The hard work of Chiropractors With Compassion has helped transform the community of Batey Angelina from a place many wanted to leave behind into a model community in the Dominican Republic.
With a network of nearly 100 doctors of chiropractic throughout Canada and the United States, committed to donating U.S. $20.00 for every new patient that comes into their clinic, Chiropractors With Compassion have been able to raise around $1.2 million dollars since their founding in 2004.
By partnering with Compassion Canada, they have funded a number of major projects around the world and Batey Angelina is one of these.
A batey is a rural community of sugar cane cutters and their families, mostly Haitians, living in extreme poverty. The history of sugar cane cutting is quite long; however, Batey Angelina, located in the eastern province of San Pedro de Macoris, was the first mechanized-mill batey settled in Dominican Republic, in the early 1920s.
“Before Compassion arrived to the batey, there was idolatry, voodoo, prostitution of young girls, lack of income in the homes, few jobs,” says Pastor Mercedes of the Prophecy Church of God in Batey Angelina. “Our church had 77 members, and only 13 of us had jobs.”
Pastor Mercedes remembers how he entered humid, dirt-floor homes where the families ate only one meal a day at 4 in the afternoon. “That only meal represented their breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one.”
The wooden house with tin-sheet roof where the Compassion-assisted children gathered every week after the Batey Angelina child development center opened in 2006 was a great concern to the local church leaders. They prayed and fasted constantly, even for 40 consecutive days three times in the year, trusting that God would provide for a better infrastructure.
And God heard their prayers when in 2007, Batey Angelina was chosen as the next funding project of Chiropractors With Compassion.
In only the first 12 months of the project, this major donation allowed the construction of a new concrete building with suitable classrooms for the Compassion-assisted children.
The support from Chiropractors With Compassion also provided for a modern, professionally equipped vocational center to train the youth and adults in industrial sewing, computers, hair dressing, cooking and other working skills that will enable them to generate income to help themselves and their families.
“I’m impressed with this structure,” Dr. Edward Quirk of Chiropractors with Compassion says. “It’s beyond what we even thought. It’s actually one of the most beautiful buildings that we’ve been in during our visits.”
Dr. Quirk is a Canadian doctor of chiropractic who founded the Christian ministry Chiropractors With Compassion together with his clinic partner, Dr. Yurij Chewpa, and their respective wives, Dr. Holly Quirk and Dr. Marie Geschwandtner.
The Batey Angelina project also includes an industrially equipped water purifying plant, which at present provides for the demands of the community with around 1,000 gallons a day.
Before, the residents in Angelina drank the same water they used for house chores. As reported by Pastor Mercedes: “That water had a great number of bacteria and caused a lot of skin irritation and fungus and kidney problems.”
Driven by a motto he came up with a few years ago — “In order to change the world around a child you first must transform the world within the child” — Dr. Quirk has seen the transformation that is taking place in Angelina. He testifies to how much the work of the local church has transformed the community.
“This year, I was able to walk around this community without any problem, without any security. I was able to go into another community just with my children and my wife, my mom and my sister. It just felt like the community has changed; and I believe it is because of the work the church is doing. And I believe it’s also because the kids are starting to believe that things will change.”
The inauguration ceremony for this project was held on the Oct. 15, 2009. All of the Compassion-assisted children and their families attended the event, and as expected, all of the local church members, government authorities, representatives of the local sugar cane company, staff from other child development centers, and representatives from the Compassion country office were also in attendance.
Wilson Guzman, Partnership Facilitator Supervisor, spoke on behalf of Compassion’s Country Director Kleber Lora:
“My wife was here yesterday; she studied in one of the best universities in Dominican Republic. When she saw the vocational classrooms she was so amazed that she said ‘even the best universities don’t have the classrooms and equipment found in this place’.”
Knowing that he was going to speak on behalf of the Chiropractors With Compassion, Dr. Edward Quirk prayed: “Lord, what would you like me to say?” and he felt God said, “Nothing! I don’t want you to say anything; but I want you to do something.”
He received God’s instructions that he and his family should anoint the feet of Pastor Bienvenido Mercedes and those of Pastor Francisco Honkins, founder of the Prophecy Church of God in Angelina.
Dr. Quirk took bottles of water and passed them to his children, Britton and Rhode, and to his Compassion-sponsored children, Joselito and Michael. After taking off the pastors’ shoes and socks, they began to pour the water and rub their feet.
“I felt contrite, first because I don’t feel worthy of having children washing my feet. I understand that it’s me who needs to wash the children’s feet.”
It was a very touching experience for the entire community to see Pastor Mercedes not being able to hold back his tears.
“I wanted to fly away and disappear. What I felt was so big that I wanted to cry more, but I wanted to be alone to do so.”
The inauguration ceremony concluded with a parade departing from the new building and going all around the batey. Hundreds of people holding palm leaves in their hands followed the truck that carried a band of musicians and singers, and the multitude accompanied with joyful singing.
The climax of the event happened when everybody in Batey Angelina gathered right in front of the ruins of the sugar cane mill. The songs of worship and the happiness and encouragement in the people seemed to suggest they felt free from the bondage of nearly 100 years of hard work in the sugar cane fields.
So great has been the impact of the work of the local church that people who had lost all hope now are starting to invest in Angelina.
“The people are dreaming so much that we already have a church brother who has a stationer’s shop, and he has a fried chicken shop too,” Pastor Mercedes states. “There’s another brother who is going to open a new grocery store, and there’s another who’s going to open an ice cream shop. They have believed in God. They have said: ‘If God has done that in Angelina, I can trust in Him and He’s going to bless me.”
In the past, no matter how much the local church worked, they felt as though they didn’t see the fruit. They were saddened each time they saw their loyal, committed and consecrated church members leave the community to look for better living conditions for their families. But that has changed, and Pastor Mercedes rejoices to start to see the fruit.
“Our church youth leader is moving into Angelina, and other people who had moved out, they are returning to Angelina too. Angelina has been changed spiritually, physically, emotionally and morally.”