Ashley Machamer recently got back from a summer of mission work in Santo Domingo, the capitol of the Dominican Republic. She just started her senior year at Faith Baptist Bible College with a major in Missions. You may recognize her as the girl rocking the guitar during worship on Sunday mornings or as one of our youth leaders. I sat down with her a few nights ago to talk about her trip, what God did in her heart this summer, and the place of missions in the church. This is the first in a two-part series.
You went to the Dominican Republic with Time Ministries. When and how did you hook up with them?
We used to go to First Federated church. Their youth group went to Mexico with Time Ministries every year. We were church shopping at one point and decided to latch onto First Federated to go on the mission trip. It was a really neat opportunity. That’s how I got connected with Time. Then I forgot about them for a little while until I got a newsletter in my email talking about how they needed interns in the Dominican Republic. I had been praying about an opportunity for the summer, whether a week-long trip or a big trip. It was perfect timing. I think God kind of connected me with them at the right time.
I always hear people say they have “a heart for” a certain country or people. Did you have that for the Dominican Republic?
Not before I went. In fact, when I first went down there I thought, Wow, this is going to be a loooooong summer. The other interns and I weren’t clicking, I felt really sick for a while. It wasn’t a very good start. The culture down there…I didn’t feel it at first, but then I grew into it. I love them. I feel God leading me there full-time eventually.
What is their culture like? What’s their political and religious situation?
They’re really affectionate. I’m not a hugger. Well, now I am because I had millions of hugs every day. I don’t initiate hugs. It didn’t bother me, it was just like, Whoa. Someone’s touching me! Their religion is Catholic, but not practicing really. It’s also heavily Pentecostal. Protestantism is coming over and it’s very, very charismatic. Their government is a democracy and elected a new president this year. But his vice president is the former president’s wife, so that should be interesting. The politicians have a stronger voice than they do here. The Dominicans are also very blunt. If I wore a shirt they didn’t like, I knew it within seconds of putting it on.
What did you do there?
Mainly construction, building chapels. We also did a lot of ministry with youth groups that brought a ministry down already prepared. We took them to churches with lots of kids if they planned VBS. Or if they had strong testimony or music ministries, we’d take them to congregations or do street ministry.
Did you get to do any worship ministry there?
Yeah, I got to lead worship every morning before devotions. We got up every morning at 6, so I got up at 5:30 to get my “breathing” in for the day. At 6:30 we worshipped, then had devotions, then breakfast. A couple of the groups needed to learn Spanish songs so I would teach them and sing with them. Some needed a guitar and singer, so I got to do both.
Are you fluent in Spanish?
Not fluent. But I learned a lot while I was down there and brushed up on a lot of other stuff.
It sounds like you got to work on a variety of ministries with a variety of ages. Were there any you liked more than others?
I’ve been called to youth ministry and I always thought I’d be called to work with high schoolers. Over the summer, God completely changed that and said, Here’s some sixth graders. I really like the younger kids now. It’s interesting how that changed.
Tell me about worshiping with the Dominican believers.
It was amazing. It was life-changing. Here, we worship freely and genuinely. But it’s not the same. There they really get “let go and let God.” We raise our hands, but we don’t dance. It’s still hard for me because when I was little I went to a Catholic church. And then we went to other churches where you sang loud but didn’t raise your hands. But seeing the joy they had in the Lord even though they had pretty much nothing else but that joy… They sang a lot of worship songs, but translated, so we would worship in both languages. And sometimes there would be English, Spanish, and Creole (there are Haitian communities in the Dominican Republic). They’re way more energetic.
Did you have any scriptures you used to prepare yourself before the trip?
Honestly, no! I just wanted to go! Ephesians 6:19-20 was something I tried to keep in mind. I’m an ambassador for Christ; I’m not going on my behalf, on Time Ministries’ behalf, I’m going on Christ’s behalf. That was something I tried to take to heart.
What about while you were there?
Philippians 2 kept me going. And Romans 8:28. Philippians is about imitating Christ’s humility and having patience with others. Also, working as a team for Christ. We all had to think about that—we’re not there because we’re working with Time Ministries. We’re all there for God, serving the people of the Dominican Republic. Romans 8:28: God works all things together for good for those who love Him. I kept repeating that when I was sick. God, I know there’s something good in this! And then other girls would get sick and I would be like, Oh! That’s great!
Was there a moment where it really felt like God was at work through you?
There was a week when I was really sick and I couldn’t do much besides lay there and be mad at God for making me lie there. During that time, I grew closer to God myself, but He also provided opportunities for me. If other girls were sick in the dorm, I would talk with them to see how they were doing spiritually. Times like that—one-on-one or small groups with nothing else going on because we couldn’t do anything else—that was when God most used me. I mean, He used me for worship and working with the youth team and teaching them how to use the tools, but that was the time I felt like He really used me. And I was so mad, too. I said, God, I did not come down here to be sick! But He was like, Nope. You’re going to lay there and not have Facebook, TV, or anything else. You’ll just have me.
(Look for part 2 of our talk on Monday!)
photos courtesy of Ashley Machamer