Recently, Man Up and Go sent a mission team to the Dominican Republic (DR) for the first time. The DR is clearly a beautiful country, filled with sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and a lot of amazing people. It is also a very open and loving society, full of people who are anxious to hear about Christ Jesus and the role that He can play in their lives. Unfortunately, there is also a very dark undercurrent, filled with a large culture of drugs and prostitution. Never have we traveled anywhere where the dichotomy was so strong between the physical beauty of the countryside and people, combined with the spiritual darkness that is palpable while walking the local streets.
We were extremely blessed to be able to partner with Mike Shaheen and his staff, which was comprised of an American family doing great missionary work overseas, and 10 local Dominicans. Mike works full time as the in-country director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and under his leadership, the local program that he started on his own has grown to a staff of 12 men who mentor and love on the local people, using the sport of Baseball as their vehicle.
Everyone on the team knew the importance of baseball in the Dominican going into the trip, but it’s not easy to truly appreciate the country’s passion for baseball until you are on the ground there. Virtually every young man who grows up in the Dominican plays baseball 2+ hours per day in the hopes of someday reaching the Major Leagues.
They gather every day at their local field, which is essentially a small open spot within a local neighborhood with some sort of a makeshift backstop and dugouts and a little bit of grass. Their infields are riddled with rocks and the injury risk from stepping in an unexpected hole is always present. But, they love it!
The FCA staff works at each field regularly, encouraging them and sharing the Gospel with both the players and coaches when the opportunity arises. During the first few days of our trip, we traveled out to the various field locations and played catch, hit a few balls, shared our testimonies and had a lot of fun with the kids. What struck us was that even though the kids obviously love the game of baseball, the motivation for most of them and the coaches is mainly financially driven. The potential of getting picked up by a major league academy and eventually a team to play for money is the main reason for most of the kids playing. That said, the opportunity for the FCA staff to grow Jesus’ name within these large groups is incredible and we were blessed to be a small part of their ministry. Mission organizations in the States would benefit from partnering with FCA in the DR.
In the evenings, our team organized and led the first ever Man Up and Go men’s conference in Boca Chica. Each night, upwards of 60 coaches, pastors, and local leaders assembled for a great meal, fellowship, and fun activities, with a mind to sharpen one another as men in Christ’s name.
During these evening sessions, we covered the topics of “Why Jesus,” general leadership, marriage and family, sin, and the importance of prayer. Each night was full of fun, encouragement, and powerful testimonies of what God has done in all of our lives (both Dominican and American).
As the week progressed, we had the opportunity to serve at orphanage after orphanage, which is always a huge part of our Man Up and Go mission trips. We played games, sang together, ate cake, made needed repairs to their facilities, and showed the kids what it’s like to have the love of both an Earthly and Heavenly father. We love to support the orphan when we do our missionary work overseas – nothing shows the love of Christ more than when we simply LOVE BIG!
The final component of this impactful trip was a visit with a ministry in Santo Domingo run by Pastor Kendar. Pastor and his wife run a church and have recently opened a school that works with families who live in a local trash dump community. They are educating 75 sweet children who have no other access to schooling. We were able to tour the community, visit with the local people, share the Gospel, and pray over a sick child. The opportunity to serve alongside Pastor Kendar and his wife was something that our team will never forget.
Overall, the inaugural Man Up and Go Dominican Republic mission trip was an absolute success. We were able to inspire and educate men, love the fatherless, support single mothers, create new ministry partners, and have a ton of fun doing it. We look forward to working in the Dominican for years to come!