Between 1984 and 1994, I served as a youth pastor at Sligo Church, a 3,500-member Seventh-day Adventist congregation in the Washington, D.C., area. My focus was on the high school age group. It was both challenging and satisfying to provide meaningful opportunities for these young people to be involved in the church while they searched for their own identity and a relationship with God.
Among the events I facilitated was an annual 10-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic. This trip usually resulted in some eye-opening, life-changing experiences for the young people, as well as the adults who accompanied them. Some of the lessons learned, though, were painful.
On our very first trip, we worked in a small village about 30 miles from the Haitian border. I was assigned to work on the roof of the church. This gave me a very good view of the village.
The Haitians were segregated from the Dominicans. The homes on the Dominican side were built with cinder blocks. They were finished with painted stucco and corrugated steel roofs. On the Haitian side, the homes were built with sticks, cardboard, grass and mud.
One of our activities during the visit was a vacation Bible school for the children. On the first day, the Dominican adults chased the Haitian children away. From then on, we had to offer separate programs for each group.
Although I was able to distinguish the difference between them, both the Dominicans and the Haitians had dark skin. Nonetheless, the Dominicans had little tolerance for these subservient people from across the border. Ronnie, a usually apathetic senior, pleaded with me, “Pastor H., don’t they realize God made all of us? We’re all His children.”
by Chaplain Ron Hyrchuk
March 13, 2008