To say I was unprepared for this mission trip would be an understatement. I had never felt the compassion that blossoms from the Dominican Spirit, or seen the Light of God poor out of an impoverished child’s smile, or witnessed the testimonies (AKA Sankalpa) of 15 people who were moved in the same way that I was.
I don’t want to accept the fact that we have to leave tomorrow. For our last day in the Dominican, we went to the beach. It was amazing and gorgeous and had me wishing that the beach I go to Florida could take a few pointers, but there was clearly an elephant in the room (or the water for that matter). No one wanted to leave because it was the last time the 16 of us would be together before the seniors leave for college and the juniors fill their place. I can’t describe how many lessons these seniors have taught me but I can tell you that they will be a part of my journey with Christ for the rest of my life. They are mi familia.
In addition to our gringos family, we developed a Dominican family. Throughout the week we had the delight of being accompanied by two men that introduced us to the selfless, compassionate servant spirit of Dominicans. Whenever we needed anything they had us covered before we could say “Por favor” or “Muchas gracias.” Rain or shine their vivacity shined and broke down any barrier that language could provide. But it did’t stop there. Even though we came to the Dominican to serve, we were constantly being served and hosted by the family of the pastor whose church we worked with for the mission. Every meal we ate was better than the last and was clearly cooked with love. There was no way to turn down seconds… or thirds… or dessert. Her family laughed with us, played with us, built relationships with us and even let us use their TV to watch the President’s speech on the terrorist attack that occurred less than 3 miles from our home church. They helped us recover from the initial shock of the shooting and recognize that great things were still to come. More than anything, I want to bring back the loving, gracious and Godly persona that reflected from every Dominican I met.
It isn’t right to describe the impact this trip had on me without recognizing the kids we came to serve. Going into the trip, I was very nervous about working with the children and whether or not I would be able to communicate with them since my Spanish speaking capabilities range from little to none. In the end, this slight hindrance was barely noticeable and my largest concern ended up being if I had enough arms to hug and hold all of them. The exuberance of their smiles lit up the room where we taught VBS and their positive energy was so infectious we couldn’t help but scoop them up and love on them the best we could.
The community the kids lived in, Cuesta Arena, has one of the most moving stories I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. God’s presence is moving among the community and has watched over the creation of the school that is there today. I am abundantly blessed to have received the opportunity to serve and love his people and I wish to carry the servant’s heart of the Dominican back to Orlando until I come back again for more.