This week, World Race: Gap Year leader Nicole Stepp tells us about three interactions she had with locals while serving in the Dominican Republic with our ministry partner, Mission of Hope. Mission of Hope has multiple campuses in the Caribbean and partners with local churches to transform lives through church advancementnutritioneducation, and medical care. Check out Nicole's story about these three conversations filled with encouragement, redemption, and the hope we have in Jesus!

Scripture is the living, breathing Word of God. It always has something new to reveal to us each time we read. Sometimes, though, it takes seeing a practical application of Scripture for the meaning to fully sink in.  

In John 4:35-36 (NLT), Jesus says, “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!

During our time in the Dominican Republic, our ministry has almost entirely looked like doing house visits and door to door evangelism. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about this at first; when it comes to ministry, I prefer to come in with a way to meet a tangible, physical need (ex. teaching English, serving meals, repairing damaged homes) and work towards sharing the Gospel after building that initial relationship. What I have discovered, though, is that the Gospel doesn’t need us to mastermind any kind of way in which to share it. We have five teams on outreach, and I alternate going to ministry between the two of them that I am specifically over (as a Squad Leader). There are so many stories that I could share of Jesus radically showing up. Right now, though, I want to share three of the most impactful experiences we’ve had in just the first four weeks of ministry here. I won’t be including any names out of respect for their privacy and mindfulness of their safety.

We met a woman who owned a Bible but couldn’t read it due to vision problems. She said she had only heard about Jesus through movies and TV shows. On the weekends, she drinks heavily and uses drugs. She wants to quit so she can start going to church, but she said that she has demons that tell her that she will never be able to quit. Our team asked her if we could share the story of Jesus with her, and she agreed. After a simple run through of the story that we take for granted that we know: creation, the fall, God’s covenant promise, Jesus’ sacrifice, and what that means for us, I shared part of my own testimony about addiction in my family. This woman asked us to help her accept Jesus. We prayed together, and then prayed against any attacks that the enemy was waging against her. We took authority in the name of Jesus over any evil spirits that had been dwelling in her home, oppressing her, and speaking lies of captivity to addiction into her life. Afterwards, her eyes looked brighter and she expressed hope for her future and her desire to start going to church to be discipled. When we left, her house not only actually appeared physically brighter on the inside (even though it was still light outside and she hadn’t turned any additional lights on), but we had also gained a new sister in Christ. 

Also, we met two sisters from Haiti who were living in a one room home together with their children. They graciously shared part of their story: how they had to move to the DR for a better life, and how they feel outcast and unwelcome by their neighbors because of their immigrant status. They both expressed feelings of loneliness, and one of the sisters told us that if Jesus exists, He had forgotten about her family. We had to leave shortly after this, but feeling like God had more He wanted to do in this home, we asked if we could come back later that day. When we returned, the women thanked us for keeping our promise of coming back. We talked more to both of the women—about life, their dreams, their stories, and what we had in common. The atmosphere in the house got lighter as these women realized that we weren’t there to condemn them or preach at them; we were there to meet them where they’re at and love them as they are. We ended the visit by asking if either of them wanted prayer for anything. The sister who had earlier expressed disdain for religion and said that she felt forgotten be Jesus stood up and expressed her simple but profound prayer request: that Jesus would come live in her heart. 

Last week, a woman who had been sitting on the doorstep of her home invited us inside as we walked past. She was very curious about what we were doing in her neighborhood, and after learning that she was only staying here temporarily while her regular home was being renovated, it became clear early on that this was a divine encounter the Lord had set up for us. She was very open with us about her life—she has lived with a man for four and a half years, they aren’t married, and she knows that he is habitually unfaithful to her. Without any prompting, she told us that she wanted to invite Jesus into her life. We were a little shocked, but also elated that she was obviously so hungry for the love of God. We started asking her questions: did she go to church? Did she know what having a personal relationship with Jesus looked like? She shared with us that she has a desire to go to church, but felt like she was “too dirty and unworthy” to go into a church building. We immediately shared with her about how when Jesus was here on earth, He chose to spend time with people who felt unwelcome in a church building—the same principle from Matthew 9:12-13. That He desires an intimate relationship with her, and that there’s no “getting right” before we ask Jesus into our lives. We shared that the whole point is that becoming saved and receiving forgiveness and the hope of eternal life has nothing to do with anything that we can do of our own works; that only the blood and mercy of Jesus can do any of that. After realizing that there was no need to wait, she asked us to show her how to ask Jesus into her life right then and there. We told her absolutely, and that we could pray right then. She shyly asked if she needed to change her clothes before we prayed. We told her that she was welcome exactly as she was, and we prayed together that Jesus would come into her heart and be the Lord of her life. After praying, she looked up with tears in her eyes and thanked us for coming and sharing with her that day. A few of us had tears in our eyes as well, filled with gratitude that Abba had chosen us to be messengers of His Good News to this sister. Our translator gave her information about getting plugged into a local church, and we told her that we hoped to see her next Sunday (we attend the church services of the local pastors that we serve with). We also told her that we would get a Bible in her native Creole language to her one way or another. 

The Dominican Republic is one of the most heavily evangelized countries in the world. If you ask kids in the States from most private Christian schools or youth groups, you’ll find multiple people who have been there on a missions trip. It is a far cry from being compared to unreached people groups in Southeast Asia or the Middle East, but there are people here who either haven’t heard the Gospel, have a misconception about the character of Jesus that keeps them from going to church / pursuing a relationship with Him, or are literally waiting for someone to walk them through the process of inviting Jesus into their lives. One of the girls on one of my teams said the other week, “This is exactly what the Bible means when it says that the fields are ripe for harvest”. I haven’t been able to get that out of my head since I heard her say that. She’s so right. The fields here are ripe for harvest. There are people here hungry for the Hope that we carry. There is so much work to be done here—not even just spiritually, but physically and socially. Limited access to clean water, material poverty, unsafe living conditions, immigrant status, and marital status are just a few of the physical and social hurdles people here have to face.  

I pray that these stories are not only encouraging to share and to read, but that they would serve to remind all of us of the urgency of the Gospel. If you have made it this far, thank you for allowing me to share the story of what God is doing in the world, and for being a part of that, whether you have supported me in prayer or financially. It’s an honor to be here doing this sacred work! There are so many more stories I would love to share—feel free to reach out if you want to hear more! I would love to schedule a phone call or add you to my email subscription list to make sure you don’t miss any of the stories I share! 

You could serve alongside ministry partners like Mission of Hope on the World Race: Gap Year, serving others and sharing the love of God to fulfill the Great Commission.

There’s still time to apply! We extended our World Race: Gap Year September 2021 trip deadline to May 19! Now is your chance to step out in faith and experience life on mission with the World Race. Apply today!