This week, we continue sharing stories of SBU alumni who are living out the university’s mission to be servant leaders in a global society. This story originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of SBU Life magazine. To read recent issues of SBU Life, please visit http://www.sbuniv.edu/Alumni/SBULife/index.html.
Ina York ’82
B.S. Elementary Education and currently serving as project facilitator of The Cercadillo Project, Dominican Republic (cercadillo.org)
By Stephanie Benoit
When Ina York, 55, describes her role at The Cercadillo Project, the ministry she founded in the Dominican Republic in 2007, she hesitates to call herself its director or administrator.
“I guess I do a little bit of everything,” Ina said. “I’m here to serve these people, whether that means planning or picking up trash. I think leading just happens to be how God’s using me now.”
The path that brought Ina to the Dominican Republic included two years at Hannibal-LaGrange University, followed by two at Southwest Baptist University, where she studied education. Afterward, she taught in a variety of settings, including at a South Korean school for missionaries’ children, and shortly thereafter earned a master’s in education at University of Iowa.
Ina taught for several more years, and at the close of each one felt a tug on her heart to embrace full-time missions. “I would think, ‘Should I renew my contract, or is this the year that I go somewhere and do missions,’” Ina said. “I felt very torn between the two worlds.”
It was around this time that a mission trip led by a friend first brought Ina to the Dominican Republic. “I was overwhelmed by the poverty, [but] also the opportunities to do ministry,” Ina explained. “There seemed to be a real hunger.”
Not long after, Ina was called to the town of Cercadillo, where she began a ministry offering everything from Bible studies to health programs to educational activities emphasizing literacy and assisting nearby schools. “[We] help people learn to read so they can read the Bible as much as possible,” Ina said. “We do a lot to encourage education and support the local public school.”
Ina was equipped well for the work by SBU’s education department and its instructors like Dr. Twila Smith. “I remember her saying, ‘We’re not teachers who happen to be Christians; we’re Christians who happen to be teachers,’” Ina said. “So wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we have opportunities to influence those around us.”
In the coming years, Ina hopes to continue caring for Cercadillo, a community that God prepared her long in advance to serve. “God gave me the vision for this ministry,” she said. “I believe I was born for this time, this place and this village.”
Want to pitch a story for SBU Life magazine? Please submit ideas to Stephanie Benoit at firstname.lastname@example.org.