were so shocked! On Wednesday we didn’t have Randy, our translator, but we still managed to understand the people and give them glasses. There were people in their 70’s that needed glasses. We thought, “how could someone go that long and just now realize they need glasses?”  

The kids LOVED vacation bible school, even the little ones!! They  would come up to you and hug and kiss you, then they would ramble on and on even if you didn’t understand them! The older ones would cheat in the games here and there, but then Father Hipolito talked to some of them and calmed everything down. Some of the older kids were helpers, and they are slowly learning English from some of us. 

So many good things happened this week: meeting new people and remembering kids from last year, happy people from the eye clinic, our adventures to Bon, meeting a parrot, and unexpected rain storms. This week was one for the books, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. One of the hardest things was saying goodbye – since this is our senior year we don’t know what the future holds. We hope we can come back and see their beautiful faces again some day. 

– Abby and Sarah Wheeler, Resurrection Church, Hermitage, PA

DR Mission Trip Day 6 – Thursday

I’m not much of a writer, so please bear with me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on this mission trip, but when my twin daughters Abby and Sarah said they were interested I thought this would be a great opportunity for the three of us to have together. And what an experience it has been!

As I sit on this balcony of the hotel listening to the sounds of traffic, the occasional siren, horns honking and people talking in their native language, i’m absolutely amazed. It’s busy, it’s hectic,but at the same time soothing and relaxing. It’s mesmerizing. Yesterday some of us from our group sat for an hour on the balcony and watched people jump start a car! That is definitely something I would not take the time to watch at home, so why here? I just can’t explain it.

When we attended church on Sunday I was intimidated. I didn’t know what to expect. I was so surprised by the warm welcome along with the feeling of love and acceptance from Father Hipolito and the people from his church. The language barrier was there but the smiles broke through that barrier and put me at ease. After church, as we set up for bible school and the eye clinic, I began to feel at home. Some of the staff and children helped and joined us for lunch where we became better acquainted.

In the morning as we climb out of the van, some of the children greet us with hugs and kisses as we walk into the church. Throughout the day the outpouring of affection continues. If you sit for more than a few minutes chances are there will be a little one on your lap or braiding your hair. Their excitement and enthusiasm for every song, every game, every craft is infectious. You can’t help but smile, sing and laugh right along! It seems hard to believe we have only one more day to experience all this joy.

Speaking of joy, the eye clinic has brought that and so much more! We have had the privilege of seeing faces light up as they put glasses on and see all the beauty that surrounds them. We have received many a hug from complete strangers who are so grateful and appreciative. In America we go to our yearly eye exams and never think twice. Here, there are older adults who have never experienced an exam let alone had glasses to see clearly.

In the evenings our group gathers on the roof of our hotel for evening prayer and a time to share. We’ve become comfortable with one another. As the nights go by we spend more time up there telling stories and laughing. We have become a family. We have become one church. It’s a great day in the kingdom!!

– Chris Wheeler, Resurrection Church, Hermitage, PA

DR Mission Trip Day 5 – Wednesday

Today was a warm and uncomfortable day, like most days here.  I started off at breakfast with a veggie omelet that was not a veggie omelet, but regular scrambled eggs. I was glad it was a nutritious breakfast and I am glad I ordered it. It gave me energy for my busy day ahead.

My day got better after breakfast at Bible School. I saw the kids and that made my day. I love their chubby cheeks and their bright eyes. I always pinch the cheeks. For our craft of the day we made bead bracelets.  The beads were made out of plastic and wood and a silver heart hung from the middle. They seemed to really enjoy that. The beads flew everywhere!

Today at the eye clinic I had the job of helping patients read the eye chart. This job was especially hard to do because they were saying “up, down, left, right” in Spanish.  I had to pay attention to what their motions were, if they were correct,  and what line they were reading. I got frustrated at times, but I made it through.

Although it’s hard down here, I am learning a lot and I am having fun.

Anyah  Holben

DR Mission Trip Day 4 – Tuesday

I have always felt a calling to mission and am finding this first opportunity to be all that I had imagined it to be. What has made the trip an even richer experience is being able to share it with my son, Ben. Watching him interact with the mission team and the Dominican children and adults we are here serving has been a real pleasure.

Today, we completed day two of our Vacation Bible School and held another successful vision clinic. We are finding that the need is great in the community surrounding the church. The language barrier is frustrating, but we are fortunate to have a dedicated translator, Randy, who has been so wonderful in helping us to communicate. Several children from the church have been a big help each day. While they don’t speak English, they are getting familiar with our routines and needs and are able to give directions to our clients as we do the vision screenings. They are even trying to teach us some Spanish and are very patient!

After a busy day at the church when we return to our hotel, my favorite place to sit is the hotel balcony. A nice breeze and a chance to observe the busy street below are a welcome diversion after our busy day. Before we head to bed, we meet on the hotel rooftop for evening prayer and spend time reflecting on the day’s events. It’s the perfect way to end the day.

– Missy Baron

DR Mission Trip Day 3 – Monday

After our first days here in the Dominican Republic, I have made a few realizations about what I will take away from this experience. As we have settled into our routines, become familiar with the differences of the culture, and completed a successful day doing God’s work, I am certain I will come away from this trip with a better understanding of myself and a desire to continue to use my gifts to help others.

My first realization came from today’s work.  I have become accustomed to my privilege and often do not give thanks for the things that I take for granted on a daily basis.  Today we set up for the first appointments of the vision clinic. Most of the people who came to the clinic, having never received an eye exam, did not question their ability to see. I did not realize that the annual eye exams that I have been fortunate enough to have would be considered a luxury to the people I encountered today in the Dominican Republic. In a total of 3 hours, our team was successfully able to see 26 people and distribute 23 pairs of glasses.  Together, our team worked diligently to meet the needs of others. It was encouraging to see that we really did make a difference.

Likewise, this brings me to my next realization: we all have gifts that we need to share.  Along with the first day of the vision clinic, today was also the first day we worked with the children in the vacation bible school. Each person did their part to make sure activities ran smoothly and that the children had a memorable experience. In order for us to reach the end goal (to build up the kingdom) we must use and share the gifts that God has given us.

I was able to use some of my gifts today.  For the last 3 years I’ve taken a Spanish course in school. I’m definitely not fluent but I can form simple sentences and struggle my way through understanding other’s requests. Today I was really able to practice and put my acquired gifts to use when I gave instructions to people receiving prescriptions from the auto-refractor. When I didn’t understand a person’s request, the young girls in the church assisted me by presenting it in simpler Spanish terms I knew.

I’m overjoyed to be able to work with such an amazing team and have no doubt in our group’s success. I am happy to contribute to the good work that Father Hipolito has done to build the church in this community.

-Ben Baron  

DR Mission Trip Day Two – Sunday

Glorious Sunday!!

Our team was up early today for breakfast because the van needed to pick us up at 8:30. We didn’t want to be late for 9:00 service. Our friends here have not changed. Only the children have grown taller since my last visit two years ago. Fr. Hipolito looks just the same. His humor is the same as is his energy level. Not bad for a man who’s 88 years old!! We waited for over half an hour for the service to actually begin. That’s just how things are done here.

Fr. Adam Trambley presented the sermon in English while our interpreter Ernesto translated. Wow, what a great talk he gave regarding us going out to others to help, love, and serve God. He also led much of the service–in impressive Spanish, I must say. Afterward we were whisked upstairs in the school to begin setting up eye clinic supplies. Miraculously, we were able to successfully register 640 or so pairs of glasses. Tomorrow we will hold clinic each afternoon. Our hope is to see 20 patients each day. The need here is great, so hopefully we’ll be able to do these wonderful people some good!

All our Bible School supplies are ready and waiting for tomorrow as well. We expect to welcome 60 or more children each day. We are really excited to begin!

What will I remember about today? The breathtaking view from the school where we ate a delicious homemade lunch prepared by the church women, a solo to entertain the congregation while we waited for our service to begin (our singer was all of 5 years old and never missed a beat), the colorful parrot owned by a parishioner who sat on our arms, fingers, and necks. I will remember comments from our wonderful team members who are here for the first time. Every single person stepped up and helped with anything needed today. We have so many gifts to give and share, from our ability to work with children, to our ability to lead others, to our ability to adjust in a completely situation. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!!

– Sue Frontino

DR Mission Trip Day One – Saturday

I love to travel for the same reason why I love History. I enjoy learning about how other people live (or lived). Today, I got to learn about both.

After starting the morning off with a wonderful breakfast and changing our US Dollars into Dominican Pesos, our group went to the Leon Center, a museum and cultural center. There, we looked at exhibits of ancient artifacts and art. Personally, I love art, so this was quite exciting. There were some absolutely beautiful pieces, and some that really made you think. One thing I found interesting was that all of the artwork was from local, Dominican artists. Next, we headed to lunch and did some shopping at a Walmart-type grocery store called La Sirena (The Mermaid).

After that, we went to the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration. This was my favorite excursion. It is a large building with a tall spire that is lit up and changes colors at night. There are a few floors with paintings and  exhibits of the history of the first uprising and restoration of the Dominican Republic. It offered great history lessons, incredible views, and lots of stairs! When we finally came down, we left for an indoor marketplace to buy souvenirs. For me, this was the most challenging thing. There were a lot of items and people packed into a very tight space. The vendors were fairly pushy, and it was even more difficult to navigate, as I don’t speak Spanish. However, we all made it through, and I found some really nice souvenirs! Finally, a group of seven of us walked to a cemetery a block and a half from our hotel. It was quite beautiful and unique, as it was almost all above-ground mausoleums. We then finished off the night with another excellent dinner.

I very much enjoyed learning about and seeing a new and different culture, and I am very excited for the coming week!

– Julia Trambley

Honduras Veterinary Mission Team

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 1 Peter 4:10

Sharing of self, using our gifts to help others, reaching out to neighbors and developing relationships, sharing our faith by words and actions with the support of prayerful “senders”………that is what mission means to me.

I was blessed again with the opportunity this past January to be part of an enthusiastic short-term mission team to Danli, Honduras.  While we were billed as a “veterinary team”, less than half of us were veterinarians.  The rest were there to offer their assistance however possible.  Randy Doutt and myself from St. John’s, Franklin joined a team composed of  7 veterinarians, 1 vet technician, and 8 helpers (willing laymen, spouses and 1 teenager).  We had all volunteered to work with SAMS (http://samsusa.org/) missionary Jeannie Loving to supplement some of the spotty veterinary services in the church communities where she serves.  Veterinarians were recruited by Christian Veterinary Mission (https://cvmusa.org/), an inter-denominational mission group.   We were joined by several individuals willing to help in any way that they could, and their efforts were invaluable to the success of the mission.  The “helpers” led devotions, prepared team lunches, lassoed cattle, carried supplies, sorted and loaded equipment and medications, performed crowd control, and helped with the construction of a newly planted church.  With the addition of 3 local drivers and 2 student interpreters from St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Tegucigalpa we were a large enough group to split into two work teams.

We began each day with a morning devotion, followed by breakfast and then traveled to one of the more rural communities near Danli.  One of our teams would care primarily for livestock while the other was mainly engaged with pet animals.  (note: “pet” has a totally different connotation in a poor, rural, third-world area than the image of a pampered, American house pet).  Animals were driven, dragged, and carried to our work areas throughout the day.  During our stay we were able to provide medical or surgical services to over 1800 animals.  Some of the men also spent a few days working alongside local villagers to construct a newly planted church in a previously unserved community.

Perhaps more enduring than the animal care are the relationships that our team has built. We work primarily in villages where the Diocese of Honduras has a church presence so we are supporting the work of the local missionary and clergy.  Many areas are used to seeing mission groups swoop in once and never return, but the people that we have worked with have learned to know us and we them because we have returned to the same location annually over several years.  Because we have been consistent over time we have developed friendships and trust.

One of the highlights of our 10-day mission is always having the opportunity to participate in Sunday church services alongside the local people that we have been serving.  This past year we received communion together with the new congregation of Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena.  We worshiped in the same open-air community center where we had spayed dogs just a few days before.  Following the church service, the community proudly led us to the foundation of their new church, which some of our team had helped to construct and which they hope to complete before we return next January.

Surely one of the blessings of this outreach endeavor was in the participants working hard each day to totally use all of their gifts and knowledge and strength for the benefit of their Honduran neighbors.  This is one case where the cliché was absolutely true:  We did receive much more than we gave.

Dan Paulo and his wife Kathy are members of St. John’s, Franklin. Dan is a retired veterinarian who has long been interested in mission, and has made multiple mission trips to Honduras, as well as Haiti, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Mongolia, and Nigeria. 

 

Local church to host ‘blessing box’ with donations

This article first appeared in the Bradford Era on May 19, 2017. 

By KATE DAY SAGER
The Bradford Era

Era photo by Kate Day Sager

On any given Sunday, needy people stop by the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Chautauqua Place in Bradford with the hope there will be food to spare.

Consequently, when the Rev. Stacey Fussell, rector of Ascension, learned Amanda Kemick and Stacy Wallace needed a venue for their new Blessing Box, she volunteered outdoor space at the church for the project.

The Blessing Box, which was installed near the church parking lot on Mother’s Day, sits atop a pole several feet high. Inside the unlocked box are canned and boxed foods stocked by parishioners and community residents. All food items in the box are free for the taking.

Kemick, a stay-at-home mom, said she and Wallace, an attorney, came up with the Blessing Box idea last fall after viewing a post on Facebook.

“Many of our friends on Facebook expressed interest and support of the idea,” Kemick recalled. “We began with the construction of two boxes” after funding was provided by two private donors.

Kemick said they contacted Scott Oxley, carpentry teacher at Bradford Area High School, for help. When they asked Oxley if the students could construct two boxes similar to what was seen online, he agreed and asked only that materials be provided.

The first box was installed Sunday at the church by Kemick and Wallace’s husbands, Donny and Curt, respectively.

“Stacy and I both have children and it was a great experience for them to help install and put food in the first box,” Kemick said. “On the box we put, ‘Give what you can, take what you need.’ “It is our hope that anyone in need — a hungry child or a mother who doesn’t have time to get to the grocery store — can stop and take what is needed.”

She said the blessing box is not limited to food, as donations of personal hygiene items and baby products are also acceptable.

In explaining the notion behind the blessing box, Wallace said it is intended to bless all people with food and items, regardless of class.

“I know some people do not want to take something for nothing, so if you see something there you need, take it and put something else in — like a barter system,” Wallace explained.

She said the hope is the boxes will be replenished by the community. As a backup measure, one or two groups from the community will be assigned to stock the boxes, as needed.

Suggested store-bought items for the box include canned foods, dry cereal or other dry items  such as pasta and rice. Small clothing items that include new packages of underwear, socks or gloves, are also acceptable donations.

Fussell said initial food items stocked in the box, that included small canned hams, were taken. They were quickly replenished with other food, however. She said the supplies will likely be appreciated by people in the neighborhood which is close to housing projects.

“From our standpoint, it is not uncommon to have folks come by the church on a Sunday afternoon and say ‘I don’t have any food in my house,’” Fussell remarked. “Ascension doesn’t keep a stocked food pantry” and none of the other pantries are open on Sunday.

“This will help if you’re in a bind,” she continued. “It really is the hope that people will restock it.”

In making a final comment, Kemick said their greatest hope is that by next winter a local agency or private business will offer to house a blessing box inside its doors.

“Our outdoor blessing boxes will get less use in the winter due to foot traffic and the practicality of food storage, yet we could use blessings year round,” she said.

Kemick said there is another blessing box ready to be installed, but a location hasn’t been determined. She said a church or organization that can ensure the box will stay filled would be preferable. Kemick said they have plans to make additional boxes in the future.

For more information on the blessing boxes, contact Kemick or Wallace via Facebook or call Wallace at Hamlin Bank and Trust Company at 887-5555.