My most memorable moment of the week was on Thursday when I carried a little boy up the mountain that was right next to Batey 106. He was attached to me the previous day and the only way I identified him was by his green shirt with stripes that he wore three days in a row. We climbed up the mountain and when we reached the top, he hopped off my back, picked a flower, and ran over and handed it to me with a smile on his face. He was so excited to give it to me and it left a lasting impression on me. As we went back down the mountain, I looked out at the rolling hills of sugarcane and palm trees. Even though there was a language barrier, I pointed to the mountains and said “Las montanas!” (the mountains). I told him that God’s love for him was greater and bigger than all of those mountains. I know he probably didn’t understand it, but the connection I made with him this week will be something I will never forget.
-Mary Beth Gordon
My favorite part of the week was being assigned to the barrio every day. Even though I switched between the construction and day camp, I was still able to see the same kids. Before the trip, I had been praying that I would find children that I connected with, and that prayer was answered. One girl in particular sought me out daily to give her piggy backs and walk around with her. Although there was a language barrier between us, we were able to communicate pretty well. On the last day as we were packing up to leave, I looked for her to say goodbye but I could not find her in the crowd. I decided to walk toward the bus when I saw her standing close by. She ran up and held her arms up like she wanted me to pick her up. I started to say, “No, I have to go,” but I decided that picking her up one more time would not take too long. I grabbed her and she wrapped her arms around my neck, and we stood like that for a few seconds. Before I put her back on the ground I said, “Te amo mucho” (I love you very much) and she replied “Yo tambien” (me too). Having that connection with her was so special to me, and I know I will never forget it.
-Anna Grace Eldridge
My most memorable moment from this week happened on Friday when the whole group went to Batey 106. I had only been there one day before that so I didn’t know many of the kids there, but as soon as I stepped out of the bus a girl came up to me and started asking for my shoes and my sunglasses. I had to tell her that I needed them and I was very sorry and she told me “es bien” (which means its ok) and continued to take me to her house. Once I got there she introduced me to her parents and siblings and told all of them that i was her new best friend. After talking to her family for a while one of the adults walked up and gave the girl a bouncy ball since she hadn’t gotten anything yet. The girl immediatey turned toward me and noticed that I had a pocket on my shirt and but the ball in it and said “es para ti” which meant “its for you”. I tried multiple times to give it back but she wouldn’t take it. It just made me happy that even though she asked me for most of my things, she still gave me the one new thing she got for herself.
This week we worked hard to build a school for the neighborhood children. After a few hours of shoveling and moving dirt, we took a water break in the church that was built by our youth a few years ago. The church was filled with children singing Christian songs that I recognized, except they were in Spanish. It helped me to realize that all this hard work, all this money, all this time, and all this effort is all pointing back the glory of God.
The most memorable part of this trip for me occurred on the last day of work, Friday. I was on the bus ride from the school to Batey 106 for the house dedication. I had made a little friend earlier in the week at this Batey. As soon as he saw me on the bus, his face lit up with a smile. He began to jump up and down saying, “Es mi amigo!” which means “It’s my friend!” This week, I was blessed to see such great joy in the children of the Dominican Republic, especially with my little amigo.
I spent the majority of my time working construction, so I didn’t get to spend all of my time with kids, but my most memorable moment was with some of the kids at Batey 106. It was Wednesday afternoon and it was extremely hot and we were starting to level the floors at the house we were building, and my job was to shovel gravel into the wheel barrel so they could put it on the floor. I was on my 7th wheel barrel full when two 3 year old kids came over to the pile of gravel and pulled plastic spoons out of their back pockets and started to help shovel gravel with their spoons. They didn’t actually help me that much but just the willingness to help serve their community without even being asked was a God moment for me.
-John Forrest Ruble
My most memorable moment for the trip occurred last Sunday morning at the church service I attended. Our group split up and went to three different churches, but we all planned to sing the first three verses of Amazing Grace at each church. By the time my group had finished the third verse, the keyboard player in the church had already figured out the melody, and the entire church then proceeded to sing the first three verses of Amazing Grace in Spanish. The entire service was incredibly powerful and unlike any I had ever attended, but it was an overwhelming feeling to hear a song that we all know so well sung with such passion in a foreign language by a fellow body of believers. Mr. Dubose-Schmitt mentioned as we were leaving for the church that morning that this was going to be a glimpse of heaven, because as Christians, we are all a huge family spread across the world. But once we are all in heaven, we will finally be united, praising God and celebrating for all of eternity. And I feel that this moment was about as close of a glimpse of heaven as I will ever get in my time on this earth.
Monday I was at Batey 106 doing construction. Right before lunch, many of the children led us up the side of a hill nearby to a Mango tree. (Don’t worry. I didn’t eat any haha) Since I was carrying two kids on my back I didn’t see the view until I reached the top. It was beautiful. You can probably find pictures somewhere. Surely the LORD created everything here. That’s one of my favorite moments of this trip.
Throughout the week, I spent my time in the barrio where we worked on the school. As the week progressed, we were able to form some sort of organization and order with the kids at the day camp. On Wednesday, we read the story of the Lord’s Prayer. I read the story in Spanish from a Bilingual children’s Bible. When I got to the “Lord’s Prayer,” Mike Pierce had the idea for them to repeat small phrases after me. It was a huge success, as they were able to participate in the Bible story and praise God in the process. We decided to do the prayer every day, and by Friday they had all learned it pretty well. I like the way the children’s Bible translates the beginning: “Hola, Papito!” which translates to “Hello Daddy!” It was an incredible experience. The children shined with the love of Jesus and I hope I will carry their precious faces and voices in my memories forever.
I was at the school for all but the last day of work, so I got to know a few of the kids there really well. Rosie, an adorable little girl there, walked around with me and held my hand for hours. On Tuesday we gave out some materials for making bracelets. I noticed that Rosie wasn’t spending as much time with me and was instead very interested in the bracelet she was working on. At the end of the day, she walked up to me and gave me the bracelet without hesitation. I put it on and when she saw me walk out of the bus the next morning, she saw that I was still wearing the bracelet and immediately pointed at it and started beaming. I couldn’t help but smile back. I know that many other people on this trip experienced something similar to this story and I think it’s so special that these kids, who have so few material possessions, want us to have things from them.
My most memorable moment of the trip happened on Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon was our last day to do mission work in the barrio or the batey, so we took any equipment and/or materials left over and handed them out to the children. This one boy named Carlos took me to his house and introduced us to his father and let me practice hitting baseballs in his property. Afterwards, Carlos was given an Auburn hat and noticed that I had one too. I wanted to take a picture with him of the both of us in our Auburn hats, but before we could take the picture he took his hat off, grabbed a Sharpie , and asked me if I would sign the inside of his hat for him, so I did and that moment just stuck with me the most out of this entire trip.
My most memorable moment from this week was our first sunday when we attended church in a batey. Almost all of the service was in Creole. We couldn’t understand the words they were using, but it was abundantly clear that their intention was to praise the lord. We were asked to participate in the service, so we sang amazing grace, and Jamie gave a few words. Luckily we had a translator (however he did embellish some of what Jamie said), so they were able to understand our message. It was truly a taste of heaven; we were able to worship and sing together, even though we couldn’t understand any of what they were saying.
I was able to experience many new things this week. I was able to see Christ working through all of the students and adults from our church who volunteered but I also saw it in the children and adults in Batey 106 and the barrio. There was one child specifically that really impacted me on the trip and I met him in Batey 106. His name is Jose and I met him on Tuesday when I was working the day camp. I probably threw a baseball with him for what seemed like three hours. On Wednesday Jose walked me around the batey and showed me his home and I got the opportunity to meet his mother. Seeing the way she smiled at me when she saw me with Jose made me realize why we came on this trip. We came to show God’s love to these people and build relationships with them and that was one of the most unforgettable things I’ve had the opportunity of witnessing.