First Days

Sorry for the blogging delay: computer troubles.

We’ve been working hard and having fun in Marion.

Saturday we prepped for the week by going grocery shopping and setting up at Gethsemane Episcopal Church and the Incarnation House, where we are staying. The Incarnation House is an intentional community of current and former Indiana Wesleyan students. We also visited Marion’s park to play Frisbee because we knew we would be indoors most of the week.

Sunday we helped Gethsemane serve lunch to people in the community. We also had a Seder dinner, a traditional Passover meal. It involves eating different representational foods, like parsley (life), matzah (unleavened, rushed to leave Egypt), salt water (tears in life), and extremely potent horseradish (the suffering of the Jewish people).

On weekdays we go to St. Martin’s to cook, serve and distribute food, hang and sort clothing, and clean. The kitchen is full of hard working volunteers who come every day to keep St. Martin’s running. They plan the food for the entire week, empty truckloads of donations of both food and clothing, and serve them. They also run a food pantry where people can get food once a month. I don’t know how they keep up with all of their work when they don’t have 13 extra volunteers.

In the mornings it is fairly slow. Some older patrons come for breakfast, and others come to receive free food, like loaves of bread, chips, onions, grapes, etc. The food depends on what is donated to St. Martin’s that day. We work on preparing food, setting up the tables, and crushing and baling cardboard boxes. Lunch, on the other hand, is bustling. People stand in line long before we start serving at 11. We serve until 12, technically, but usually we serve much longer because people continue to line up. On Friday we served 300 meals.

After lunch we sweep, mop, clean the bathrooms, and put away food. St. Martin’s closes at 1, but the thrift store remains open later so we continue to work there. We helped to sort and hang thousands of clothes that were in storage. This gives more space for food. In the process, at least two students nearly went mad searching for pant hangers.

In the afternoons some students also go to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club to play with the kids. Hannah says it is a good place for kids to learn to entertain themselves, rather than sit at home and watch TV or play video games.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we attended additional church services at Gethsemane for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Some students participated in a Maundy Thursday vigil, a watch over the altar with the Eucharist remaining from earlier services. Spending so much time with the Episcopal Church setting, something most team members have not experienced before this trip, makes us think about our faith differently. Episcopalians have methodical church services which are typically very similar in nature. They take communion at every church service. I have never had communion this many times in one week before, yet it is still powerful to think of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

Talking to people from the community has been enlightening and enjoyable. People from all backgrounds come to St. Martins for breakfast and lunch.

One man, named Ron, bonded with Jessie and Brady. He had a twinkle in his eye and looked like Santa. He in fact likes to wear a Santa Hat around Christmas time. He likes doing little things to make people’s day. He buys fancy buttons and gives them to people who look sad. He is not well off, but still thinks of how to make other people’s lives better. He seems better for it.

That’s something I’ve noticed about this trip. The more you serve, the happier you are. For me at least, the idea of serving is not the most “fun” thing I could be doing. But it turns out that it is much more fun than anything I could have planned for this break. It’s surprising how serving becomes natural after only a couple days. Providing for others seems to provide for oneself too.

Today two teams of students helped clean houses in the community. More on this coming soon!

Some thoughts from the trip:

You can pray whenever and wherever you are.

Serve, but consider how to be effective without hindering those you serve.

God provides.

A Glimpse into Ministry in Jarabacoa

Hola amigos y familia! Kayla and Danie here! We just wanted to give you a little update about our week and about our wet and wonderful day today. We finished up with our sites yesterday. I (Kayla) was at the Special Education site (Genesis) and Danie was doing Social Work in Los Higos. The work at Genesis was tough but so rewarding. I was able to tutor special needs children in Spanish (yikes), play Pato, Pato, Ganso (Duck, Duck, Goose), and visit the homes of two children in the school. One of those visits included a PHENOMENAL dinner called “la bandera” (rice, chicken and beans) as well as “tostones” (look it up, they’re great). As for me (Danie), I had the opportunity to spend the day at the river with the little girls from Los Higos and experience some super sun. The last day spent at my site was spent playing volleyball, soccer, and an interesting version of “steal the bacon” with ties (muy dificil) with some of the teenage and young adult guys in the village. Today, we had the opportunity to go into town and put together a small carnival that had a bounce house, balloon animals, face painting, and games. We also got to share a couple of songs that we learned in Spanish and perform a skit that we learned today. All in all, this week has been amazing so far and has taught us so much about the Dominican Republic culture. The people here are fantastic and we feel as though we have been blessed every day to be spending the week with them! We hope you are doing well and we will be back in the states in just 3 days!

Hey all! This is Lyndsey. 🙂 I’ve been working at the preschool in El Callejon with Shayna, Sarah, and Nkirote. Our site leader, Yocasta, has such a passion for the kids and on the very first day challenged us girls to “know why we want to be here.” The preschool is a tiny building with a cement patio and a small, chipped-paint playset in a dirt yard. We walked past the chain link fence and immediately a little girl ran up and hugged my legs. Yes, I melted. All the kids were 3-4 years old and one of their favorite things was to drag one of us to the swings and insist, “Puhame! Puhame!” (Push me! Push me!). I was a little nervous about the language barrier, but honestly just holding a 3-year-old, playing tag, or drying the lunch dishes speaks deeper than words can express. Pretty sure all four of us were overwhelmed by the love we felt from the kids and staff, and we loved pouring back every part of ourselves. But one of my favorite parts was on Wednesday night. Everyone on the team had dinner in the home of a leader from their ministry site. Nkirote, Shayna, Sarah, and I had dinner at the home of two preschool workers, Alberto and Carolina (they’re siblings.) Yocasta came too, and the six of us just sat around talking waaaay past dinner. Literally, I laughed so much my cheeks hurt! Alberto and Yocasta speak English and they translated for Carolina. We talked about everything from our personal testimonies and where we want to be in five years to what we look for in a spouse! It was seriously one of the most fun nights and I was personally so touched by their passion for life and Christ. It’s so crazy to think that our work directly with Students International is finished. We head out tomorrow morning for the resort nearby in Jarabacoa. I know we’re all so excited to come home and share a million more stories!

Hola from the DR!

Hello from the D.R.!! First off, I’d like to apologize for the stress and worrying that I’m are sure we caused all of the mothers. 🙂 We are safe and sound and having the time of our lives down here in sunny Jarabacoa! We’ve spent our time getting acquainted with the Dominican lifestyle which is a bit slower paced than in America. We have loved the beautiful base and Students International staff that have housed us and provided us with some of the most delicious food! Fresh fruit, chicken and rice never seem to get old! We’ve even been able to try some goat and chicken feet. Our days start off bright and early at 6:30 am with devotions, prayer, worship and a lesson followed by a yummy breakfast. We have gone to our sites each day and we have been extremely blessed in seeing how God works though the Dominicans. –Kenzie

                One of my favorite parts of the Dominican, besides the beautiful mountainous view and flowing waterfall we got to visit, is traveling in open air trucks. Also, having several Dominican families open up their house for us to enjoy a traditional Dominican meal has been a highlight. Today has been a bit rainy, and when it rains, it doesn’t stop. I think we could all say that we’re a bit worn out, between sunburn, bug bites and long days, but we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Sorry we took so long to blog! Prayers are continually appreciated, especially for the language barrier :)—Kenzie

I’d like to start off by saying I have accumulated 36 bug bites, no exaggeration.  Having that said, that has been the only part that I would want to do without on this trip.  There is so much to say, I don’t know where to begin.  They have this thing called siestas here, which means basically you have a two hour lunch where you eat and take a nap.  WE MUST take this back to the US!  One of the first days we were here we went on a hike to a gorgeous waterfall and got to swim.  It was a lot of fun.  Our team has been growing closer and closer as the days go by.  We can definitely feel your prayers.  I work at an education site with a preschool that has children from ages 3-4.  They are the most precious things you will ever see.  What we do at my site is help the teachers by playing with the children, helping serve meals, and cleaning up.  My site leader Yocasta speaks excellent language, so the language barrier isn’t that difficult until a 4 year old looks at you and slurs some Spanish and you just have to say “Si” or “Bien” when really you have no idea what they are saying.  Being here really makes me want to learn Spanish.  It is crazy how being in another country can make you clearly see how your perspective has been molded from your country.  I am so blessed to be on this trip, where God reveals himself to us every single day through the joy of the Dominican people.-Shayna

Today, instead of playing with three and four year olds we got to hang out with teenagers.  We played a lot of games such as races, volleyball, and soccer, every game was Dominicans vs. Americans.  Sadly to say we lost every time.  But we held our own!  We also got in a water fight in the pouring down rain.  It was very cold, but a lot of fun.  They thought it was very funny to get Mackenzie and I wet.  We were soaked for the rest of the day until we got back on base.  After the water fight, a couple of us shared our testimonies and we watched videos about Jesus.  It was great to worship alongside of Dominicans our age. –Shayna

Empty Beach

The wind and cold has left Daytona Beach bare and made it more difficult for the team to make lots of connections. But this doesn’t mean the connections haven’t been meaningful! Yesterday we we so pleased to see a young man (Marcello) give his life to Christ. On the boardwalk a member of the team was able to pray with a recently divorced mother of 4 girls and encourage her in her faith. God used a number of the team to remind the residents of the half way house that they have value and dignity.

Pray that God will send to the beach people who He wants us to minister to. And for patience as we wait on His good timing.

If you want to want to watch some videos check out the following:

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Mau

We began our packed day of ministry with a visit to CAT (Casa de Asistencia Temporal); a government assisted emergency shelter for abused children. The attitude of the children there was captured in the moment the kids walked in the gate. In a moment, a little boy and one of our team members immediately locked eyes, the little boy running towards him and embracing him. The kids at the shelter had such a longing to be loved and held onto us the entire time we sang songs and played games. We practically had to pull them off of us. It got us thinking about what they may have gone through. We cannot even imagine, but we know that they have come from incredibly difficult situations, the CAT only being a temporary home. The fact that we were able to share the message of Christ with those children was such a blessing. We cannot even imagine being so young and having already gone through so much; if anyone needs Christ, those kids certainly do.

The next thing we did was go to the grocery store to shop for groceries for a woman named Oti. This is something that Back2Back regularly does in order to help out this woman and her eight children. Simply grocery shopping made us realize the real need that Back2Back was meeting. They are not simply giving things to her, but they are working with her. When we delivered the groceries to her small house, we saw her washing machine in her front yard from which she runs her laundry business. She had lost her husband and all she wants is to keep her family together. Even though the children share beds and they do not have much, Back2Back has paid to provide the children with an education and has worked with Oti to discipline her children in a healthy way.

We then returned to the house to prepare a meal to take to the house of a woman named Rosie, whose home we had began building a wall at earlier in the trip. She runs a children’s ministry out of her home about three times a week and we had the opportunity to assist her in that tonight. Since she includes a meal, we took care of that for the day. I cannot even describe what an incredible woman Rosie is, but the variety of volunteers who showed up tonight can somewhat express her faith. The father of a family from Illinois had met Rosie during a trip of hers to America, during a time in which her ministry was more in its beginning stages. They had prayed for volunteers to come join Rosie in her ministry. Him and his family are on vacation in Cancun and came to volunteer tonight with Rosie’s ministry. Then there were two women who said they met Rosie at their hotel and she invited them over for the ministry tonight; I did not realize it at first, but they were actually from Alaska! The night was incredible, filled with a spirit of joy that can only come from the Lord as we sang songs, ate a delicious meal, and played games. At the end of the night, we all stood in a circle and prayed. It was incredible how God brought all of us together at Rosie’s house to serve for a common purpose. We may never see each other again, but tonight was such an incredible picture of the kingdom of God.

During our reflection time tonight, we heard the testimony of one of our beloved Back2Back staff members named Mau. He is an incredible man of God. His story showed God’s faithfulness and how God can work, even in the most helpless situations. He brought many of us to tears and showed us what it truly means to live our lives for Christ. We said goodbye and tears began streaming down some of our faces. We thought he was gone for good and then we saw the door open and willingly welcomed him back in for some last words. He told us about the importance of not passing up a chance to tell people how you really feel and he said how truly thankful he was for us. When Mau was gone for real, we prayed for him, tears steaming down our faces and tried to piece together the incredible impact this trip has had on our lives so far, determined to make an actual change in the way we live our lives, and realizing just how much one person can make a difference through the power of Christ.

More Sweat, More Jesus

Our team leader Anila has finally arrived.  Her presence has really given us more joy and strength.  Also our host family the Hawks have returned. Last night after working they took us to get tacos.  Under a gazebo in the warm night air we ate tacos, sipped coke, and were able to talk about our work thus far.

Early mornings begin with construction work.  At one site we are working on building a house. This involves a great deal of digging. But as we work and sweat in the heat, the family we’re helping is always offering us refreshments and food.  Yesterday we ate sweet mangos and fresh baked french bread. During our water breaks they appear in the doorway with a plate of sliced mangos. Today they prepared aroz con leche, a rice and milk combination spiced with cinnamon and sugar.

During one of our breaks, Mr. Hawk took the whole team to a coffee roasting co-op.  We were greeted by the smell of fresh roasted coffee beans. They spun around and around in a huge machine.  We learned that about 80% of the coffee grown in El Salvador goes to StarBucks! At the second construction site we are working on building cement walls for the house.

Afternoons consist of VBS.  At the church, arou

Jasmine with VBS kids

Jasmine with VBS kids

 

Abigail after VBS

Abigail after VBS

 

David Lew entertaining kids

David Lew entertaining kids

 

scripture memory

scripture memory 

 

David Neel

David Neel

 

David leading games

David leading games

 

Djamina!

Djamina!

 

Glenn taking a water break

Glenn taking a water break

 

Abi digging a trench

Abi digging a trench

 

Kelsey drinking coconut water

Kelsey drinking coconut water

 

Celeste and the baby

Celeste and the baby

 

David Lew digging away

David Lew digging away

 

Smile!

Smile!

 

Coffee:)

Coffee:)

 

Casey doing crafts

Casey doing crafts

 

Kelsey with the crafts team

Kelsey with the crafts team

 

Our Leaders

Our Leaders

 

Bre and Julia at breakfast

Bre and Julia at breakfast

nd 2:00, children come racing through the open doors.  We begin with singing, where our members Jasmine, Celeste and Bre lead in singing with hand motions. Next the kids break up into three groups. One group stays for a skit of the bible lesson where Julia, David Lew, Djamina, and Crystal act out a familiar bible story.  Another group goes to the crafts team organized by Glenn, Abi, Casey, and Kelsey.  Our final team is the games, led by David Neel and Elizabeth.  The kids always come back from here sweaty and full of energy.

We all agree that the work is hard and exhausting so we came up with a saying.  More Sweat. More Jesus. This is a constant reminder that our work is for the Lord.  Though we feel gross being sweaty and dirty, the more we sweat, the more of Christ we give.