The Dominican Republic is a wonderful vacation site, one that we enjoyed for many years. Through those years we met and befriended Santiago Gil, a Dominican who worked in the resort where we stayed each year. After one of the hurricanes, the resort was closed for a year and Santiago followed his life’s calling to be a minister. As Christians, we were happy to donate to his mother Church in La Romana, and were happy for Santiago when he was asked to start a church in a poor area outside of the city called Villa hermosa
On our next annual visit we asked Santiago if we could visit his church — a visit that has forever changed our lives. We had never been on a mission trip. As medical professionals we have seen poverty and the devastation that results, but third world poverty was a different story. We pulled off the paved road that we have traveled many times before, and started bumping our way past a very large garbage dump that holds the remains of everything unwanted from La Romana. It was an ugly sight, but far more appalling were the adults and children wading through the garbage to find food to eat, because they were starving.
We continued on the bumpy unpaved road past what seemed to be miles of shacks made of scrap corrugated metal, constructed by leaning all four sides together and putting more scrap metal on the roof. Some homes were just plastic metal secured to trees. Children were running gin the dust, some without clothing or shoes. There were many Haitians as well as Dominicans in the village.
“It was an ugly sight, but far more appalling were the adults and children wading through the garbage to find food to eat, because they were starving.”
My husband asked Santiago what “Villa Hermosa” meant in English, and he said “Beautiful City”…. there was nothing beautiful about this city. No Septic, no drinking water, limited electricity (if you could string a wire together from the pole to your shack), wow, not what we expected to see.
We arrived at the church which was remarkably one of the only block structures in the village. At least there was somewhere the community members could go during the hurricane season. There were about 50 people in the church service, which was of course in Spanish so we couldn’t understand what was happening. Even so, we were struck by how JOYFUL these Christians were. They trusted their very existence to the Lord and seemed much less burdened than Bill and me!
When it was time to leave, a little girl gave us a doll she had made (it is still on my bed stand 7 years later). We did not speak at all on the way home as we tried to put our thoughts around what we had just seen. About 60 minutes after we returned to our resort, Bill Looked at me and said “We have to do something about what we just saw, we have to help them.”
We were struck by how JOYFUL these Christians were. They trusted their very existence to the Lord…
So how do you help people who you see once a year, thousands of miles from your home? Our son-in-law who is a Methodist Minister warned us against sending money or food or other material things. He pointed out that the people of Villa Hermosa needed something that would sustain them and develop their community. We had assets (Bill’s medical practice and the large building in which it resided) but we did not have the money that it would take to do something meaningful for this community.
Within 6 months, Bill had a serious health issue that led him to sell his practice and the building to our local hospital. Now we had the money we needed to help the Dominicans, but finding a parter on the ground in the Dominican was another issue.
We looked for two years and followed many leads that went nowhere. Finally, we found World Servants – an organization that specialized in community development in third world counties. Praise God, they even had a branch in the Dominican Republic. So we started to build, and build, and build. Our church, Hampton Bible Chapel, did a lot of the building with the help of the Dminican men in Villa Hermosa.
The first project was a grade school because the children often could not attend schools as they were too far away or they did not have the necessary citizen paperwork. We were told to start small, so we expected 50 children to sign up the first week… but God works BIG and we had 220 children two weeks after the school opened. Those children are so beautiful and sweet, what a blessing. Today, there are 400 children in the school which brings it to maximum capacity.
Net, we needed to get drinking water to the community, so a well was drilled and a water purification plant constructed. The plant can produce 4,000 gallons per hour and is sold to provide the community with an economic driver.
Then, the church needed to be bigger. So a team of men from another church in our area (the Living Work Evangelical Free Church) helped the Dominicans to build a larger church.
As healthcare professionals, building a medical clinic / surgical center was high on our list. We just finished the construction of the medical clinic, which will be run by Medical Missions International.
We were told to start small, so we expected 50 children to sign up the first week… but God works BIG and we had 220 children two weeks after the school opened.
There were times that the work in this mission seemed slower than we expected, or that Christian organizations we felt would be a good fit were not. What we learned from those times is that a project like Villa Hermosa comes in God’s time, not ours, and He knows what is best for His people whether they are in Villa Hermosa or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania like us. Waiting for God’s perfect time is not a choice, so now we wait to see where He takes us next in Villa Hermosa.
Dr. Bill & Marge DiCuccio
What we learned from those times is that a project like Villa Hermosa comes in God’s time, not ours, and He knows what is best for His people.