Seniors Return from Dominican Republic
Published November 25, 2018
The Class of 2019 traveled to the Dominican Republic for the week-long, senior missions trip before Thanksgiving. Every year, God works in the hearts of the seniors, softening and transforming their hearts. “Break my heart for what breaks yours” comes to life in a new way. Students, many of whom have never been exposed to poverty, are able to see God’s unconditional love in a new way. To be inspired and encouraged by YWAM staff all week also shows the students the devotion of Christ-followers and how selfless and devoted people can be in the name of Jesus Christ.
The group of about 70 people split up to three sites throughout the week: Construction Site, Casa de Luz, and the Leprosy Center. Here are a few student excerpts from the blog over the week:
Our travel group went to the construction site where we would make a home for a family of four who had been sharing one room for many years. As we were driving over, I felt selfishly nervous, thinking about the many different things that could maybe go wrong for me. When we arrived, the place was filled with poverty, but the trees and the mountains were so beautiful. As we began to work on the home, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the process. It was amazing to be a part of something so outside of myself. As the day progressed, I found that I was putting my own needs and concerns aside and was able to work hard for the greater goal at hand. Even though the sun was beating hard, the Lord gave every ounce of strength that was needed to keep going.
As the Lord helped me to be outwardly focused, I began to see the beauty amongst my classmates. They (and myself) were covered in mud from the rainy days prior, but they had big, genuine smiles on their faces. They were carrying kids up and down the hills, making new handshakes, and giving many many hugs in addition to the construction work. This was inspiring for me and challenging as well to think about how I am loving them and also the kids and Dominicans around me.
The Lord used an exhausting day to bring me outside myself, appreciate the beauty around me, and help selflessly.
The second day at the construction site was a full, exhausting 10 hours. We jumped right into playing with kids and people found their strengths pretty quickly (whether it was playing with kids or building the house). We soon realized that the house project was more to take on than we first anticipated. For example, two different truck loads of gravel were dropped off for us to spread throughout the rain stricken dirt. We carried buckets of rocks through the mud all while trying to engage children and simply keep our feet on the ground. We soon saw the strengths and determination of our grade come to light.
The senior guys did a phenomenal job pushing through the day, carrying hundreds of buckets of gravel from the bottom of the path up to the house. I have no idea how they had that much strength to push through the day. We worked until the sun set and were completely worn out. We were so impressed by the guys and all of their manual labor today.
On the last work day, we went back to the Juan Guzman village to assist in finishing the construction of the house. Those who didn’t work on the house worked with the children in the village. There was one point in the day when all the children who were playing with us went to the church down the street to meet as a group. It was very interesting to see the similarities between their children’s Sunday School and our’s in America. Me and my friends were sitting with a young boy named Manuel. It was absolutely stunning to witness the joy of Manuel and his friends as they worshipped God together, sang, danced, and always smiled. It was such pure, child-like joy.
Later on in the day, we completed the house. We were informed that the family who we built the house for would be arriving shortly. We gathered around the house. It brought tears to mine and many others eyes to see their absolute joy at seeing their new house. Days like these are what’s so amazing about this trip. I get to experience another culture and their differences, their joys and sorrows; and I get to experience the hard work and dedication of my classmates. I am sure to never forget things like this.
CASA DE LUZ
I had a few expectations going to Casa de Luz for the first time. I certainly expected to feel uncomfortable, and I expected to be unprepared for whatever awaited me. I knew from years past that Casa de Luz was one of the most special places that the groups got to spend time, and I hoped my experience would be similar. Needless to say, it did not disappoint.
Casa de Luz is a beautiful place. It is called “House of Light” for a reason. For a place that has every reason to be dark and hopeless, there was an excessive amount of light and hope. Initially, I felt a little uncomfortable, struggling with the difficulty to connect with Dominicans of whom many could not speak, and with my minimal Spanish. But all the kids wanted was someone — a hand, a voice, a smile.
There were four boys who impacted me the most. The first was Emilio with his shining personality and ever present smile. He stole my watch. The second was Miguel, a quiet boy who just wanted someone to touch him. He stole my hand. The third boy was named Christopher, whose laugh would melt your heart. I stole his nose. The final boy was Miguelando, the most joyful orphan you will ever meet. He stole my heart. It’s so amazing to see these boys in such a difficult place in life, yet so changed by just a few hours of my time. God is able to use what may seem like an insignificant amount of time to me to touch and change each of their lives forever, and I am so incredibly grateful for it.
Casa de Luz absolutely broke my heart for the better. We had the opportunity to spend the day hanging out with the children. It broke my heart that so many people can’t look past physical disabilities because beyond that, anyone who walks in the room will see happiness plastered across their faces. I spent my day with two four-year-old boys, Miguel and Antonio. We ran through the hallways of the orphanage having wheelchair races and popping wheelies.
Towards the end of the day as they got ready for their nap I held them in my arms and rubbed their backs. The smiles that I saw when they would look up made me realize why I am here. Even though neither of them could speak, their smiles were worth a million words. I know too that God has a plan and a purpose for these boys beyond their physical restrictions. Antonio and Miguel have my heart.
Our group entered the Leprosy Center and greeted the residents. Even though they knew little English, they were so joyful for companionship. I sat down with a man named Miguel. He did not know any English. Our former knowledge from Spanish classes helped us communicate and we also used smiles and body language.
I brought along the game “Uno” to play and so a few of us walked through the game with Miguel despite our language barrier. After our practice round, he told me he never wanted to stop playing. It warmed my heart to see a man get so much joy and gratitude from a couple girls playing a simple card game with him. I knew Jesus Christ was smiling down on us because we were following his will of loving our neighbors even those who are shunned or it is taboo to be with.