Landing in the Dominican Republic this past january, I was extremely uncertain. I had never been on a missions trip before, or even experienced much poverty. All at once however, I was being completely immersed in a third world country and its lifestyle. The trip consisted of two weeks, and I was not sure how well I would last. Driving from the airport through the dirt roads and small shanty shacks, I could feel my nerves building as I felt more and more out of place. Yet, when I traveled down these same dirt roads back to the airport two weeks later, I would never have imagined the sadness I would be feeling to be leaving the people and relationships I had cultivated in the Dominican Republic.
While in the Dominican Republic, my team which consisted of nine other members and myself, stayed in the confines of the Fountain of Life Christian School. While there, we worked with many of the kids who lived in the nearby village of Juan Tomas and attended school there. Many of these children had little clothing to wear, no shoes, barely enough food to scrape by, and lived in small shacks that consisted of dirt floors and dilapidated structures. Yet, instead of holding sad and bitter feelings about their underprivileged lifestyles, these kids were some of the happiest kids I have ever met.
Being the oldest of four kids in my family, I am used to younger kids. My little brother (11 years old) and sister (7 years old) constantly have friends over. However, the generosity that one young boy in particular displayed went above and beyond anything I had ever witnessed with kids of his age back home in the United States. The young boy, Briyan, had just recieved a few pieces of candy in a care package. In this village, candy was a huge deal. If a child was lucky, he/she would recieve one or two pieces a year. However, upon receiving his candy, instead of eating it, he quickly offered it to me instead. I refused the candy, and he proceeded to offer it to my friend. Seeing this really made me stop and think. Back home, kids get candy multiple times a year yet they rarely share. But in this poor place, this little boy had tried to share his candy. I had never witnessed such selfless generosity, and this experience has impacted my own life ever since.
Overall, going to the Dominican Republic proved an amazing, life-changing experience. I went in with mixed feelings, but came out unhappy to be returning home. Going into the trip, I had the impression that I would leave an impression on the people, however I was dead wrong. The people of the Dominican Republic left an impression on me. While there, I also chose to sponsor a five year old boy, Angel, so he may attend the Fountain of Life Christian School. Because of this, I hope to one day return to the Dominican Republic, and renew those relationships that I made previously. Overall, I loved going to the Dominican Republic, it not only pushed me out of my comfot zone, but also changed and influenced the way I live today and how I view the world.
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