Heading Home from the DR Medical Mission Trip
March 1, 2023 | Written by David Johnsen.
Wednesday Evening 3/1/2023
The work of the mission teams continued like the two days before it. But the evening brought a special and poignant treat. We loaded into vans and cars and drove a couple miles down the road to tour the new clinic. We have journeyed to the site each visit since 2016 when it was a large barren field—a seemingly endless caravan of dump trucks circled into the site depositing their loads of earth while a roller went back and forth compacting the foundation. But on this day, we walked into a nearly finished medical facility. It is an amazing facility that has 4 new operating rooms, an intensive care unit suite, labor and delivery rooms, consult rooms, spacious waiting rooms, a medical imaging suite, and an emergency department. The outside is beautifully landscaped, and construction is starting on a stand-alone pharmacy. It is a stunning project that will provide medical care to the poor of the western regions of the DR. And it took form out of a vision with the commitment and finances of all those who shared the Solid Rock International REVOLUTION vision. SPC members claim a large stake in this project by providing personnel (Ken and Stacy Potter), the sweat equity of yearly SPC Construction team members, and the financial commitment of SPC via the Mission Build initiative and the donations of many individuals. The parallel to the Creation story from Genesis that served as the basis for the daily devotion presented by our SPC Administrator Nathan Anderson wasn’t lost on any who stood on the site years ago and then again on this 2023 trip.
We left the tour in awe of the accomplishments and with some righteous pride in the contributions of our congregation. Then, off to Bienvenidas, a San Juan restaurant that the team visits each trip for authentic fare—a meal we share together in fellowship as we approach the final workday. Following the meal, most of the team went on a traditional ice cream run that was provided gratis from a not-too-anonymous donor—thank you Lee Anne Steffe!
It’s the last workday and there’s so much yet to do before packing up! After devotions, breakfast and announcements, the Barrio team departed on their journey, and upon their return, began the task of packing duffle bags and small suitcases into larger suitcases to bring back home. The Surgery team had a full schedule having picked up some additional cases. The Construction team continued making and installing shelving for the new clinic. The Prosthetics/Orthotics team had worked in the early hours of morning in anticipation of final fittings, and after only a few hours of sleep, we continue into the night finishing up after midnight when the last recipient of a new leg took a practice lap around the old clinic to the encouraging cheers and applause of many team members who lined the walls to witness the joy of amputees putting crutches aside and walking again.
We arise and after devotions and breakfast quickly get to the business of cleaning dishes and rooms—the bus will leave at 8:30. We take a brief break to gather in the Guesthouse courtyard for a team picture and quickly resume the work of lugging suitcases to the bus and saying goodbye to the staff who will prepare for the arrival of the next mission group on Sunday.
The roads are much improved since the first SPC group went, now paved the entire length of the trip. We arrive in the historic Old Town of Santo Domingo for 2 hours of free time spent getting lunch and browsing or shopping, then we load up again and head back to the Dominican Fiesta Hotel. Some sleep, some swim and most of us enjoy the first hot shower we have had in a week. Small groups dine together, and many make it an early evening because we will be leaving for the airport in the morning. More than a few were ill from a GI bug that raced through the team in the last few days, but all had thankfully recovered sufficiently to travel.
We gather in the lobby at 9:30 to leave for the airport at 10 am. By 1 pm we are on our way to Miami. Upon landing we pick up our bags, clear customs, and discover that our gate is about as far away as the next county… We knew that we had a layover before flying on to Greensboro, but the layover extended several hours beyond expectation, and we didn’t board until around 11 pm. The team deplaned around 1 am and gathered the bags—some drove back to Roanoke (my car rolled in at just shy of 3 am) and the smarter folks opted to get a room at the airport hotel and leave a bit more refreshed on Sunday morning.
A Personal Perspective
My father once told me that the measure of a gift is not understood in the exciting anticipation of unwrapping a fancy present or even what’s in the box itself—the true measure of a gift is what is what remains afterward. The true measure of a gift is what you do with it.
I thought of his words as I reflected on our 2023 trip. We were a diverse group of individuals who each participated in the mission trip for their own reasons. Each had their own expectations of what it might achieve. Each team member had their own skillset—their gift to offer. And the measure of their collective gifts is this: We joined together to travel and offer our gift of caring and of our time and our skill to promote the health and education of people who came to us in need of what we could offer them. And after all these gifts were presented, their lives will be better. Some had surgery that healed physical problems. Some received medicine that will maintain their health. Some were educated about childbirth options. Some arrived on crutches and walked away on new limbs. The new Clinic will have storage shelving fashioned by the hands of the Construction workers. The measure of these impactful gifts is profound and will neither be forgotten by the gift givers, nor by the gift receivers. I think that the lasting measure of these gifts is this: That a group went to the Dominican Republic and glorified God and enjoyed Him in giving the gifts that they had to offer others.