From September 1st through September 10th I was able to experience an extraordinary adventure that would forever enlighten my perspective and garnish my soul with unforgettable memories. I am Jennie Robinson, 22 years of age, and I am passionate about giving people the opportunity to listen to my perspective and experience on what I believe to be salvation through Jesus Christ.
At a young age many dreamers envision the opportunity to set flight across the sea – daring to cross the borders of a home far from what we call our own. We dreamers hope to capture the essence of this foreign culture, breathe in its unfamiliarity and give into the unknown with an aspiration to experience a reconstruction on our small perceptions.
I set flight for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic September 1st. To define fear settling in my boots would be an understatement to the many firsts that I had the opportunity to experience. I had never flown, I had never been out of the country, I never dealt with foreign currency, and I had never tried teaching salvation to a group of people with a language unfamiliar to mine.
But, most of all, I was able to experience what many individuals feel when coming to the United States (or any country for that matter) as a foreigner – disconnected and fearful, but overall grateful and excited.
Who knew that flying would bring a rush of adrenaline and fear all at once? When you stare up at the sky and see planes hovering thousands of feet above you, you never come to think that the plane is soaring through the sky at 500/600 mph. It always appears as if the plane is floating. At take-off, the plane launches at such incredible speeds that your head is practically thrown back, and all you could do is hold onto your arm rests and pray it doesn’t decide to go back down. But once you are in the air, the awareness of being so far from the land below is sensational. The view is phenomenal and the peace to be so far removed from your worries at home is fully present. You are in the AIR, away from it all, and nothing can trouble you.
When we descended in the Dominican Republic, the difference between being home and being there was strikingly obvious – especially when comparing the development of the country. Once we landed, it became increasingly evident that we were nowhere near home. There were already warning signs posted right outside our exit to avoid drinking the water (stick to bottled water), and to protect ourselves against the zika virus.
We grabbed our bags, and before exiting, sprayed on sunscreen and 100% deet (which smelled like pickles) to prepare for our trip outside. The heat was comfortable, sticky, but comfortable. Then, we soon realized that most places did not have air conditioning, a commodity found almost everywhere in the U.S, is rarely seen as a normal home accessory. We began to miss it shortly after our arrival.
Because our trip took 8 to 12 hours we soon stopped to eat. To put it honestly, the cuisine was far more scrumptious, appetizing, fulfilling and satisfying than any sort of food that America could produce (based on my experience of American cuisine). Soon, I fell in love with the Yuka Root – similar to a potato, but starchier. Then came the pineapple, which was larger and sweeter than the pineapple produced in the U.S. Later came the Tostones (fried plantains), and then the Avocado (3 times larger than the avocados produced in the U.S). The food was certainly different, but oh so delicious.
After a restful first day we began our adventures into the ministry – stopping at schools, stopping at churches, and ministering to hundreds and hundreds of women and children in conferences.
Our ministry was led by Darrell and Bonnie Clowers who are missionaries to the Dominican Republic. They also provided housing while we visited the country. The mission trip was packed full of ministry opportunity, from our 3-day weekend conference at Joseph’s campground, with 13 churches represented, to Monday’s visit to the Clowers’ vision at the 15 acre campground in Mata Mamon in La Victoria where we prayer walked the grounds. Later in the week we visited Rose of Sharon and their district school with Pastor Aundra Sanchas. We then went to girls’ and women’s conferences that evening at Way of Holiness in Azua with Pastor Bolibar.
We also visited several churches including: John 3:16 #5 with Pastor Freddie Checko, John 3:16 #3 with Pastor Socorro and the school there, John 3:16 #2 Divine Fire with Pastor Oridio, and John 3:16 #8 with Pastor Alexander and the school. We later held another girls’ and women’s conferences at Divine Fire #3 with Pastor Mulaun.
One of the pastors characterized our 3-day women’s conference as an “historical event” for the women because it was the first time that these women were able to leave the duties of their home for an extended amount of time to experience spiritual renewal.
Overall, we were able to speak and minister to over 800 women and children, and a few men and boys, while we visited the country.
With our 3 day conference I was able to personally minister to young girls. The love we received was so incredibly welcoming. Every girl would love you as if you were always family. Their hearts were so open for us that it was heart-breaking to leave them.
The little girl’s stories were also impactful to me. Every story I heard dealt with poverty, loss, and sickness, but gratitude to be alive. Many homes that we were able to see were of small buildings made of concrete, barred windows, cheap tile and/or mud floors with tin roofs.
Also, every single home and business was barred with black iron. It was frightening – theft rates were high. Protecting your home meant barring your windows and doors. Even the bank’s security system had soldiers sitting outside with rifles in case a robbery were to happen.
One of the greatest lessons I received from visiting the country was gaining empathy and understanding for individuals in the United States who speak Spanish and cannot speak English.
I thoroughly enjoyed ministering and getting to know the women and children, but the language barrier was disheartening and frustrating. I wish I could speak Spanish fluently so that I could have held a normal conversation with the girls, ask where the nearest restroom was, and order food and essentials with ease. Not knowing the language of the country makes you feel more of a foreigner than you thought you would feel. But that didn’t stop us from trying – our translator, Dariza, was excellent and spoke exceptional English.
Fumbling with our pesos was also a great struggle, but many cashiers were kind enough to assist us and help us sort out our funds while trying to make a purchase. These, however, were cashiers in major stores. If you wanted to go to the market, where average people bargain and sell, then keep your money close. The experience of going to the market was thrilling, but overwhelming.
As soon as you walked into the market, every buyer would bombard you with “would you like to buy, you are so pretty/handsome and you need this, and I’ll take this much for it.” The market people spoke English, because many foreigners visited the market, but I wouldn’t want to go back. Unlike the U.S where you can enjoy your shopping experience, in the Dominican it is more of a hassle – I would rarely choose to shop if I could.
Although the country is vastly different from mine I would indeed love to go back again. I left my home to visit a new world and make an impact on their lives, but instead, a new home was created for me and a piece of my heart resides there.
Everyone should travel – at least once!
PS: There is no such thing as stoplights and stop signs. They are rarely found! If you want to have a heart-attack – then drive down there. It won’t take long.