Growing Through Servitude—My Dominican Republic Trip
Grady Low—Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA
I had the opportunity to accompany
Pr. Raymond Chou on a pastoral trip to the Dominican Republic from June 24th
to July 4th, 2010. I was there to provide Spanish translation for
the members, in particular at the San Pedro Church where the congregation is
almost exclusively Spanish speaking. Through this trip I learned a lot about my
servitude, my God, and my self.
DECIDING TO SERVE IN
Just a few
years ago, I never expected that I would be doing anything in church except
attending Sabbath services; neither did I ever think of joining any overseas
attitude started to change during the 2008 National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS)
when I realized what my faith meant to me. As participants, we were asked to
ponder whether we understood the debt that we owe God, and what we were going
to do with our life. I recalled how many times in my life I had experienced
God’s love and how I have the hope of salvation through the blood of Jesus. I
realized that as a Christian, I needed to serve God to repay the debt.
reason, I invested much time in prayer during the seminar, trying to understand
how I could serve God. Since I attended some classes on the Spanish ministry
during NYTS and have studied Spanish as a second language in high school, I
decided to sign up for the 2009 Ministry Volunteer Program (MVP) and its
Spanish ministry project. Soon after MVP, I was asked to serve in the Dominican
DEALING WITH DOUBTS AND FEARS
despite my enrolment in the MVP, I underwent periods of fears and
uncertainties. For this reason, I didn’t immediately agree to serve in the
Dominican Republic. Instead, I attended the 2009 College Youth Convocation
(CYC), where I meditated on how I might prepare myself to be useful for the
Master (2 Tim 2: 20–21).
During CYC I
learned that I would be useful to God, despite my limited Spanish skills, as
long as I kept myself clean and holy, always striving to be close to God.
From the Book
of Joshua, I learned that I needed to overcome my fears of serving God and
should simply “be strong and courageous”. God led Joshua and in the same way, I
knew that God was leading me—all I had to do was trust in His strength. Through
all the classes and prayers I truly felt God assuring me of His guidance.
after CYC I attended the Western Hemisphere Africa Voluntary Missionary
Workers’ Training Seminar 2010 in London to learn more in-depth about God and
servitude. It was inspiring to see brothers and sisters at the seminar full of
zeal and fervor to serve. This motivated me not only to serve God, but also to
emphasize more on daily cultivation. By then, I knew without doubt that I
wanted to volunteer for the Dominican Republic trip in June 2010 with Pr.
PREPARING FOR THE
For the next
six months, I prepared myself spiritually and physically for the trip: I prayed
a lot and asked God for help, and I also invested time and effort to improve my
With the help
of brothers and sisters at Rutgers University Campus Fellowship we organized a
few interpretation fellowships, where we practiced interpreting by using sermon
recordings from our church in Argentina that were in Chinese and translated to
Spanish. I was also a part of a Spanish Bible Study team that conducted weekly
Bible study sessions in Spanish through webcam. We would practice speaking,
listening, and learning new vocabulary in Spanish. This was not only spiritually
edifying but it also improved my Spanish skills.
I also tried to
read at least one chapter of the Bible in Spanish every day and often looked up
rules of Spanish grammar. I was determined to prepare myself thoroughly to
serve God dutifully.
Yet despite my
determination to serve God, I still struggled with many doubts and fears.
I thank God for
the many brothers and sisters who offered encouragement and support. From
testimonies about how they had been in similar situations before to a simple
“I’ll pray for you,” everything helped me to prepare myself to serve God in the
DURING THE TRIP
During my time in the Dominican Republic I had to
interpret for nightly classes, Sabbath services, and Bible studies during
visits. I also had to prepare three religious education (RE) lessons that were
each roughly an hour long. Pr. Raymond wanted to emphasize that I was not only
going there to interpret, but that I was there to serve.
Although life during the trip wasn’t strenuous for me, I
still had to overcome some difficulties: not all of the food agreed with me,
there was no working audiovisual system (which meant I needed to shout a lot
whenever I interpreted), there was no warm water, and there were occasional
water and electricity outages, which meant skipping showers and using
flashlights for Bible study.
poor command of Spanish meant that at times I could not communicate effectively
with the local brethren. However, I could see the love and care that the
members had for each other, and how earnestly they were trying to bring back
lost sheep or convince others of the necessity of salvation. All this
encouraged me to learn from them and to better prepare myself for future
these duties, I had a lot of quiet time free of distractions that allowed me to
really reflect on my faith, pray and read the Bible. It was quite an experience
to wake up and know that for the next several hours I would be able to draw
closer to God.
A HEART TO SERVE AND
early on that my Spanish skills meant that I would not be able to do well on my
own; the question was whether or not God would supplement. From my experiences
on the trip, one Bible verse in particular rang true for me: “For if there is
first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not
according to what he does not have” (2 Cor 8:12).
provide—it’s as simple as that. Going into the trip I had constant doubts and
fears that God would not help me because I fell short of God’s glory in so many
ways. Yet His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9).
I learned that,
once we have done the necessary preparation to serve God, we need to entrust
the rest to God. He manifests His strength by providing for us when we are
lacking, so we should not worry so much about our abilities. As long as we have
a willing heart to serve and to submit to God, our service will be fruitful.
THE LOVE OF GOD
KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES
doubt, out of everything that I experienced, the brothers and sisters in the
Dominican Republic left the deepest impression on me. I dislike traveling, and
sightseeing typically doesn’t appeal to me. But every time I visit another True
Jesus Church, I absolutely love how we are all part of the same body of Christ.
The love of God knows no boundaries.
The members I
met have set wonderful examples for me. Seeing their effort and sacrifice
reminded me of how much more I need to improve in showing love to others:
always came to church an hour earlier to clean the church. Although he’s
advanced in age, he always swept and mopped the floor, swept the backyard, and
made sure that everything was presentable for Sabbath service.
had a problem with his eyes and therefore couldn’t read very well. Yet he still
had a great desire to learn and read the Bible.
went around his neighborhood and preached about how good it is to believe in
Jesus and how his life was so much better after believing in Jesus. He even
traveled one and a half hours to pick us up at the airport. He had to wait two
hours for our delayed flight, yet he still took us back to church and set
everything up for us.
showed an immense amount of hospitality: we stayed at his house in Santo
Domingo where we spent the last four days of our trip. He provided so much food
for the two of us and made our stay very pleasant.
I was simply
stunned by what all the members were willing to do, just so that Pr. Raymond
and I would be a little bit more comfortable.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Many of the
members there have so little, yet they thank God for it. They sing of their
blessings, pray hard, and study the Bible diligently.
hymn of the members in the Dominican Republic is “Count Your Blessings.” We
sang this hymn multiple times each Sabbath, and every time I would be touched
by how passionately they sang the refrain (translated literally from the
Spanish version): “Blessings, how many you have already! Blessings, God will
send you more! Blessings, it will surprise when you see what God has done for
a few members would go up to the front of the chapel and share how they
received God’s grace. They would share about how God made the bus ride a little
bit smoother, how God made their finger hurt a little less, and how happy and
blessed they are to have found the true church.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thess 5:16-18)
I liked these
verses in elementary school because they were really short and easy to
remember. But during my trip, I really saw how the members in the Dominican
Republic lived out these verses. They were constantly joyful, they enjoyed
prayer, and in everything they gave thanks.
unexpectedly blessed by learning so much from the brothers and sisters in the
Dominican Republic. They taught me how to always be ready to thank God and
share God’s grace with others, and to never take the love of God for granted.
Although I had
been so terrified of everything going wrong during the trip, God granted me
peace in my heart and converted my ineptitude into a testimony of His power.
I thank God for
the chance to go to the Dominican Republic. From preparing myself to everything
that touched me during the trip, it was a truly blessed and memorable