HANNIBAL – A witch doctor has controlled the spiritual lives of women in the village of Cercadillo in the Dominican Republic, but that control is diminishing because some are experiencing a true relationship with Jesus, reports a nursing team from Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU) that spent May 6-13 ministering to the village near Santo Domingo.
“This mission trip didn’t affect just the Dominican people, we all came back changed as well,” said nursing instructor Kim Erskine, who led the team of seven students, two faculty members and an alum.
Though some people are still under the witch doctor’s control, because of Jesus, the witch doctor was losing power in the village, Erskine said. The witch doctor told the team that after she realized she was losing power, she paid the U.S.-equivalent of $400 – or everything she had – to a drummer to come and drum-up spirits. He never showed up.
“I’m going to try out this Jesus till I get more money,” the witch doctor told the nursing team.
The idea for the mission trip began in September 2011 when Jeff Brown, director of campus ministries, visited Ceradillo. Brown met HLGU alum Ina York (class of 1980), who is a full-time missionary in Cercadillo. York requested that the nursing department consider coming to the village for a mission trip. Erskine, meanwhile, was working on her master’s degree at the time and needed a practicum project. So even during the busy school semesters, “The Lord provided time to put all the pieces together,” Erskine recalled.
“I’ve always been interested in missions, and nursing is service oriented,” she said, adding that she drew strength from God’s Word to accept the challenge of planning such a mission trip despite her heavy school load. “I leaned on Phil. 4:6-7 during the spring semester when I was so busy with everything. It’s really cool to see the Lord’s timing and how perfect it is. The Lord was able to use me in my ignorance and lack of organization.”
During their work in Cercadillo, the team taught the women how to measure vital signs, provided information regarding the benefits of breastfeeding, and they explained the process of fetal growth and development. The team used a set of posters donated by the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Baltimore depicting each stage of pregnancy. The posters provided visual aids that amazed the Dominican women and helped them understand what happens inside them during pregnancy, Erskine said.
“They were so excited to learn,” she added.
The group also worked with children, teaching them basic elements of hygiene, from washing hands to brushing teeth.
“I absolutely adored the children,” said Katie Osmak, a 2009 alum. “I could have taken them all home. The girls love to braid hair, so whenever we had some free time they would rip out our ponytails and start twisting and braiding. They were pretty good.”
Conditions in Cercadillo are not good. There is no running water, houses have dirt floors and animals such as chickens come and go in houses as they please.
“I knew they had it bad [in Cercadillo], but your mind can never fathom ‘poor’ until you actually see it. People can describe it to you, but you just can’t put yourself in that place,” said Mandi Riddle, a student on the trip. “The truly mind-blowing part of it, though, was the fact that the people there are happy with what they have. They are content. I don’t speak a lot of Spanish, but when they prayed I could pick out one word that I heard over and over – ‘Gracias. Gracias. Gracias.’”
The spiritual condition of the country can be described as a mix between Catholicism and Voodoo. The team knew this going in, but the ever-present spiritual warfare was still an eye-opening experience, Erskine said. The team was blessed to hear some of the ladies give their testimonies. Woman after woman would say, “I was an angry person. I was mean, but then I met Christ and I’m not angry anymore.” Elida, one of the first women in Cercadillo to come to Christ, shared her favorite passage of scripture: 1 Tim. 1:12-17.
“We’re not so different,” Erskine said. “They speak Spanish and live in the Dominican, but we’re sisters. We have a lot of the same internal struggles. But you know what? God sees us in Hannibal and He sees them in the Dominican and He loves all of us.”