The Experience of a Lifetime - My Family Travels

This past summer, I was privileged to be able to go to the Dominican Republic with the youth group from my church. We went through a program called UNTO, an organization that helps third world countries around the world and focuses on spiritual, medical, and educational needs of the citizens of these countries. Although the Dominican Republic is a third world country and it seemed like there was nothing they could teach me, I found out I was very wrong.

Unlike people in the United States, the people of the Dominican Republic are very family-oriented and are not materialistic at all. They have such few possessions, that all they have are each other. The saying “Money can’t buy happiness” really is true; and the people of the Dominican Republic showed me this. The first few days, we were able to walk through a poor community and give candy to the children. They were all so eager and excited to see us. Without a second thought, the people in the community showered us with love and welcomed us with open arms. Their warmth made me think of my life in the states and how greedy I am. Every day, I have something to complain about; a complaint that means nothing to someone who faces death everyday. After this experience, I now strive to be more thankful and serve others everyday.

Mission trips are full of learning opportunities. Throughout the week, we worked with rebar, concrete, and shovels to add another 5-classroom floor to the school that already existed. Not only did I learn how to work with these materials and equipment, but I also experienced what it was like to serve others as a team. Although we weren’t paid to do the work, I somehow wanted to do it, wanted to serve. Seeing the team work together to get achieve a goal is rewarding in itself!

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting an 8-year-old girl named Nikauri. I saw her playing by herself one morning and asked her to play with me. Although my Spanish wasn’t 100% right, we still managed to communicate. I learned many new Spanish words from her and felt as though I was able to give to her the love that the community gave to me. As the week progressed, Nikauri and I grew closer, and we soon became “bests buds”. Anytime she was at the site, we would play together and tease each other. I also got to know her sisters. These girls taught me how to embrace the small, precious moments in life; to live in the moment and not worry about the future. Here in the states, we are constantly bombarded with the fear of what will happen to us in the near future. We are always on the go and don’t take the time to appreciate the little things in life.

Mission trips are an eye-opening experience that I believe everyone should go through. It is a great chance to get to know the group that you came with and an opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture. It is a learning opportunity that not only will change how you view the world, but will also change you as a person for the rest of your life.


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