For 10 days last summer, Brian Mader was so close to the Atlantic Ocean he could hear waves hit the beach in a steady rhythm. Temperatures were tropical and the sun shone brightly.
But Mader wasn’t on a dream vacation. He was on a personal journey he’d been wanting to take for a long time.
With his 15- and 12-year-old sons, plus 19 others from his church, Mader was on a mission trip to the city of Bani in the Dominican Republic. His church, the East Shore Baptist Church,had partnered with the Word of Life international missions organization to prepare a formerly abandoned resort property for use as a children’s camp.
His trip was supported by Diakon’s Love of The Neighbor Fund, which provides extra paid-time-off days to Diakon staff members on approved mission or nonprofit organization-related trips. In many cases, the fund also provides a stiped to assist with trip expenses.
That fund represents one aspect of community benefit, which Diakon often describes as “the good we do beyond the good we set out to do.” To learn more, see Diakon’s recently published 2017 Community Benefit Report, which in light of Diakon’s 150th anniversary celebration, includes instances of community benefit during the last century-and-a-half.
“I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip, to stretch myself personally, physically and spiritually,” says Mader, a treatment coordinator for Diakon Family Life Services’ Specialized In-Home Treatment Services Program, typically known as SPIN. “For my sons, it was a chance for them to get outside of themselves.”
The work to transform the never-completed resort so that it would be ready for campers was challenging. Eight separate bungalows also had to be made into kid-ready cabins. Mader describes the group’s to-do list.
“I was proud of how dedicated and hard-working they were. They both had the chance to get outside of the air-conditioned, Xbox world kids can live in.”
“We power-washed the buildings,” he says. “We painted. We dug into rock to make way for power lines so we could add lights and ceiling fans. We also did general clean-up of a garage on the property and made vehicle repairs.”
After the camp was physically ready and the children had arrived, Mader’s church group worked on making improvements to the homes of the Word of Life missionary couples who live at Bani. The volunteers also helped with camp events, which included physical activities such as swimming, baseball and basketball; and a presentation of three dramas with ministry messages.
Brian Mader and his sons in the Dominican Republic
Mader and both of his sons experienced growth in personal ways, he says.
“My younger son was hesitant at first,” he explains. “Because he is small, he worried he wouldn’t be able to do physically challenging things. But he connected with the young children of the missionary families and found there was a lot he could do.”
Mader’s older son surprised him a bit.
“This was a chance for him to flex his grown-up muscles,” he says. “I was proud of how dedicated and hard-working he was, of how they both were that way. They both had the chance to get outside of the air-conditioned, Xbox world kids can live in.”
Would he do another mission trip? Definitely, he says.
“A group from our church is going again this year, but we can’t go this time,” he notes. “The boys are disappointed. There is still a need. We are called to help and we will go again.”