Mission Teams from Maranatha CRC York heading to the DR with The Samaritan Foundation

homeward bound

As we sit in the airport waiting for our flight to board, I am convinced the air conditioning is turned up to acclimatize us to the weather back in Canada.

It has been another great trip. We accomplished much. We befriended many. But more importantly, God’s presence was clearly evident within our group. Through all the challenges and misunderstandings, God worked among us to ensure our team was a true extension of Christ’s hand and feet and heart. He used each one of us to work on His behalf, bringing His love to the men at Cristo Transforma and all the others that crossed our paths.

We are now being called to board, so the post will be Canadian!


of men and horseshoes

Monday. Our last full day here. Our final day of work and the day we say goodbye to the men at Cristo Transforma. 

We arrived and quickly got down to business. The crew already had a large portion of the rafters up and the finish coat was being put on the posts. Pete, Moe and Ben began helping where they could in the hopes of having the steel put up and the structure finished before we left. The ladies only had a few rooms left to paint, so away we went, completing the final coats on each room and adding some finishing touches to make it feel more like ‘home’. Our biggest struggle today was the heat. For most of our work days, it had been cloudy and overcast, keeping the intense heat of the sun at bay. Today we were not so fortunate. Each of us put a lot of sweat equity into the work today! But we were all careful to watch ourselves, drink lots and rest when necessary.

Although we were all focussed on completing our tasks so nothing was left unfinished, we also made sure we were able to take time to just ‘hang out’ with the guys. The new horseshoe pit was definitely a hit. Made from a square of sand, some rebar and pipe, and horseshoes handcrafted by Moe himself of bent rebar, many games were played between the “Canadian Blue Jays” and the “Domincan Butterflies”. Laughter, cheers and good-natured jeering could be heard across the property – what an awesome sound! Working together throughout the week, we have built relationships with each of these men. They trusted us enough to share their stories, they were comfortable enough to joke and have fun with us. And that itself is a greater reward than the accomplishment of a transformed building.

Pastor Padilla, as well as John and Stephany came to the site to see our progress and were wondeefully surprised and what they saw! A gloomy, grey concrete building surrounded by a concrete wall topped with razor wire is now a sunny yellow with bright blue accents and a sign on the walls giving them an identity. 

We went back to the school to teach another Bible story – Joseph and his colourful coat. With more great crafts from Femmy, we taught them that God watches over those He loves. Some of the students recognized me from our previous trip and it was encouraging to see the story Bible still available in the classroom. 

Back at Cristo Trasforma, we prepared to say our goodbyes. Many hugs were shared and our bus ride home was a bit quieter than usual; each of us reminiscing the past week, but ready to see our loved ones again.

the day the Lord has made

Sunday. A day of rest. A day set aside for worship. A day to renew ourselves spiritually as well as take time away from work to renew physically.

Pete and I were hoping that we would still be able to head up to Villa Esperanza after last night’s rain. As we approached the riverbed crossing, Manuel expressed concern over road conditions, and after checking it out up ahead, we all moved to the back of the bus for traction and trudged up the hill. Manuel is a very skilled bus driver and we made it up the rocky, bumpy potholed road without incident. We met up with John and a second team from Cambridge. After a brief history on the transformation of the village, we joined the worship service. Worship here takes on a whole new level and it was refreshing to see it through the eyes of new team members. The elder even prayed for us in English! We clapped and tried to sing along, but headed out once the preaching started in earnest. And earnest it was! As we made our way to Recycle HOPE and the park, the pastor’s voice could still be heard. It was also good to see the park and the positive changes that have been made. The pergolas are now blue and yellow, there is a concrete curb wall around the entire park and there are decorative stone walls around the tree. What a testament to many of the people in Esperanza who take ownership and pride in what they have been blessed with.

We hobbled and bobbled our way back down the hill and spent the rest of the day as down time and helping Moe celebrate his birthday. It was a beautiful day spent together, always with our focus on Him who gave us this day to enjoy.

love filled with laughter

Today saw us back at the work site at Cristo Transforma and we were all pumped to get back to our tasks. Pete went back to painting the final touches on the last exterior wall, Ben waited for the crew to arrive to start removing concrete forms on the gazebo, the girls tackled the remaining interior painting and Moe got busy building a horshoe pit and hand-made horseshoes. 

Today was by far the most fun we have had. The men staying at the centre are quick to pitch in, but also to interact as well. In our broken Spanish and their halted English and all our wild hand gestures, we worked side by side, laughing and joking and enjoying our time together. We shared a meal together and continued with whatever work could be done.

By mid-afternoon, we had run out of paint for inside the building, so us ladies made some executive decisions to brighten up the exterior wall and got busy painting once again. 

Work on the gazebo itself moved at a Dominican pace – the crew boss was not on site, so the two men were in no hurry to accomplish anything. It was a bit frustrating knowing there was little we could do to help the main project move forward, but most of us made the best of our time cultivating relationships with lots of laughter. 

As thunder rolled through the hills, our bus driver Manuel was anxious to begin our trek back before rain came and washed out much of our way home. We made a quick stop at the superstore to purchase snacks for our evening, as well as oil and rice for the men. A quick refresh and bite to eat, then we went back out to Villa Paraiso for Movie Night.

We had so much fun at Movie Night! We were encouraged to sit among the kids and most of us jumped at the chance to cuddle and joke around with the children. When the movie was finished, a room full of 78 children and 15 adults had a blast dancing and singing and yelling and having a great time! Unfortunately it had continued to rain during our evening and Manuel was very apprehensive about our drive home, even though we would remain on paved roads. Both Manuel and Alejandro take their responsibility for our safety very seriously and we are certainly grateful for that. So we reluctantly said goodbye to the children and headed for the resort.

We enjoyed a day full of fun today combined with our work. What a wonderful way to lead into Sunday as we rest and plan to gather for worship tomorrow.

a world of education

**This is Friday’s post that finally made it through the wifi ….

Today we spent the day away from the worksite and a it was a great day of education. We learned so many things about the Samaritan Foundation, other ministries working in the area and even about ourselves.

Our morning took us to Villa Ascencion where we met Megan. Megan is a wonderfully passionate woman who has so much love for the people of Ascension. In the time that she has been there, she, along with many others have been able to help the Haitian people obtain documention of citizenship and have worked with the government to upgrade the schooling. They have created a marketplace to help the people sell their wares and are continuing the feeding program for the children. It was so encouraging to see the positive changes in the village! The group of children is significantly smaller. We helped serve the meal until the food and water ran out. Then after finishing dishes, Megan explained the marketplace “rules” and we purchased a few items. Then it was back on the bus to Poncho Mateo.

Poncho Mateo is a village of hovels. There is a newer organization – Amagitos – run by a Norwegian woman named Mika. They have opened a school and are working in among the people of the village, helping to change their attitude towards each other and find ways to bring them out of the depths of their poverty. 

We ate lunch on the bus as we travelled to our next destination, giving us time to reflect on what we’ve seen and experienced so far. As a team, we have spent much of our travel time discussing our day, our work, the area we are in and and so much more. Our interpreter Alejandro has been a fount of information, answering all of our questions and giving us history lessons about our locations and the relationships between Haitians and Dominicans.  

Our next stop was Villa Paraiso where we met up with Hendy. She has been instrumental in maintaining the vocational school activities and running a little store that helps local people sell their wares and raises funds for the school. We chatted briefly with Breyvens, the Master Carpenter for the Samaritan Foundation, then made our way to John’s office where he filled us in on the progress of Grace Pediatric Medical Centre. He spoke with the team about the many challenges they have faced with this project, but was quick to point all the glory to God for the success and direction that it has taken. We also discussed some of the difficulties they have had – and continue to have – with the work at Cristo Transforma. But although the difficulties sometimes seem to multiply faster than the solutions, there is no doubt in his mind this where God has planned for it all to be. 

We soon headed out to the Pregnancy Crisis Centre in Sosua which is now being run by Jose Luis and Cordilla Perez. We were able to deliver to them three suitcases overflowing with supplies and gifts for the women and especially their babies. Thank you so much! They were extremely appreciative of your generosity. 

As we made our way back to the resort, we stopped to see the ground breaking work on the land for Grace Med. Centre. Then a quick stop at the Asher School; a project the kept growing bigger before they could complete it! Alejandro then took us on an impromptu tour of the small village / ghetto where the original Asher school is located. It was a wonderful history lesson and a truly eye-opening experience to the hard life that so many of the Dominican and Haitian people are forced to live.

Our day ended with a meal together and daily devotions, preparing ourselves for work again the next day.

being immersed

Work day #2 at Cristo Transforma found us doing a variety of different tasks. Ben was eager to encourage the men to move along on the concrete forms for the gazebo, Wendy and Lijsje continued with the interior painting, Pete and Moe assisted the men – and ladies – where necessary and I went to work on a special project to help complete our paint job. Work moved along well, with the men from the centre eagerly joining in, not just offering to help but immersing themselves completely into the work. It was very evident that they not only appreciated the work that was being done for them, but that they took ownership of this place that they call home for whatever timeframe they are here. It was such an uplifting experience to work alongside each other, share a meal with each other, confide in and listen to each other and pray over and with each other. Language is no longer a barrier but merely an annoyance.

Not long after lunch, the ladies headed to the public school to teach a Bible story. This year we were blessed to have the talents of Femmy Walpot, who assembled wonderful stories and activities for the kids. As we arrived and got the children assembled, Manuel asked if they remembered the “lady from Canada” which was answered with a resounding “Yes!” There were many familiar faces in the classroom which was great to see. We read through the story of Abraham and Sarah and God’s promise. They had fun creating pictures with stars and connect the dots. After sharing a snack, we said goodbye and headed back to the worksite to finish up our tasks for the day. The men had the forms up and concrete poured for the support beam, the last exterior wall was painted, and our special paint project is almost complete. You can see pictures on Facebook.

Another day has come to a close and we’ve spent time as a team reflecting, asking questions and learning so much about our surroundings, our amigos and each other. Tomorrow we will spend time away from the centre and visit some of the many other ministries and projects. It will be a busy day, travelling from place to place, so we ask for continued prayers for safety and open hearts for ourselves and those we meet, that we can be true examples of Christ’s love.


Our first full day here in the Dominican Republic! We arrived safely and made it to our accommodations without issue. And so far the weather has cooperated and kept the roads – and worksite – dry.

Today was spent at the Cristo Transforma Men’s Rehab Centre. The building that was barely a building two years ago is fully complete and the men that are currently in the program have all moved in. The project that you all so generously helped us raise funds for is a large gazebo/pavillion, as well as the painting of the building. Since they were not quite ready for our helping hands on the start of the gazebo, we found other ways to pitch in. We all began with painting the outside of the building a sunny shade of amarillo. As soon as we put rollers and brushes to the walls, many of the men eagerly joined in the task and the outside was finished in no time at all. Seeing the opportunity to multi-task, but also to encourage the opportunities to work alongside the men, we divided into other jobs. The ladies continued the painting indoors, Pete finished the touch up work on the outside, while Ben and Mo started mixing and slugging concrete. Before we knew it, it was time to tidy up and head back. 

We witnessed many transformations today. The landscape has been somewhat transformed since we’ve been here last – flooding and recent hurricanes have left their mark, destroying and creating opportunities for renewal. The Samaritan Foundation has undergone some transforming – Dave and Jean Mellnick have become new and semi-permanent faces that use their talents to facilitate teams in construction and serve projects, but mainly to get Grace Hospital underway. And Cristo Transforma has been transformed – from a run-down, falling apart, barely held together structure to a beautiful concrete building with a real kitchen, solid walls and gardens galore, creating a place that gives a feeling of stability.

And it is our hope that during this trip we will also be transformed. God is working through each one of in His own special way, creating unique experiences and opportunities along the way for us to grow. 

away we go

As I write this, I listen with one ear to hear our boarding call. We are all set to go. And as I look around at all the faces before me, there is excitement, boredom, trepidation, amusement, impatience and indifference. And as a team, we are ready. Ready for our flight, ready for the temperature changes, ready for the physical tasks ahead. And we have each taken time to be sure we are spiritually ready.

So now, from my spot here in line, I ask for your prayers over our team. Prayers for a safe flight, prayers for a smooth arrival but especially prayers for good weather – rain is in the forecast and may adversely affect our work while we’re there.

Thank you and the next post will be from the sunny Dominican Republic!

bringing a space to worship

This year, it is our hope to continue working in the village of Severet, the new location of the Men’s Rehab Centre, Cristo Transform. Much work has been done there since our last visit in 2015 — the men are allowed to live in the almost completed building, gardens and livestock are slowly being introduced and furniture is being built daily. They have an indoor kitchen, bunks continue to be built and space is dedicated to the rehabilitation of it’s residents.

Our team will work alongside the men as well as a construction crew to build a gazebo – a large, covered outdoor worship space. We are excited not only to help with this project, but to be given the opportunity to be present in the village, allowing us to bring the gospel message to those around us through our service and our witness. The team will be leaving on November 7, 2017 and we are looking forward to serving together. This year’s team is: Maurice Houwer, Lijsje Riewald, Wendy VanderMeer, Ben Walpot, Pete Wunsche and Teresa Wunsche.

With the help and support of our church family, as well as family, friends and community members, we are quickly reaching our financial goal to build this wonderful worship space. These men are fully in tune with the Lord and the works He is doing within in them to become better citizens, so to be able to build a space for them to come together to actively worship God is a privilege! We look forward to our week spent there, working alongside these men, encouraging, uplifting, witnessing and learning from each other.

Our final fundraiser will be a Music Concert, held at Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in York. There will be a display at the concert where you will be able to see photos of the progress of the Rehab Centre, information from previous trips and an opportunity to donate items for our team to bring to the men who are living at the Centre.

We once again thank everyone for their support- in whatever form that may be!

jumping back in

Over a year has past since the last blog post, and so much has been happening! But the most exciting thing is that we once again have a team ready and willing to head down to the Dominican Republic to serve with the Samaritan Foundation.

And so we are jumping right in and getting things rolling with our fundraising. We are asked to raise $6000 to fund the cost of building a home, as well as we require an additional $200 per team member to cover in-country costs (transportation, translators, drinking water on the work site). So we have our work cut out for us and only a small amount of time to accomplish it, but we are truly blessed by our church, our family and friends and our community and we have always surpassed our financial goals! We continue to be awed and inspired by the generosity and support of these mission trips, and hope that will hold true for this year’s trip as well.

Which brings us to our first fundraiser – the Caledonia Town-wide Garage Sale, Saturday, June 3rd. We will once again be hosting our sale in the Shopper’s parking lot, offering up household goods, furniture, tools, and lots of random garage sale delights, as well as delicious bbq hot dogs and water.

If you have anything that you can/are willing to donate to our sale, please be sure to contact Pete or Teresa to arrange pick up or delivery of your stuff – we’d rather not have it show up Saturday morning but we won’t turn you away!

We really appreciate your support and hope to see you bright and early June 3rd!

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