Teaching people how to love one trip at a time
Published 10:17 am Friday, September 13, 2013
Sidney Moore/contributing writer
FRANKLIN-Danny Dillon, a Associate Pastor at Rock Church in Franklin recently returned from his missionary trip to Vinto, Bolivia.
His family has been making the trip regularly for the past 30 years to attend a youth conference at the Agua Viva de la Roca Ecclesia or Living Water from the Rock Church, which was founded by members of the Rock Church in Franklin. He has been traveling to Bolivia since he was 15 and has been doing so every three years for the past 25.
For every trip, students at the Rock Church School as well as members of the church are selected to travel and gain experience abroad.
“We try to take a group, ages 15 to 18, because it’s a life-changing experience,” said Dillon. “We visit the boys home that had 42 kids there this time. It houses orphans. And we show the kids the Christian school we built that seats 300 children.”
The church usually makes the journey with the kids every few years so everyone has the opportunity to participate in the cultural immersion.
“Every time we take the youth down there, they’re blown away. Some of the kids go to Franklin High School, some go to Southampton Academy, Southampton High School, and some kids go to Rock Church School. We don’t just let anyone who wants to go down there and sightsee go, because we want to impact them,” said Dillon, speaking on the children that make the trip with the church.
The calling for change in Bolivia came just over 30 years ago with Marcus and Jennifer Morris, former teachers at the Rock Church School in Franklin. They had a heart for missions and went to Bolivia in 1983 to be teachers in a boarding school for deaf children. Two years later they began a Sunday school ministry for children that were in Vinto, a small village nestled in the Cochabamba Valley region of the Andes Mountains. With sponsoring from their home church, Rock Church in Franklin, they expanded and began purchasing property in 1988 that would be used for the construction of a multi-purpose Christian ministry complex.
“We sent them out and have supported them and their salaries and everything else they’ve need for all these years,” said Dillon, speaking on the Morrises. Speaking on Marcus Morris, Dillon said, “He’s considered a staff pastor.”
From that small church in a tiny village 15 others have been erected throughout South America. That’s the ripple effect that the Rock Church seems to have in the pond of life. Though the actual church is a barn that was renovated 35 years ago in Franklin, its ripple has been felt as far south as Argentina and as far east as Italy.
“We have churches in Ecuador, Chile, and most recently Italy. We just go down there to love on the people. We’re a non-denominational evangelical church that tries to reach as many people as we can,” said Dillon, speaking on their global impact.
The Rock Church in Franklin is the included in the very first wave of the ripple effect, being an offshoot of the Rock Church in Virginia Beach.
“My parents were sent out from the main Rock Church in Virginia Beach,” said Dillon. “My mom and dad left in their early twenties to come to Franklin to start a church. Now, we’re in our 38th year here with the same pastor. My brother’s the principal of our Christian School, and I’m the associate pastor and some of everything else here.”
So far more than 50 children from the church have traveled to Bolivia. They focus on the youth conferences, but the youth groups have done everything from digging ditches to cooking for children.
“There’s not one person who has went down there and come back the same,” Dillon said. “You can’t because you realize they have so little and still can love so much.”
Funding from the trips come not only from the church itself but from members of the community who want to know that their money is going to be handled the way it should be.
“I know essentially a lot of churches try to tithe and give money to missions, but we give 30 percent of everything that comes in,” said Dillon. “The reason for us that it’s different is that they’re out of this house.”
Dillon said he looks forward to chaperoning more trips in the near future. “You go down there to be a blessing, but you leave more blessed.”