2018 Medical Mission to Montecristi, Dominican Republic

There are a lot of moving parts to a medical mission in the Dominican Republic.  There is much collaboration, coordination, and conversation in a cross cultural setting which has a high potential for chaos.

Thankfully, the mission becomes a dance of God’s grace.



Julia Jones brought a team of 10 from South Dakota and Minnesota that included three doctors and a 4th year medical student.  They were joined by Dr. Yovi, a young Dominican doctor.  The rest of us filled in as support staff: translators, pharmacist’s helpers, crowd control, and general service practitioners.

There are many special moments when each one of us catches a glimpse of God.  So many faces tell their stories without words, children with their natural radiance,





young mothers carrying the weight of the family,







the elderly quietly bearing a lifetime of hard work like trees that usually go unnoticed, and a special group we had not seen before, fishermen.



The fishermen had some common qualities.  They were early middle aged, physically strong like athletes, seemed content with their life and work, but also had the aches and pains that come to those who spend long hours on the water tending to their nets.  I think the only reason they came to the clinic was because lately the winds had been too strong for fishing.  I became aware that these men are paying a high price to help bring fish to our tables.  I was also reminded that Jesus had a special care for men like these and found that they have the character qualities he looks for in choosing disciples.  What a blessing to sit and talk with them for a moment.

Volunteer in Mission teams bring with them some of the best qualities; generosity, open hearts and minds, a strong work ethic, and a good sense of humor.







They also bring the faith, hope, and love of Christ with hearts of compassion.




Special thanks to the 2018 Medical Team to Montecristi: Julia, Dr. Cindi, Dr. Dale, Dr. Terri, Dr. Yovi and Dr.(almost)Kayla, the three amigos – Elliot, Chris, and Garrett; Mario, Ann Elise, Mike, Deisy y Lorenzo, Dairy, Lori, Loreidy, Juana, Rosmeri, Loli, Noemi, Yenesi, Ardell and Gordy.

Like green plantains cooked and mashed together for 10 days we became a most delicious mangú. 

Solar Ovens Return to Montecristi

April 30th to May 4th, 2018

Back to Montecristi

Our local team for solar ovens made a trip back to Montecristi last week.  Montecristi is a region in the northwest corner of the country.  It is very close to the Haitian border.

There is an excellent team of folks at the IED church there.  They have made many contacts for us and are great solar oven cooks.   We expected to be very busy, with a promise of lots of interest in two different locations.  But rainy weather came our way.

Our first day in the barrio of Guatapanal, we got to walk the community.   It’s a fairly new community with folks moving there from the countryside.  It was fun for me to see the activity in the neighborhood. 








We basically had to make up a plan B.  The people were going to come from the countryside but when it rains, the dirt road becomes very difficult to travel.  They told us the people would come walking but then they would have to figure out how to get their ovens home.  Consequently, they didn’t come.  We are strategizing about how to get the ovens to them in the future.

The youth from the area asked us to visit their schools.  There was enough sun one day to make an irresistible chocolate cake and delicious corn bread.  Teachers are great promoters for the ovens since they understand the appropriate technology and they have hearts to teach others.  This is an exciting contact.  Fifteen teachers received ovens and our cooks at the church pledged to continue working with the teachers as they learn how to cook with the sun.

For the first time we visited the mayor of Montecristi.  We have decided to visit the mayor of every town we visit in order to inform them of our mission and hope they will help us with promotion.   Everyone was nervous, including him.  Rev. Erasme made a nice presentation to him and we could tell when the mayor realized we weren’t asking him for any favors or money, that he began to warm up to us.

Solar Ovens and Mangos

Our local solar oven team is getting ready for a trip to Montecristi where it is predicted that we may distribute 160 ovens in a week.  That is a lot of ovens for us to handle.  So we have been preparing by going out to Baní where we have a storage container that was originally filled with 1100 ovens when it arrived from South Dakota.  Now it is nearly empty.

We assembled 100 of the remaining ovens ahead of time and will do the remainder in Montecristi.

The ovens are stored in Baní at the church camp of the Dominican Evangelical Church.  We use the cafeteria of the camp to do our assembly.  It has lots of room and plenty of tables.

Erasme, Mario, and I (Gordy) have become crackerjacks at solar oven assembly and we are especially productive in the wide open spaces of the cafeteria.

We rarely take a break but when we do we go outside to find ripe juicy mangos all over the ground.  This is mango season and the camp in Baní has an orchard of mango trees and the caretaker cannot keep up with the abundance of fruit all around him.  So we each pick out a nice mango off the ground and bite into the skin to gain access to the luscious fruit underneath.  Baní is said to have the best mangos in the country.

At the end of the day Mario and Erasme do a sweep of the area and bag up a harvest of mangos, bags and bags to take home.  Erasme climbs a tree and shakes the branches and mangos fall like fruit bombs.  Mario gathers them and backs up his van to load.  I would like to participate but am so bone tired and my back aches so I wait in the shade.  I can tell that this activity was one they practiced as boys growing up and their enthusiasm is that of gathering treasure.

I imagine that one mango tree in its season could feed a small village.  Alejandro the camp caretaker told stories of growing up on the north coast of the island.  He said there was always some kind of fruit in season and as children they only had one meal per day at home.  The rest of the day they ate fruit from the trees to keep their bellies full.  The trees produce extravagantly, more than enough to feed the people, the birds, and even the farm animals.

It is such a sublime picture of God’s abundant life, there is plenty for all and all are welcome.


Last night I dreamt all night about assembling solar ovens.  It was not a nightmare but disturbing and I awoke this morning feeling exhausted.  The dream originated from a week spent in Montecristi on another Solar Oven mission.

A team of volunteers from the Dakotas and Minnesota joined forces with brothers and sisters from the Dominican Republic to distribute ovens in three communities.

It was our most fruitful outing to date as we circulated new solar ovens to 164 Dominican families.


It is a joy to be a part of such a successful event but it came at a price.  We were not prepared to build and distribute so many ovens.  All the ovens that we had brought with us were gone by the third day so we had to get about 100 more out of our storage facility in Baní, 7 hours away.  The team assembled 140 ovens during the week, a daunting task that left us bushed, zonked, bagged, and hardly able to get our shoes off before falling into bed at night.  One of our members, a classical pianist, was seen with her face squarely pressed against the lunch table as if she had done a nose dive.  I had never seen anyone rest their head like that but it seemed fitting given the pace we had set.


We did have a couple hours on Sunday afternoon for an excursion to the beach and a hike up the Morro, a tall flat topped hill somewhat similar to a Dakota butte.  Another of our members, a professional translator, sought to scale the Morro and got half way up and decided that was  enough.  She sent the other hikers on ahead and took time to take some photos of the surrounding landscape.  Three of our Dominicans, the chauffeur, the chemist and the cook were observing the hikers from below and beheld their team member apparently stalled half way up the Morro.

They feared she was in trouble because her camera seemed to be reflecting the sunlight in such a way that the chemist thought perhaps she was signaling a call for help in Morse code.  At that point another team member, a horticulturist who speaks no Spanish arrived and tried to tell the worried chemist that the stalled member was ok and was just walking down very slowly.  She communicated this by doing a slow walk pantomime.  Enter the journalist team member who comes to the scene and asks, “Are we playing charades?”

You see when a group of people get too tired their minds play tricks on them, their imaginations can take them down the rabbit hole where there is bound to be adventure and comic relief.

Our special thanks to the volunteers in mission from the Dakotas and Minnesota: Marj, Scott, Colleen, Chris, Deb, Wally, Carol, Lori, Rachel, Kathryn, Emily, and Zona.  Your presence with us is your greatest gift.  Your dedication to building the Kingdom of God is a testimony to the love of God for those who are hidden but not forgotten.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Amen.

Night Sweats

In January of 2018 we were doing solar oven demonstrations in Neyba, located on the western fringe of the country.  We stayed in a small hostel in the downtown area.  There was lots of noise with all the motorcycles and party bars up and down the street.  In the middle of the night when the noise had quieted down I heard a loud, BANG, just outside my door.  A gunshot for sure and I froze in fear not knowing what to do.  The hostel has no security but the other team members in adjoining rooms were not stirring.  Did they not hear the gunshot?  So I just stayed put, listening, and then came another BANG, and I thought we were in for some terror.  I felt helpless and dared not open the door.  After an hour or so I went back to sleep.

Next morning I came down to the lobby and my teammates were gathered talking and laughing like all was normal.  I told the proprietor about the gunshots I had heard in the middle of the night, and asked what happened.  He said he hadn’t heard any gunshots and after thinking about it awhile said it was probably just mangos falling from the trees and hitting a tin roof.  I thought to myself, “Mangoes, are you kidding me, no way!”

Next night I hear it again, BANG!!  But this time after the BANG I hear the sound of something rolling off the roof, like a mango. 

First Home Visits in Tamayo

Good Morning Friends,

As I write this,  Gordy and Erasme are in Neyba doing a second Solar Oven demonstration.  Neyba is one of the cities on the southwest side of the country where we went for the first time in December with our U.S. Solar Oven director, Marj and the international team.  Neyba doesn’t have an IED pastor but they do have a dynamic lay leader who all week long holds services in the tiny church, built with wood slats that can’t keep the rain out.

As I write to you this morning I remember January 5th and 6th, which is All King’s Day around the world.  We were in Tamayo, sharing a second demonstration with folks who requested a second visit.  This was our first follow-up visit and we had an amazing time.

The second day of the demonstration, we got to cook with ladies who have become familiar with what the ovens can do, confident even.  They were both serious and happy to be with us.  We could tell they were soaking up as much as they could and asking lots of questions in order to work with the ovens they would receive.

The day prior, the sun was hiding behind clouds.  In lieu of not having our primary energy source, we walked through the workshop and then went to visit folks who received ovens when we were first there in December.  Jairol, Pastor Elsa’s husband, knows everyone and took us to visit six different family homes.  These times were incredible.  It was so humbling to be received in their homes and hear about their experiences with their ovens.

At one point I had to laugh hearing Jairol tell about how one person after another brought their solar-oven-cooked-food to share with them:

They ohhed and ahhed at the ginger cookies Jaciline baked,

Migilin showed off her fluffy rice,

and one day as Jairol was walking by Abuela Jovani’s house, he yelled in,

“The chicken on your roof sure smells good!”

As we finished our family visits, we arrived at Jairol’s gate.  Elsa came out of the house to meet us.  Jairol stopped and said very seriously, “Now you have to hear about our cooking.”   We burst out laughing.  He then turned to Elsa and said, “Tell them!”  Elsa proceeded to tell us everything Jairol had cooked in the past three weeks in their new oven.

May God Have the Glory!