This trip not only opened my eyes but also my heart and soul to the power of Jesus Christ. I came to realize what the phrase “making the best out of every situation” really means. The extreme poverty was a constant factor in the citizen’s everyday life, though they praised and trusted in God more than anyone I know. For the week, I spent being in another country not constantly chaperoned by a parent, allowed me to think with an open mind. The family and their pastor reached out to Greater Atlanta Christian for help. My school sent a group of teens and a few mentors to República Dominicana to build a house for a family in need. While there I connected with two kids who will have a lasting impression on my life.
It was my first time in the Dominican Republic, away from my parents and traveling alone. It was also my first mission trip and I loved every minute of it. As I sat and looked around the village of slums and shacks, I saw that the people were so giving and friendly. They had little to nothing, and yet they were still volunteering to give more. While we were building the house, they would offer fruits and coffee which to Americans is nothing but to them it’s their whole income or savings. They taught me what it means to genuinely care or love someone. Drowned us with love and showed us how to overcome challenges. We were in Dominican to build a house for a family in need. Though I took away with me so much more than that. They taught me what it looks like for a community to come together. The number of people offering to help build this house was outstanding. We collected church members, family members and even just neighborhood kids coming to help build this house.
It was a hot, scorching day as the sun beat down on my skin. The lush green palm trees provided me shade as I sat and observed my surroundings. Children, barefoot and dirty, wearing ragged and stained clothes were running around laughing and playing. Their joyous giggles put a smile on my face and warmed my heart as I watched them. They are happy with the little they have and thankful for what they receive. I sat with my heart smiling as I listen to them beat on rocks, buckets and rusty poles to create a song. Even though I didn’t know what the song was saying I knew I wanted to strive to be like them. Happy with what little I have and grateful for the things I possess.
While there I met a boy, who was thirteen years of age, he was so funny and caring. His mom worked in the kitchen and she made meals for us every day. He hopped on the bus with his friends during the week while, we were on our way to the camp. We dropped them off at school. His name was Jeffery and he was the king of the neighborhood. Jeffery took me and my friend around to tour the town, he guided us behind a house where there was the biggest pig I’d ever seen. Also, he took us to a woman’s house and started to pick off fruits from her tree and so we could taste it. The woman came out screaming and we took off to the housing area. He never had a dull moment and shared the love of Jesus through everything he did. From breaking up fist fights between his friends or playing basketball with us.
I also met a young girl who was fourteen years of age, sweet and beautiful, and a local. She was a cousin of the family we were building for. Her name was Rosa and she had a twin sister. She was so loving and patient as she took my broken Spanish and made sense of it. As I tried to translate most of what she spoke to me, we were able to have the first of our small conversations that would continue throughout my visit in her country. Although, her family was poor they took a couple of other students and me to see the trees where they grew fruits and showed us around the area. I remember her appearance and personality like it was yesterday. Her voice ringing in my ear as I tried to break down her experienced Spanish. I saw this girl and her family every day, all day for a week and enjoyed seeing their big eyes smile.
During the day, I played ball and drew pictures in the dirt with her and other kids. We got dirty and grimy, sweaty and smelly, but none of us cared. I have never cared less about what I looked like than when I was with them. It just didn’t matter. They barely had any clothes, shoes, or even all her necessities, and still they were beautiful. In one week, I was taught local games, and rhymes. It was like being at camp but we come from complete different backgrounds. Though we were brought together by the will of God.
On the República Dominicana trip, as a freshman I learned what it means to really put yourself out there. I was blessed with the opportunity to say the last prayer as we handed the family the keys to their new home. Being one of the few freshmen in a group of mostly juniors, I was extremely grateful. I learned that true happiness is best served while serving each other. In Romans 12:9-13, speaks on love being sincere and hating evil. Furthermore, to be joyful, patient and faithful in prayer. Then share with the Lord’s people who are in need and practice hospitality. This passage speaks volumes to me. It tells us to share the love of the Lord and be patient with one another. I feel like this trip allowed me to follow Jesus through this verse word by word.