I (Bill Benson) retired in 1997 as Director of Operations for a BSA High Adventure base. Working 60-70 hours per week just wore me out, so I finally decided to retire. Yay......I was free. We (Donna, my wife) sold the house and cars, gave the kids our furniture bought a 55 foot Schooner and we were "out-a-here". For three years we went where we pleased. If we didn't like the neighbors, we pulled the hook and moved on.
One night, In the midst of that great adventure, the Good Lord wanted to talk. I was shocked. I said hey, this is Billy Benson, you just need someone else. I don't do Bible study, I am not a guy who prays regularly. Sorry !! Basically, he said (probably not a perfect quote) "look stupid, why don't you put down that bottle of Rum and do something." I'm sure I answered, Hey "this is good stuff .... What do you want from me anyway? " The answer was..." I'm not sure yet, but we'll talk." And so we did. Actually we talked every night and have since.
The two problems were....I'm a slow learner and... I have no skills or talents. The good news is, the lord is patient, an attribute I lack. Most of you will not recall but in the late nineties there where horrible floods in Honduras, thousands of people died and thousands more lost their homes. So we left the Keys and headed south; to do what, we were not sure. The "sailing net" is very active and we look after each other. You can find out conditions halfway around the world. As we headed through the islands, I began to receive news that going ashore in Honduras was a problem. Dozens of container ships were sitting offshore, unable to distribute aid of any kind unless you had proper approvals and credentials; meaning what ??? You guessed it - $$
At this point in our journey, we entered Luperon harbor, in the Dominican Republic. A planned anchorage. considering it is the best hurricane hole in the Caribbean. Donna was happy to basically stay aboard or visit the Marinas. On the other hand, I wanted to get out to see more. It was all so new and exciting. After a couple horseback rides I came upon a village called Pueblo Nuevo. I was told it was dangerous, which made me want to visit even more. As I was sitting on the front porch of Elvia's comado, surrounded by children, I fell in love. I knew then that I had to go out further and see so much more.
So......we took a two week sail back to the Keys and threw the Hook. We bought an old cabin in Ohio, near the grand kids and now we had a choice where to stay as I returned to the DR and began the great tour. All this time praying,and asking , saying "OK Lord I'm listening, now what ??"
While Donna and I spent time on the boat and at the cabin, I traveled back and forth to the DR. However one extended trip became pivotal. I felt it important to travel to as many remote areas as possible, so I journeyed to the extreme southwest along the Haitian border. Using buses, guaguas motoconchos then ultimately by foot, I ended in the very remote Village of Buena Vista (no, not a Motel in Miami). The only reason the Village exists is because it is close to the City dump of Equella and most families used it to find food and any useful materials. Everyone was so very gracious, but they were also bewildered, and a little nervous, because no outsider had ever visited the Village. Back In Luperon, I had thought we could give elderly families a new roof, replacing the cama (Palm fronds). But going house to house in this village I began to realize we would need to replace the whole home.
After visiting every home I began the long hike back down the Mountain only to have a woman shouting and yelling at me from her doorway. The home was off to the side and I had missed it. When I hiked back to her (many Dominicans are somewhat diminutive) I could look over her head. What did I see ? As in all the rest, a dirt floor, a three-legged table leaning against the wall, a three-legged chair and in the back a very filthy mattress on the floor. She held out her hand to me, and in my hands she dropped eight little berries. Upon looking back into the home I realized it was the "only" food/gift she had but....she wanted me to have it. I was stunned and didn't know what to do. To give them back would embarrass her, so I began to eat these eight strange, bitter berries. I began the cry and all I could do was hug her. As I again left the Village I looked up and almost shouted, ""Lord, please no more. I get it, I WILL help these,.... "your" people.""
If you have decided to go to the Village Mountain Mission or are just thinking about it, you probably have in your mind some pretty good reasons why.. However, regardless of your reasons, let me explain to you why you should. What is your real purpose? To build a home for a very poor family, or provide medical care for those who have none, or to teach preschool or a vacation Bible school....right for all of these things. You will build a home, or meet dire medical needs or teach, but that is not your true purpose.
Each year I traveled the countryside reaching further and further out from the Mission. My intent was to find not only families living in the very poorest of conditions , but families who had no home at all.
I found one such family living in a relative's house, in a Village that we had not yet served. I met with the family one evening to get a sense of their situation. There were three children. The father was far too sick to work(he later died). The only income came from a teenage daughter working part-time, for $7 a day.
I started to explain we had no more money this year to build an additional home. While I couldn't promise, I would make every effort to see they got a home next year.....they started to cry !!
I thought, oh no....with my poor Spanish, I had said something terrible. I asked the daughter, who spoke some English, what was wrong. She simply said: Senor William, you have no idea what this means to us,..... we have been praying for a home for six years".
I didn't know what to say. They all stood up and came over to hug me and say over and over
"God Bless You ".
So, regardless of your motives, you are coming to the Mission To Answer Prayers. You will want to think about that during your entire visit. YOU,... will be answering prayers, a powerful thing indeed !!
In the early years of the Mission, I was hesitant to tell this story. So many of our participants came from Colleges and a great many High school students came from families that no longer attended church. But after so many years I thought they should hear the truth, and if they were offended I was sorry. But I was tired of waiting.