After much waiting and anticipation, I am finally blogging about my mission trip to the Dominican Republic. From here on out, I will most likely shorten Dominican Republic to DR. You with me so far? I hope so.
From July 2 until July 14th, I was on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic with 22 other young adults from my church. We are part of the Frontline Ministry at New Song Christian Fellowship. Our trip was unique in that we were all involved with Frontline and we are all very similar in age. Chalk one point up on the side of unity for that. We also stayed in the same house (on varying floors and in gender-specific rooms). We were together constantly. Make that two points in the unity category. And as a final and glue-like third point, we were all walking obediently in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we were later told that we were the best mission team to come from our church in over 10 years. The unity that we experienced was phenomenal! The Holy Spirit gave us unity and we worked together to sustain it. That was one of our greatest team testimonies.
New Song is a network of churches all over the world. We have several campuses in the Nashville area (we’re hoping to have 9 in Nashville by the end of 2009). We also have congregations in Mexico, India, Nepal, Africa and of course the Dominican Republic. All of the congregations in our network have the same values and teachings. It’s very cohesive and very nice.
A few brief, interesting things about our trip…
We could not flush the toilets very often. The plumbing was not very good so we had a motto: If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down. Simply put, if we peed, we didn’t flush. If we pooped, we did. Also, we didn’t flush the toilet paper also because of the plumbing. We used the toilet paper to wipe and then put it in a trash can “sunny side down.” In other words, we turned it over so no one could see the yellow or brown on the paper. Toilet paper was not provided in every bathroom, either. While we were traveling around, many bathrooms didn’t have toilet paper. So, we carried our own with us most of the time. Also, the water there is contaminated so we drank special purified water the whole time. We were not to ingest any of the tap water. Thirdly, we didn’t always have electricity. In fact, every day, the city of Santo Domingo cut the power in a grid form around the city. So, between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. every day we lost power. They cycled the power cutoffs around the city.
While we were in the DR, we spent the majority of our time in the capital city of Santo Domingo. However, we did spend three days in Pedernales, which is a town on the border of Haiti. Pedernales is only six minutes from the Haitian border. Two United Nations officers were staying in the same hotel that we stayed while we were in Pedernales. They chose to stay in the DR because it’s safer than Haiti.
We arrived in Santo Domingo on time and very tired on July 2nd. Our call time that morning was 3:45. I can’t sleep effectively on an airplane so I was especially tired. After we landed in the DR, we made the hour-long trip to the house where we were staying. The owners of the house were the national directors of Youth With a Mission (YWAM). They were on furlough (a mandatory visit back to their home country to maintain proper missionary residency requirements). Basically, every missionary in a foreign country has to leave the country they are visiting (missioning in) for a specified amount of time.
We were supposed to stay on the YWAM base, but it was full of other mission groups. Instead, we were blessed to stay in the director’s house. It was three floors, had at least three bathrooms, numerous rooms, a glorious view and a nice patio. It was truly a gift from the Lord to be able to stay in La Casa de Norell.
The second, third and fourth day of our trip, we were in the city of Pedernales on the Haitian border. We made a six hour drive to get there. We drove from one coast of the DR to the other. On the way, we saw glorious beaches! While in Pedernales, we planted a church, which happens to be the first international church multiplication in the New Song network. We loved our time with the children in Pedernales. Many of the people on our team wanted to stay in Pedernales with all of the kids. The first night in Pedernales, we showed the movie ‘Facing the Giants’ in Spanish with English subtitles in a neighborhood where the church members lived. The second day there, we had a kids’ ministry day/construction day. Most of us worked with the kids and a few people went to build a patio roofesque wooden structure on the pastor’s house so vines could grow on it and create shade. The second night, the pastor spoke, we led worship and also presented two of our dramas. The third day was a Sunday. We went to the Pedernales church, which met in a meeting room of the local hospital. We led the service there and presented a dance. The girls of the Pedernales Bible School also presented a drama and dance for us.
One of my favorite things about the Pedernales section of the trip is my experience with a girl named Kenifer. I met her my fist day there and asked her every question in Spanish that I could think of. i.e. What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you live? Where are your parents? Do you have any brothers and sisters? After I ran out of questions, she moved on to talk to others.
As the weekend progressed, Kenifer kept approaching me. She introduced me to her mom, aunt and uncle. (Her aunt and uncle were the first people to convert to Christianity at the Pedernales church.) She came up to me and gave me a hug during one of our ministry times. During that particular moment, we were praying for people. As she stood there hugging me, I prayed for her and prophesied over her life. I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to pray that she would know God as her Father and would find a husband that honored her and that she could stand alongside in ministry with. I also saw that she was a leader among her peers so I pray that she’d be an influencer for good and not for bad and also that she’d pursue God wholeheartedly.
After I’d prayed all those things, I felt led to tell her the things I prayed for. I was praying in English, so she didn’t understand me. I asked one of my Spanish speaking friends from the trip to translate for me. She gladly agreed. So, the last day in Pedernales my friend translated everything I’d prayed. Soon after that, I approached Kenifer’s mom to tell her everything I’d prayed for her daughter. Her mom said that Kenifer’s dad is gone a lot (I prayed that she’d know God as her Father…that turned out to be important since her earthly father was often gone.) Her mom also said she was one of the top students at Bible School. I’d prayed that she’d be an influencer for good and would grow in the knowledge of the Bible. It was great to see such an immediate clarity for the things I’d prayed for.
After Sunday church, we headed back to Santo Domingo. The next two days of the trip were work days. I worked on the house that the student interns would be staying/learning in. It was hard work. Lots of manual labor. I left the first work day with two blisters on my right hand. I was working with a crowbar and breaking up cement so we could put in underground plumbing. A combination of water, my leather work glove and the repetitive concrete breaking led to the blisters.
The fourth day of that week was a tourism day. We toured Santo Domingo and did a little barter shopping. I was very sick this day. I felt like sleeping the entire time and I had no appetite. Perhaps some of the bad water got into my system. I’m not sure. I started taking medicine that day to make me feel better. That night we hosted one a church service at one of the network churches.
The next day we relaxed a little/rehearsed/set up for the Alabaster Heart conference. Pastor Dale Evrist, the lead pastor for New Song Nashville was the key speaker for this event. He shared a series of messages about growing in deeper intimacy with Jesus. Writers from New Song wrote original songs for this for our original Alabaster Heart Conference in Nashville. The songs were translated to Spanish so we could sing them in the DR. We had four of the top singers from the country singing those songs and those of us that were not in the band or doing tech arts sang in the choir.
The Alabaster Heart Conference was very successful! Many people received prayer and were healed. Everyone was definitely ministered to. I learned new things from Pastor Dale’s message that I’d not learned while in America. He brought new perspective and a refreshing viewpoint on the series.
After the Alabaster Heart Conference, we made our way to a resort for a few days of relaxation, reflection and rejuvenation. The majority of the trip, we didn’t have air conditioning, beds or even enough water for a full-length shower. It was also wonderful to share a bathroom with just one person and not five other people. The endless buffet was a real treat too. The beaches on the resort were beautiful. The water was very warm as well.
This is a lengthly blog, but there are so many things that I didn’t even mention. For example, what exactly I got out of the trip. I’ll post this as is and come back later with my personal thoughts on the trip and what it meant to me.