The Ninth Missioner – A Thanksgiving Story
By Norma York-Bremer and Tammy Mazure
Photographs by Tammy Mazure
Posted November 26, 2013

Graciela Amor on the mission team's work site in San Marcos.

Graciela Amor on the mission team's work site in San Marcos.

On a hot, humid day in mid-June 2013 a group of intrepid Episcopalian missioners from Michigan arrived in the Dominican Republic to continue the building of the San Simon church in San Marcos.

An amazing discovery awaited one of the missioners, Tammy Mazure, for she found a small, 6-8 weeks old, approximately 5 pounds puppy, dehydrated, malnourished and with a healed dislocated hip under a pile of discarded wood. Had the puppy been abandoned there or had she sought sanctuary?

The rest of the story:

Tammy immediately took the puppy under her wing and bought her dry puppy food and made sure she got adequate water. However, Tammy was scheduled to leave several days later so when the next group of 8 missioners arrived from Michigan, she sought out Norma York-Bremer and Janine Dekker to ask if they would continue caring for her, which of course they agreed to do.

On the Monday of their mission, Padre Bienvenido advised that he would be unable to be at the site the following morning for morning prayer, but that Deacon Lourdes would be there instead. Nobody
realized at that time what an impact this change would have on the puppy.

Norma and Janine realized that their group was possibly the last missioner group until the following January and Janine bemoaned this fact to Deacon Lourdes during a waterbreak at which time she said “Mio esposo esta medico veterinario” and the next day she brought her husband, Hector, to the site. Norma indicated the many things that would need to be done before even thinking of bringing the puppy back (a long shot at that time). Hector answered to each item “no problemo” and so he took the puppy with him. As it turned out, Wednesday was the last day of work at that site.

Norma went online to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find that she could bring the puppy into the United States if there was a rabies certificate and if she signed a commitment to quarantine the puppy for one month.

Graciela Amor and Tammy reunited again in Michigan.

Saturday morning, 90 minutes before the missioners left for the airport, Deacon Lourdes arrived with the puppy (now named Graciela Amor) in a lovely travel bag and a lovely little dress. Michael Marks, the group’s Spanish speaker, called American Airlines to find that the Dominican Republic would charge 400 pesos (US$10) for an exit permit and the American Airlines would charge US$148 to bring Graciela on as carryon – she even got her own ticket. Janine Dekker gave Graciela a shot to keep her sleepy on the way home and we were on our way.

Here are some additional details to the story from Tammy Mazure: “I told my husband, ‘while we are here this puppy is going to have a full belly and fresh water to drink!’ Being an animal lover, I was passionate about making a difference in her life, even amidst people’s discouragement! When we arrived at the site each day I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the church and found her hiding in a corner or under a wood pile. I cried myself to sleep our last night there…I prayed and prayed for God to bring some kind of miracle….thinking we would have to leave her behind…hungry. I’d like to believe there was some evangelism going on when I talked with Norma and Janine…I think this a beautiful example of how our sharing of God’s love and His stories with others can change lives, even a dog’s life!”

This was truly a gift of love from so many missioners and others over that 2-week period. God did indeed watch over all of us including the 9th missioner, who now has a second name of Taco Belle because Graciela Amor was too long to put on her name tag!

Editor’s note: Graciela Amor / Taco Belle is now living happily with Norma in Muskegon, MI. Do you have other extraordinary stories like this from your DR missioner experiences? If so, please send them on to Julius Ariail at this email address: to be considered for publication in the DDG newsletter and social media.