Going on a ten day mission trip in the Dominican Republic was something I never thought I would do. I’ve always done small volunteer jobs and donated to causes. But, I wanted something different, so, when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.
Despite all the preparations in class and testimonials from previous students, I still did not know what to expect. The trip didn’t start off as smooth as everyone would have wanted, between the Zika virus to airport and airplane problems, my nerves were restless. But, as soon as we arrived in La Romana, I felt nothing but excitement. I was excited to see the Dominican Republic, get to Casa Pastoral, meet people, eat Dominican food, and start working.
When I found out I was put on the construction team, I laughed. For those that know me, seeing me hold a tool is either scary or comical. But, I was ready to handle the challenges thrown my way. My first day on the job consisted of lifting and transporting about 800, 25-30 lbs. food boxes from a freight to a pavilion…not an easy job. First day was done and my arms already felt like jello.
The next day was Sunday and we went to church in the morning and at night. As a catholic, I didn’t know what to expect going to a Baptist church. Even though I couldn’t understand what was going on, the faith these people have in both churches were so powerful. Their belief was inspiring. After morning mass we spent the day at the Joe Hartmann School and played with children. Tori and I met the cutest little girl, Kiara. She was so full of life and so happy with all the activities happening that day. Both Kiara and her mom were so thankful with the time and attention given to her that day.
The next five days were challenging, enjoyable, and filled with memories that will forever be in my heart. My first official day in Joe Hartmann was difficult, it was a lot of physical, manual labor and on top of that the sun was beaming down on us. Luckily we could take breaks and play with the children, but that in it self was another job. All the kids were so energetic and wanted to play. Despite the language barrier, we all somehow understood each other and were able to enjoy the week together.
After spending two days at Joe Hartmann I felt an attachment with the people and the place, I didn’t want to leave. We had the option of switching to different teams, but I felt that I would be betraying Joe Hartmann and Team B Construction. The week consisted of lifting, digging, transporting, and assembly lines moving concrete and cinder blocks. I challenged myself and pushed my limits. I would go home every night and be so weak, but I knew that all the work that I helped put in was going to make a difference in so many people’s lives. When I wanted to give up, all I had to think of was the children I met throughout the week. They were the ones who would benefit from this cafeteria. When the week was over, the amount of work we did was amazing. The place looked completely different. All I did was step aside and reflect on the week and looked around the place. Everything that exists in that construction site was done with our hands…truly astonishing.
During my time at Joe Hartmann, I met this little girl Nicole. She and I connected right away. I spent my break times with her and we would just play and laugh. The whole week, she was attached to me and whenever she saw me, she would hold my hand and we would go on an adventure. Nicole is a quiet, four year old, much like how I was when I was her age. When it was time to say our goodbyes, I was carrying her and I told her I wouldn’t be back until next year and she wouldn’t let go. This made me want to come back sooner.
I learned10 things during this trip:
- I had strength I never knew I had.
- I could branch out of my comfort zone and still be okay
- Not being able to do it all is okay
- Meeting new people will enhance your experience
- Conversations with people without the distraction of electronic devices are better
- Losing power isn’t the end of the world
- But, not having air conditioning in a humid and hot place like the DR is the end of the world
- Giving up is not an option
- Be thankful for all that we have and blessed with because not everyone is as fortunate
- Mission trips are something I want to keep doing
Yes, it’s cliché, but this trip has changed my life. This trip has inspired me to want to start my own mission trip in the Philippines. I was born in the Philippines and like the DR, its a third world country. I know it wont be easy, but it is something I want to do in the future.
Halfway through the week, I kept telling my friends that I wanted to go back next year. I just couldn’t wait to be back. Yes, the week was very challenging but the experience and people I met trumped the hardships that I went through. I have met amazing people in both KM6 and people from DRMT. These bonds that I formed will always be treasured. All the people I have met and all the memories formed will always be remembered as my first mission trip. Truly unforgettable.
– Gabby Dizon