Photograph by Michael Kroul via Unsplash

Here I am

March 21, 2024

I never knew that I would be living 1 Samuel 3:10b “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” in unique ways in my ministry journey. These scriptures found in the Old Testament of the Bible are usually referenced as undergirding a ministry call. On December 18, 2023, the global world of missionaries lost a strong-willed and humble servant. Our sister in Christ, Rev. Madeline Flores-Lopez died suddenly while she served with International Ministries in the Dominican Republic, as she had for twenty-one years. Several short-term mission trips had cemented her call to serve as a missionary. Her faith journey bloomed in her native island of Puerto Rico. She hosted hundreds of volunteers while she served and advocated for disenfranchised communities in Santo Domingo. Which scripture did her heart embrace? I shall not know.

“Here I am. Send me” is my response to the request that came from Rev. Dr. Ramon Martinez-Orabona, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Redentor of Puerto Rico, that I accompany his team from Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo in December 2023, to provide pastoral care and trauma support. I had met the team a few months earlier when I facilitated some pre-orientation training. The team was preparing to serve in disenfranchised communities in Santo Domingo and be hosted by Rev. Madeline. She was excited to welcome this special team of 13 servants, composed of three minors and ten adults, from Iglesia Bautista El Redentor of Puerto Rico. The team had collected toys to distribute to several communities, prepared Christmas skits and messages of hope to be shared. The team was eager to follow their missionary, meet local partners and see ministry through her eyes. Rev. Madeline was eager to share what lived ministry call is about. As Dr. Kara Martin says in her book Workship 2, “Sometimes, I think we get sucked into thinking we have one great calling that God is drawing us to…I believe we have a calling to many different roles in private and in public life, and God calls us to honour him in all of these roles.”[i]

One phrase we focused on and repeated often during the training I facilitated was to hold any plans lightly before God. The work we needed to focus on was letting the Holy Spirit do the preparation of the heart, spirit, and body. The team was being prepared to see incarnate Jesus through Madeline. Pastor Ramon Martinez-Orabona reminded the team that God had been preparing them since 2017, when he answered his call to serve as their shepherd. No one could have predicted that the call to serve would drastically change upon hearing of Madeline’s sudden death. The team stayed committed to going to serve, knowing their beloved host would not be welcoming them at the airport. Four days after Madeline’s passing, the team and I arrived in Santo Domingo with “Here I am Lord” in our hearts and on our lips. We became God’s first responders in ministry, serving and following footsteps of someone invisible to our naked eyes, but now part of our cloud of witnesses. Rev. Ketly Pierre, who serves as a chaplain missionary in another part of the Dominican Republic, drove to Santo Domingo and stayed with us. She joined the team while negotiating her own grief, having lost a co-laborer serving in the same country.

Whether we turn to the gospel of Mark, where Jesus asked two ordinary fishermen to “follow me” or turn to the gospel of Luke where Jesus instructed Simon to “let down the nets for a catch,” we come to anticipate an evolution of call, trust, teaching, and journey of faith to happen through these divine directives.

Every interaction we had in the different communities we visited and served, was spirit led. We brought God’s handkerchief, our hearts, to collect tears from grieving partners. We ministered with songs of hope to children who only understood Spanish and to grandparents who understood Haitian Creole and some Spanish. Rev. Mayra Giovanetti accompanied us all from thousands of miles away, by texting us spoken daily prayers. How do any of us ever get prepared for such a call, might you ask?

When we turn to how Jesus prepared the disciples, we gleaned some perspective. Education and empowerment were core elements for Jesus, in his teachings to the disciples. Whether we turn to the gospel of Mark 1:16-20 where Jesus asked two ordinary fishermen to “follow me” or turn to the gospel of Luke 5:1-4 where Jesus instructed Simon to “let down the nets for a catch,” we come to anticipate an evolution of call, trust, teaching, and journey of faith to happen through these divine directives.

Looking back at the individual and collective experiences I had with the team from Iglesia Bautista El Redentor of Puerto Rico, I can say that each member of the team (ages 7 to 60+) received holy directives. Each of us, who represented unique parts of the Body of Christ, shared from their hearts, not having known in 2017 or even in early December 2023, what God had asked us to say yes to. Each of us had our own appointed assignments, as first responders in ministry. We listened, we heard, we went, we followed, and we continue to be transformed, as we continue to process our mission.

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has written extensively about the stages of grief. We lived them all. Pastor Mayra’s voice blanketed us with holy hope, mercy, peace, and love to give us strength along this new uncharted territory, to remain authentic as God’s ambassadors whether we were sharing God’s peace in English, Spanish, or Haitian Creole.

As a result of this recent ministry experience, God’s question “Whom shall I send?” has evolved and brought depth and peace to my faith journey. I humbly submit that all who feel called to serve in any capacity in ministry, spend considerable time discerning the fullness of that question, and how the affirmative response for today, implies “more to come” for tomorrow. May it be well with our souls!

An ordained minister with ABC-USA, Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil serves as a Ministry Coach and Women’s Group Retreat Facilitator with the Center for Career Development & Ministry. Fluent in English and French she has had cross-cultural lived experiences in several countries in Africa, Europe and North America. Rev. Sandra is a published author of three devotionals, “Walk with Generosity,” “Beacons of Hope” and “Luces de Esperanza,” as well as co-author of a leader’s guide for leaders of short-term mission teams of volunteers, “Short-Term Mission Team Essentials – Together on The Journey.”

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

[i] Martin, Kara. Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. Singapore: Graceworks, 2018, p. 88.

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