I’m currently on a plane flying to the Dominican Republic where I will be for the next 6 days. It has already been a memorable experience. The team (me and 7 others) were supposed to arrive last night, but due a terrible thunderstorm in Dallas, we got stranded at DFW after our flight to Miami was cancelled. One of the parents of a girl on the trip booked us two rooms at a nearby Holiday Inn Express. So we got plenty of rest. We flew out of Dallas at 10am, caught connecting flights in Atlanta and Miami and now we’re only a few minutes away from our destination.
God has taken great care of us through the change of plans. One of the most impactful moments for me came the first day when we landed in Atlanta. The airport there is one of the biggest most heavily trafficked airports in the entire world. When we landed, we had about 45 minutes to get to the terminal for our next flight. I was preparing mentally for an all out sprint to make it in time because my luck usually means that the gate is on the exact opposite side of the airport. We got off of our flight at gate D-16 and went to check the board for our next flight’s terminal only to find that it was D-17, 20 feet away from the gate we just arrived in. What are the odds? Thank you Jesus…because we all really had to pee.
This should be a great week.
I am safely in the D.R. We landed around 8:30pm local time last night. Unfortunately, all of our checked baggage was left in Miami and won’t be here until later today. So, the guys especially, are rummaging through everything we carried on in an attempt to dress one another adequately for church.
My first impressions:
1) The airport is so much nicer than the one in Haiti. Already I can see the difference fiscally between the two economies.
2) There are properly constructed roads and the Dominican drivers somewhat adhere to the traffic laws. Not so in Haiti. This doesn’t even seem like the same island.
That’s all I’ve got for now. We were driven to the White’s home after dark last night so I couldn’t see much, but it is remarkable how much more stable the D.R. seems than Haiti when they are on opposite sides of the same island. Santiago isn’t in great shape, but it looks like luxury in comparison to Port-au-Prince.
Our arrival at the White’s home was met with excitement from more than our hosts alone. As we were touring the balcony patio, a wolf spider came running out from a corner straight in my direction. The thing was literally bigger than my hand. Luckily, my Matrix skills kicked in and I avoided it, but the men decided we needed to hunt it down and kill it since it had run inside the house – if nothing else, for the sanity of the girls.
Around 45 minutes later, the spider met its demise. Now we’re off to a good start in the D.R.
May 22nd – Evening Entry:
We’ve pretty much finished our first full day here. This morning, we attended the White’s church, International Christian Church. It was a small group of attendees (~ 40 people including us), but the worship was done in three different languages (English, Spanish, and Creole) and the sermon was spoken in English and translated into Creole. After that, we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Dominican food is amazing. They are pretty heavy on the rice, but they mixed in plenty of seafood and meats to please just about any taste. It was delicious.
We were all pretty exhausted post-meal so we came back to the house and got about an hour of down time. Once we finished up with that, we visited an orphanage run by some people the Whites know here on the island. There were around fifteen kids there. Thanks to the energy of college students, we did a pretty good job of wearing them out by playing volleyball, basketball, and hide and seek. It was really great to the smiles on the faces of those kids. Especially a young girl who was blind. Ben, one of the members of our team, let her play his ukulele and the joy in her face was priceless.
I love playing with kids, but they completely wore me out this time around. It’s around 8pm and I think I could crash right now. Tomorrow we go to the discipleship training center to help with construction. The day will be a tough one, but we can all look forward to some pretty sweet farmer’s tans.
Exhausted. That’s how I would describe myself today. We did manual labor from roughly 10:30am to 6:45pm yesterday. The Whites are in the process of constructing a discipleship training center/missionary retreat on about 14 acres of land. It’s in the beginning stages right now so there is a lot of work to be done. Yesterday, the guys built 9 roofing trusses for the purpose of covering the main warehouse on the property. Hammering nails for 8 hours straight takes a toll of which I was not aware. Hundreds of nails and a few bloodied fingers later, we completed our task. It was exciting to see the construction come to fruition. We’re continuing the work today.
Last night’s dinner was amazing. Teresa White made us a Haitian meal. Avocado salad, brown rice, marinated shrimp and fish, fried plantains, and garlic bread. I ate so much. So far, it has been the best meal I’ve had here.
After dinner, we visited a local jazz club downtown. The taxi driver drove us into this parking garage that led to the top of a dumpy rooftop. Then out of nowhere this awesome looking structure with mood lights, dressed up locals, and groovy music appeared – the jazz club. The band was really great and it was a fun cultural experience.
Time to get to work.
Our work at the training center felt much more productive the second go around. We got all of the trusses in place and braced to the frame of the walls. So it actually looks like the proper framing of a roof. I earned a couple of extra bruises and scrapes by the end of the day, a sign of successful hard work if you ask me.
After that, we went back to the house and got a quick shower before heading over to the church for Bible study. Five of the local regulars attended along with our team and the Whites. One of the girls from the team shared a devotional from Psalm 103 which spurred some discussion about our desperate need for Christ and how Satan can use our pride to blind us from that. A girl from Santiago confessed that she feels as though she is nagging God by asking Him for things continually. This allowed for us to discuss the nature of God and how He never grows weary of a humble heart. Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” That is a lifestyle and not a one-time accomplishment.
Today has been such an exciting day. We got an early start in order to catch a taxi at 8:15am that took us to a national park called “27 Waterfalls.” At first, we all thought it was going to be a hiking trail that took us on a tour of each waterfall. We found out last night that the hike is to the top of the mountain and then each of us jump down all of the waterfalls to get back to the bottom. Awesome, I know.
It started raining around the time we got to the park so we were only able to visit 12 of the 27, but that was more than enough. We hiked up the side of the mountain in some dense jungle forestry, much like a scene from LOST. With the rain pouring down, it felt like we were walking through a rain forest. After around 45 minutes, we made it to our first jump. From then on, it was a sheer adrenaline rush. We would make a jump and then swim/walk to the next one. The highest ledge was ~30 feet and it was so exciting. Highlight of the trip so far.
This afternoon, we drove to Santo Domingo (about 2 and 1/2 hours from Santiago) to stay at a missionary home for the night. It is the capital of the Dominican Republic. We attended a Haitian church this evening. They really know how to worship. The noise level at this place was easily comparable to my experience at Mission of Hope Haiti. The sermon was from Luke 15 and the pastor exhorted everyone to return to their Father like the prodigal son because the days are short and repentance should not be delayed.
At one point, I was asked to be ready to speak because Jim White usually fills in when they visit. However, he’s not with us on this trip. So I was asked. I felt very honored that the team considered me for that role even though it didn’t actually happen.
Tomorrow, we will be leading a VBS for the Haitian children of the church, then we will tour a colonial city during the afternoon. Then we will head back to Santiago, get some sleep, and I will get on a plane home Friday morning.
This morning, we showed up at the Haitian church planning to lead a VBS for ~50-60 kids. As it turned out, there were more like 150 kids there. So right from the start, we had our work cut out for us. Teresa took the van back into town to buy more snacks because we wanted to give them all the opportunity to have a healthy meal while they were with us. It was so much fun though. The team did great job of preparing songs in English, Spanish, and Creole – all languages that the kids had some knowledge of, but they were fluent in Creole. We acted out the story of Noah for them and then handed out paper plates for each child to draw an animal face on. They were pretty excited to be able to use crayons and elmer’s glue. Teresa made it back in time with the food and after about three hours with the kids, we fed them and sent them on their way. It was quite a busy morning.
After that, we all piled into the van and headed into the heart of Santo Domingo where we got lunch at a local restaurant near the colonial city. It was right across the street from the first church ever established in the New World. Construction was begun on it in 1492 when Christopher Columbus came through before heading back to Spain. Once we had finished lunch, we toured the church and it was beautiful. The colonial city as a whole reminded me of being in Italy. The narrow alleys, cobblestone roads, and modern stores like Kodak sitting within these ancient buildings just screamed of Europe.
We toured the old governor’s mansion as well as the judge’s courthouse. The latter is now a museum that we were able to go through where we saw some documents written by Columbus himself as well as the office where Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molin, or El Jefe, stayed during his reign as dictator of the Dominican Republic. Seeing the history behind the country made it an even greater experience for me.
Once we finished up the colonial city, we made a quick trip to a local market to buy some souvenirs. It was crazy. Every store owner came running up to us with some item they were trying to sell. It was pretty fun being able to haggle with them about the price. This one lady wanted to sell me a coffee cup for 950 pesos, roughly $24. So we had some fun buying memorabilia from the market. Then we all climbed back into the van and drove back to Santo Domingo.
I spent the evening packing once we got back to the house. Then, we sat down with Jim and Teresa White so that they could tell us the story about how he spent 60 days in Haitian prison before being kicked out of the country under suspicion of being a terrorist planning to overthrow the government and assassinate the president. It is a crazy story. God did some unbelievable things in their life during that time. It took Jim over two hours tell us everything so there’s no way I can do it justice in a few paragraphs. If you’re interested, you can read the whole story by going to the Sharing the Vision site and clicking on the link, “From Prison To Praise.”
This morning, I said goodbye to the team and Jim drove me to the airport for my 8am flight out of the D.R. It was a great trip. I really enjoyed getting to spend time with this missionary couple and see how the Lord is using them to serve and train people in their country. Missions always serve to remind me that the Gospel is so much bigger than any American agenda. It truly does reach to the ends of the earth and there is nothing that can stop the life transformation that occurs when the Truth strikes the human heart. Praise God for His love of the nations.
Traveling home was mostly uneventful until I got to DFW. I was walking to my terminal when I walked right by Dennis Rodman! He was headed into the bathroom so I thought I would be really clever and stand off to the side inconspicuously with my camera down by my waist so I could take a picture when we walked out. Unfortunately, I did not turn off the flash which blew up as I took the picture. EVERYONE turned and looked at me, including Rodman. For a minute, I thought I was about to be physically assaulted by the 6’6″ former NBA player, but he just shook his head and walked away. It was a little embarrassing, but hey I got a picture of the guy.
If you’re interested in seeing the rest of my pictures, click here.