In April 2009, three Spanish classes at my school had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic for a missions trip. The trip was not open to every student in the classes; the limit was eight students. Our teacher had an interview process; we were asked why we wanted to be a part of the team, explain our relationship with Jesus Christ, and what we thought it meant to be a missionary. After she received all the applications and had conducted all the interviews, she made the team from two juniors and six sophomores. We would be traveling with two primary chaperones; our Spanish teacher, Miss Manz, and her high school Spanish teacher, Mrs. Sparling. As soon as the team had been made, we began preparing for our trip. Our sole purpose while in the Dominican Republic was to put a Vacation Bible School together for the children in the village. We had to prepare five lessons for a Bible class, English class, Arts & Crafts, and a Gym class. The themes for the days ranged from God’s promises, not fearing things in life, to God’s creation. Aside from creating lessons for the kids, we had to learn skits in Spanish which reflected the theme of the day, as well as songs in Spanish. We spents hours preparing for this trip. April 17, 2009 finally came, and we loaded all our luggage onto the bus which would take us to Reagan National Airport for our flight. The flight in D.C. would take us to Miami, Florida, which would then take us to Santiago, Dominican Republic. We finally landed in Santiago, and after finding our luggage, we were bussed to the house of a missionary family we would be staying with. The first two days were spend preparing the rest of our lessons and activities, and resting up for a long week. Monday came, and we were awake early to arrive on time at the church. There were two sessions in a day; we started at 8:30 am, and finished around 12:00pm, when we took a break for lunch. Around 1:30 pm, our next group of kids would come, and we would then finish around 5:00pm. Monday and Tuesday proved to be difficult for some of us; we were immersed into a culture that was not our own, and had to adapt quite quickly. While the students knew Spanish, we were not fluent enough to hold grammatically correct conversations. While this didn’t affect the people we were working with, our chaperones wanted us to work harder. For some of us, it was a hard slap to the face; but we got over it, and proved ourselves the next few days. Each day got easier, and even more fun. The amount of kids that came increased as each day went on; by the end of the week, we had over 90 kids attending VBS. The language barrier was not the only obstacle we had to overcome; the town in which we worked at, La Yaguita, was the prime example of poverty at its worst. Houses were made of tin scrapes, and cardboard. However, those who were fortunate actually lived in structured houses. But due to the high crime rate, about 90% of houses had iron fences surrounding the houses, some even with barbed wire. Plumbing was almost non-existent, and children went swimming in the water that was contaminated with sewage. Seeing the life that these people lived everyday hit us hard and sent some of us home heartbroken everyday. The trip was once in a lifetime for the two juniors, and was the trip of a lifetime. God used us in a way, that before the trip, we didn’t think possible. We may not have had the cream of the crop speaking skills, but God got us through the language barrier, and we were able to minister to over 90 kids while we were there. For me, personally, I came home a changed teenager. I recognized the need for Christ in other countries, as well as the need to build better homes, schools, and plumbing systems, among other things. We overcame language barriers, adjusted to a new culture, impacted the lives of many kids, and made friends for life. If I had the chance to take this trip again, I would go in a heartbeat. God used me in a way I didn’t think possible, and through it, created a ministry opportunity to one of the teachers at the school. I pray that God will continue to use me as His servant, so that I can help bring people into His kingdom.
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