The trip had a rough start. Our plane got struck by lightning on the ground before we got on, which took out the navigation system and had us spend the rest of the day at the Nashville airport. By the time we got to our hotel in Miami, we got 3 hours of sleep before getting up for our new flight to the Dominican Republic (DR).
Thankfully our host partner, Praying Pelican Ministries (PPM), was gracious and was able to accommodate our new plans. We settled into the church where we are staying at and got a nice overview of the DR and how PPM works in the community. We got assigned to a local pastor, pastor Wesley, who leads a church and school in a poor neighborhood of Haitian immigrants. Our mornings consist of installing the water filters which we brought and then doing sports ministry with the children in the afternoon. We even did a skit about the parable of the good Samaritan, which could rival any professional acting Troupe. We do various activities in the evening including playing basketball with the neighborhood kids at the local court, hosting movie nights for the school children, and doing devotionals for the group. We are blessed that our group from Belmont has good synergy and I think everyone will be truly blessed by this experience.
As someone who struggles with the benefit of short-term mission trips, I have been encouraged by several things. The first is that the Haitian community is blessed by not only the water filters, which are desperately needed to help prevent disease, but also by our presence. Pastor George (who partners with PPM and often accompanies our group as a translator) said that our physical presence helps the people in the community believe in the work of pastor Wesley and the fruits of his labor. That hope is something so intangible and immeasurable that I often forget its true power, and it cannot be bought with money. God does not need us to accomplish His work here, but He is gracious in making us a face of the hope He gives to this community. The second encouraging thing I have received is the group’s response to the experience. Having travelled a fair amount myself, it is hard to reimagine my first time placing myself in the shoes of someone born and raised in a completely different community with a completely different reality than I. But seeing how God is using this trip to work in the hearts and minds of each member of the group reminds me that these trips are an invitation from God to open our hearts and allow Him to give us a glimpse of His work in the world and begin to break our hearts for what breaks His.
On a personal note, I have been blessed by being able to use my French and help translate for the group. The official language in the DR is Spanish, but Pastor Wesley speaks French, Spanish, and Creole in the Haitian community. Many members of the group have commented on how they desire to communicate so much more to people but don’t have enough Spanish to do so, so it is nice for me to use what I have learned at Belmont to be of service to those around me.
The book of Job has been powerful for both me and the group during this trip as we consider the proper response to the poverty and suffering we see. Pray we continue to experience God’s mercy and grace here in the DR.
“He causes the [storm] to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for His mercy. Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of the Lord…God is awesome in majesty. As for the almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgement and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart.” Job 37:13-14, 22b-24, NKJV
— Sean Grossnickle, student leader