Michele Andrews (photo, far left), an attendee at Faith Community Church of the Nazarene, in St. John's, Florida, U.S., went on her first Work & Witness trip to the Dominican Republic with the church's team in August. They went to build a sanctuary for the Ansonia Iglesia del Nazarene. Michele learned that God also had another purpose for her.
Work & Witness had been a huge part of my life for nearly 15 years but not like you would think. I never went on a trip; rather, it was my husband and my daughter who served. Not only had I never been on a trip, I never had any desire to go, not in the least. I guess I was called to “keep the home fires burning” as they used to say during war time. What I was about to experience in Work & Witness next was beyond my imagination.
It was while my husband was on number 14, I think, when minding my own business I felt the Lord speak to me in one of those Damascus road ways. What did He say? Simply: “Now it is your turn. I want you there.” “[Are] you talkin’ to me?” He most certainly was. Over the next year I shared my testimony and funds given from dear friends and church members were a constant confirmation of this new direction.
We hit the Dominican Republic soil running. We had sleepless nights in the team house, maybe in a bed, maybe a mattress on a floor. Water? On a good day, yes. Electricity? Not often. I had heard about Work & Witness teams going without these comforts many times; I expected to experience misery, but I could not believe how I did not care. All was good and surprisingly comfortable.
At the work site, we found a partially walled building; blocks went up to the window sills or so; there was a dirt floor and lots of sun. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed slinging mud (buckets of concrete) it was several days into the project when I was to experience God in the most real way possible.
This project we were building was to honor and memorialize a dear sister in Jesus and I felt so compelled to see it with a completed roof that I could not direct my thoughts in any other direction. However, a different calling came my way.
One afternoon at the work site, our outreach leader gave me a tap on the shoulder to come with her. I really had no interest in going door to door but after much nagging from one of our teens, surrendered and went. We surveyed the neighborhood when Pastor Amarante brought us to a house and a family with a 94-year-old matriarch who clearly doubted any religious experience. I say “experience” because she knew well about Jesus and she held all the facts about Him in her head. It was the heart that was missing. “Not ready,” she said. We prayed for her anyway, even though she did not seem to care much about that.
She was just the introduction to the main act I was to play in. A member of this family was a young teen boy, middle school age I am guessing. Our team leader, whose name was Ada, was involved in another area of the house with this boy, his mom and others of the family when she asked for me to come and help.
Help? How can I help? She knows well I am not a student of Spanish. As I would soon see that was not the issue.
I need to fill in some blanks here with a backward look. For many years I interpreted for the deaf. In the work place, in schools and, of course, at church. I never had any formal training in this and I always considered it a gift from God. My family recently felt called to another church fellowship and we were correct in following that call. There were many ministries we were to fill at our new church home, but a deaf ministry was not one of them, not as of yet anyway. In this area I have had doubt and wonder why God would bring such a vacant place in my life. But it was during this trip I was to learn the “vacancy” sign was to be removed.
Back to the story. Ada called me to the back area of the house to meet this family, telling me “we need you to talk to the boy…he is deaf.” Hold on just a minute! I am an “interpreter,” period. You talk, I sign. Original thought plus signing can easily equal confusion, from my experience anyway.
Ada, who is our Spanish interpreter, told me the boy (photo at top, second from left) needed the gospel presented to him. Hold on another minute! I fit into the group of Christians who have really never verbally presented the gospel, much less in sign language. How useless I felt at that time, but I simply shared with him the salvation message as I know it and it seemed he fully understood what I was saying. As the scriptures say, “the Spirit will give you the words.” Not only will He give you the words, He also gives you the signs. So He did. What a delightful kid this was, very nice and receptive to my words. When asked if this is something he would like…well…heaven came down, and in buckets! He was jumping up and down in joy at what he had just received. That jumping was in me, as well. I think of that old hymn that sings of a joy unspeakable and full of glory; right here it is in a heartfelt way, spilling over to a physical one.
What have I been missing for these 14 years? The way I see it, maybe nothing. I am certain that the Lord needed me in the Ansonia Church in the Dominican Republic, and maybe not at all in the others. His timing and plan is clearly perfect. Knowing, seeing and feeling the hand of God in this way will not allow me to ever question this again.