The Dominican Republic, like many Caribbean island nations, is known for resorts that cater to tourists. But outside the town of Puerto Plata’s manicured beaches and villas is another world—one you won’t see from the highway.
Far from the scenic shores and luxury resorts is a tree-covered hill with a nondescript dirt driveway that winds its way to the top and plateaus. If you were just driving by, you wouldn’t know anything is up there. But on the small plot of land at the top of the hill is a drug rehabilitation center. It’s a humble compound. Other than two old, white concrete buildings that serve as dormitories, there’s just a concrete patio with a roof to keep the rain out and a makeshift kitchen sheltered by wood poles and banana leaves. When Taylor Parkison, a college student and summer intern at In Touch Ministries, visited this community on a mission trip, he gained a new understanding of true wealth.
Here is his story.
There are amazing things going on in this place—lives are being changed; people are being touched by the hand of God.
One of the men told us how his former drug addiction led him to the lowest form of existence possible. He had no hope, no dignity—nothing. He shared how, one day, the light came on for him suddenly. Now he knows it was the Holy Spirit’s voice calling to him in the middle of that near-death state: It’s time, time to do something to change your life. That’s when he got up to find help for his addiction. And that’s when the Lord led him to the rehab center.
The pastor who founded the center was once an addict himself. That’s why he has such a heart for these guys to experience the freedom that’s only possible through the Holy Spirit. Because of his personal experience, he knows that accepting Christ and asking Him to break those chains isn’t the end of the road for them—it’s just the beginning of a new story. He’s totally committed to discipling them, walking with them through recovery and teaching them to disciple others.
And that discipleship training is rigorous. The men wake up early to begin their very structured days. The first thing they do is spend time on their knees in prayer on the concrete patio. The men spend a great deal of time in prayer—mostly praying for others. They also set aside time for devotions and Bible study each day. In many ways, they’re doing what monks in a monastery do. Their lives are humble but full of dignity. They do a lot of work around the compound, trying to keep things as clean as possible, and they cook for themselves. They have almost no personal possessions, yet there is richness and joy in their lives. And it’s just that—the simplicity of life that’s given them wisdom to know what’s truly important.
I had heard stories about what Messengers have done around the world, but being on the ground, passing them out, was a powerful experience. I knew they would be happy about the gift, but these guys were beyond thrilled. It was wild to see the joy and excitement in their faces. While some of the men are educated, many are just learning to read. So I could see how, to them, the Messenger was as valuable as gold. It had the power to impact their daily lives—they could listen and meditate on Scripture, really taking in the stories and words of Jesus in large doses. And they could listen to Dr. Stanley’s sermons to find encouragement for their daily battles.
These brothers in Christ are in the trenches, fighting something so huge—fighting for life, fighting for freedom. One guy told me, “If you do the drugs I did, you’ll see the devil face to face.” He was free, but he was still fighting the spiritual battles that come with being a follower of Christ. The only way to fight the devil’s oppression and lies is with the Truth—and God’s Word is Truth. I saw firsthand how empowering the Messenger is. I believe it’s going to help these guys know God’s Word more intimately, and I believe it will help them as they seek to further God’s kingdom.
Thinking about the potential fruit that will come from the Messengers we gave away completely blew my mind. Those who gave the gifts that funded these 50 Messengers have no real idea just how great an impact each one of these devices is having.
The Lord spoke to me through these brothers at the rehab center about the power of His Word and the power of the name of Jesus. We all struggle with things that can chain us down, whether envy or lust or pride or one of a thousand other sins. In the end, we have to know who we are. Apart from Christ, we have nothing. But when we recognize our own spiritual poverty, we can see what things are truly worth. The poor in spirit are blessed to know what it means to be citizens of God’s kingdom, to know the true wealth we have in Christ. It is only through Him that we can find freedom, and it is only through Him that we are made sons and daughters of the King.