Thomas- July 18, 2014 First UMC Lakeland

Dear Reader,

Today, Friday July 18th, 2014, was our first day working at Centro de Formación Christiana. I am from Lakeland, Florida and I attend First United Methodist Church. When we first arrived at the worksite, I was slightly apprehensive about engaging with the local children because I have only taken two years of Spanish in high school, but as soon as we met them, my fears of any language barrier dissipated. The first introduction occurred between Miguel and Miss Sarah, then the brothers Oradlis and Jordalis. As the day carried on more and more children appeared, increasing the amount of exuberance and joy coursing through the school. After shoveling and digging for a solid while (to prep an area for a wall to be built) the group left to walk around the community. My friend Jamie picked up a little monkey named Luz Mery, and I met Manuella, Yordania, Anjer and his brother Luis (who are also brothers to Aléx), Alisante, and Daniella (just to name a few). It was incredible to see the homes the children lived in and to see their faces as they shared about their brothers and sisters and to meet their parents. I was pleasantly surprised when Aléx asked me to hold his hand and walk with him around as he pointed out certain parts of his home to me and offered me a green grape like fruit (that was pleasurably unexpected). I really appreciated Sarah explaining the different components of the community to us and how diverse the community was, and I was very impressed by how friendly every single individual was, in response to a single wave and a “Buenos Tardes” from me (an extreme juxtaposition to a majority of the US). After our afternoon lunch, the kids returned to play with us while their mothers participated in a yoga class upstairs with Miss Nicole. Since the cement was not yet ready to be poured, I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the kids, and I have rarely been so absorbed in an activity in my life. All of the kids played together extremely well and my Spanish got increasingly better as the day went on. We colored, passed the ball, played fútbol, and ran around to the tune of tag. At the end of the day it was difficult to say goodbye but I knew that we would be back tomorrow. Our voyage continued as we rode to the site for a Vacation Bible School (the first day of it in this place). The kids there were slightly more apprehensive to play with us (since this was the first VBS here), but we sang and danced with them for about an hour and walked around their community (which was more urban than the rural school area) to spread the word for the coming week. All in all (as far as service goes) this was by far the best first mission trip day I have ever had, and I can tell this week will be incredible. I am so thankful my parents who allowed me to come here (Santiago, Dominicana Republic) and for all of the people who bought stock from me to cushion the cost of the trip.

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