Senior Christian ministries major Julie Everett is spending her summer in SosÃºa, a sunny coastal town in the Dominican Republic. But Julie isn't in SosÃºa for the beach and the waterfalls; she′s there to minister to women and girls who have been-or are in danger of being-sexually abused.
"The town of SosÃºa is based around tourism, but about 80 percent of that tourism is prostitution-based," Julie says. "There is a famous street here which goes through the heart of SosÃºa called Pedro Clisante which is absolutely lined with prostitutes. Quite frequently you see a 60-year-old white man walking down the street with a 14- or 15-year-old Haitian or Dominican girl. Generally a girl′s passage to adulthood happens as soon as she gets her period which unfortunately leads to a lot of sexual promiscuity at a young age. It′s relatively common to see girls with more than one child by the time she′s 20. If she becomes pregnant at a young age, usually she does not pursue higher education and/or drops out of high school or middle school."
Julie is working with missionaries from Servant′s Heart Ministries, a branch of New Life Christian Church in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. After she arrived in SosÃºa and became more familiar with the culture, she decided to focus on creating groups designed to help girls ages 10 to 15 understand that they have value as children of God. She has already started one group in a village called Nazaret, a poor community nestled in the side of beautiful rolling hills.
"I'm working with the girls from the community, talking about issues of all kinds," Julie says. "We've talked about self-esteem, healing in the Lord, gossip, what beauty is in different cultures and the true beauty that we have within us. Before starting the group, I spent time looking for a woman that I could train to be the leader, so that once I leave, the girls can continue to grow and so that they don't feel like Christianity comes from foreigners."
The second group Julie is working to start is in a town called Cangrejo that has a population largely comprised of Haitian immigrants. Designed exclusively for girls who have been sexually abused, the group gives them a safe place to share their stories and begin healing process.
"In the future we are planning to start a girls′ group for all the girls from the community, similarly constructed to the group in Nazaret," Julie says.
Julie has felt called to the mission field ever since she was in high school, and over the past several years, God has also given her a passion for Latin-American culture. She came to Geneva after falling in love with the campus and community environment, and since then, her professors have nurtured her desire and ability to reach Spanish-speaking people with the gospel.
"This trip has just reinforced the goals that I already had, and the more time I spend in a latino country doing missions, the more I feel called to do it full-time in the future," she says.