Saturday, April 19, 2014

Last... but not least... Thoughts from The Dominican Republic from Emily Allen

            Sitting in the airport for our long layover gives me some time to reflect on this incredible week and all of the amazing experiences that we’ve had.  So many moments throughout the week left an impact on me, but probably the thing that affected me the most was Tuesday when we went to the Hole.  The Hole is an inactive landfill that has become the home of many Dominicans who can’t afford to live in typical neighborhoods (which still don’t even begin to compare to those in America).  When we went, we walked through the streets, got a small tour of the church, and fed the children of the community.  It was incredible to see the impoverished people being content with what they had.  Upon our arrival at the Hole, children started coming out from everywhere yelling “Americanos! Americanos!”  They would claim us as their own and hold up their arms to be embraced and held by us.  They were aching and searching for any love and affection they could get.  What really hit me hard was hearing that girls there usually started prostituting themselves by age 11-12.  At that age, they would be responsible for taking care of their younger siblings while their parents went to work for the day, along with all the responsibilities that come along with being a mother.  One of the things that the church was focused on was teaching them practical skills so that they would realize that prostitution wasn’t their only choice.

            There are so many more things about the life-changing trip that we experienced that I cannot wait to share when I get home! God has been so good throughout this trip and has kept us safe with little to no problems.  Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed and supported the team on this trip! Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we embark on our final flight! Most importantly, remember to pray for the people of the Dominican Republic and the efforts of GO Ministries to spread the love of God.

Emily Allen

Maya Norris' Dominican Thoughts

This week I've had many life changes. I've learned how to love children even without being able to speak to them. I've heard no complaining by the people here. Everyone here has much less than us and they still have a great outlook on life. I've felt like I never felt before last night. I felt as if I have truly fallen in love with the people here. It will be hard to leave tomorrow. 

The children here just need so much love. As soon as they saw us they ran towards us. They want to be held and fed. It’s really great to have so much love and trust from a child who hasn’t ever even seen you before. With this thought, none of it would have happened if it weren’t for people who went before us and gained their trust. If they hadn’t been kind and caring then we wouldn’t have been trusted.

I could see the contentment of the people. I have also seen their willingness and eagerness to work for the church and for God. They have all been so kind to us and so fun to meet. Their music is actually some of the same songs we sing in church but in Spanish. When we had youth group on Wednesday the boy sitting next to me, Eder, sang some of the songs in English to help me figure out what song it was. It was really fun.

A few Dominican thoughts from Jonah Wahl

This week has been an amazing experience for me. I’m really upset that I had to go home so soon. When I come home, I’ll have an entirely new prospective on life. From now on, I won’t be complaining about silly stuff like Instragram not working for a few hours. In the United States, we have so much to be grateful for. Some of the people around the world like in the DR would do almost anything just to be in our shoes.

One of the experiences that hit me the hardest this week is when our group went to the hole. As soon as the little kids in this place saw us, they started running up to us with the biggest smiles on their faces. One kid in particular came up to me screaming to all of his friends “Americano, Americano! Mio!” (American, American! Mine!) He came up to me and held his hands up, asking me to put him on my shoulders in Spanish. When I tried to put him down so my group and I could work, he clung onto me. Something similar happened to everybody in our group. We did not only go to feed the children, but we also went to show them love and attention.

I can’t wait to go on another mission trip next year. I absolutely love helping those who are in great need. In 2016, I hope to be an intern for GO ministries during the summer. I want to wait till then so I will be able to speak Spanish better. This week, I have decided that I definitely do want to be a missionary in a Spanish speaking country.

Jonah Wahl

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dominican Thoughts from Paige Roe

Hello to everyone in "the states"!

Today I finally had my first opportunity to work with the group. Some of you may know that I am allergic to latex, which made it hard for me to work in the church this week. The main work project was to paint the church.. Latex is in paint, so therefore, I could not be at the church working, and if I was, I had to be outside. So, while the others got to enjoy working in the church with the entire group Monday and Tuesday, I got to enjoy serving kids in a nutrition center and also help Lenae (our G.O team leader) with her office work. Even though I was away from the team, I still had an opportunity to serve God. While serving the kids in the nutrition center, I was amazed at how many kids didn't know their last name, and even some not even knowing their first because they only know their nickname. Seeing these kids get so excited for food and attention made me see a whole new world. The kids beg for attention while we are begging for the newest technology and Starbucks. Seeing these kids melted my heart. My love for kids became even stronger, even when I didn't think it could.

As I had mentioned earlier, after the nutrition center, I was with Lenae at her house while the team was at the church painting. Knowing that I couldn't help the team and feeling useless, it was honestly so hard to sit there in a comfortable chair and a cool house. But, at the same time, I feel as if I was called to be there to experience something different, that may effect my life in the future. I created a special bond with her that I will never forget. Romans chapter 8 verses 28- 30, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." This makes me feel as if God called me to be in a different place with Lenae for a time in my future, whether it be a full-time missionary or even just an intern.

This trip has opened my eyes a lot. I realize how beyond lucky I am to have a bug-free house, air conditioning, and warm showers. I never thought I would ever consider taking another trip out of the country (due to me being homesick), but now, I am thinking the opposite. The Dominican is an awesome place, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be here to experience this.. Especially with my mom. Now that my mom has experienced this with me, she will be able to remind me how lucky I am when I take advantage of things. Even though I love this place, it makes me realize how important my family and also church family is.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dominican Thoughts from Reagan Wasileski

The experiences that I've had so far on this trip are really indescribable. It is hard to accurately delineate all the thoughts and emotions that we've experienced thus far in the places we've been, the people we've met, and the things we've done. Nevertheless, I will do my best to put into perspective how life changing it all is. For example, today our youth group traveled down to a community in Santiago known as "El Hoyo" (The Hole). When you hear the word "poverty" what image comes to mind? The image that invades my mind looks exactly like El Hoyo. Our trucks were parked at the top of a hill, and down below was a crowded array of small shacks, sewage rivers, pigs, and neglected children. Immediately upon entering the community, we were greeted by eager children with the biggest smiles you have ever seen. They were shouting "Americanos! Americanos!" and were asking to be held. One little girl, about 5 years old, climbed on my back and said to me "Te quiero ser mi mama." Which means "I want you to be my mom." I was at a total loss for words. I got a huge lump in my throat which made it impossible for me to articulate any thoughts whatsoever. I didn't tell anyone else for fear that I might start crying. We were only at El Hoyo for approximately 40 minutes, but in that time, we served food to some of the children at a nutrition center similar to a soup kitchen, and we talked briefly with one of the ministers about his experience with building a church in the middle of that sort of community and all of the struggles that came along with it. Before visiting "El Hoyo", I hadn't really witnessed poverty in the streets of Santiago. It hadn't really occurred to me the extremity of the situation and how bad things really were. I can honestly say that this trip has changed my heart in more ways than one and I really would encourage anyone to go on a mission trip to a third world country if the opportunity ever presents itself! :) Hasta Luego!

Dominican Republic thoughts by Maria Casas

We just got back from a place called "El hoyo" ,  It is a place in the middle of Santiago with a lot of poor houses, which are made out of useless materials that they find in the streets. El hoyo was a garbage dump, then, people started building  houses with the trash and the population there started  growing and soon, the government could not do anything. It was shocking how the little kids run to you as soon as you get in there looking for your attention.
We also got to feed them and for most of the kids, it was their only meal of the day. Their smiles when they ate were huge.
Going there made me think a lot of how lucky we are for all the things we have and sometimes we complain anyways. Here, leaving around trash and most of them having one meal a day are very happy and the smallest thing in the world make them happy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dominican Thoughts from Bebe Faulhaber

Hola friends and family! :):)

I wish I had enough time to tell you about all the fun and new experiences all of us are having on this trip, but I'm sure you've heard all about today's events from Hannah earlier. To be honest, this is the first blog I have ever posted, and I must say I am pretty excited, so I hope you all enjoy!

Today was our first day of construction, and we've been working in the church. Rachel Murray and I were given the task of painting two bathrooms and a few other walls. After a couple coats of paint, by the end of the day we had completed the job. It felt really great to get to finish a project, and see all of the progress that is happening within the church.

After we cleaned up, had siesta round two, and an incredible dinner we got to go get ice-cream from Bon Helado, and have a couple hours of group fellowship. It's really incredible to see the different types of friendships being built and strengthened throughout this team. Kerlyn drove us back to the house, and we got to jam to some Dominican music in his "party bus."

When we got back to the house, I got the chance to share my favorite scripture and lead a devotion for the team. I read from Isaiah 49:15-23 (MSG), and then closed in prayer. Now I am currently relaxing with Rachel Murray in our host family's living room. I have picked up the habit of journaling every night, but it is harder to write out all of my thoughts than I had originally imagined. There is just so much to say, and my hand can only take so much writing.

One thing I love so far has been experiencing the different culture. All throughout the day, and even during the evening I love to hear and fall asleep to the music that is being played throughout the neighborhood. Speaking of the night, there is supposed to be a lunar eclipse around 3am, so hopefully I can crawl out of bed and sneak out onto the roof and catch a glimpse of it. Jim says no, but he isn't stopping me. (Shh, don't tell him I said that).

Well this turned out to be longer than I thought it would be, but so much is happening in this community, and I am so grateful that I was able to come on this trip. I am excited to see what the rest of the week has in store so us. I also want to say thanks again for everyone's love and support towards this trip. We have been so blessed. I hope all is well back in the states! :)

Bebe Faulhaber

Dominican Thoughts from Hannah Murray

Today we went to the church to do work. At the church, there was a number of things that needed to be done. First, I filled in cracks with cement. Second, we loaded cement blocks into a truck. The blocks needed to be taken to another work site that was in the process of being turned into new dorms. A couple other girls and I rode in the back of the truck and it was VERY interesting, to say the least. First of all, it was very bumpy and we got to go in the middle of the city and see a afferent side of things in Santiago. After we unloaded the block, we returned to the church. During this trip, a motorcycle came so close to us that we could literally touch his hand. He then proceeded to pop a wheely and go around us. If no one has mentioned this yet, I'll be the first: the driving is AWFUL. After this exciting adventure we had lunch (which was delicious) and then we went back to the church. The rest of the afternoon we painted the main room where they hold their services. I was able to interact with some of the teens that are a part of the youth group here. Although there is a language barrier, we are still able to talk and get to know them. Overall, the first day has been very uplifting and fun. Tonight, we are going to get ice cream and I am more than excited for that. I hope all is well in the states! And yes, I'm taking advantage of being able to say "in the states".

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Dominican Thoughts" from Jonah Steele

Bienvenidos a la Republica Dominica! We had a safe landing in Miami, and the 8 hour layover was "heavenly." I can honestly say that airports are built to house Starbucks stores. Anyway, as we landed in Santiago, we could see a wonderful view of lights. We are close to the equator, so the sun comes up and down from 7 to 7. Being that close to the equator also means that the sun is bigger, like literally. Its the size of Colony Square Mall, but in the sky (Which is most likely photoshopped to be this blue.) Customs people can't smile, and TSA security guards are still scary. As soon as we landed, we could tell that the standard of living here isn't the same as what we are used to.

This morning, we went to church, which is next door, and sat (stood kind of) through a Spanish service. One of the coolest things about that was how some of the songs we sang were ones that we knew, but in Spanish. Isaias (el capitan) said in his sermon, "The church is a hospital for sick people, not a museum for saints." This mirrors North Terrace's goal of One More, and it was awesome to see the goals of two different churches across an ocean line up like that.

The thing that has struck me the most so far is how happy the people are. In our wonderful United States, we complain nonstop about things that do not have any real impact. Wifi, hot water, flushable toilets, and even not having the newest Apple device. The people here could complain about not having electricity, not having clean water, diseases, poverty, trash, rough roads, not having a house, not being able to send their kids to school, not being able to feed their families. But they smile. The contentedness that the Dominicans shows puts a lot of Americans to shame. The way we define "wealth" doesn't even apply here. The poorest among us have immeasurably more than the vast majority of this island. The people that we will see this week and the ones that we already have seen have an ability to take what they have and praise God for it. Isaias also preached about praising God in the high times and in the low times. The people here embody that. I think that as a group, we all have a lot to learn about what "wealth" looks like, in terms of our spiritual riches and our physical ones.

-J (of the Steele variety)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 Dominican Republic Team

In just 2 days, these students and adults will be on their way to the Dominican Republic (plus a couple who couldn't make this picture).

In 2009, I first traveled to Santiago, Dominican Republic, on a short term mission trip.  I believe that giving students an opportunity to stretch, try, fail, succeed and experience new things is important to their faith.  I also believe that the Kingdom of God is bigger than what we often experience in our town, state or country.  God is doing some amazing things in corners of the world where Twitter and Facebook aren't recording it and where it doesn't make the cover of Christianity Today. We'll get a chance to see it.  

This going to be a great trip.  These students have worked very hard and have raised over $15,000 (so far) for their trip.  We will be doing some construction and children's ministry while there.

Over the next week, starting on Saturday, these students are going to have the opportunity to share their thoughts, experiences and feelings here in this online space.  I want them to share it while it's fresh.  A student will share each day and one day will feature two students.  Look for new posts as time allows!

And please pray for our crew!