Church of Redeemer youth perform mission work in Dominican Republic, Tennessee

Mercedes Elizalde helps paint a home in the Dominican Republic. Contributed photos

In June, 30 Church of the Redeemer youth traveled to the Dominican Republic and Chattanooga, Tenn., on two separate mission trips to help people and communities in need.

Redeemer Youth Minister Christian Wood, accompanied by a team of adult chaperones, led both missions.

The six-day Chattanooga mission took place June 17-22. Thirteen Redeemer middle-school youth met up with other church youth groups from Michigan and Minnesota to work together to clean up parks, offer help to those in need and learn about their faith. This was the church’s first mission trip to Chattanooga; adult parishioner Mary Page Hill served as chaperone.

Caroline Devitt, a Pine View School student entering the eighth grade this fall, was one of the youngsters who went to Chattanooga. Participating for the second year in a mission trip within the United States, Caroline said, “You get to meet a lot of different people and you learn a lot about different communities.”

Caroline Devitt plays with a child at a Chattanooga center for underprivileged children who cannot afford daycare. The center helps prepare children for entrance into public school education.

Regarding her recent trip, she recalled working with two other young girls in her group to help an older woman, a resident of a nursing home, feel better. “It was really nice,” said Caroline, “because we all worked together to do God’s work and when He works through us it is really powerful.”

“Mission trips are not only a fun experience for children and youth,” Wood said, “but they teach the second part of the fundamental Christian rule: ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Through work, worship and fellowship, Redeemer’s young people are challenged and pushed outside their comfort zone and begin to realize their full potential.”

A separate group of 17 Redeemer youth, all high school students, spent June 23-30 in the Dominican Republic, returning to a community — Puerto Plata — where the church has done mission work before. The youth painted 18 houses and hosted a Vacation Bible School for 150 local children.

This was the church’s fifth youth mission trip to the Dominican Republic; adult parishioners Dana Vega, Mike Hagan, Edward Bermudez and Victoria Chapman chaperoned.  Each year, a separate adult group from Redeemer also travels to the island nation to undertake construction work.

One of the young people traveling from Sarasota to the Dominican Republic was Fritz Maxwell, who will be starting his senior year of high school next month at Pine View School.  “This was my first time going on a mission trip,” Fritz said. In fact, it was his first trip outside of North America, but he said it won’t be his last. After working with the children during the Bible School week, Fritz said he felt inspired to continue to learn about and interact with other cultures around the globe.

“I definitely want to travel the world now,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how other people live. … Just being around the kids — they were great. They were really thankful for everything; they’re not above anything; they love everyone. The theme of the VBS was ‘Jesus loves you; you have a friend in Jesus,’ and I think they really got that no matter what they may go through, Jesus is always there, caring for them; He loves them no matter what.”

Fritz’s response to his experience working abroad as a missionary is one of the reasons Redeemer is so committed to sending its young parishioners out into the world to do good works, church members say. The mission trips, says Wood, allow “our youth to experience life outside America and see how Christians around the world live.”

He adds, “The best part is when our young missionaries realize how happy those children are, despite not having all the comforts typical for a teenager in the U.S. Not only do we get to minister to our Dominican friends, but they get to minister to us — by helping us realize how important the relationship with Christ is, no matter what the circumstances of where you live.”