Dominican Republic - Arrival
I recently returned from a work and witness trip (mission trip) to the Dominican Republic with a group of Nazarenes from Colorado.
What is work and witness? "Work & Witness was a ministry that began with a group of concerned laymen who wanted to meet the needs that they saw around them. What began as “Men in Missions” officially became “Work and Witness” in 1984. It is all about connecting teams with needs. Help with construction, medical, technical, and evangelistic needs may be offered by teams of 2 or more people." - Church of the Nazarene
How did I end up on a trip with a Nazarene group? My friend, Kim, who lives in near Denver, Co, invited me on a trip organized by her aunt and people from their church. I first declined, unwilling to commit months in advance because January has so many options (lol). I finally decided to go 3 weeks before the trip! It was a stirring I couldn't seem to shake, and just felt like I should go on this trip. Also my little sister prompted me by saying "you should do a mission trip", which confirmed my inclination to go. I texted Kim letting her know I'm in! Within a day my flights were booked and I got approval for time off work... Oh and I happened to renew my passport a couple weeks earlier :) Coincidence, I think not. God is always working in the background, whether we believe it or not, and he works all things for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
I left Portland on a Wednesday evening and first arrived in Denver, CO. Thursday early morning the entire group of 16 people met up to begin our journey to the Dominican together. We ate Chick-fil-A breakfast sandwiches, piled into a van and truck, and headed to the airport.
Everything went well until I got to the customs counter in the Dominican Republic. I'll preface the following story with the fact that we were all already nervous about the Dominican customs, for various reasons. I was probably one of the first 5 people out of the group of 16 to step up to one of the customs counters, but last to leave.
The woman at the counter was confused with my passport, she didn't speak any English and therefore didn't explain the problem, which I still don't know till this day. She mumbled somethings to herself in Spanish, seemed like maybe she was confused with "Ukraine" as place of birth on my passport. After about 20 minutes, she wrote a note in Spanish and sent me to the "Office". By this time my friend Kim came back to the customs counter to see what was the hold up. I was feeling terrible because the entire group was waiting on ME! Ah, I was last to join and hated to already be a burden.
We walked into the office and handed a man the note with my passport. He went to his desk and was searching something on the computer, again it seemed that the issue was "Ukraine". He also didn't acknowledge me or explain anything to me. We guessed that maybe, maybe, he Googled Ukraine, or they don't regularly see passports with a birthplace of Ukraine and nationality as USA, so it caused confusion. Anyway, he wrote a note on the same paper and pointed for us to go back to the counters. We come out of the office and all the customs agents are gone, except for one woman, not the same one I was working with earlier. I attempt to have her help me, she reads the notes and explains in broken English that the first lady I worked with has to be the one to stamp my passport. I state the obvious to her; "no one else is here". She tells us to wait a minute and disappears into a back room. After a couple minutes of waiting, a man shows up asking if we need help, we explain the situation, and he tells us to wait a minute and also disappears into the "Office". So we wait again, I lose my patience and start marching towards the "Office" myself. Out of no where we hear a lady call out to us. We turn around and leaning against a post is the original woman that helped me at the customs counter. We walk over to her, she takes my passport without a word, stamps it, and tells us to go. I couldn't get out of there faster!
We walk out and everyone seems to be extra excited about the situation. Apparently because of the hold up with my passport none of our luggage or supplies went through the vigorous customs process because the place shuts down at 9pm. What a blessing in disguise!
The host missionaries met us at the airport with prepared sandwiches for our drive to the house. Our transportation while in Dominican was a big van and sometimes a bus. We used a service that included a driver that the missionaries organized with our schedule.
Our hosts have a special house that has 3 bedrooms dedicated to hosting work and witness groups. The 7 woman shared a room with bunk beds and a bathroom. The 9 men were split between two rooms also with bunk beds and a bathroom upstairs.
The discomforts: There was just enough running hot water for the first two ladies to have a hot/warm shower. The beds and pillows were hard as rocks. The floors were so dirty you have to keep your shoes/sandals on when in the house, not because no one cleaned, but because of the traffic and openings to the outside. Electricity was not available 24/7, but the house did have a generator. Windows do not have glass, they are a net to keep bugs out and metal blinds, therefore you hear every sound from the outside whether its loud music or howling dogs. Lots of creepy crawlers, and I'm not a fan. With all that said, I was still happy for the place we had to stay, especially compared to the way most Dominicans live. Having a flushing toilet felt like a luxury (except you can't flush toilet paper). We have it goooood in the US!
In the Dominican if you do not have a cement fence with barbed wire around your property, people can come steal from you. Even if you just have a cement fence, they will climb over it and steal. Apparently at that point its your fault for not putting up barbed wire.
I took the above picture as we were driving. I wanted to capture how messy most homes and yards are, its unbelievable. Such a different mindset.
Stay tuned for more posts and pictures from this trip, I'll be sharing about the work we did, church services we attended, the food we ate, and of course the many ways I was blessed from this trip and how it impacted my life... I feel like I got more out if it than I put in.