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Trinity Lutheran group helps repair a church in the Dominican Republic

The group from Trinity Lutheran Church that traveled to the Dominican Republic included, front, Pim Wilhelmy; first row from left, Margie Spaeth, Meredith Berg, Wally Spaeth, Sandy Verdoorn, Maia Hermansen, Kari Hermansen, Taylor Hermansen, Jenny Cicha, Charlotte Skoviera and local translator Ron; back, Pastor Todd Stocker, Ralph Carlson, Zachary Verdoorn, Neil Fredrick, Jan Fredrick, Shanda Wilhelmy and Marie Nelson. (Submitted photos)1 / 5
Trinity Pastor Todd Stocker, center, gives a box of donated “over the counter” medicines and vitamins from Hudson’s Mickelsen’s Drug store to Dominican Pastor Ruth Berneicy, left. At right is trip organizer Meredith Berg.2 / 5
The Trinity group spent time doing repairs to the local Dominican church in the town of Consulito.3 / 5
Behind a group of local kids in the Dominican Republic are, from left, Zachary Verdoorn, Taylor Hermansen, Maia Hermansen, Pim Wilhelmy and Jenny Cicha. They are taking a break after a morning of work.4 / 5
Children from the Dominican Republic enjoy interacting with the Trinity group which included Maia Hermansen, back right, and Pim Wilhelmy, front right.5 / 5

A group from Trinity Lutheran Church in Hudson recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic to assist with repairing a church, bring supplies and help the local people.

The force behind organizing the trip was Meredith Berg, a member of Trinity.

Ironically, Berg had intended to be part of a mission trip to Roatan, Honduras, organized by Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton. She has traveled with that group in the past, but by the time she inquired about signing up before Thanksgiving, the trip had already filled.

When talking with her friend Jan Fredrick at Trinity in Hudson, Frederick asked, “Why don’t you organize your own trip someplace?”

The pair thought about it for all of five minutes and a mission trip –- ultimately to the Dominican Republic –- was born. By mid-December the pair had recruited 15 more people to make the journey, including Trinity Pastor Todd Stocker. All but two on the trip were Trinity members. The group included four children (ages 7-15) and adults of various ages up to the 60s and 70s.

Why the Dominican Republic?

“Most people know about the problems in Haiti and the deadly earthquake of a few years ago,” Berg said. “Many people don’t realize that the other half of the island of Hispaniola is shared by the Dominican Republic and has over 10 million people.”

The Dominican is directly east of Haiti on the island.

Berg said there is also a large illegal Haitian immigrant and migrant labor population of over a million people.

“They work in the sugar cane fields and most earn less than $4 per day,” Berg said. “About 40 percent of the people live in deep poverty and the unemployment rate is about 28 percent. The lack of education, as well as a corrupt government, has had a devastating effect. Most people are unable to rise above the poverty level.”

One of the goals of the visit was to help refurbish a church in the town of Consulito. Ironically, part of the project involved tearing down a wall in the back of the church so that expansion could occur. The “wall” proved to be a difficult task.

“The Trinity team had only two sledge hammers and three small wheelbarrows and few old rusty buckets,” Berg said. “The Trinity team members were eager to work and took turns with the sledge hammer – the wall came down in less than two hours.”

Pastor of the local church, Ruth Berneicy, said she had received a prophesy some 14 years ago that “someone” was going to come and help with her planned expansion of the tiny church. With tears in her eyes, Berneicy told the Trinity group that they were the answer to her prayers. The team then went forward and made numerous other repairs to the church.

Part of the Trinity crew also spent afternoons leading a “Kids Club.” It started out with 50 kids the first day and grew to over 100 by week’s end. The day included Bible stories, plays, crafts, songs, games and more.

The team wore bright blue scrubs with a team logo so they could be easily identified as they moved around village and visited the homes of villagers to spread their Christian message.

“Because there is a practicing voodoo doctor in the village, many people were afraid of the spells he casts on people,” Berg said. “They wanted Christian prayers to ward them off.”

The blue scrubs were donated by Dr. Kristin Wise, a research veterinarian at Boston Scientific and Meredith Berg’s youngest daughter.

Before the team left, villagers built a tiny hut from palm branches and treated the guests to a huge selection of fresh fruit.

“One man used his machete to prepare the fresh coconuts that his grandson had picked by climbing the trees,” Berg said. With straws, members of the Trinity group drank fresh coconut milk.

“When we were ready to leave, the villagers swarmed around the our van,” Berg said. “Many had tears in their eyes and ‘gracias’ (thanks yous) on their lips. As we were leaving, many of the team members were already thinking, ‘I want to return next year.’”