The theme of the week for me was God's great beauty. Beauty in people, beauty in scenery, beauty in relationships, beauty in transformation, and beauty in love. This is just the beginning of a relationship with our new family at La Iglesia Transfiguration in Bani. We are already talking about next year.
21 July 2016
Our last Day in DR started as an early morning (even before the 7am daily siren) because Fr. Vicente wanted to take us to Old Town before our flight. Old Town it was...over 500 years old, discovered by Columbus. It was hot but we learned a lot of history how the city was first populated by the Spanish and slaves, thus the 2 races that live there now. The picture of Nathan is with Fr. Vicente's daughter Ruth, who was also 14. They bonded over music and video games. So awesome!! We made it to the airport 2 hours before our flight. The airport was insane but had a Krispy Kreme! So of course, we got donuts. Then customs took an hour and a half and we almost missed the flight. They had to hold it for us. Then when we got to Atlanta the storms had been so bad we had to circle before landing, then waited another 40 minutes to get a gate. The airport was gridlock with planes. It was a long journey home, but a good time to reflect on all these experiences. We will miss our new friends.
20 July 2016
Sadly said our goodbyes tonight after a great adventure to the sand dunes and beach, and a lovely dinner and dancing at Fr. Vicente's house. The most touching moment of the day was when Nathan gave Fr. Vincente's daughter, Ruth, his most favorite band bracelet after he learned they both like several of the same bands, and bonded over PlayStation and music tonight. Wow. So touched by everything that has happened this week. Time to pack and more pictures to come! We have to wake up early tomorrow to head out.
Pictures from our last night with our team of 14, Fr. Vincente's family and our fellow "local" workers. It was like we were all family. We danced, we played Christmas music, we ate and drank. Nathan and Fe vincente's daughter even played PlayStation together in the church 😂 they really hit it off being he same age and having similar interests. The first picture is me with our shuttle driver, crazy. Yes his name is crazy. But he was fantastic!! He took such good care of all of us!
Here are some pictures from our picnic on the beach and the outcome of our results at the school. We refurbished the playground, painted the front of the entire school, painted a mural, laid concrete on 75% of the rocky area, fixed up the gardens, painted part of the new outdoor cafeteria and helped with the framework of the rest of the cafeteria. While we were happy to know we helped make a big dent in their long list of projects to complete, most importantly we got to know all these special people and share in God's love.
Pictures from the sand dunes and beach today
19 July 2016
Love our nightly card games!!
A few more notes on today...the team continued to help with the concrete project ( you can see a picture of Nathan next to what's left of the pile of rocks - we he helped shovel and haul). The team also got to play some baseball with the locals which is a huge sport here! They dream of making it to the US on a baseball team. Still in awe of how great the people here are. So friendly, helpful and kind. I am beginning to feel sad that we pack up to leave Thursday. While I know this is just the beginning of the journey, I will miss my new friends, the abundance of animals wandering the streets, and our group. I am so happy I have had the opportunity to get to know this wonderful group of people from my church!
Today I am exhausted. The heat and humidity were tough and I have felt dehydrated most of the day. We started the day giving gifts to the kids in the school, and in exchange one cutie gave me her picture she drew. So sweet. We then spent more time sanding and painting. We got the mural on the front wall of the school started which is going to be so cute. Today was Fr. Vincente's birthday so we gave him an American party. Apparently they don't really celebrate birthdays in DR. My highlight of the day was spending a lot of time in the nursery and holding my new buddy Ronael who I was able to make stop crying. 😄 He was the biggest baby in the nursery and he and I would go by the window and watch the rain, the other kids and animals and motorcycles go by. I also got to feed the babies their lunch and rock them to sleep. It was interesting to see how the preschool classrooms are set up very similar to US classes, based on what was hanging on the walls (jobs, calendars, birthdays, etc). 💗
18 July 2016
I am still trying to process what we experienced today. Fr. Vincente took us to 2 other small villages where he serves and is building new churches and managing an upper level school (middle and high school). I have never witnessed such poverty. Kids bathing in the stream, stray animals, kids wandering the streets...Yet every person we passed said "Hola" and smiled and waved and laughed and interacted with us. We talked about this a lot as a group tonight. These people are happier than most Americans I know. Yet they struggle to eat and have no economic system here to thrive on. They keep saying it's because "God is good always, and always God is good." Again, still trying to process all of this, between tears and questions and confusion. I am just so thankful God lead us here on this trip to witness and help Him do His work.
Nathan, Kendall, Pete and myself really enjoyed these babies today!! In between painting, sanding, and paving, we spent time with these babies, playing and snuggling. Such sweeties! Crazy to think they are born into poverty and will likely never know any other way of life, but to them it will be normal and they will find great joy in the midst of it. That is what we witnessed today. I was so touched by Nathan's contagious happiness with the kids. I've now signed him up for nursery duty at our church. 😉
We did a reflection about separating goats and sheep during our morning prayer time. Matt 25:31-40 Interestingly, we saw a whole lot of goats today, and in this one huge herd, we saw a few sheep....as if God was bringing the lesson to life for us. One of our teammates who has height anxiety got on the roof and painted today! The school is looking amazing. Today we got to see some of the students, all who were very excited and grateful to see the transformation of their school.
17 July 2016
Today we are exhausted!! Started the day with a cup of coffee and headed to church. Fun service with most of it in Spanish. But got goosebumps when we all said the Lord's Prayer together in our respective languages. Right after church, we changed clothes and got back to work. I'll never forget bending down to mix paint and looking up to see like 10 kids, all with paintbrushes in their hands, looking at me, ready to help!! I was so overwhelmed because I wanted to direct them but my Spanish isn't that great. We got them helping with some projects, thanks to our translator, then played some games with them, which I got tagged out in a lot. 😄 We started painting the outside of the school today and pouring concrete in the playground area. Nathan has been an amazing worker. When the leaders at the church we are helping tell him to sit and rest, you know he's been working hard. I am so proud of that boy and had no idea he could haul and pour cement and paint like a pro. Such a joy! ❤️
This is the van that has been taking this crazy group to and from church. It's seriously like a clown car! 😂
16 July 2016
A few more pictures of today's work. Lots of painting and restoration and clean up in the playground. Fr. Vicente can't wait for the kids to return to school Monday to see the new playground! We have a lot to do after church tomorrow to finish. Tonight we went to a local "mall" which was like super Walmart 😄 and enjoyed the local beer. We played cards and bonded more as a team after a hard day's work! Oh and the little boy in the orange shirt ... He's so adorable! Nathan said we could adopt him and bring him home. Such a cutie!!
This morning we started our day with pancakes and eggs, did morning prayer and reflection then loaded up on this crazy van to head to La Iglesia to begin our work. We took a tour of the school affiliated with the church. They have about 150 students. Fr. Vincente explained the various projects we will be helping with over the next 6 days. One of the biggies is fixing up the playground and laying a safer substrate. Also, helping build a cafeteria, and pouring concrete in areas that are just rocks now. Nathan got to use a sledgehammer and felt very manly breaking up concrete. I will have some Advil ready for him tonight. 😉 we also taught the locals how to play "Chief" a game they loved!!! My Girl Scouts play that game too and it was a joy to see the smiles it brought to everyone's faces. Lunch was delicious local cuisine. La Iglesia is taking good care of us by helping with logistics like water and food. Such lovely people to be working with!!
Last post of the day because this was my high for today. Today was Kendall's 10th birthday. Kendall is the daughter of our priest and she has been a joy to get to know on this trip!! My high of the day was when we knocked down the barriers of communication between her and the local kids today. She was trying to tell them in Spanish that today is her birthday. She was using Nathan's book to try and translate unsuccessfully and feeling frustrated. So I went over to all the kids, and by the grace of God, busted out some 10th grade Spanish and was able to tell them today was her birthday and she was 10 years old. One of the local girls said "Oh! Happy Birthday?" They did it! They had their first breakthrough in language together! It was such an exciting and heartwarming moment.
So people here walk their cows...who knew???? This was very exciting for me. We were playing games with our friends at the church here, while waiting for painting supplies to arrive and we dropped what we were doing when we saw these cows and dogs roaming the streets! Funny. The cows were roped but the dogs were free. The locals walked over with us so we could see these cows up close. I just thought this was awesome. 🐂
15 July 2016
It's been a long day but our evening concluded with meeting the vestry from our sister church here that we are working with. Only the priest speaks English, but the enthusiasm amongst the group was unstoppable. We took a tour around Central Park, and got local ice cream. Fr. Paul's daughter, Kendall, loved meeting DR kids, and Nathan enjoyed helping her try to communicate with them. Our evening ending with some group time and prayer. And now we are ready to get a full night of sleep as we begin our work at La Iglesia tomorrow. Buenas Noches!!
When we arrived in Santo Domingo it was raining. We were shocked at how quickly the major roads flooded as shown in these pictures. The traffic here is insane. Apparently there are no rules when it comes to driving between lines, obeying direction of traffic flow, or helmets or number of people on scooters. We traveled wide eyed as the streets were filled with vendors, people including kids wandering among traffic to sell things like phone chargers, windshield wipers, and fruit. The other interesting thing was people who would exit their cab mid ride, right in the middle of the street, because they decided they could walk faster than ride. Nathan spent some time studying Spanish on the ride and is loving learning the language. More to come on our evening and first experiences communicating with the locals.
From Georgia to Dominican Republic...we did it! It's been a long day of travel including a 3.5 hour flight to Santo Domingo, followed by a 2+ hour drive from Santo Domingo to Bani. We really have enjoyed the change in scenery and warm welcome from our sister church here in Bani. Here are some pictures from our flight and arrival today.
Quick note that we have landed, been admitted to the country and on our way to Bani on a cute little Air
Conditioned shuttle. It's raining but clearing up. Warm welcome from our host priest here. More to come!
Today is the day! It was a little stressful navigating the International terminal and parking situation but we made it. Our team is on board and we are waiting to take off. I got in from Chicago around 10pm last night and was up at 5:00am today. Plan on sleeping on the plane! We'll check back in tonight!!
11 July 2016
Yesterday we had our blessing and send off to do our work in Bani. So thankful for this opportunity and such an amazing group to travel with. Love our church community who will be supporting us through prayer. T minus 4 days!!
7 July 2016
One week from tomorrow, Nathan and I will be embarking on a new adventure. We will be traveling with 12 of our fellow parishioners to Bani, Dominican Republic for our first international mission trip! Actually it's our first mission trip, and Nathan's first international trip. We have our passports ready, and are preparing to minister and serve at La Iglesia, a small Episcopal church, and home to a nursery school and high school. Can't wait to see what God has in store for us!! We invite you to join us on our journey here on Journi.