This post is written by long-time partner of VisionTrust, Cathy Cornelison.
It started as a small conversation between a few women and became the most amazing ministry experience of my life.
Eight years ago, Faith Bible Church in the Woodlands, Texas partnered with one of VisionTrust’s projects in the village of Cotui, Dominican Republic. Over the past eight years, God has united our hearts with the people in the village in a way only He could do. I have grown to love them like they are my family. As I go back each year, I feel as if I am going home to celebrate a family reunion. We have ministered not only to the children each year but also to the teens and adults. We have not only watched them grow physically, but most importantly spiritually. God has done an amazing work in their hearts. For many years, we have prayed for the men to become the spiritual leader of their family and of the church. Most of the men leave that responsibility to the women. Over the past 3 years, we have seen a change in many of the men and more and more of them have been coming to church and seeing their important role in the family.
Last year some of our ladies sat down with Milagros, the director of the Learning Center in Cotui, to discuss how we could minister to the adults for the next year. We wanted to do something to minister to the couples and casually mentioned how neat it would be to do a wedding for those who wanted to make a commitment but couldn’t afford it. It is very expensive to get married, as we all know, so many of the couples have been together for years but have never had a wedding. Also, it is huge for the men in the community to make this commitment to their families before God and others. Milagros felt that this was an amazing idea, but we never dreamed it would become a reality. As Milagros began to share this wedding idea with the community, couples began to express an interested in getting married.
God began to move in the most powerful way as the dream became a reality. The team began to form: an amazing couple who leads marriage conferences, a lady who owns a floral design business, a seamstress and many married couples who could lead small groups. I was given the opportunity to do an interview on our local Christian radio station to ask for wedding dresses and suit coats. We needed 10 dresses, but our desire was for 20 so the ladies would have a few to choose from. The interview aired on a Wednesday and by Saturday we had 22 dresses! It was amazing as we heard each story of how God moved in the hearts of the ladies to donate their dress to the brides in Cotui.
I wish each of you could have been in the room as I began to pull the dresses out of the suitcases. I have never felt so much JOY! Laughter, tears, hugs, and kisses filled the room.
One of our greatest fears was that the dresses would not fit…oh how God took care of every little detail. As each bride picked the dress she liked…it fit perfectly! It was so amazing!!! One lady began to shout “Mi sueno se ha hecho realidad” (“My dream has come true”). She has been with her “husband” over 40 years and never dreamed they would be able to have a wedding!
We felt the most important part of getting married was not the ceremony, but learning about how to be a godly husband/wife. Fred and Carla McDougal lead the couples in a three day marriage seminar to help them truly understand a godly marriage. This was not only for the ten couples getting married, but for anyone in the community. We heard amazing stories from the couples at the seminar each night. The couples were so open to share their struggles and we realized that we all have the same struggles in marriage no matter where we live.
The wedding day was finally here—ladies in the community cooking a feast, men helping set up the tables and chairs, teens decorating, flower arrangements being made, and children being bathed and dressed in their best. The wedding march began and the brides paraded down the street to the ceremony. I can’t describe the excitement as all ten brides entered the place. Tears filled my eyes as I watched the joy on each face as their dream of becoming a bride came true. They were the most beautiful brides I have ever seen! The grooms had smiles from ear to ear as they met their bride at the altar. Mark Cornelison and Nelson Paulino lead the service with breathe taking words of love and encouragement as these couples vowed their lives to each other and their marriage to God. Each couple was asked to come forward and commit their marriage to Christ. They each locked a lock onto a cross made of vines symbolizing they are abiding in Christ for He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15). The cross was then lifted up for all to see the commitment they had made to Christ. The couples gave the key to Mark and each couple on our team took a key home with them as a reminder to pray for these special couples!
There are no perfect words to describe what I felt during this mission trip. VisionTrust is all about building relationships with those we serveand I am so very thankful for how they have taught me to stop and care about people, not just the work we are doing. The relationships I have built over the years are so very precious to me and the people in Cotui will never ever know all that they have done for me. Watching dreams come true for these precious friends of ours was the most amazing ministry experience I have ever had. This experience was so very special to each of us because for eight years we have been sharing life with them, watching them grow, and helping them know the love of Christ. I will forever be grateful to God for allowing me to share life with them!