A $2,000 Matthew Grant awarded this spring is making it possible to install solar panels on the roof of a new school and some of the houses that are part of an impoverished Dominican Republic village, where electricity and lighting are considered a luxury.
The grant was awarded to the Dominican Republic Mission Team of First Baptist Church in Wallingford, Conn., which has led mission teams to La Romana in the Dominican Republic for the past 26 years. The first group of volunteers numbered 11. This summer, more than 250 volunteers from 26 churches in the Wallingford area will visit the Dominican, grown out of the original initiative.
Since 2013, the Mission Team has been awarded a total of $10,000 in Matthew 25 Grants. The first was used to begin a sustainable food program in Batey 50, a village whose residents live in the poorest conditions.
Since then and before the award of this year’s grant, Matthew 25 Grants in 2014 and 2015 have been used to double the size of the sustainable garden and enabled installation of solar panels to power the garden’s irrigation system, which operates twice daily. The solar panels have also and brought about the luxury of lighting and power to the village, including a church where evening worship, Bible study and prayer groups meet.
“Over the past five years we have rebuilt every home in this village,” explains John Powers, who with his wife, Aimee, has furnished key team leadership. “We’ve also built a new church, school, established the garden, and more.” In all, the work groups have impacted 50 homes for sugar cane workers and their families who have been living in “horrible conditions,” Powers says. “The workers really struggle to feed themselves and their families. Because of the changes we have made possible with the help of the Grants, the villagers have decided to rename Batey 50, calling it Batey Esperanza or Batey Hope.”
Among the projects scheduled this summer for the volunteers will be visits to daily medical clinics and delivering food door-to-door to about 800 very hungry families, Powers says. That aspect of their work is called “Fulfilling Smiles.”
The congregation first learned about the mission opportunity in 1989 when American Baptist Missionary Tim Long and his family visited the church to share about their work. John and Aimee, then newly married, soon began their work in the Dominican Republic.
“Our first group of 11 worked on a project to build Good Samaritan Hospital, which then was six holes in the ground of a garbage-strewn lot in La Romana,” Powers says. “Today that hospital is four storeys, treats 50,000 people a year and has more than 450 employees.”
Powers, an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University, has taken one of his Global Studies classes on a work trip to the Dominican. He also teaches communications and biomedical ethics at the school.
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” In Fall 2015, a total of 69 applicants received funding ranging from $500 to $5,000 with a total awarded of $169,140. Grant applications are welcomed once annually by September 1 with the only requirement being an ABCUSA connection.
The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit: http://www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/.