STCH Ministries opened its doors to children in 1952. Since those humble beginnings on isolated south Texas ranch land, the ministry to children and families has expanded into nine different ministries and crossed the ocean to the Dominican Republic and more. Throughout every ministry, the mission has remained the same, “Honoring God, reaching children and families with His love and truth, and enabling others to join us.”
Over the years STCH Ministries has overcome obstacles common to anyone who tries to serve God and share the gospel in dark places. However, the pandemic presented challenges internationally that seemed insurmountable — mandated quarantines, travel restrictions and the fear that gripped and paralyzed the world. The ministry always depended on mission teams to meet many needs of children and families and to support the ministries of orphanages, schools and churches through our presence, resources and “sweat equity.”
Eron Green, president and CEO of STCH Ministries, captured our call to action and service during this time with, “The ministry continues.” Two words came to define STCH Ministries International during this COVID crisis —perseverance and flexibility. Perseverance to overcome obstacles, take calculated risks while exercising appropriate protocols and replace fear with faith in God’s provision and faithfulness. And flexibility to assess needs and resources, adapt service delivery to the existing circumstances and creatively meet the most urgent needs of families and children.
An immediate priority of STCH was the hunger crisis in the Dominican Republic. The government decreed a mandatory lockdown that affected the vast majority of families who lived one meal away from hunger. STCH Ministries' family of donors responded to the increased needs with resources like food to feed children and families and computers to aid distance learning. Although U.S. mission teams could not travel, our faithful Dominican ministry partners organized, identifying families in crisis.
They overcame food scarcity at the village level and purchased large pallets of basic food necessities from the Bravo grocery stores — a Christian business. Quarantined, they communicated by phone, “We have food for your family…your appointment time is tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.!” They prayed with and counseled each one, and delivered packets of rice, beans, spaghetti, tomato sauce and other basic food items. Later, they scrounged throughout the island for laptops and notebooks so that children could access distance learning.
After a short pause to re-group and re-tool, appropriate mission team precautions were developed—pre-screening, limited group size, masks and outdoor activities. Teams began to serve again in September 2020. They delivered groceries from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering to families in need, met with discouraged teachers to share distance-learning techniques and encouraged pastors and orphanage workers.
Centered on families
From the beginning, STCH Ministries International centered on children and families—both as a focus in ministry activities as well as in the make-up of the teams. Families are invited to serve together internationally as a part of family mission teams, believing that this shared experience can impact the culture of a family and develop an eternal perspective on Christian values and priorities. Love your neighbor. Share with others less fortunate. Go and share Jesus.
Hosting family mission teams requires special logistics to meet their unique needs, ensure their safety and provide activities for families to work together. The mission headquarters in the northern part of Santo Domingo include housing for families to stay together in individual rooms with queen beds and bunk beds, creating a perfect ambiance at bedtime that encourages families to process, “Where did you see God working today?” A kitchen on-site serves a healthy menu, with a combination of Dominican and more familiar American foods. Moms and dads work on projects with their children — a desk for teachers, or bookshelves for the classroom, or painting a home or a playground. Ministry activities include parents with their children providing crafts, games and dramatizing a Bible story in a backyard Bible club.
In spite of the pall of confusion and fear that hung over both sides of the Caribbean, family mission teams have continued to serve and live out the gospel message. One family mission group, from Baptist churches in the Houston and Dallas areas, worked together in the open-air workshop. They built desks and cubbies for the Villa Altagracia school. Appropriately masked, they participated in an evangelism walk-through in the surrounding neighborhood, distributed tracts and rejoiced with those who responded.
Children’s ministries included singing, games and the Jonah story shared through drama. Throughout 2021, family mission teams pushed aside fears and dire predictions and continued to serve. They shared Jesus’ love and the hope of the gospel as they built playgrounds, helped in medical and dental clinics, played baseball, loved on children in orphanages and shared a meal with a Dominican family in their home.
Most family groups come from Texas Baptists churches, but even schools have benefitted from this family emphasis. Graduating eighth-graders and their parents from the Yorktown Christian Academy (YCA) in Corpus Christi have served on mission for the past several years. Recently, they returned and built beds for children who have never slept in their own beds and painted a playground. They shared crafts, sang songs and dramatized a Bible story in a poverty-level school. They loved on children in an orphanage and blessed the housemoms with special gifts.
John Gilbert, headmaster of YCA, shared that families from the school are impacted by the value that the Dominican people place on families, “They have so little materially, yet they are so caring and loyal to each other.” John also shared the impact of these trips on the school culture. “It cultivates a Biblical worldview, helps to sensitize us to needs of others beyond ourselves, especially the priority of sharing the gospel in word and deed.”
Through words and deeds, and in presence, STCH Ministries family mission teams continue to bring hope for hurting children and families. They live out their faith that neither angels or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow (not even a pandemic) can separate us from God’s love.
To learn more about STCH Ministries visit, stchm.org.
Joanna Berry is the Vice President of Family and International Ministries at STCH Ministries.