September 15, 2009
I’ve received some positive feedback here for the letter I composed thanking the people who supported me financially on my short term missions trip over to the Dominican Republic this past summer, so I thought I’d post it here.
My Dear Friends and Supporters,
This has been a hard letter to write. I think I’ve started and stopped at least 3 times. How can you explain in words everything that happened, and not fill a whole book? I’ll see what I can do though.
I’ve been back from my trip to the Dominican Republic for nearly a month now, and I’m still processing everything. I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures and made many memories over the course of 9 days. I went barely knowing any of the students, and came back with many more friends.
To give you a brief rundown, we flew into Santo Domingo and then took a van ride out to the Young Life camp, “Pico Escondido” in the city of Jarabacoa. The camp itself was great; it had similarities to other Young Life camps I have been to in the States. After that we drove back to Santo Domingo and worked with the local Young Life group in the city, and stayed in homes with local families.
The first morning we began the work. I was tasked with two students to sand down an incomplete ramada that the camp was building to extend their dining area. Since the superstructure was partially built, we had to maneuver around the beams to get into position to lift 10 pound orbital sanders and sand off the logs. It was tiring and sweaty work, but once that was done our jobs the following days were easier: staining and lacquering the beams. And since weather is unpredictable, it was up to us to shift the tarps covering the eating area when storms hit.
Other students had some physically demanding jobs. There is a retaining wall that encompasses most of the hill the camp is perched on. One of the other leaders remarked that they have been working on the wall since his first trip 5 years ago. The work involves mixing cement, laying on the wall, and adding stones on top of it. Students with that task were beat by the end of the day.
I actually enjoyed most of the work. I got know a couple of graduating seniors that I hadn’t really spent much time with beforehand, and grew closer with all of the other students on the trip.
We went to a local church service on Sunday, which was also an experience. Seeing how different cultures worship the same God opened our eyes. The worshipers had an honest, joyful spirit amongst themselves. Songs were boisterous, with the crowd jumping up and down; it felt more like a party than your standard buttoned down church service we were more accustomed to. I found it all rather refreshing.
Then there was the infamous flood hike. Sunday afternoon, after church service, we all went on a hike to see some waterfalls near the camp. It started raining a little bit, then a little more, then a downpour. We reached the waterfalls and played for a while, but as soon as we started to head back, a flash flood opened up and nearly washed us all away. Thankfully, we made it to the safety of high ground, and nobody was injured. We waited for the waters to subside and eventually made our way back to camp without further incident. Even though things were pretty dicey for a while I wasn’t feeling fearful during the whole trial; my brain shifted into a survival mode and I concentrated on making sure that the students were safe.
Amazingly enough, there were very few injuries; just an assortment of scrapes and bruises. Some of the younger students were a little shook up emotionally, but the rest of the group surrounded them and helped them feel better.
When the work camp was over, and we returned to Santo Domingo, the trials came to a head. Working in the hot and humid sun over the past week made a few of the students hit their breaking point. At least 4 kids suffered from dehydration, enough to require trips to the hospital. Several others were hit with high fevers; one of the foreheads I felt had to be hovering around 104. I told the guy to take a cold shower immediately, and he cooled off after that.
For the better part of the day, I went from house to house to make sure that those of us who were out of commission were still doing hanging in there. My [incredibly] limited spanish came in handy and I was able to communicate with some of the locals hosting us well enough to make my way around without getting lost.
Finally, after a trip to the local shopping mall, I was beat. I went back to my host family, took a shower, and just sat on my bed for 45 minutes. Everything that had been going on for the prior week hit me and I felt overcome by it all.
Fortunately though, I knew that God was still in control. I opened my Bible and read some Psalms of praise. I knew that He was still looking out for us and wouldn’t break us. Armed with that sense, I made my way back to the group and got through the night. Everyone who had been ill that day was back up and walking around, which was an especially strong shot in the arm.
I think that the tolls hit the leaders the hardest. The students seemed to be either unaware of everything that had been happening, or it just washed off them easier. There was very little drama at all on the trip, which is rare. For that, I am grateful.
Lastly, finally, we were done with our work and spent the last 24 hours of the trip at a hotel on the beach. Of course, our bus driver was pulled over for half an hour and issued a ticket while we were driving to the hotel, but we got there nonetheless. We rested, cranked the A/C in the rooms to a frigid degree, and sat in the ocean.
Like I said, I am only skimming the surface of the trip. You can find a deeper story on our team’s blog: http://dominican2009.com There you will find recollections from the trip, and links to all of the pictures that I took.
Overall, I’m glad I went. Despite serving with the High School ministry for 6 years, this was the first mission trip I was able to take part in. It was hard, and draining, but now that it is over and I’ve had the opportunity to reflect, I am grateful for the time and memories. I want to thank you especially for your donation enabling me to go. So many of you were exceptionally generous with your money, even in these rough economic times. I am humbled by your act of giving.
Written by Scott Williams who lives and works in sunny Phoenix, AZ. Twitter is also a place.