Is it safe to bring a mission team to the Dominican Republic?
In just a few days, the DR Mission Team (DRMT) will once again be sending two weeks worth of volunteers to serve in the bateyes and barrios with our partners in La Romana (about 120 people total). This effort began almost 30 years ago with the first team of 11 people that traveled to La Romana in February of 1990. Since then, the DRMT has led thousands of volunteers to serve in La Romana, and this year, will offer four trips (two in the summer, one in the fall, and one in the winter) and take close to 200 people to the DR.
There have been some tragic stories coming out of the DR recently of tourists dying in the resorts. With this in mind, here are some important points related to our upcoming DR Mission Team trips and the situation in the DR:
• our primary concern with taking groups of volunteers to the DR is to keep everyone happy, healthy, and safe. We know there is no such thing as a guarantee on safety and health - things obviously happen here in the US as well as in the DR. Yet, in partnership with our hosts, we do everything possible to insure a positive, productive, meaningful, safe, and healthy trip for everyone. The Lord has greatly blessed us with safety and health during each of our trips over the last 29 years.
• while any American dying in a resort is very sad and tragic, there is a tremendous amount of media hype and misinformation involved. Ten American tourists have died in the DR in the last 13 months, which again, is not good. But here is a very recent article from NBC News that actually states, according to the US State Department, that there are LESS US tourist deaths in the DR in the past year than recent years:
“No, the Dominican Republic Hasn’t Suddenly Become More Dangerous”
• according to reports, many of the 10 deaths this past year were tied to alcohol consumption in the resorts (mini-bar, hotel bars), and there is a very strong possibility there is bootleg liquor being used and sold in some resorts. We obviously do not drink or buy any alcohol during these DRMT mission trips and that policy will certainly continue.
• the DR is listed as a level 2 travel advisory from the US State Department. Other countries that are also level 2 include Italy, Spain, France, The Bahamas, Jamaica, etc. Level 2 asks US visitors to exercise increased caution, which we will be doing (as we always have).
• we have worked with our hosts and partners in La Romana (Mision Maranatha, the Maranatha Church, and Good Samaritan Hospital) for close to 30 years, and they now receive about 80 different mission teams each year (over 2,000 American volunteers visit this mission each year). We will again be staying in the Casa Pastoral compound where we will sleep, eat, and spend much of our time when not at work in the bateyes and barrios. Casa Pastoral is a secure, safe, and comfortable home for our team while in La Romana - they have full time cooks and people who manage the facility, security people, translators, and more. Our hosts treat us with much love and care, and they literally will do anything to make our time there a blessing.
• our hosts in La Romana will continue to only buy and serve us food and water that is purchased from safe, reputable sources, and our meals will only be prepared by our kitchen staff at the mission, as they have always done.
• the DR Mission Team does everything together as a large group via bus transportation, and this includes any excursions out to work, church, activities with the children and/or people of the bateyes and barrios, visits to Jumbo (local huge department store), etc.
• around 75% of the 120 volunteers we will bring this summer have been on a DRMT trip to La Romana before, and many have been there over 15 times. These veterans know the people, procedures, and the locations we visit very well, and will set a wonderful example for the rest of our team.
Be reminded of the Scripture in Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
All that are part of the 2019 DR Mission Team have read and agreed to the team covenant below. These rules are in place to keep our team healthy and safe while in the DR:
DR MISSION TEAM COVENANT • Summer 2019
Taking a large group of people to a foreign country for mission work is a huge challenge. In order to make this a positive, safe, and productive trip for all, the Maranatha Church, Maranatha Missions and the Good Samaritan Hospital in La Romana have established the following Mission Team Covenant for U.S. service groups coming to La Romana.
All 2019 DR Mission Team Members agreed to the following with their online application and promise to:
• respect others and spread good cheer to all.
• respect the authority of staff at Maranatha Mission/Maranatha Church and Good Samaritan Hospital, as well as the DRMT leaders. (Ephesians 5:21)
• participate in all designated group activities such as meals, mission work, worship, clean-up, etc., making a consistent effort to be on time to such activities.
• maintain personal safety, avoiding the following: swimming alone, traveling alone, leaving the mission compound, visiting bars or discos, riding mopeds or motorcycles, staying out of your dorm after the group’s established curfew, etc.
• abstain from smoking, alcohol, profanity, and illegal drugs during this mission trip, as well as the purchasing of alcohol and tobacco.
• exhibit modesty in relations with the opposite sex.
• wear clothing in keeping with local customs (in general modest and conservative).
• avoid gossiping and whining - build people up and encourage one another.
• voluntarily give up the right to privacy and individualism in order to live and work together as a unified team.
• be slow to anger and quick to forgive. (James 1:19 and Hebrews 12:14-15).