The Dominican Republic Spring Break: Celebration in Brokenness
About a month ago I–along with 23 others–embarked on a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic, a country located on a small island in the Caribbean. We went down there with an organization called Children of the Nations, a non-profit group that sponsors children in third-world countries. Our mission: to spread the love of Jesus in the most tangible ways possible. The outcome: changed hearts and a deeper understanding of who God is.
We participated in several service projects during the 10 days we were down there. Most of our mornings were spent laying concrete floors, painting a school, and baking bread for Haitian earthquake victims. In addition to these service projects, we spent our afternoons doing relational ministry with the I Love Baseball Foundation. Using baseball as platform, we were able to connect and build relationships with the Dominicans through this commonly loved sport. Although the Dominican baseball players far outweighed us in expertise, we had a blast and were able to learn a lot from them.
Having now returned from our trip, it will be impossible to forget all that we experienced–from the haunting smell of poverty to the joyful sound of children laughing; all of it remains deeply ingrained in our senses. Pain and joy. Suffering and happiness. Weakness and strength. We witnessed it all. As I continue to reflect on this paradox of realities, I am reminded of a particular experience we had on our trip. This experience took place when we attended a Dominican church for the first time.
During our first full day in the DR, we were invited to attend “Buenos Nuevos Iglesia” (Good News Church). The service was definitely more charismatic than anything I had ever experienced back here in the US, and there was something about the energy in the room that morning that struck me. As I stood there among the Dominican Christians–exhausted from dancing for an hour straight and sweating profusely in 90 degree temperatures–I came to this sudden realization: These people were happy. Genuinely happy. And because of their happiness, they were celebrating. The entire church service (all three hours of it) was a sweet and joyful celebration.
Why were these Dominican Christians so happy? Instead of blaming God for their poverty-stricken conditions, they were actually giving thanks to Him. But why? And that’s when it hit me: Christianity is the only religion I can think of that offers something worth celebrating. That’s why the Bible has so much imagery about parties and wedding banquets. That’s why the Bible talks about heaven as being an endless celebration of praise and worship. As Christians, we truly have something incredible to celebrate. We celebrate Jesus, the one who died for us, rose again, and now sits in glory. Our debt is paid and we are free. We don’t need to earn anything from God; instead it’s freely given. It’s almost too good to be true. That’s why Christians can’t help but celebrate–it’s really our only proper response to grace.
It doesn’t matter if one is rich, poor, well-fed or hungry. This is good news for everyone. The Dominicans Christians we interacted with seemed to grasp this concept full well. In the midst of poverty and brokenness, they still had something to celebrate. Needless to say, it was an honor for us to come together as the body of Christ and celebrate with them.
Overall, our trip to the Dominican Republic was heart-breaking, rejuvenating, and inspiring. Not only did we get to know a lot of Dominicans, but we also got to know each other really well. By the end of the trip our team of 24 had truly become a family. Thanks be to God for such an amazing trip! Our hearts are forever changed.
See the video of our trip.
Written by Tracy Spohn