Parishioners from four different Anglican churches in the diocese of Niagara embarked on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic in late February this year.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in St. Catharines, Ont., led the way, this being its sixth mission trip to the Caribbean nation. St. Thomas’ was joined on this occasion by members of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.; St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Thorold, Ont.; and the Parish of St. James and St. Brendan in Port Colborne, Ont.
The Anglican team worked together with The Samaritan Foundation and the Not Just Tourists project to build houses and provide essential medical supplies for people living in the impoverished areas surrounding the tourist city of Puerto Plata. They also provided school supplies and distributed two weeks’ worth of staple foods to 75 families living in houses previously built by The Samaritan Foundation.
The Samaritan Foundation has been active in the Puerto Plata region for over 25 years, and has planned and funded 1,500 homes, 12 churches, eight schools and six medical centres. Not Just Tourists began in the late 1990s when, after witnessing the startling need for basic medical supplies in Cuba, St. Catharines residents Dr. Ken Taylor and his wife, Denise, started bringing essential medicines with them on trips to the island nation and neighbouring countries.
On the February mission to the Dominican Republic, Dr. Taylor treated over 900 patients and helped deliver medical supplies worth approximately $100,000.
In a letter to the Anglican Journal, Bill Rivers, who heads up Youth Ministry at St. James and St. Brendan and was a participant in the mission, conceded that the “‘grunt’ work-moving concrete blocks, mixing mortar, digging foundations”-was demanding, but also served to unite the team in its common purpose. “Happily,” he added, “before leaving, the team experienced great joy in seeing the houses awarded to two young Dominican families.”
Rivers was quick to point out that although the construction of houses and the distribution of various supplies were key components of the mission, they were not the only aspects. “Our faith manifests itself in not only the work we do while there, but in the compassion we feel, the love we share and the prayers we offer,” he said. “It absolutely…[has] both an immediate and lasting impact.”
That impact proved all the more powerful the week before the group was set to leave for the Dominican, when they discovered that all their construction tools had been stolen. The mission would have been derailed had not Bickles Hardware in Niagara Falls, Ont., and Canadian power tools manufacturer Makita stepped in and donated five brand-new power tool kits. “Prayers answered!” as Rivers put it.