By Ray Balogh
WINONA LAKE — God continues to work even when we go on vacation.
In fact, that’s when he did his most powerful work in the lives of Winona Lake residents Rod and Nancy Wildman.
In 2006 the Wildmans went on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic, where Punta Cana, a city of 100,000 residents at the stunningly beautiful easternmost point of the island nation, boasts more than 100 resorts.
“I didn’t want to just go to a resort,” recalled Rod. “Nancy and I both felt compelled to reach out to a local church to do something more. We ended up bringing medicine and other supplies, but we quickly realized the people had much greater needs.”
Rod and Nancy, both schoolteachers, said their “hearts were broken” as they learned most of the nation’s children were denied access to school because of poverty.
“There is a huge discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots,” said Rod. “Ten percent of the population is elite, there is a very small middle class and the rest of the nation is poor, with no electricity or running water and dirt floors in their houses.
“The schools that are available are private and cost $300 to $500 a month per student. The poor cannot rise up out of their circumstances because they have no money for education, which is vital to positively impact the children, the families and the communities.”
When they returned home from their vacation, they co-founded 2nd Mile Missions and later obtained 501(c)(3) status.
“Our mission is to spread the love of Christ by disrupting the cycle of poverty in the communities we serve. We do this by providing women and children with educational resources, spiritual enrichment, employment and business opportunities,” according to the organization’s website, www.2ndmilemissions.org.
“What began by educating 62 children our first year has grown into helping hundreds of children and their families thrive in a safe, supportive setting within their own community in the Dominican Republic.”
2nd Mile Missions maintains several ministries beyond the original school, which opened August 2010:
Hope Academy, an educational facility opened in 2019 in the village of Monte Verde, has a capacity of more than 300 students.
The ministry is constructing a new two-story building with 14 classrooms, each capable of accommodating 25 to 30 students.
The first floor, currently under construction, will house the elementary school; the second floor will serve high school students.
“We have enough money to do the first floor, but it would be cheaper to continue now with the second floor. We can always use donations for the project,” Rod said. “We hope to open in September 2021.”
Staffed with local licensed teachers, the students learn reading, writing, English, science, math, social studies and computer literacy. Bible classes and physical education are also included in the curriculum.
House Of Hope
House of Hope, a “safe haven for abandoned girls,” opened its doors in 2015.
“When the first 2nd Mile Education Center opened, we began to see many girls who were being abused, neglected and even abandoned,” said Rod.
Though they ministered to the girls as much as possible, “we felt God clearly telling us to do more, to build a home for girls seeking shelter from abuse and abandonment.” Under the care of house mothers, up to 12 girls can “begin to heal and focus on their futures.”
Spanish for “full life,” Vida Plena provides mothers with children in the ministry’s schools the opportunity to develop artisan skills, obtain microloans and produce and sell homemade products such as jewelry and clothing.
An online store is available on the organization’s website.
Donations to 2nd Mile Missions made be made on the website, www.2ndmilemissions.org.
The Wildmans also suggest those interested in the ministry arrange an “awareness trip” to meet the students, volunteers and staff in the Dominican Republic.
Monthly sponsorship opportunities of children, families and House of Hope are also available on the website.