As some of you may know, we’ve been heavily invested in leading REUNION Christian Church’s partnership with a church in an impoverished neighborhood in the Dominican Republic for the past seven years. A few years ago, our friends Jess and Torre joined us on our annual mission trip and, as most people do, they fell in love with the place and the people. But then, they did something no one on our trips have done before. They began to think and pray in big, huge, audacious ways about how they could be a more long-term and consistent part of the story that GO Ministries, the larger organization that facilitates our partnership, is writing in the DR and Haiti. To make a long and beautiful story of patience and trust short… they moved to the DR and began full-time ministry there in March 2015, Jess as the ministry’s Coordinator of Communications and Torre as the Medical Director of GO’s clinic and outreach programs.
So while joining our church’s group (who is on their trip right NOW!) wasn’t in the cards for us this year, we did make a stop in the DR in June to see and encourage all the brave and fearless folks we know down there. While each one of the staff and pastors at GO Ministries has inspired us and changed us for the better, we wanted to give you an introduction to Jess and Torre by interviewing them about their new life as cross-cultural missionaries. We are so proud and honored to be monthly supporters of their work (they fundraise 100% of their salaries) and invite you into their story somehow as well!
(If you pay close attention, you’ll notice some familiar faces in the background!)
GO Medical from Torre & Jessica Aguilar on Vimeo.
What made you decide to move to the DR?
Jess: I think people tend to get so wrapped up in what “our calling” is when Jesus has already told us what to do: love people and serve people. So when we saw that our skills and our passions met a need that aligned with with heart and vision of GO Ministries, we couldn’t see ourselves doing anything else.
Torre: Yes, that! But also: in my line of work, there is a greater need here in this developing nation than there is in the US. When I saw that in person, it sort of sparked something within me – that there is an opportunity here to work beyond the US. And maybe I could make an even greater difference in a place that has a greater need.
Tell us a little bit about each of your roles.
Torre: My official role is Medical Director of GO Ministries, which is multi-faceted. There is suffering in this world and a lot of that is physical suffering. There is often more of that here in the DR than in America due to access issues. So because God loves us and because we love people, we work to bring healing and hope to those who are hurting through medical care and interventions. We are concerned with people who don’t access healthcare because they either can’t afford it or are too far from it or have no other source of access. We see people who are suffering from health conditions in our clinic and help empower them to take control of their health, and give vitamins, antibiotics, and help them in that road to healing. Through that, we give them an opportunity to talk about their spiritual health as well.
Jess: My role is Coordinator of Communications, which in some ways I’m still figuring out what that means! The goal is to creatively, clearly, and confidently relay what God is really doing here in the DR through GO Ministries. I work on telling stories through social media, our website, photography, newsletters, etc. GO Communications is also continually looking at GO’s brand and how we all represent the organization for anyone we come into contact with. (GO Ministries excels in hosting short-term teams from the US to work alongside national partners).
What’s been your biggest challenge since moving here?
Torre: To try to operate the way I normally do within a different culture. I know how to do what I need in my personal and professional life in my culture, but doing so in a new culture is just frustrating sometimes.
Jess: Yes, that tries our patience with everything, including each other. Working as a missionary, you will be challenged by every single thing. We have to learn to focus on the good things so that the pressure doesn’t make us ugly towards each other.
What is something you were surprised by after moving here?
Torre: Since this is a developing country, I was surprised to see that people who have so little are so generous. People look out for each other often, and even for me as a newcomer. One time I walked away from my backpack, which had my laptop in it, and a guy sitting near me came over and grabbed me, telling me not to forget it, which I would have. It would have been so easy for him to just take it since he has so little, but he was looking out for me.
Jess: The challenge of emotional transition has been a surprise for me. Our first month was a bit hard emotionally. There are other challenges of a different climate, new culture, new language, new routine, and everything feels more complicated here. I always have a checklist of what I can accomplish in one day and the advice I was given when I came here was to throw it out the window because everything here is just so complex. Back home, I would judge how successful my day was by my productivity but here I’ve been learning that’s not where my value should be. It requires a lot of patience and flexibility.
How can people be praying for you?
Torre: As we consider starting a family while working far from home and cross-culturally, we would love prayers for guidance and wisdom in that.
Jess: We really need a vision for how to pursue sustainable funding for our work, especially when we often can’t meet with supporters face-to-face. It’s exhausting to pursue funding in addition to working but we want to tell the story well and involve more people in what we’re doing here.
We love these guys so much! We’re inspired by their convictions and bravery to share their gifts wherever they can. If you’d like to get to know Jess and Torre more, let us know! In the meantime, follow their blog at https://sharethelovejointhejourney.wordpress.com.
One thought on “Missionary Life in the Dominican Republic”
I have enjoyed reading this so much. I always include you in a general prayer but it is nice to meet friends of my reletives. I am so proud of you young people in your unselfishness. God loves you and will lead you all the way. IJS (Chester Lee’s sister)