The coronavirus has halted many things, but it has not dampened the missionary spirit of our members. In the United States, we’ve seen the impact COVID-19 has had on communities, schools, and churches. In impoverished countries, that impact is exponentially more significant with limited financial resources. With travel restrictions lifted, 53 individuals from the Atlantic Union territory spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic completing various tasks at the Dominican Adventist University (Universidad Adventista Dominicana) to prepare the campus for students returning to classes in September.
The group chose the theme “I Will Go,” which echoes the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s strategic plan and rallying cry to Total Member Involvement. “If there is a gift we can give to our young people and to the generation to come, it is to help them develop a missionary spirit. Whether it is local or overseas, God is in need of people who are willing to go for missions,” says Elias Zabala, Sr., Atlantic Union Conference treasurer, who worked alongside the volunteers during the trip and served as a liaison with the Dominican Republic Adventist ministries and institutions.
Volunteers represented five of the six conferences in the Atlantic Union—Greater New York (GNYC), New York, Northeastern (NEC), Northern New England, and Southern New England. The conferences and the Atlantic Union Conference also provided financial support to purchase necessary supplies and materials. Volunteers included pastors, youth leaders, young adults, and several Medical Cadet Corp (MCC) members from the Greater New York and Northeastern conferences. Dionisio Olivo, MCC Major General and operational commander for the Atlantic Union, also traveled to the Dominican Republic to lend his support, along with Atlantic Union Conference administrators: G. Earl Knight, president; Pierre Omeler, executive secretary; and Jose Joseph, vice president for Haitian Ministries and African Ministries. “All of our volunteers worked very hard. I really want to acknowledge the work of the MCC. What a group of men and women!” Zabala exclaimed. “Their dedication, deportment, discipline, and cordiality were appreciated.”
Walter Harris, GNYC Adventist Community Services Disaster Response coordinator, served as project coordinator for the group; and Deanna Lambert, NEC TLT coordinator, served as volunteer coordinator. Under their leadership, the group tackled numerous painting projects on the university campus and at the local Adventist elementary school. They also purchased materials and fixed streetlights around the campus perimeter, power-washed campus sidewalks, outdoor courts, and buildings before repainting and completed cleaning, carpentry, and landscaping projects around the campus.
“It’s been such a blessing to come to this university to help out,” said Gregory Jamrog, a young adult volunteer from the Northern New England Conference. “We’re just thrilled that we could be a part of something so special.”
During the trip, Zabala and some of the volunteers visited a local orphanage operated by the Adventist church to see if they needed any assistance. Unknown to them, the day before their visit, the orphanage director had requested money to purchase sneakers for the more than 50 children in their care. The business manager informed her that the funds were not available, and she would have to wait for a donation. They prayed and asked God to provide money for the shoes. Zabala explained, “When we got there the next day and asked if they needed help, the woman said to me, ‘You guys are an answer to our prayer!’” The volunteers from the Atlantic Union donated from their personal funds and collected enough money so all the children could have new shoes.
“This was a beautiful and amazing experience that we recommend [others] join,” said Luis Soto, one of five pastors from the New York Conference who volunteered. “It could be this year or next year, here or in another country, but join a mission trip and do something for others. It will be valuable for them and transform [your] life.”