Michigan Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact
Celebrates 25 Years of Service
REPORTED BY TERRY DODGE, Michigan Conference pathfinder director
ichigan’s Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact celebrated its quarter-of-a-century milestone in December when teens and medical staff embarked on the group’s twenty-fifth annual mission trip.
Former Michigan Conference Pathfinder director Merrill Fleming organized the first Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact to the Dominican Republic in December 1981. Nine years later, when Fleming retired. Michigan’s current Pathfinder director, Terry Dodge, took up the mantel and carried on the tradition of providing medical, dental, and optical care to people living in the Dominican.
On December 25, 2006, a group of 25 Pathfinders and 15 doctors, dentists, optometrists, nurses, and support staff left the United States for its anniversary venture. Some 4,400 patients sought out the clinics for medical help during the 12 days the Impact team “set up shop” in various towns and villages in the region.
|THE TEAM: Twenty-five Pathfinders and 15 health professionals traveled to the Dominican Republic for the twenty-fifth anniversary trip of Michigan’s Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact. The group includes (standing, far right) Michigan Conference Pathfinder director Terry Dodge; (standing next to Dodge) Dominican Union president Cesario Acevedo; (standing, middle row, far left) “Share Him” Evangelism coordinator Luis Leonor; and (standing, center) Inter-American Division president Israel Leito. [Dr. Paul Serigo, DDS]
“The Lord has greatly blessed the team’s work because local churches would often follow up the clinics with evangelistic meetings,” said Dodge. “Many souls have been added to the family of God.”
One such experience occurred in the Dominican community of Pulgarin in 1994. As a result of the Pathfinder mission trip, local church members and leaders established an Adventist church in just two years. Pastors baptized more than 50 people, and Maranatha Volunteers International built a church for the new believers. The Impact team returned twice to Pulgarin, and also participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new medical clinic the Adventist church in that region established for the community.
“That was an experience I will never forget. I am so grateful for what the Lord has done for the residents of Pulgarin,” Dodge said.
All 25 mission trips have been held in the Dominican, with the exception of one, when the team traveled to Haiti. And all have occurred in consecutive years, except for one year when medical reasons made it impossible for Dodge to make the journey. On the recent twenty-fifth anniversary trip, two of the medical staff had also traveled as Pathfinder teens with the first Impact trip: Michael Mashni, a dentist from Fullerton, California; and Sharlene Ervin, an occupational therapist from Flint, Michigan. Ervin’s teenage daughter, Erin, was also a member of the team.
Commenting on the ceremony, Ervin admitted to feeling nostalgic. She says, “Being present for the grand opening of the first Adventist Hospital in Santo Domingo was definitely a highlight. I felt as if I was witnessing the harvest of the seed we had planted all those years ago of bringing awareness of the need for health care to the people of the Dominican Republic.”
A highlight of this year’s mission trip was the opportunity for the Pathfinders to take part in the inauguration of the Dominican’s first Adventist hospital—the Vista del Jardin Medical Center in the country’s capital city, Santa Domingo. During the ceremony, Cesario Acevedo, president of the Dominican Union, told the attendees “We count as an important part of the development of the medical work in the Dominican Republic the 25 years of service by the Pathfinder Teen Missions, medical personnel, and pastors from our sister conference in the Lake Union, in the United States of American. They have been Christmas gifts to the poor people of our country.”
“Long before the Dominican Union was established, the Michigan Conference started to take groups of pathfinders and other lay leaders to the Dominican Republic during the Christmas holidays for mission service. The year 2006 marked the twenty-fifth consecutive trip of the Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact to the Dominican Republic. This mission endeavor has had a remarkable impact on the life of the church in this union,” Inter-American Division president Israel Leito told the Adventist Review. “As Elder Dodge, the Michigan Conference Pathfinder director, puts it, ‘The church has been established in the Dominican Republic for 99 years, and we have been here for 25 of those years.’ ”
|Robert Underhill taking blood pressure. [Dr. Paul Serigo, DDS]
Leito added, “The Inter-American Division is very grateful to the Michigan Conference for this outstanding mission service in one of our unions.”
During each year of its 25-year history, Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact participants have distributed some 180,000 medications, about 2,000 pairs of eye glasses, and a large amount of dental supplies. Cumulatively they have held some 200 medical clinics and helped more than 85,000 patients. Team members also give toys to the many children who come to the clinics.
The mission trips have often been life-changing, not only for Dominican residents but also for the youth. Many of the teens have since chosen to serve as student and full-time missionaries. Some have also entered health professions, becoming doctors and dentists.
Another vital member of the Impact team is Luis E. Leonor, evangelism coordinator for “Share Him,” a ministry of the Carolina Conference.
“Pastor Leonor is a native of the Dominican, and he makes all the transportation, lodging, and meal arrangements, as well as takes care of numerous other details. His assistance is invaluable,” Dodge said.
He added, “Pathfinder Teen Mission Impact has made a difference in the lives of those the teams have helped as well as those who have served. I hope its tradition of service continues for many more years.”