Without a doubt, the best trip I have ever been on was my most recent trip to the Dominican Republic. Much of the time, people who travel to the Dominincan Republic are there for vacation, but my trip had a much different purpose. I was there to help the people who worked in the sugar cane villages in the area surrounding the city of Hato Mayor.
Each day, my group (comprised of schoolmates, doctors, dentists, translators, and a few other people) rode on cattle trucks to a different village. These villages were often right in the center of a sugar cane field and over an hour away from the Meeting God in Missions complex, which was where we stayed for the duration of the trip. At each village, my group set up medical and dental clinics, as well as a Vacation Bible School for the children there. On several occasions during the week, a construction team and a painting team also completed several projects, using money raised by my school. I chose to work in the Vacation Bible School group, because I love children. Each night, we went to a different Dominican church, where we got to experience worship in a completely different way. The trip lasted a week, and I wish it could have been much longer. It was honestly one of the best weeks of my entire life, and it was far better than any vacation I have ever been on.
This trip taught me a lot of things. First of all, I learned how powerful discrimination can be. Most of the villages we traveled to were inhabited by Haitian immigrants, who came to the Dominican Republic to assure better lives for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, most Dominicans treat the Haitians very badly; many will not even associate with them. The Haitians are forced to work long hours cutting down sugar cane (a grueling and dangerous job) for little pay. Seeing the way these people are treated distressed me. I have learned that discrimination is a terrible thing, and that it can greatly affect lives. This trip taught me to never discriminate, for any reason. Secondly, my trip showed me that love is powerful enough to overcome any obstacle, specifically the language barrier. We did have translators on my trip, but sometimes, these translators were needed in the medical clinic or elsewhere around the village, leaving the Vacation Bible School group with all the children in the village, but no real way to communicate with them. Some members of the team had taken Spanish in high school (myself included), but we discovered just how limited our knowledge of Spanish actually was (even after studying it for three years) after we tried to give instructions or hold a conversation. Fortunately, one thing every child understands is love. The children there did not care if they got to play a game or make a craft-they just wanted to sit with us “Americanos”, play with our hair, and be loved. Although I remember few of the children's names, they have impacted me more than they will ever know.
I hope that I have offered even a small amount of insight into what my trip was like. I thought that writing about it would make me sad, but in reality, it has made me even more grateful for what I have here in America, and even more excited to return next year. I went into my missions trip expecting to help the people of the Dominican Republic, but they have taught me more than I could possibly ever teach them.
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