When our team leader told us our first mission work experience was going to be a visit to Pasitos de Jesus girls orphanage; I remained trapped in my timid and overly cautious state of mind regarding interactions with the native people. We arrived to a shelter that was smaller than most of our own homes, yet it housed 50-60 girls, ages five months to thirteen years of age. One of the first things I saw upon entering the property were two baby cribs in the backyard with two very small Dominican babies that had just recently been abandoned by their teenage mothers. My eyes were not just opened; they were immediately ripped out of their sockets in awe of the struggle that was represented by the children of this country. After advancing further into the backyard, I was greeted by a few dozen kids that expressed utter delight to see us. Feelings of shock and confusion suddenly rushed to my mind. How could these kids have anything to be joyful about? In order to find the answer to this question I knew I had to engage with the children.
Having the ability to speak Spanish on a usable level increased my ability to bond and connect with the kids I was meeting. It also made my interactions with them twice as enjoyable. Some of the first activities that I participated in were reading books, blowing bubbles, making crafts, and the extremely exciting game of Duck, Duck, Goose (also known as Pato, Pato, Ganso). Once I began to open up and venture out of my comfort zone, my experiences with each individual child became personalized. Rather than just interacting with another random stranger, I felt like I was meeting someone special that longed to know who I was. Despite the language barrier and the cultural differences, I was connecting! I never would have imagined myself being able to go to another country and be a light to someone in need, all while overcoming what I thought to be unavoidable obstacles.
As our time at the orphanage was depleting, I was developing a sense for the culture that was present throughout the orphanage. Hope, family, and faith were carefully woven into the lives of each and every one of the children that called this place their home. I was truly inspired by the kids when they gathered for our group to sing songs. They blew me away with their ability to work together to perform something genuinely beautiful for their age. Being a musician, I was influenced on a deeper level than the rest of my teammates, which allowed me a better opportunity to answer the question I had been pondering all day. How is it that these kids remain joyful despite their living conditions? The answer I discovered was a strong combination of two things: family and faith in God. Each little kid had an unbelievable sense of the role she had to play in a graciously functioning family.
When our time at the orphanage had finally come to a close, I found myself not wanting to leave at all! I surprised myself considering the fact that I wasn’t very excited to be there in the first place. The joy and happiness that the children were projecting had seeped into my heart and filled me with compassion. It had set a fire in my soul that I could not contain or control. I was burning inside and longing for another opportunity to affect someone’s life. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to minister to the kids in the Dominican.
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