Traveling to the Dominican Republic for a 10-day mission trip was never something I thought I would have the opportunity of doing in college. I always knew I wanted to do a mission trip at some point in my life to help, but I never imagined that I would come back feeling the way I do. My entire life I dreamt of the feeling that I would get from helping people, but that’s not what I feel now. Instead of feeling like I changed other’s lives, I feel like my life is the one that was changed. What I feel now is a sense of warmth and inspiration. Who knew that all along the people that I would come to meet and interact with would be the ones helping me. I thought going down there I was going to help change lives, and while I might’ve made a small impact, the one who’s life has changed most is mine.
This trip isn’t something you can easily put into words for anyone to understand. I remember the first day for me, I stepped off the bus in Batey 80 with the food, teaching and evangelism team and we were immediately swarmed by little kids clapping and so full of happiness that the big yellow school bus was there because that meant it was full of people who were coming to help them. A young woman handed me her little girl, Meme, and walked away. The trust that these people have to just hand over their kids is something I’m not used to, but I appreciated it so much. Meme fell asleep on me while I was walking around, so not only did the mother trust me, but 2 month old Meme did, too.
At Joe Hartman school, my mom and I decided to sponsor two kids, and I immediately fell in love with both of them. Junior and Yasmin. When I first met Junior he was hiding behind his desk in his third grade classroom, quiet and timid. I walked up to him and started asking him questions and tried getting him to laugh but he’d only crack a smile. Then I brought a tennis ball out and his face lit up, so we played just outside the classroom and he wouldn’t stop smiling and giggling. When it was time to go that day, he got quiet again so I gave him a hug and said “Good luck in school and don’t ever forget, you’re loved.” I hope he remembers those words.
Yasmin was this little girl that when I first told her I was her “Madrina,” she smiled from ear to ear and jumped on me and hugged me. The first thing she did was bring me to meet her mom. Yanet was the sweetest woman, so grateful and beautiful. Yasmin loved back rides and painting nails and eating snacks, so we did all those things. On graduation day, I was watching her from the fence sit in her little chair listening to her teacher call out names. Suddenly she starts looking up and around as if she’s looking for someone and when her and I made eye contact, she ran out of her seat and jumped up to hug me. My heart felt so full in that moment, that by simply being her “Madrina” (sponser), she had this undeniable appreciation and care for me.
I interviewed several home owners in Batey 50 about their relationship with food in their home. I’ll never forget this day, because I had one woman who had 8 kids tell me that they often go an entire week without eating a thing. I could feel my heart breaking for this woman as well as the other people that suffer in the Bateyes, because all I could picture is how life is in America and how sometimes I’m so full after dinners like Thanksgiving that I can barely move. Like I said, it’s hard to explain what this trip did for me, and what I saw and who I met. All I can really say is that from the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to experience it, and that everyone and anyone that wants to open their perspective of life should absolutely do it. It was a once in a lifetime experience, my first mission trip, my first priceless journey.