Shine the Light Ministries recently came back from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and the team is blown away by the dedication and zeal of the youth.
Brent and Wendy Wong of Winnipeg have run a ministry called Shine the Light for over 17 years. Their two sons Jonah (14) and Isaiah (13) have been involved in the ministry as well since they've been alive.
"Shine the Light was founded by my husband Brent and I, just after we got married," says Wendy. "It's kind of an offshoot of Shine Dental. We originally took teams down with us to do medical clinics mainly in Mexico. It's evolved and with some of the drug wars in Mexico, we moved over to the Dominican Republic when our son Jonah was a year old."
Shine the Light offer medical clinics to the local people as well as building houses. They've opened a community centre where they run programs every day of the week.
The team, including the whole Wong family, normally go on a few trips throughout the year. Since the pandemic, they hadn't gone to the Dominican Republic in over two years. On March 27 a team flew down from Canada.
"We weren't sure how many people would be coming because there were still restrictions," says Brent. "We were pleasantly surprised that there were 34 people who wanted to come on this trip. We were able to build three more houses, we had dental clinics and some people from Shine Dental came again."
The trip happened over spring break, which meant more kids could join. There ended up being 12 kids ages 10-18 that joined the crew.
"My parents, Isaiah, and I decided to do a teenage youth house," says Jonah. "Us teenagers along with contractors and translators built one of the houses all by ourselves. It was very fun and we didn't know if we'd be able to get the job done but we ended up being the first house that was built. I was really impressed and proud of everyone that was on that build."
Jonah, being the older one, has been on 32 ministry trips with his parents while Isaiah has been on 30 trips.
"On the first day of building it was the first time most of the kids met each other so it was kind of awkward," says Isaiah. "We didn't really know what to do because it was the first time Jonah and I led a house, but by the end, everyone was doing stuff together and it was really fun."
The Impact of Teenagers
Brent and Wendy attest to the impact the teens made on the trip.
"I just learned that teenagers are capable of so much more than we often give them credit for," says Wendy. "People in their 60s and 70s on our trip that would consider all these kids to be like their grandkids."
Brent shares that he's glad he took the risk of asking for an all teenager team to build the house.
"Asking the teenagers to be on their own team, it could be the best thing or it could be horrible. The risk paid off. I couldn't be more proud of Jonah and Isaiah, they did such a great job leading, delegating, guiding people and having to deal with language barriers. The other thing I learned is that our future is in good hands."
Every time Shine the Light builds a house, they dedicate it to the Lord on the sixth day in the afternoon. On this trip, Brent looked at the forecast and it called for torrential rain, which he was concerned about. He hoped it wouldn't dampen their spirits.
"We were praying against the rain. Low and behold, it rained. But what we noticed was that instead of people getting down, I saw the kids leading the way by jumping in the puddles, dancing in the rain, and singing with the locals. It almost enhanced the trip."
Impacting More than Just the Locals
Each night of the build, the teams would come together and debrief. This meant they would gather in a room and chat about things they all learned that day.
"There were two guys in the back of the room. I said, 'Hey random person in the back. Why don't you tell us about the highlight of your day?' The young guy stood up, said he was from Ottawa and then said, 'We don't know why we're here.'"
Two young men from Canada flew to the Dominican Republic for a personal trip, had landed that day, and thought the debriefing room was a timeshare meeting.
"He said, 'What you guys are doing is incredible.' This is an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old," says Brent. "We said if you're that interested, why don't you come tomorrow and join us on this build?"
The men came a few times throughout the week to help the Shine the Light teams, and then once more on the dedication day.
Brent says by the end, the men said, "This was one of the best things we've ever done."
Anyone who is interested in joining the Shine the Light Ministries team on their next adventure can find all the details on their website.