Saturday, November 11, 2017, 9 am to 3 pm — All are invited to join us for a festive day of browsing through tag sale items and used books, and sampling delicious home-style soups in our Soup and Book Cafe. A variety of book genres will be offered for sale, with many books new to this year’s event. Men and women from our congregation will bring out their best family soup recipes. Soups will include Minestrone, Chicken Noodle, Broccoli, and Cheeseburger Chowder. All food will be available both for eating on-site and for take-out.
Children are welcome at the Tag Sale, Soup and Book event, and one mom says that her kids love attending. What do her kids love? She says they love “the tag sale items, soups, children’s books, and friendly people.” This mom believes that the event is a good opportunity for her kids to learn about helping others. All proceeds of the First Baptist Tag Sale with Soups and Books go to the church’s annual medical mission trips to Good Samaritan Hospital in the city of La Romana, in The Dominican Republic (DR). Good Samaritan Hospital treats many poor Haitian workers who labor in sugar cane fields in the countryside surrounding La Romana.
Along with other organizations, First Baptist Church of Shelton was invited years ago to partner in ministry with The Good Samaritan Mission Council, serving Good Samaritan Hospital. Churches, secular organizations, medical professionals, and other volunteers travel each year to take part in the work. For organizations such as First Baptist Shelton, volunteering in La Romana has been a long-term commitment. Returning volunteers have seen much progress over the years. This has included improvements to local health conditions; the addition of physical resources such as the building and expansion of Good Samaritan Hospital and hurricane-resistant concrete village community centers; the provision of electricity and clean sources of water in the villages; and of course, much growth in human capital through partnerships with local professionals and relationships built with local people. For churches like First Baptist Shelton who send volunteers, there has of course also been the spiritual part —a vision for God’s justice and love and compassion for all—that underscores the outreach.
First Baptist Shelton member and longtime Shelton resident Judy Gura, RN, says that the church’s fundraising sales and the medical mission trips that they support are high points of her year. Although Judy has a busy professional career as a nurse—and is also active with church, family and grandchildren—she enjoys using a vacation week each year to travel to the DR. The travel and work are strenuous, she says, and some training is required, in addition to keeping her vaccinations up-to-date. Judy usually works in the village clinics dispensing medications that the physicians prescribe. She also supervises and trains other workers. After a long day volunteering in the villages, she returns every evening to La Romana to prepare for the next day’s work, dispensing and organizing medications that clinic doctors prescribe. Judy is also now in charge of scheduling and placing other volunteer workers in jobs appropriate to their skills. She says, however, that she also “jumps in and does whatever is needed and not just supervising. It’s hard work, but very, very rewarding.”
Villagers who line up to be examined and treated at the clinics are treated with great dignity, Judy remarks. Local people serve as interpreters, and patients with the means pay a modest sum for care. Those who cannot afford to pay are eligible to receive free care. Clinic workers and volunteers also distribute donated gifts, such as bags of clothing, beans and rice, hygiene kits and toys. Volunteers from organizations such as First Baptist Shelton are free to share comments about why they are serving, with many mentioning the love of Christ. Every afternoon volunteers also distribute toys to the children and there is a fun supervised time of interaction with the families and children.
Each year Judy wonders whether this will be her last year. However, each year she always believes that this has been the best trip ever. She returns to the United Sates joyful and energized, and states that this is in part because of the fantastic people she has met. “I really enjoy being with the people, and seeing see how appreciative they are, and their love for God.” She is also thankful for the many ways in which the hospital and mission medical teams have been able to help people in need—through a demonstration of what she believes is God’s love at work through people working together. First Baptist Church of Shelton’s pastor, Reverend Ken Smith, says that the church appreciates both its volunteers and its career missionaries. He observes that both groups are willing to act upon their faith in God’s great grace and love through Jesus Christ.
Volunteers with various skills and levels of skill and experience are welcome to travel on First Baptist Shelton’s mission trips. Donations of monetary gifts are also welcome, and are used to buy medical supplies and other needed items for the clinics. For more information about volunteering or donating, please call First Baptist Shelton at (203) 929-7704. Generally, Pastor Ken Smith says that it is necessary to send a volunteer application several months in advance of an upcoming trip. The church’s next trip will be in February, 2018. For more information, a helpful resource is the website of the Good Samaritan Mission Council, laromana.org. For a broader understanding of 21st century missions philosophy—in which the idea is to work alongside local people, helping them to use their own community’s and country’s gifts, training, abilities and potential—it may be helpful to consult the newly redesigned website of the American Baptist Churches USA international missions organization at http://www.internationalministries.org. Information about missions and donations to help areas of great need in the United States and its territories is available at http://www.abhms.org.
Below are more photos. Photos accompanying this article were taken mainly by First Baptist Shelton’s volunteer missionary Brenda Bazyluk, and are used with permission.