One last day

Day 7 (Día siete)

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL YOU MOMS OUT THERE!

Today was our last full day here in the Dominican Republic. We began our morning with a scrumptious breakfast and then headed over to the Haitian church here in Villa Ascencion. Not only were we sweating like monkeys in the Amazon, but our hearts burned as well as we enjoyed the worship songs in Creole. The congregation was then kind enough to allow us to sing one of our songs of praise, so that we could all be united through music and our Lord. We then headed to a town called Sosua to an American church called, “New Life.” Once again, we lifted our voices in praise. The pastor also gave a nice sermon about mothers in the Bible and trusting the Lord.

Post-”New Life,” we roamed the beach and shops of Sosua. It was quite the change of scenery in comparison to the little village of Ascencion. After a refreshing “Co-cola” (read in Spanish accent) and many conversations with the Dominican shopkeepers, we were back in the truck and on our way home to the village.

This afternoon very well could have been our best yet. We visited the Haitian stores, admiring and buying the creations of the locals. And by “creations” we mean the artwork, not the children. We spent the rest of the afternoon simply enjoying the presence of the people in the village. It’s hard to put into words. We all experienced a deep sense of joy and peace in the hours we spent with the children this afternoon. Until the sun disappeared making way for her friend moon, we cherished our last moments with them.

Tonight, after dinner and devotion, Rebecca shared with us a tradition of her foundation, Foundation for Children in Need. She asked us each to think of a snapshot of our week. This memory was to be the one which was most vivid to us and that we could be sure to take back with us to the States. With each memory, we would light a match which could be compared to the light we have seen in the village people. Jimmy closed the night with his story of surviving the earthquake in Haiti and finding hope amidst suffering. He urged us to always give thanks to God despite our circumstances. He was also adamant about never falling into despair. With God, there is always life. Jimmy knows that we have all been given gifts which we can share to help others and bring them closer to God. He is a brave example for us all.

We would like to thank Rebecca and the Foundation for Children in Need, as well as Jimmy, Bony, Mario, and Megan, for giving us the opportunity to experience this week of service. We also give special thanks to the people of this village, for showing us genuine acceptance and joy throughout our time here. Finally, this mission trip would not have been possible without the support of our family and friends back at home. Thank you so much for your continual love and prayers.

Until next time…

Diós te bendiga,
Ryan, Courtney, and the DR Crew

A Day of Rest

Greetings Star Child, the Earth says “Hello!”

Day 6 (Día seis) 

Our day of rest at the beach was both salty and sweet! 

We departed this morning for a place called San Juan. Upon arrival, we found an estuary with small boats waiting for us. We climbed aboard and headed out to sea. Just like Gilligan and his crew, minus the whole “stranded on an island” thing, we explored the water and experienced more of God’s beauty through nature. Our captain brought us to a cave carved in the sandstone which bordered the sea. Looking up, we could see bats and swallows flying around. Looking down, through the clear-blue water, we could see huge boulders which covered the ocean floor. As Erika put it, the whole scenario helped remind us of how great our Lord is and how small we are in comparison. How great it is that He loves us so much despite our imperfections! 

Our captain then brought us to a small inlet so that we could jump into the Tiffany- box-colored waters. We swam and played in the water, taking in the sunshine and relaxation that the day offered. 

The time came when we decided to rustle up some grub. 8 hours later….

PIZZA!!! Paris had found its way into the Dominican Republic at the restaurant “Cafe de Paris.” After waiting for two hours (not eight), the pizzas finally arrived and we were able to silence our rumbling bellies. We finished off our meal with some Magnum ice cream and with the excitement of watching a rowdy political parade in the streets. What a lunch! 

After departing from Paris, we headed to another section of the beach. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the weather was not in our favor as clouds covered the sky and a light drizzle began to rain down. However, this couldn’t halt this group of amigos from having fun. We hit the water like halibut in November! Jimmy, Bony, and Mario joined us in the water, and all together we had a grand ol’ time. We retreated to the bus just as the rain began to fall harder. The bus driver had to stop at a river 15 kilometers (minus 14.5) from our house because it had risen too high and was rushing too swiftly for the bus to safely pass. It seemed as if all of the Haitian boys in the village showed up to escort us across the river and through the mud. Barefoot and joyful, we all squished back to the mission house. We closed our day with an intense game of catch-phrase, a hearty meal, and an insightful devotion. 

We can’t believe that tomorrow is our last full day. The week has definitely gone by too quickly. Does anyone have a time machine we can borrow? 

Diós te bendiga,
Ryan, Courtney, and the soul surfers 

The fifth day

Greetings fellow Americans!

Day 5 (día cinco)

Today was quite the adventure! After breakfast, most of us began a hike to a place called “church in the woods.” The hike lasted for two hours, and it was a SWELTER, but the scenery of the Dominican Republic was breathtaking. Because yesterday we experienced rains comparable to Noah’s flood, we dodged puddles and trekked through mud up to our knees. When we finally arrived at the “iglesia en los árboles,” we removed our muddy shoes and socks and joined the Haitians who sit according to gender–women on the outside and men in the middle. They all lifted their hands and voices in praise to our God. Some even cut-a-rug along with the songs. A man read from the Bible and gave a fiery sermon, and the Haitians continually responded with “Amen!” or “Alleluia!” Even after an hour had passed, they were just getting started. It is always enlightening to experience how other cultures praise God.

The way back was not as demanding, as the others in our group, who had gone into the town for food, picked us up in the truck. We all climbed in the back of the truck, gripping tightly to the iron bars. (Don’t worry mom, there were no seat belts.) Because Dr. Mowrey made a bet with our guide concerning how much longer we would be hiking, and won, we stopped at a Shell station for an ice cream treat. ¡Era delicioso! We then returned, exhausted but satisfied, to the mission house. 

We switched gears for the rest of the afternoon and focused on improving the English center and library. We split like bananas into committees in order to work efficiently. Rebecca has a vision to create a program which tests and tracks the village children’s reading, writing, speaking, and mathematical abilities. With this program, Rebecca aims to meet the children where they are and help them develop their knowledge set. Erika and Dr. Mowrey organized the books in the library and labeled them according to categories. Meanwhile, Ryan, Matrisha, and Alice sorted the donated books by difficulty levels–easy, medium, and difícil–to be used in an accelerated reading program. Upstairs, Elisabeth, Stephanie, and Courtney worked on developing an assessment which could identify the initial levels of reading comprehension, vocabulary identification, and the mathematical ability of the students. The assessment aimed to also track the progress of the children in three month intervals. We hope that our work helps create a sustainable learning environment for the village children.

After a long day’s work, we were all full of delirious giggles. We finished a delicious dinner and a deep devotion and headed to bed. (Well, we’re currently writing this blog…but we are about to join the others in slumber…)

Tomorrow we head to the beach for a day of rest. We hope this day is full of restoration. ¡Arriba!

Diós te bendiga,
Ryan and Courtney and the sleeping beauties 

Otro día

Day 4 (Día cuatro)
Another fabulous day! 

We started off the day at the breakfast table, where we began discussing the woman whom we took to the hospital yesterday. Rebecca informed us that the woman was diagnosed with cholera. She asked us to help her educate the village on symptoms and prevention in order to keep the village from facing an epidemic. For the rest of the morning, we set out drawing visual aids with “pencil crayons,” creating binders full of information, and figuring out the logistics of the groups. 

After lunch, we dispersed throughout the village to begin our mission. Alternating between Creole and Spanish, with the help of Erika, Stephanie, Alice, Mario, and Jimmy, we went house to house sharing information about the bacterial disease. In sharing our knowledge, we also had the opportunity to see more of the conditions in which these people are living. Most of the Dominicans in the village seemed to have nicer houses and used bottled, purified water. The Haitians, on the other hand, lived in less comfortable conditions, with most of them retrieving unclean water from the mountains. It helped open our eyes to the situations and needs of the people, but it was not long before we could also see their evident joy.

Towards the end of our time sharing, it began to pour down rain. When we say pour, we actually mean torrential cats and dogs out the wazoo better grab your umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay type of rain. The children flooded (pun) out of their homes and congregated on the fútbol field to play in the rain. They created a slip-n-slide out of the grass, dragged each other by their legs on their backs, played muddy soccer, and splashed around in the massive puddles. Ryan and Courtney joined the children on the field where, although greeted with laughter and high fives, they were promptly schooled in soccer (“schooled” in italics for emphasis). The children played in the field for hours. As Erika put it nicely, the children are so FREE! They seem to have no fear. They simply have genuine joy! 

Dinner, as usual, was full of lively conversation, giggling, and beans. A Canadian volunteer, Megan, led a devotion which focused on the concept of joy and living a life of following the Lord. After discussing our high’s and low’s for the day and enjoying Elisabeth and Erika’s delectable cookies, Matrisha’s beautiful voice led us in worship, praising the Lord to end our night. 

Once again, please continue in your prayers as we continue to serve. Be assured of our prayers for you all as well. 

Diós te bendiga,
Ryan, Courtney, and the amigos en Cristo 

Note from may 8

Sorry for not posting this when I got it but I did not :-( …… Here is their note: We had a fantastic day…Walking around the village , getting to know families, working at the library/moblie learning center and playing soccer.
from Alice and group, sent to Ruth who was sloooow publishing it

La Republica Dominicana

¡Hola de la Villa Asención en la Republica Dominicana!

We have two full days here already, and we have done so much! We are excited to share.

Day 1
We began our day with a walk through the village. The Haitians greeted us like family, with children running up to hug us and families bringing us into their homes. The families live in tiny concrete houses. Most are smaller (and hotter) than an average dorm room, and most hold up to ten people. Many children run around naked, displaying their lack of good clothing. The families also lack food, as they are unable to obtain a steady job without proper documentation. 

Despite their circumstances, the people of the village are so joyful! The village is full of singing, laughter, and games. A few of us spent hours playing fútbol with the kids, while others spent time helping in the library and English center. The children are eager to learn, and the woman in charge of our group, Rebecca, has made it her mission to help educate them. Two of her adopted Haitian sons, Jimmy and Boney, help the children with their English as well. 

As we ate dinner and prepared for bed at the mission house, we could hear the loud and cheerful voices of the villagers singing in the church. They attend worship every night, praising Papá Diós. In the midst of their situation, the presence of God is not lacking. He is in the hearts of these people.

Day 2
The morning began with us splitting off- a few of us went to go buy avocado from a local family and others transported a woman to the hospital. When we reconvened, we decided to visit a neighboring Haitian village called Negro Melo. When we arrived, we met a woman who was in need of a new kitchen and supplies. Rebecca agreed to send someone to decide how much it would cost, and to help her out later on. While Rebecca spoke with the woman, the local children arrived home from la escuela (the school). We brought with us fifteen children’s books to give as gifts to them. The children were thrilled! Many had us sign our names in the cover like we were famous Hollywood stars signing autographs. Some also wrote the Spanish translation underneath the English words to make reading possible. We ended our time with them signing songs in English and in Spanish.

When we returned to la Villa Asención, we simply spent time with the villagers. Ryan played basketball with the boys while Courtney and Erika let the children paint their arms and legs. Matrisha cuddled “good boy” for a while, and the others went into town to buy food for our youth activity.

As we have quickly realized, there is a major difference in culture in terms of planning events. While we Americans like to be on time with a set schedule, the Haitians here are very laid back and go-with-the-flow. After being two hours “off-schedule” and switching locations during a rain storm, we finally got the salmon jumping and our youth festivities were under way! Alice began by reading Isaiah 41:8-10 en Español, and Erika followed up with a reflection and prayer (en Español también). Singing followed- with “How He Loves” and “Set a Fire.” The children joined us in English on the last song, and then sang two songs for us in Spanish. Justin Bieber found his way into the DR, as all of us belted “Baby, baby, baby ohhhhhh!” Yes, we mean “all”… Even the grown Haitian men sang along while pumping their fists. After a magic trick, cookies, and fruit punch, the youth activity came to a close. 

Our mission for us has become clear. We came to build something intangible. We came to build relationships. We came to give love to these children and families. We came to play, to laugh, and to share. We are family because we are all God’s children, and each of us carries a piece of God’s heart with us. 

Please continue to pray for our group, the wonderful volunteers here with us, and the people whom we serve. Please be sure of our prayers for you all as well.

Diós te bendiga,
Ryan, Courtney, and the rest of the amigos