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Chris Hornbrook, center, a 1996 Center Grove graduate, is currently living in the Dominican Republic with his family while doing missionary work. He has been assisting with recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria caused heavy flooding there this week. SUBMITTED PHOTO

A 1996 Center Grove graduate following his calling found himself in harm’s way this week as Hurricane Maria tore its way through the Caribbean Sea.

Chris Hornbrook, who grew up in Greenwood and once served as a minister at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, moved with his family to the Dominican Republic in December to lead the church planting movement for Louisville-based GO Ministries.

Hornbrook’s goal is to plant 1,000 churches in the Caribbean during the next 10 years.

In the short term, though, Hornbrook and his staff are more focused on helping the island nation recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria. The storm did not hit the island nation directly but still battered it with heavy rain and tropical storm winds of up to 70 miles per hour, resulting in heavy flooding. Most of the concrete homes were able to survive, but those made of wood and tin suffered heavy damage.

“We’re working through our local churches and pastors so that they can help the people in their communities,” Hornbrook said. “We’re providing mattresses, clean water, food and we’re also going to be helping fix homes and stuff like that.”

Missionary work wasn’t the original game plan for Hornbrook, who graduated from IUPUI and had originally intended to become a teacher and a coach. Instead of following that path, though, he landed at Mount Pleasant, where he spent a total of seven years during two separate stints.

In 2008 he relocated to San Diego, where he founded Momentum Christian Church. Last year he moved with his wife, Lyndsey, and their five children to the Dominican Republic.

Hornbrook says that he doesn’t plan to stay there for the entire 10-year planting process; he hopes to equip and empower local leaders to eventually keep the mission going on their own.

“Our role is just to help get this thing off the ground,” he said.

Once he feels comfortable that the local residents can take over, Hornbrook and his family will return to the United States. He hopes to be able to settle in for the long term as a pastor somewhere, but says his family is “always up for an adventure.”

For now, he’s enjoying the current adventure in the Caribbean — even during tough times like these.

“The Dominican people are just resilient people,” Hornbrook said. “It’s a third-world country, so they’re used to responding to crisis and adversity and all that. Even yesterday, there was dancing and celebrating and laughter in the midst of — I’m sitting here going, ‘I have never seen flooding like this in my life.’ They’re just resilient, beautiful people.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.