Hope In Hopeless Places

Today I am excited to share a mission report from Jenna Bundy, my wife and partner in life and ministry. She recently joined our Covenant Church’s mission partner, Bold Hope, for a Vision Trip in the Dominican Republic. Covenant commits 10% of our general fund to international mission work and we trust the Spirit of God is working in us to fulfill Jesus’ commandment to make disciples in all the earth. We are prayerfully anticipating several mission trip opportunities with Bold Hope in 2022. It is my hope and prayer that this report gives you a few specific prayer requests for Christians and the lost in the Dominican Republic, as well as a spark of interest in our upcoming mission trips in the next year.

 

Grace to you all,

Joshua Bundy

Adult Ministry Pastor

 

I recently was given the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic with the mission organization Bold Hope. Before this trip, I had only known of the Dominican Republic as a land of dream vacations and beautiful beaches. Flying into Punta Cana, you would never know you were about to enter an impoverished nation. I came on this trip with certain expectations. I had done mission work in Haiti, which is just on the other side of the island. Leaving the airport in Punta Cana, I expected immediate poverty, unpaved roads, sheet metal scrap homes, and a chaotic mix of vehicles and people. What I found was well kept roads, buildings, landscaping, and a Wendy’s. It felt very much like where I came from, but perfectly warm and tropical. However, this changes the further you get from tourist filled Punta Cana.

 

Our team loaded into a van and started toward La Romana, about an hour away. La Romana is considered one of the wealthier areas of the country and yet this is where we found some of the starkest examples of need.

 

One of the biggest issues the people are facing in the Dominican Republic is the situation of the Haitian immigrants in the Dominican. Over the years many Haitians have left Haiti for the DR due to the unstable and dangerous reality of life in Haiti. However, most Haitians come with very little and are not able to afford the correct documentation to work in the DR. Working in the sugar cane fields of the DR is often their only option. Sugar cane is one of the DR’s main products; the fields stretch literally as far as you can see. Years ago, this immigration began because of negotiations between Haiti and the DR. The DR needed workers to work in the sugar cane fields; Haiti’s economy needed the supplemental income that would come from Haitians working in the DR sending money back home for their families. Haitians would come work for the sugar cane company and receive company housing and minimal pay for their work. The companies house their employees on “bateyes” – small communities, usually company owned, in the middle of the sugar cane fields. These bateys are made up of tree covered dirt roads with small one or two room homes that often house two to three families. Some bateys are privately owned; these are easier for Bold Hope to work and make a difference in.

 

Once you work for sugar cane company and live in the batey, it is extremely difficult to get out to improve your life. Generations of Haitian immigrants are now living in the bateys, in company housing, on company land, without enough pay to get out or get the documentation needed to work outside the batey in the DR. Essentially, this is modern day slavery.

 

It is easy to feel like there is no hope in this situation. The bateyes are filled with growing families and inadequate resources. However, there is hope. This trip was a Vision Trip – one in which people and teams come to see what the needs are, what Bold Hope is currently doing and facilitating on the ground, and if the work Bold Hope is doing is something with which they want to partner. It was very different from a typical mission trip where we work on a particular project. I found the Vision trip to be a blessing in that I had time to process what I was seeing, to ask questions about the need and the work being done.

 

We met with the local Bold Hope missionaries who are on the ground building relationships and sharing the Gospel with the batey communities and local churches. Bold Hope facilitates child sponsorship in the bateys as well as children’s programs and biblical discipleship with people in the community. We had the opportunity to meet with two local pastors who are doing amazing work in the hardest areas. Bold Hope desires to come alongside churches and people who are working to make a difference in the DR. We spent a few hours with each pastor and were able to listen and consider the hopes and goals of the men and their congregations that are making a difference in these communities.

 

Pastor Mede came with us to some of the bateyes and knew and talked with almost every person we saw. Pastor Ramon invited us to the orphanage he and his wife run. He came with us to Auto Via, a community that is brimming with hope despite its appearance. He shared their hopes to build a church and a community/medical center there. Auto Via is growing by leaps and bounds with people that are leaving the bateyes in hope of building a better life. To leave the batey is a risk. The people coming to Auto Via are often leaving predictable pay and company provided housing for a sheet metal scrap shelter and no promise of a job. But here, they can own land, they can own their home, and they have an opportunity to get documentation, learn English, and get a job in the tourist industry.  Bold Hope is currently working to purchase land in Auto Via to build wells and a community center. It was incredibly exciting to visit this area and feel hope for the difference Bold Hope and their partners are making.  

 

- Jenna Bundy

For the Bold Hope Vision Trip of December 2021