Written by Juanita Fox
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
For the second February in a row, members of a Go Team from Garden Spot Village responded, “Here am I. Send me!” The result? As an extension of the greater Garden Spot Village community, they served as Jesus’ literal hands and feet as they shared hope and healing with families at the CURE International Hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. They also embodied Garden Spot Village’s guiding principal of living with purpose as they embraced the food, people and culture of the Dominican Republic.
On Saturday, February 11, the seven-member team, which included Marian and Marvin Harnish, Amy Gallagher, Doris Devine, Michelle Coblentz, Patti Nell and Linda Yeaney, of Erie, Pa., landed in Santo Domingo. They arrived, well-equipped, with seven suitcases full of games, toys, activities and gifts provided through the generosity of Garden Spot Village Community Church and the greater community of Garden Spot Village.
Marian Harnish, Garden Spot Village associate chaplain, said the group’s goal was to “occupy the children and help take away the anticipation, pain and fear they may experience while they wait to see a doctor or have surgery.” Many of the children traveled long distances to get to the hospital. And for many, it was a stop on a long journey to find healing and hope for a physical disability.
CURE established the hospital in Santo Domingo in 2003. The pediatric orthopedic hospital provides inpatient surgical and rehabilitative care. CURE works to provide 100% physical healing and 100% spiritual healing to every child that walks through the doors of their hospital.
The Garden Spot Go Team assisted with the spiritual healing. Several times throughout the week, they presented CURE in a Box – a Bible story that they chose as a team and prepared to share with families and children they met during their time in the Dominican Republic. The team chose the story of the paralyzed man who was carried to Jesus by his friends. As they presented the story, they shared the promise of the gospel: that Jesus can forgive sins in addition to physical healing.
In addition, they learned the children’s song, “I have a friend who loves me and Jesus is his name” in Spanish and sang it with the children. Each child was able to take home a miniature version of the materials used to share the Bible story so they could tell the story to someone else. Through this, Harnish said, “they became gospel storytellers!”
In addition to sharing the gospel in this formal way, the Go Team shared the gospel informally through gifts and stories along the way. While the language barrier can make communication difficult, team members were able to break through with smiles and laughter as they taught mothers and grandmothers how to finger-knit. Sitting in a circle with bright yarn all around, the women were able to teach a new craft and distract with creativity and smiles.
A tangible way they shared Jesus’ love was through a “broken” heart that was tied together with bright cord. In a devotional time in the hospital Harnish used it as an illustration to show that “Jesus heals our broken hearts.” The women and children receiving the hearts quickly transformed them into bracelets, necklaces and other adornments, reminding them of the message in a beautiful way.
These moments offered encouragement to all. Harnish said, “Just to be able to give courage and hope every step of the way… God was so faithful.” While the group went to inspire those they met, they were really the ones inspired.
“The children we met were so respectful, so obedient and so full of joy… I really believe they are the ones who are courageous and doing the hard things. May we learn from them,” Harnish reflected.
The Go Team also had the opportunity to participate in a spiritual post-operation visit. They visited the home of a five-year-old boy recovering from surgery. With the resources provided by the Garden Spot Community, the team was able to bless the child and his mother with food boxes, a suitcase for traveling to and from the hospital and other gifts.
While serving at the CURE Hospital was the primary reason for the trip, the group also experienced the daily life and culture of the Dominican Republic. “It’s really fun for us to invite people to look for the richness in diversity,” Harnish said. “We love adventure and invite others to join us.” Harnish added they are quick to “stop the bus” and take time to experience the culture around them, embracing opportunities to try different foods and international treats like fresh coconut water.
Harnish hopes to continue this ministry with CURE International in the Dominican Republic in the coming years and hopes that more Garden Spot Community members will join this life-changing, international adventure in person. The requirements to join future Dominican Republic Go Teams: love children, have a passport and be open to another culture.
To learn more about future trips or how you can support future Go Team’s financially or materially, contact Marian Harnish at [email protected] or 717-355-6235.