A Missionary in …

Every time I go into the mission field, whether it’s to Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Africa… I leave a piece of my heart there when I leave. And I bring a piece of them home with me. Like these fellas in the picture above—Pedro and Andres. Pedro & Andres are the pastors in charge of our denomination’s churches in the Dominican Republic. And God sent me to them two years in a row, to lead a medical team in several of their churches. Pedro is the one that named me La Princesa Misionera—The Missionary Princess. He’s truly a brother of my heart!

Missionarying can be tough business. There are many long days with little food and water, no indoor plumbing, no air conditioning (do you see my red face in the picture above?) and sometimes, very little appreciation. (Who can find me in the picture below? I’m there and I’m blonde. I’m not giving any more hints.)

We go places like this, where they barely have four walls and a roof…

And we hang out with critters like this little guy, who was camping out under one of my pharmacy trunks. At the end of the day when I started repacking my trunk, we met and I screamed so loudly that about 15 men came running to save me from whoever was attacking me. They laughed when they saw HIM…

And so, by the end of our time there, our host missionaries always take pity on us and slice a bit of time out of our schedule for a little field trip to Boca Chica. (I’m in the back row, on the left. Yeah, the short blue-clad lady next to the REALLY tall guy. I knew that nobody really needed to see me in a bathing suit, so I got in the back…)

But my FAVORITE little get away is our one “night out.” Our host missionaries have a favorite little restaurant in Santo Domingo. It’s a steakhouse that was built in an American-Western-style. The staff wears cowboy hats and there are saguaro cacti lurking about. And I WISH I could’ve found you a picture of the inside, but the only picture I could find was this one picture of our host missionaries on the wagon out front…

And so, one balmy Dominican evening, we went out for Steak in Santo Domingo. This was NOT the year that I had the youth team. This particular year, I had an all-adult team and we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into some lovely steaks and drink cold sodas. And to our surprise, when we arrived, they had a live musician scheduled.

The wait staff brought our drinks and our bread as the musician took the stage about fifteen feet in front of our table. He was a gringo—a white guy—but he had long, brown hair and was singing in Spanish (no surprise there). But after a couple of songs, he shocked us by singing—in English—John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

We were thrilled to hear familiar songs—in our own language! As our host missionaries shrank back against the windows (probably pretending they didn’t know us), we eight Americans sang along at the tops of our lungs! We were laughing and singing as the other patrons clapped. Seeing that he had a captive audience, the guitarist launched into a whole smorgasbord of great American classics. Our rowdy table sang along with every note as we hopped from Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” to James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” and everything in between.

Finally, the singer stood and said, “I can see I have some home folks in the crowd tonight, enjoying the music. Where are you guys from?”

As if we had rehearsed it, we yelled in unison, “NORTH CAROLINA! WOOOO!”

The crowd and the wait staff cheered us and we just laughed and laughed. We couldn’t wait to see what he was going to sing next and he didn’t make us wait in suspense for long.

“North Carolina?! Wow! You guys have come a long way, so I want to dedicate this next song to you—MARGARITAVILLE!”

And we—a group of medical missionaries from North Carolina—laughing until we were nearly sick, sang along with every word of the Jimmy Buffett anthem. (Okay, maybe we did omit ONE word toward the end…)

After that song and one more, the musician took a well-deserved break, and came down to meet us. Turns out that he was from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Several years ago, he just got bored of the cold and the snow and decided to take his guitar and head south. I did point out to him the irony that he had dedicated a drinking song to a group of missionaries. He didn’t seem to think it was that funny, but we sure did…

And that was the night that I was a Missionary in Margaritaville!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Okay, I enjoyed it.

    And I’ve been to the REAL Margaritaville! Crazy place, that is.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Yay Lainie! I’m glad you enjoyed it! I was a little afraid it was going to come across as offensive. I feel a little better now. 🙂

  3. Sarah- I loved the story…except the BUG part! Continue to pray for my bug phobia as I travel to Haiti!

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Sherri, I did NOT take the bug picture. Someone else took it while I was running, screaming from the building. It was all I could do to look at it while I was posting it…

  5. You brought back a lot of memories of my childhood as a Missionary Kid. We would have gringos come stay with us from time to time to help build a church or to do medical missions… A lot of good times.

    One of the things that has always amazed me as I have traveled and lived in other third world countries… The people are beyond poor (according to American Financial Standards), but they are some of the richest people in spirit that I have ever encountered.

    I have often wondered if we would not be better off trading our mansions for a tin lean to.

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  6. I once told a coworker I vacationed in “Margaritaville”. Actually I had been to a Mexican restaurant and had the Grande Margarita once that summer.

    Fr. William thought it was hysterical when I sang every word to the song at our table at the Knights of Columbus dinner. It’s one of those songs… 😉

  7. Belle, there is nothing embarrasing about anything in this story, as far as I am concerned. Not only am I glad that you were there to do God’s work, but you also had fun. This was a great read!

  8. Hi, my name is Wendy, and I don’t like the song ‘Margaritaville.’ Wow. I feel so much more free than a minute ago!

    So, will you ever be able to hear that song without thinking of that trip? There are a couple of songs like that for me from one of my trips down to Mexico. Fond memories every time I hear ’em.

  9. I enjoyed this, bless you.

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