Changing the world, one week at a time

I said goodbye to one set of Missioners yesterday, and said hello to another set today. After a very early morning leaving Detroit and then a plane change, our second Camp Compassion group arrived in Puerto Plata today. It was so wonderful to see them and welcome them to the Dominican Republic.

After arriving at our hotel, I took them to the La Serena to buy some snacks, change money, and see their first Dominican grocery store. Most of the youth came back to try out the pool before dinner. A group have gone to walk along the beach (malecon) and will come back before our nightly meeting.

They all look great, but tired from traveling. I hope¬†they will get a good nights sleep, because tomorrow will begin the “real” work.

-Eric Travis

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In reflection as we are preparing to leave this beautiful island, I will say that this place is overflowing with life. I see it in the lush plants, the reggaeton and merengue music that floats through the air so often, and the riot of colors on everything from the buildings, to the plants, to the people. The people we have met and worked with here have been so warm and welcoming. By U.S. standards they may not have as much, but they share love and energy freely.

In return, I’ve felt so much spirit in myself and in the youth in our group. I’m happy to have all of this feeling and life and great memories to bring home.

(P.S. I just learned that the quickest way to break up a meeting is to send a large insect scurrying through. See? So much life. Not all of it the kind I want to bring home with me.)

Cyndi Hernandez

 
Several years ago I concluded to shift my Christian efforts from internal administrative and policy matters at Christ Church Cranbrook to interacting and serving souls outside the four walls of CCC.

Participating in a mission trip was a simple and obvious way of making this transition. While it took me several years, I finally committed to participate in the 2016 mission trip to the Dominican Republic, along with Gwen (wife) and son Matt. Where better to provide service to people desperately hungry for assistance in so many different ways. Little did I know what I would experience!

Small hints of what was to come happened in a planning meeting held in March for all DR participants. Eric (i.e., experience leader) and others talked little about mission work, and more about new and lasting relationships, and finding God’s calling for each of us. That seemed OK to me as fillin between painting, construction, clean up and what ever else they planned for our work.

As the trip became closer and closer, I changed my thinking slightly from work accomplishment to discernment and discipleship; but really a minor mid course correction versus a totally new emphasis.

Then I arrived here. Work was mentioned periodically, but much more emphasis was placed on both relationships and findings God’s calling for me.

This seismic shift then happened here. Work was done for sure, but more joy and lasting impact seemed to be in the games, playing, conversations, and relationships that seeened to be constant throughout our days; conversations with our young adults (and that is really how they behave), talks with incredibly impressive group leaders, dicusssions held by the entire misssion team and the end of most days, and just slowing down to observe, reflect and ponder in ways we don’t typially at home.

So how did it go? Well, not so good in one sense, and incredible in another sense. The work went swimingly, no broken bones, viruses picked up, falls or other events of note. Much work accomplished. A grade of “A” earned. On relationships, a “B” or “B+”, but with a heavy dose of “incomplete.” Loved the time with my new young adult friends, and man are they impressive!! I hope to stay in touch with them periodically despite non-use of social media. I hope to follow them in the future, though a grade of “incomplete” is warranted at this time. The proof is in the pudding, and the batter at this point is neither mixed nor placed in the oven. However, I am very optimistic!!

The third element I earned a terribly dissapointing “F.” That dreaded “God’s calling for me” question. No thunder bolts, no personal visits from God, not even a good two-sided conversation. However, here is what happened. I met Peter on the trip, one of the team leaders who has been doing mission trips since the 1990’s. He described to me both early in the trip and again on our last day here the same story about the epiphany he had when God let him know what Peter’s Christian calling was to be. No bolts of lighting, personal visits, or conversations for him either. Just an open and inquiring mind waiting for the right communication, time and venue. And Whamo, he heard the message clear as day. I am sorry to say that has not yet happened to me. But what has happened is a stronger faith that with the right mind set by me it will happen. I leave this trip confident that if it happened to Peter, it can happen to me. In many ways, this new realization for me has been a “grand slam.” Now I just need to keep my mind right, be patient, and have faith. Thank you Peter.

I feel so blessed to have spent a week with such wonderful and spirit-filled adults, youths and new DR fiends. My participation on this mission experience has been a huge blessing in my life. Next mission experience blog I look forward to reporting on what I have found my calling to be.

May Christ be with you.

Craig Fitzgerald

 

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Today while downtown in Puerto Plata, we encountered a guide when we got dropped off in the middle of the city, he was very outgoing and clearly loved his job. He talked to us for almost an hour and a half trying to get to know us since he knew we were looking for places to tour and eat. He waited for an hour and a half with us, then lead us to a restaurant, which was very good, even after he was tipped he walked with us for a long time after we ate. He was clearly in the spirit of grace, he wasn’t interested in the money and was more concerned with building relationships.

P.S. written with Jacob

Matthew Fitzgerald

 

We’re almmost at the end of the trip now. We’ve done zip lining, shopping, swimming, and painting among other things. Georgia and I got to make cartoon characters – Mickey Mouse and Peppa Pig – on the side of the school wall, and we’ve all had a lot of fun interacting with the kids who live near where we’ve been working. Miguelina was the first one to approach us on Wednesday, and from there her siblings Joan and Gualizo joined. By the end of the second day we had about 15 kids, the oldest being 9 years old. We played tag and clapping games and helped them climb up the structures, and even though we were limited to the translating skills of Mia, Hollee, and myself, along with a few others who’ve taken Spanish in school, we were still able to communicate and have a great time with the kids. We bonded a lot with them, and when we left the worksite yesterday they all seemed sad to see us go. It was amazing how eager they were to help out after just a few interactions, and even though they could get underfoot sometimes they made the work really enjoyable. Overall the trip has been so much more fun than I expected. Hopefully our last day will be more of the same.

–Miranda RT

 
My experience in Puerto Plata has been probably the most fun I’ve had. I’ve experienced a new culture, new language, and a new environment and atmosphere. Spending a week in the Dominican Republic has really opened my eyes in what the rest of the world has in store. I’ve become more aware of how privileged I am to have fresh water, fresh clothing, and just a cleaner part of the world I live in. Here, in the Dominican Republic, you have to worry about diseased water and enough water, enough clothes, and clean clothes, and even just the ground. This week, I worked on a church and school in which I met new people, and had a blast throughout the 2 1/2 days we worked. The food here is delicious, meaning the rice and beans meals and the food the Hotel Lomar has provided for us. Apart from that, the streets are full of stray dogs with no one to help them and full of trash.

~Emma Bongers

 

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Today was a healthy combination of work and play. We finished up working on the parts of the church we were improving. Even though we only worked until lunch we came together as a unit and surprisingly got a lot done. We finished painting some of the rooms and the hallway and paintings of “Peppa Pig” and Mickey Mouse on the outside wall for the kids. I felt kinda sad because it was our last day working there and I’ll kinda miss it but I’m thankful to God that he gave me this great opportunity to help these wonderful people. Besides working, we also had a lot of fun. We played basketball with some of the locals (being Frank and his brothers) who are actually pretty good. We went to the churches that were built from some of the former pilgrimissions and then we went to the beach. And it was the first time for me in the ocean, and it was amazing and I had a lot of fun but the water was really salty and that taste was in my mouth until we got back. But overall today was awesome and this trip itself has been amazing and I thank God for this wonderful opportunity to come here and help others and make new friends and have some fun along the way.

-Joel Hill

 

This trip has definitely exceeded my expectations so far. I came in scared and I didn’t have much motivation to work. Now, I’m left wanting to work more and I’m excited for what this weekend will hold. The sense of accomplishment is amazing. Playing with the little kids was awesome and put a big smile on my face. I met the cutest little boy that I’ve ever seen. His name is Joan and even though I couldn’t communicate with him much we had a great time. I ended up taking about 100 pictures of him. I’ll always remember this pilgrimission and I thank God for this incredible experience.

– Macee Wilson
“The Good Looking Twin”

 

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We continue to have internet connection problems, but I believe I have figured them out. You will end up getting two posts today. – Eric

 

Today I learned that the people of Puerto Plata are not materialistic but God gives them courage, strength and shining will to make their days as good as possible. I especially saw God’s grace shine through when we were playing with the little kids, even though we couldn’t understand each other we still all had a great time. I also realized that God gives time for play too like when we played basketball with some of the local volunteers like Frank. Another thing I have learned from my time here is that Dominicans can cook amazing food, I have not had a meal that I didn’t like on this trip yet. In conclusion over the course of this trip I have realized how great God really is.

P.S. I wrote this on my balcony with Matt

Love yo boy Jacob Hanoian
This pilgrimage has given me a chance to connect with God and let me learn new things that will eventually change my life I suppose. Given this opportunity, I have the ability to change many other lives. The children that accompany the school grounds during the day, give us passion for our work as well as strength to keep going. Believing that I can and will make a difference, also lets me hope there are many other missions to accomplish as well. This day has succeeded with every intention, while we had time to relax and be mindful of the tasks at hand. My peers that are missionaries searching to be Gods servant, have guided me with hope and love from the minute we met. When we started working together I knew God was with us and lending us power to create where creation was needed. Being with a totally new group of young adults was an opportunity that I knew in my heart that I needed. God has provided me with every thought, every waking heart beat, sense of feeling and so much more. The language has not stopped me from making new friends and having loads of joyful memories that will be kept very safe. My mind is just growing more and more each day, and my heart is getting stronger and bigger each momento.

Sincerely Georgia Cotter, a servant and daughter of God

 

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Since today was the first day of work in the Dominican Republic, I was definitely skeptical. It was over 90 degrees, and I was covered in a thin sheen of sweat from just standing outside waiting for the bus. Needless to say I was not exactly thrilled to go somewhere in that heat and work. But when we pulled up to La Escuela Nino Jesus, (Baby Jesus School) I was pleasantly greeted by the Reverenda and even though she didn’t speak much English, she welcomed us with open arms and was extremely kind. The work we did today was sweeping and scraping the roof of the school in order to get it as smooth as possible to put a new coat of paint over the old, cracked one. It was aggravating at times especially with the wind and the dust we were sweeping, but we got it done and it was so satisfying to see that whole roof covered in white paint after 7 hours of work.

My favorite time of the day though definely had to be when we met some local kids and got to hang with them and play with them for a while after lunch. There was Migalina (Miguel-ina, age 8), Joan (age 4), and Guadiso (I think, age 3) who were all siblings, and Reeby, a 9 year old boy who loved basketball almost as much as talking. It was absolutely amazing to get to test my spanish skills with the little ones who spoke extremly fast. I was constantly asking them to repeat what they’d said. Now I know how my family feels when I talk. By far the funniest moments were when Jacob and Reeby got into a “tu” (you are, no you are!) argument in which they were calling each other crazy, chicken, ugly, stupid, etc. which was hilarious. Also, while we were waiting for more cans of paint to arrive so we could finish our job, a small group got together and played a game of basketball. Funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Finally, before we had to leave for the day, I sat down with the kids that had come to meet us, and I taught them a little English. (After our little party of dancing to Pitbull and trying to teach them how to Dab.) They were so smart and I can’t wait to go back and see them tomorrow. Overall, today was a great day and I’m so excited for what the rest of the week has in store.

-Hollee (the better twin) Wilson

 

Today was the first day of work and it was very different then any other kind of working environment I’ve been in. First all of the natives speak Spanish of course and only 3 people in our group knew good Spanish. Playing with the kids was really fun because children are the same everywhere even if they speak another language. Another interesting thing is Miranda, Macee, and I went to a local Supermarket which was basically like any store back home, but it was full of people and most things were in Spanish. I also bought $300 worth of snacks which sounds weird, but of course it was in DR pesos. Working today was also scary because we were painting a flat roof and there was no railings so you could just look down three floors. Frank (one of the locals) spoke in Spanglish so i could sort of understand him.

-Colin Fulton

 

Finally able to upload some pictures.

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Having a bit of trouble with the wi-fi at the hotel, and couldn’t get these pictures up yesterday. We are helping to serve a weekly breakfast at the Cathedral in Santo Domingo.

 

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