One of the most common errors made by new missionaries comes from learning a new language. Every country has its differences and individual idioms. Of course, Zeral and I had some of those boo-boos ourselves as we began to speak the few words we knew in Spanish. Here are a few of them.

When arriving in the Dominican Republic, we moved in with another family for the first few weeks until we could find a house to rent for our family of two small children. Joanna, our first child, was 2 years old and her brother, Philip, was one old.

We were just settling in when a lady who lived next door to us sent over a large bowl of a Dominican dish which was similar to our rice pudding. We were very new missionaries and were told over and over to be careful of what we ate as it might make us sick. I had only learned a few words by then and so understood very little of what was being said. However, our children had already picked up a lot more than I had. As I looked at the bowl of rice with raisins I said to the children, “I think we had better not eat this because we do not know how it was prepared.” So, we decided to throw it out.

A day or so later the lady came back and asked me how we liked it. Before I could find a word to answer her she told me, “Your daughter told me you threw it out.” I was so embarrassed that I finally made motions with my hands that I didn’t understand even though I did understand enough to know what she was saying.

Another day someone came to the door with a large tray filled with bananas. The girl tried to tell me that it was a gift from another of our neighbors. I only understood one word and that was “regalo”. To me it sounded like the word “reglas” which means rules or laws and my thoughts went to government.  You see, we were being ruled at the time by a very stern dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, and all we knew was that we had to be very careful about what we said or did that would show any antagonism toward him. So, as best I could, I refused to accept this well-meant gift from a well-meaning neighbor.

That same summer my husband, Zeral, was asked to teach English to the high school students. He gave the excuse that he didn’t know much Spanish. However, their response was that they already knew Spanish, they just want to know English. So he began classes. One day he returned home to tell me this story:

He was telling a story in English and he said, “the man stopped in the street.”  When they didn’t understand clearly, he tried to translate it into Spanish.  He said, “El hombre se pario en la calle.”  Which translated as: “The man gave birth in the street.”  You can imagine the uproar of a room full of students!

Those first years of learning and making many mistakes were not always easy but God never left us nor forsook us as he has promised in His word.  2 Chronicles 20:20 says “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld…and you will be successful” (NIV). He has upheld me and kept me by his right hand.

-Doretta Brown

{TIME | More Than Missions – Short Term Missions!}


Summertime Miracles

We’ve had our first miracle of the summer. Tyler (one of our interns) was landing at JFK to meet JP (another intern) on their way to the Dominican Republic (DR). After texting that he was just waiting for the late arriving plane to let him disembark, JP texted back for him to hurry because their connecting flight to the DR was already boarding. Insert prayer here. Finally able to deplane, Tyler raced to catch the shuttle that would take him to the departing terminal and JP did his best to convince Delta to hold the plane. Long story short, he made it. And God, in an act to show that He had it all under control, had the plane wait another 30 minutes before it finally departed.


I can’t emphasize enough how many times that God does this to us during a summer of short-term missions trips. We meet an obstacle, pray, and then worry and fret about getting things accomplished, only to have God take care of it in His way. It’s as if He looks at us and says, “What were you worried about? I got it.” I wish I could say I never worry anymore, but I still do sometimes. Good thing God is faithful all the time.


One of the areas that I oversee for TIME is the intern process. All of us at TIME encourage and recruit intern prospects. We are looking for leadership level Christ-followers who are at least a year out high school who want to come to our countries for two and half months to work alongside our missionaries and help lead our ministry.


If they decide to pursue that call, they would fill out an application and send it to me. I, in turn, scan and send it to whichever site they applied for. If we all believe they would make a good intern and they meet the qualifications, I would set up a phone interview. Then, the Site Intern Coordinator would call and interview the applicant’s references. Summaries of these conversations are written up and sent to myself and the Site Missionaries.


The missionaries then have the option of having a group Skype with the applicant for mutual introductions (though many times they are already familiar with them from a TIME trip). And finally, we decide on the applicant. If they are accepted, they write a support letter that is reviewed, edited, and sent back for distribution. And I, in turn, work up prayer bookmarks with their picture on them as well as personalized response cards for them to send with their letters. Finally, when all of the interns raise enough support, my wife buys and coordinates their air travel so they all arrive and depart at roughly the same time. We like to have 8-10 interns in the DR and 4-6 interns in Mexico, with a nice mix between Americans and nationals. It’s very easy to panic, worry or get frustrated that we might not get enough and yet God comes through, just like this year.


This week is Intern Orientation.  In the DR, we have 8 summer interns (5 Dominicans and 3 Americans) as well as our 2 year-round interns (both Dominicans). In Monterrey, we have 4 interns (1 Mexican and 3 Americans) as well as our 1 year-round intern (Mexican). This is the week that our interns gather in their host country, bond as a team, learn about the country and culture (or, for the nationals, about US culture) and train for the summer. They learn the ins and outs of the site, take excursions to participate in cultural exercises, work on projects to familiarize them with the procedures and also to build their team unity, study God’s Word together (taking turns teaching), sit through many teaching sessions and have some fun through it all.


I have the honor of leading the teaching sessions. We teach on culture, communication and conflict management, among other things.


The rule of thumb, for missionaries, is that you need to live in a culture for 3 years before you realize that you know nothing of that culture. The truth is we are not all the same. Let me clarify, we are all the same in that we are sinners who are in desperate need of a Savior and many of our underlying values are the same, but how we express those values, and our thought process used to arrive at those values and behaviors, are different. Behaviors from different cultures may be the same but they could express different values and/or have different meanings. On the flip side, different behaviors from different cultures may express the same value and meaning. This takes a lifetime to understand and we need to prepare our interns for just one summer. We only get to touch the tip of the iceberg, but we try and help them see that there are differences and to be cautious of assumptions.


Communication is an important subject for not only interns, but everyone. There are three steps to communication. First, a person has a thought or idea. They then encode that thought in words or symbols (language) and transmit them to another party. That other party then decodes the words or symbols and ends up with the same thought. True communication doesn’t happen until the other person ends up with the same thought or idea. It’s easier to understand the principle of communication when you both speak different languages. I can’t speak English to a Spanish only speaker and expect them to know what I am saying. I have to translate it to something they understand (i.e., Spanish). It’s harder to remember when we both speak the same language that I may still need to consider the vocabulary I use or the way I say something for it to be understood correctly. We have to focus on the other person and not ourselves to accomplish this, but isn’t that what Christianity is all about?


When we misunderstand the culture and/or miscommunicate, that leads to conflict. Conflict is inevitable in the church and ministry. Why? Because God made us all different. We have different gifts, passions, ministries, missions in life and, because of our sinful nature, we all tend to think our gift, ministry, passion, mission in life, is the most important. Add in the stress of living in another culture and conflict is inevitable. What makes the Christian leader different is how he or she handles the conflict. We learned that ‘fight or flight’ isn’t an option. Attacking in a conflict is peace-breaking and escaping from a conflict is peace-faking. God’s way is peacemaking and that’s what He calls us to do. So we learn to give it to God first. How can God be glorified in this conflict? Deal with myself second. Is there a log in my own eye? Am I making too much of any incident that could just be covered over in love? Yes, great.  No? Then we need to go to the third step, dealing with the other person. We need to restore them gently with love and humbleness knowing that they may need to restore us gently next week. And finally, we need to reconcile. Forgive and be forgiven. Choose to restore the relationship.


And yes, there is more to it than that, but I have two pages to write what we did in a week. Interested in learning more? Have you considered a TIME Internship? You need to be at least a year out of high school, but it also means you could be 30 years out of high school! My wife and I did our internship in our 40’s. TIME is more than mission trips, it’s also helping and training men and women for a lifetime of serving the Father in whatever capacity He calls them to.


The training is done. Groups arrive tomorrow. We are ready and waiting; waiting to lead the teams, waiting to serve the church, waiting for God’s next miracle. Pray for us as TIME is helping to expand and strengthen God’s Kingdom.

{TIME | More Than Missions – Short Term Missions!}