June 12 Audrey Clark First UMC Orlando

Today was a different kind of day. It being Sunday, we started the day off at church. Everyone was happy to be there, and we were instantly welcomed and embraced. Literally embraced. By everyone. It felt like they already knew me even though I don’t speak Spanish. One thing stood out the most about church this morning: there was a boy there who was called up by the pastor at the end of the service and he seemed really teary-eyed and men came up and it seemed like they prayed over him. I later found out that this young boy had no family, and did his best on his own by shining shoes. Someone had come up to him and told him to come to this church to find family. The men that came up and prayed with him at the end were men who spontaneously volunteered to be a mentor to this boy who had no one. Coincidentally, that was the morning we were there to share about how the importance of being in the church and growing up there was feeling like a part of a family.  

Directly after church, our leader, Justin, gave us the news about the shooting in Orlando. We are all from Orlando, and the nightclub that the tragedy occurred in is less than a mile from my home, as it is with many of the other members of our group. My initial response had me tearing up because it felt like while we were here, working to spread God’s goodness by serving and loving others, terrorists were at home doing the opposite. One step forward and one step back. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to hear. 

After spending the rest of the day being fed two (mind-blowing) meals in the beautiful home of the pastor, working more in the school and with the children in Cuesta Arena, then going to get ice cream in the mall nearby only to encounter a dance flash mob, we all realized something. We realized that maybe this experience in the DR is God preparing us to conquer the tragedy that will stare us and everyone else in the face back home. I learned that the joy of God’s love can beat the sadness of anything else.  

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