Home Found Far Away

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June 20, 2024  |  Written by April Lewis, Chaperone.

More years ago than I care to count, I was a fresh high school graduate and babe of eighteen going on my very first mission trip. It was 1998, and I spent three weeks working at an orphanage in the suburbs of Moscow, Russia. I had no idea how fresh and young I was, how much I did not know about the world and what is out in it.

This week, I have watched that come full circle as I watch two new fresh graduates experience their first mission trip in a foreign country. I’ve known these kids for two years, but I swear I have watched them grow, change, and mature right before my eyes in just a few short days.

It’s easy to understand why: this culture and these people are so incredibly different than our comfortable homes in the Blue Ridge. There are so many things we take for granted that simply do not exist here. For example: a hospital patient is not given sheets, pillows, or food at the public hospital. It’s up to the patient or their family to provide. Homes are tiny, and often dilapidated. There is rampant poverty, and no real means of pulling oneself out of the cycle.

Within that, however, I see glimpses of something that reminds me of poverty-ridden areas of Appalachia, where my family hails from. I see a tight-knit community. People help each other and take care of each other. Neighbors sit outside with neighbors who are sometimes closer than family (and often ARE family). These days, it’s common for people to know little to nothing about their neighbors.

Observations from the Dominican:

  1. One will adjust to the heat faster than one thinks you will.
  2. God displays Himself in so many ways: the landscape, the people, the friends you make.
  3. Some things are universal. On the first day of VBS, some pre-teen boys got in trouble for making jokes about gas at inappropriate times—just as one would expect out of American pre-teen boys.
  4. We over-complicate the activities we think kids need or want. I observed the children we worked with were content to just sit, color, and share their creations with one another rather than make an elaborate craft.
  5. We don’t just sit, talk, and share enough. One of my favorite moments of this whole week was just sitting with Solid Rock’s ministry assistants and talking about the differences and similarities in US and Dominican cultures.

This is a beautiful place, both in people and in landscape. While I will be glad to return home to my fellas, I will treasure the friends and memories I made here for years to come.