Dominican Youth Get First Taste of US Culture on the Way to Youth Conference


A group of six youth from the Dominican Republic have “stepped out on faith” in their efforts to attend National Youth Conference, said Beth Gunzel. “It is a group of exceptional leaders who all have generous and kind spirits.” Gunzel is consultant for a microloan community development program in the Dominican Republic working with the General Board’s Global Mission Partnerships.

“I was immediately impressed to see how well they worked together and the thought-provoking questions they had,” Gunzel said of the Dominican youth. “The group maintained a positive attitude as they practiced songs and dramas, while facing the possibility of not being able to travel.”

A strict US immigration policy has made it very difficult for the youth to obtain travel visas, Gunzel said. “It would be hard to bear doing all that work and getting excited just to be told ‘no’ for no apparent reason,” she said.

The six youth from Iglesia de los Hermanos-DR (Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic) arrived July 15 to visit the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and the Chicago-area congregations before attending National Youth Conference in Colorado. Gunzel is host and translator for the group, assisted by Tim Heishman, son of DR mission coordinators Irv and Nancy Heishman.

The six participants and their churches and villages are: Guildalba Feliz Guzmán, Peña de Horeb, Bastida; Elizabeth Feliz Marmolejos, La Hermosa, La Caya; María Virgen Suero De León, Ebenezer, Bonao; Vildor Archange, Nueva Unción, Mendoza; Benjamín Lamu Bueno, Rey de Reyes, Sabana Torsa (San Luis); and Pedro Sánchez Ledesma, pastor at Mone de los Olivos, Magueyal.

Guidalba Feliz Guzmán explained just how new this experience is for her. In one weekend, she has experienced for the first time computers, e-mail, air travel, and hamburgers. At a Sunday morning worship service at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., Guzmán found herself enjoying the piano music, even without the clapping or drums she is accustomed to. “Although our worship styles differ, we serve the same God,” she said.

The group’s schedule included a potluck at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin; a trip to Camp Emmaus and Pinecrest Community in Mount Morris, Ill.; worship with Christ Connections congregation in Oswego, Ill.; and sightseeing in downtown Chicago.

The Dominican group will be highlighted at NYC on Tuesday, July 25. During morning worship, Vildor Archange will share about the microloans program from his perspective as a board member and a local representative in his community. The group will perform the closing song for evening worship.

–Janis Pyle is coordinator of mission connections for the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

 


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