Throughout November and into December of 2016, over 300 Mission Packs were distributed, filled with age-appropriate school supplies, hygiene items, and special gifts for the boys and girls at the Herrera School, and returned to the church so that they could serve as a help and springboard for gospel conversations with the kids. The Mission Packs aided the students because most families cannot afford to purchase the needed school supplies for their children, and they also struggle to provide on-going hygiene items. The average household in Herrera lives on only $2 a day, and tough decisions about how to best spend that money are a constant reality for the families in the community. The packs were designed and printed with the message “El evangelio cambia todo” (“The gospel changes everything”), so that teachers would easily be able to make the connection between the gift of righteousness given in the gospel with the gift bag on the students’ desks.
Once the bags were collected, community groups that volunteered their time to serve and facilitate the project examined the contents of each pack. Items that were not approved for air travel, would expire prior to the student receiving the bag, or would easily break in transit were removed and donated to one of our local ministry partners. Every Mission Pack was also prayed over as they were then sorted into gender and age categories and stored until our short term mission teams could transport them to the Dominican Republic.
Because there is no reliable mail service in the Dominican Republic, the Mission Packs had to be loaded into large duffel bags and taken with our mission team this past summer. It took twenty-six duffel bags at fifty pounds each to safely deliver the gifts to the school. There were so many checked bags that the flight attendant on the plane from Greensboro to Miami had to apologize to passengers for the departure delay due to “an unusually large amount of cargo.” The team definitely got a kick out of that.
The bags made it through customs with no problems and arrived safely to the school in August. Of course, after travelling all the way from North Carolina, the storage room had to be on the fourth floor of the school. What else would you expect? The team worked hard to get them unloaded and stored so that the teachers could distribute them at the best time for the school. A couple of weeks ago, I got an email filled with pictures that I can’t wait for you to see. These pictures represent so much hard work, love, care, and teamwork. I can’t say thank you enough for everyone that participated in the Mission Pack project. You can easily see the joy on the faces of the boys and girls receiving the packs. The most exciting part of this is knowing that each child has heard the gospel, many of them have placed their trust in the Lord, and Mercy Hill has the opportunity to send teams each year to continue pursuing discipleship and gospel expansion in the school and the community.
We have a team travelling to the Dominican Republic this coming Saturday to serve at the Herrera School from October 14th-20th. Please be in prayer that the team will be able to effectively build relationships with high school students so that they can encourage them to strive for graduation (something less than 30% of students in the DR accomplish), teach the students some money management techniques, and most importantly, share their testimonies with the students that point to the power of the gospel.
-Jonathan Spangler (Community Groups Coordinator—Community Ministry)