2015 Youth Mission Dominican Republic Trip & Photos
Con Mucho Amor….NE Youth Serve in the DR
“This mission reaffirmed my belief that God directs me to what I truly need in my life even before I know I need it.” A 2015 Youth Missioner
Eighteen youth and adults from Nebraska traveled to the Dominican Republic June 22 through 29, 2015 to help build a home for a family in El Pedregal, and to renovate a building to become a Children’s Shelter at the Mount of the Transfiguration School. Work on both projects was done again this year in partnership with Christ Church Valdosta Georgia. A third construction project of our team was to establish a dedicated media room on the second floor of the Stevens Dormitory where educational and entertainment programs may be offered to the community and those visiting the camp.
Team members also brought gifts for the community, including laptop computers for the school, clothing, school supplies, back packs, and Spanish and Bilingual children’s books for the school library. A gift of baseball equipment, vestments, altar items, and tools were also made to the Diocesan Office to be delivered where the need is greatest. Medical supplies were also presented to Dr. Israel De La Cruz for use in a hospital and clinic near Santiago. Several suitcases which carried the supplies were also left behind to be used for storage and closets in the community.
Sponsoring parishes sending missioners and supplies were Trinity Cathedral-Omaha, Church of the Holy Spirit-Bellevue, Holy Trinity-Lincoln, Christ Church-Sidney and St. Andrews-Omaha. The additional financial support of St. Mary’s-Blair, and St. Matthew’s-Alliance, and the generous gifts of altar items and school supplies from St. Augustine’s-Elkhorn are also gratefully acknowledged.
In preparation for this mission, our team met to worship at four of the parishes we represented. This presented a valuable opportunity for our group to become acquainted, share mission plans, and inform our home parishes of our mission goals. One June 7, 2015, our team met at Holy Trinity-Lincoln. We enjoyed a picnic lunch together on the South lawn of the church before working as a team at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo doing landscaping maintenance. This special event gave us our first chance to work together as a team in service to others locally. It was especially rewarding to help make the Children’s Zoo more beautiful for its many young visitors.
On June 21, 2015, our Team gathered at Trinity Cathedral for commissioning and the blessing of the gifts we would share. After the service, we were treated to ice cream sundaes by the youth of Trinity, and we enjoyed them while we made our final preparations for this mission.
We arrived in Santo Domingo in the early afternoon of June 22, 2015, and anxiously boarded our bus ready for the beach at Boca Chica and a picnic lunch. The beach experience quickly introduced us to life in the DR. By mid-afternoon, we were back on the bus for the three hour ride north to the Diocesan Camp near Jarabacoa. Along the way, we stopped at Plaza Jacaranda near Bonao to stretch our legs. We arrived at camp, and settled into the Gordon Dormitory before dinner. Our first evening closed with compline and reflection to end a very long and exciting day.
We spent our first full day at the camp familiarizing ourselves with the construction status of the home and children’s shelter. We also visited several homes in the community and sites of prior mission work. Our team divided into three groups with one working at the home, one working at the children’s shelter, and the other working on the media room. We got right to work cleaning up the work-sites and sifting sand which we would later use to make mortar.
We spent the afternoon mixing mortar and laying block at the shelter, and assisting the Dominican laborer at the home construction site. Before dinner, youth from the community joined our youth for a time of recreation and fellowship. This time ended with ice-cream being enjoyed by all. After dinner, we retired again to the second floor balcony of the Stevens Dormitory for reflection and compline. Compline ended with a moment of silence where we sat in the darkness and listened to the sounds of the community. This was a powerful experience that our youth repeated each evening.
Our work on June 24th brought much progress on the media room project and wonderful opportunities for fellowship with the community. The septic location was changed at the home, and a hole was dug. The rest of our group painted one side of the zinc sheets and treated the wood that would become the rafters of the home and shelter. After lunch, we enjoyed 2 hours with the community at the river. Before dinner, we stacked the zinc sheets, wood and blocks in preparation for the next morning’s work. After dinner, we projected the movie Rio in Spanish in the new media room. About 50 community children enjoyed this opportunity to be with our youth. Ice cream, cookies and sodas were shared with the children following the movie, and wonderful friendships were made.
June 25th was a very busy day for us. All the block was laid. The zinc sheets were painted, and all the wood for the rafters were treated. The hole for the septic tank was completely dug. We made great progress to both our construction projects. After dinner we went back to the media room to spend the evening with the community. We projected “Madagascar” in Spanish to almost 100 children from the school. It was amazing to share this experience with so many children. We again served ice cream, cookies, candy and sodas to the children following the movie. We were all touched by the joy a movie brings to the community.
On June 26th most of the roof went on Altagracia’s home. The placing of the rafters at the shelter was a difficult task. There was little work for our team to do, and most of this day was spent playing with the children of the community….just as God planned. It was another hot day, and our youth were treated to cold soft drinks at the local Colmada. It was interesting for the youth to see and experience this tiny local market. The evening culminated with our Fiesta during which we shared a delicious meal, music and dancing with the community. This was a time of thanksgiving and celebration which was enjoyed by everyone.
June 27th was our last full day in camp. We desired to pour the floors of Altagracia’s home, but were told the floors would not be poured until the electrical was installed in the home. As no electrician was present to do this work, our work at Altagracia’s home stopped after leveling the dirt floors. We helped with the roof construction at the children’s shelter. We lifted rafter timbers up to the laborers in the morning. Work at this site also ceased at noon.
After lunch, our group and a large delegation from the community trekked to the waterfalls about a 45 minutes hike away from the camp. A taxi took those members of our group who were not up to this vigorous hike. Our time at the falls was beyond beautiful. It was a blessed celebration of friendship. A young man in the community suffered a considerable head injury while cliff diving. The community rushed to his aid and assistance. We were all touched by the response and care of this close community. We were also relieved to learn the injury was not as severe as it first seemed.
A great surprise awaited us when we returned from the waterfalls. Glennys and Charlie Polanco Peralta and Israel De La Cruz were at the camp waiting for us. They had dinner with us, and shortly before sunset joined us for a bonfire. Our visitors brought musical instruments and played several songs for us. Our youth even requested a few songs that we all sang together around the fire. There was dancing and much laughter. Our youth presented their two songs to the great enjoyment of our visitors. After the bonfire, Charlie and Glennys spoke from their hearts to our group. They thanked us for loving them and coming to the DR to help others. They told us just how much it means to them that we do care for their people, and we come to be with them. It was a very emotional time as many in our group realized, possibly for the first time, that we have definitely made a very big difference. Medical Supplies were delivered to Dr. Israel De La Cruz. He told us that he and his family are continuing the work of his father to help the poor people in the mountains near Tamboril. Reflection time on this night proved to be a blessed sharing of emotion. It was unanimous that a part of each of us would remain in the DR, and a part of the DR will be forever held in our hearts. Compline and reflection brought peace and a tearful end to our most rewarding day in the DR.
On the morning of June 28, 2015, we worshipped with our Dominican family at 9 AM. Rev. Susanna DesMarais participated in the service. Melissa and Lindsay translated Padre Alvaro’s sermon. Altagracia thanked us for coming to help build her family a home. After service, we presented a house warming gift from Julius and Julia Ariail to Altagracia’s family at the site of her new home. We also had our photograph taken at Altagracia’s home. Our bus to take us back to Santo Domingo was waiting when we returned to camp, and our time at the camp concluded with many goodbyes’ as we loaded our remaining luggage into a much smaller trailer.
Our 3 hours bus ride back to Santo Domingo was a mixed blessing of joy and sadness. We already missed our friends, but we were excited to visit the Colonial Zone. We stopped for much needed soft drink at Jacaranda Plaza. For our team, it was the first time in 8 days that we had a connection to the Internet. Messages were hurriedly sent and received. Our arrival in Santo Domingo and the Hodelpa Caribe Colonial was perfect. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of exploration of the historic Colonial Zone. Each missioner found a perfect memento of their wonderful time together on the island. The evening ended with a delicious pizza dinner on the rooftop of Café Angelo with missionaries Karen Carroll and Charlie Nakash.
Our final morning in Santo Domingo was spent enjoying a relaxing and bountiful breakfast before checking out of the hotel. We each wrote our name on the hotel lobby portico as guests are encouraged to do. We had a beautiful ride to the airport with the Caribbean Sea bidding us a fond farewell.
The people of the Dominican Republic were perfect hosts, generous with their spirit, and sincere with their love and caring for us. It is difficult to find the words which explain the impact this experience has had on each of our hearts. Only the photographs and memories we bring home can adequately share the story of our Team. The fun and fellowship we shared, and the generosity of our sponsors will never be forgotten. Our precious week in the DR culminated with an understanding of how much it means to the folks in the DR that others care about them. We heard many times that it is not what we bring with us, but the fact we came which is most important. It is the relationships that will grow and continue to form that is the greatest gift of all.
We return home able to give the assurance that the Diocese of Nebraska is well loved in El Pedregal and throughout the Dominican Republic. We can also give an assurance that we have found a second ‘home’ in the DR with family anxiously awaiting our return. We have learned that our youth mission team can accomplish many, many important things con mucho amor (with much love).
Every day, we felt and observed a deeper loving relationship…and our Team is ready to grow this excitement and further share our joy. May God bless this growing ministry!
|Jim Drazdowski||Rev. Susanna DesMarais||Alyson Trofholz||Melissa Peeler|
|Steve White||Angela Byrne||Michael Gearhart||Lauren White|
|Isabelle Adcock||Haidan O’Keefe||Summer Sanabria||Don Peeler|
|Madison Miles||Lindsey Wilson||Kelly Dornan||Dan Coonce|
|Audrey Coonce||Hannah Coonce|
– Don Peeler