Senior Mission Trip 2018
Friday April, 19 2018
Today was our last full day on the island. Right after breakfast, we traveled to Catalina Island. We took a 40-minute bus ride and a 30-minute boat ride to get there. On the boat, we were taught how to dance, which was difficult to do on a boat that was riding on waves, but we managed to have a good time. We stopped a little before we arrived and went snorkeling in the ocean. The water was so clear that you could see the bottom at some points. The fish would swim super close to us and it was a really fun, new experience. At Catalina, some of us went cliff diving. This took quite a bit of walking but was very fun. The beach was beautiful and the water was clear. The buffet that we had for lunch was amazing, authentic Dominican food.
We traveled back to Score for dinner where Profa (Mrs. Salvador) surprised me with a birthday cake because today was my birthday. The cake was made by the amazing cooks at Score and the kind gesture meant a lot to me and was greatly appreciated since I was not able to spend my 18th birthday with my friends and family. We all enjoyed the rest day after working so hard. –Elizabeth Olsen
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Hey everyone! It was our last day at Freedom, the school we have been working with, today which was super sad! We had to say goodbye to the kids we have been working with since Monday. My new favorite memory with the kids was when my kid, Frailin, started a sick beat and made the whole room burst into a jam session. Me, Adrian, and Alex added a little extra and the kids were clapping and dancing along. For the second half of the day, we finished up the construction we had been working on which felt super good. We were able to finish up almost all of the third story guard walls for the first building and with the help of Adrian and Alex, I finished pouring four columns on the roof. For the wall, we had to lay blocks and then fills the blocks with cement and our homie Austin taught us a bunch of cool stuff about construction, so we’re all professionals now and are moving here to finish up construction on the building.
Some other fun stuff happened at Freedom before we left. There are a lot of stray dogs around the area and one of them (who we named Chica) just had her puppies today and she even let us see them! There were four of them and they were super cute. As me and Jane were looking at the puppies right before we left, some of the power lines/power box caught on fire for a couple seconds and made Jane scream and run which was pretty comical.
After dinner, we walked to the beach from SCORE and got to swim for awhile. The waves were insane and we all had a good time. Also, a couple of people met the up and coming pitcher for the New York Yankees which was pretty cool. It eventually got dark at the beach so we walked back to SCORE and decided to hang around for awhile and swim in the pool. Right as we were leaving it started to pour. Driving is crazy here and driving in the pouring rain was even more spooky than normal. Our bus driver, Blanco, is a great driver luckily. Blanco is a prankster, though. Today he made Nikita freak out and nearly scared Carter into the pool. He is also a great tour guide, but he doesn’t know English, so every time he tries to tell us something we have to get Profa (Mrs. Salvador) to translate for us.
Alright well, we just finished up our “team time” which went well and now people are just getting ready for bed and getting their stuff ready so that we can go to Catalina Island tomorrow and also celebrate Elizabeth’s 18th birthday!!!!!
P.S. Carter and Adrian have been singing “Hotel California” for the past 15 minutes and I wish they would stop but I don’t see that happening in the near future.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Hi, I’m Carter Weitzel. We left at 7:10am and went to Score to eat breakfast. After that we went to Freedom again. We did basically the same thing as yesterday. We started in the morning playing with the kiddos. My kiddos name was Jeyson. He was so freaking adorable. He drew on my face with face paint so I was covered in that all day, so that was fun. Then after that, we did construction on the school. Nikita and I finished the wall on the third floor. I was really spooked because of how high we were, but I got used to it. Mr. Flemming helped too. Our wall was so good that Gabe, the professional construction worker, asked Nikita and I if we wanted to intern for them. Nikita is genuinely considering taking them up on the offer. I am not. The people who were afraid of heights just like mixed cement on the ground or something that was less important than what we were doing on the third floor. After we finished with construction we went to the grocery store. I looked crazy because I was covered in cement and face paint. I got some candy and a razor because I am looking kind of scraggly. The lines were really long so we were late to dinner. For dinner, we had some tasty lasagna of some kind. After that, we had Score night at Score. We sang some songs and a man from Tennessee did a sermon to us which was pretty good. He talked about how God cleaning out our lives is like how he hired a man to clean the poop out of his basement. I was pretty moved. Then, to support the missionaries, we bought my mom a necklace (don’t tell my mom). Finally, we all headed back to our house where we all took well-deserved showers. Tomorrow we leave at 7:10 again. Today was a pretty good day. Thanks bye.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Today was very eventful. In the morning, we went back to the church where we were serving to participate in their Sunday morning service. Some of us lead worship for the congregation and Nikita and Saige gave their testimonies. Mr. Flemming did the sermon and Profa translated for him. Overall, it was a great experience and it was so cool to be able to worship in a different language. After lunch, we got on the bus and drove two hours south to the capital, Santo Domingo. We drove through the mountains and it was very beautiful. We stopped in Santo Domingo and explored the city a little bit. Some of us bought and snacks and souvenirs from the vendors and we even bartered a little bit. The capital had lots of old buildings and statues, the most prominent one honoring Christopher Columbus and his voyage to America. After some exploring, it was time to go to Score. We drove up the coast, which was a beautiful drive. The ocean was crashing up against the rocks and the sky was so colorful as the sunset. We arrived at Score and had orientation and dinner. We were the only group there so it was pretty quiet. After all of that, we finally got to the house we are now staying at. Today was a day of lots of goodbyes: goodbyes to the children, the church in Santiago, and our bus driver Nino. However, tomorrow we will be meeting a whole bunch of new people which makes the goodbyes a little easier.
Saturday, April 13, 2018
Today, our class visited the same church on the north side of the island, Santiago. The church is so wonderful. The women cook homemade Dominican food for us every day and made sure we were full. Today, we went to the church first thing in the morning to start painting the church. They were very grateful because we all were working together as a class and the painting of the church got done quickly. We also painted another building after the church. Many of us also played with the kids. They were absolutely amazing. Jane and I (Nikita) would go into the streets with the older kids and some of the younger kids and played soccer and tag, or lita. We all built so many great relationships with the kids. Some of which were Jayson or Nathaniel. We would climb the trees and go play basketball at the gym or even do races, or carreras, while the kids were on our backs and they would call us their horse, or caballo, and we would have to tell them we were not their caballo. It was terribly fun and leaving them was terribly hard. After we left the church, Nino, our favorite driver, took us out to the orphanage a little bit away from the church. Going to the orphanage was the best experience I think most of us have ever had. We met these children and did our skit about Joseph with our puppets and made them laugh. It was so cute. While some of us were doing the skit, we had some of us sit with the kids and they LOVED sitting with us and playing with our hair and glasses while watching us do the skit. When the skit was over, we went to the playground and we played with all of them. Many of us jumped on the trampolines while some of us did jump rope or played soccer in their field. The sad part was that we were only there for about an hour and had to leave. When we had to leave, I had a little girl who loved hanging off of me and running around with me. When I told her I had to leave, she pointed to my necklace that had my name on it and asked if she could have it so that she could remember me. Of course, she asked in Spanish because she really didn’t know much English. So I gave her my necklace. Leaving that orphanage was the saddest thing I had to experience and I really had to try to hold back the tears. Everyone was so great with all of the kids we had interactions with and it was wonderful. At the end of the night, we went to Kelsey Wilcox’s house on the roof and had our team time. We sat, sang songs, talked about our day and Kelsey gave her testimony. During this, we looked at the stars and the city line. We closed off the night going back to our hotel and going to sleep. Can’t believe we’re on this trip! So excited for so many more days!
P.S. 4 days until Elizabeth’s birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Friday, April 13, 2018
Hi, this is Hannah, signing in! We had a lot of fun on Friday. We woke up and had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel we were staying at and left around nine to the church. This church was on one of the more poor street corners of Santiago. The first thing we did there was street ministry. We went into two groups and shared our testimonies to whoever wanted to listen to us. A lot of people shared their testimonies and God truly worked through the lives of the people there. After this we came back and split up into groups of three; one group would play with the street kids, the second would paint the church and the third would go back to do street ministry. I mostly played with the kids and had a lot of fun! The kids and the people in our class who played with them were really nervous at first, but soon we were having a lot of fun with them. We played with bubbles, drew with some chalk and played some games they do here in the Dominican Republic. Later on, we went to see a minor league basketball game going on in an arena nearby. It was a good game, but God truly used my talents in the basketball arena that day. I just pulled out my mini sketchbook and was drawing when this girl asked me to draw her. All the kids that were around me were saying that my drawing was very good and what was once just one or two people became a whole crowd of kids surrounding me as I drew portrait after portrait of the kid’s faces. I kept praying to God to give me perseverance as I drew kid after kid, and he provided. The kids were very happy. I was so blessed to be able to use my talent to communicate not through my words but through my drawings.
See you soon!
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Thank you for your prayers for this exciting trip we have been excitingly preparing for all year. We arrived safely in the Dominican Republic without a hitch.
We started off the day meeting at the school at 9am. After packing the team bags and making sure nothing was forgotten, we set off to the airport. The bus ride there was full of pictures, pop-tarts, discussions of recent soccer games, and excitement for the adventure we were beginning.
Going through airport security was a first for a few of our students. Thankfully, nobody forgot their passports. One of our students had brought a bounty of pre-packaged snacks which had to be checked thoroughly before her carry-on was sent through the detector a second time. However, we still got through with plenty of time to spare. We arrived at our gate, ate our lunches, and numerous students made Starbucks trips. We had more time than was advertised because we were the second to last group to board.
The first flight from Chicago to Miami went pretty smoothly. When we landed at Miami, we found out that our original layover of 1-2 hours was actually about 20 minutes. After replicating the McCallister family, we arrived at our gate with plenty of time to spare because, again, we were one of the last groups. Many students used this time to make food trips in some of the numerous airport restaurants. While waiting to board, one of our students started experiencing motion sickness with a migraine. Every step of the way, Mrs. Salvador was an absolute angel to the student as she knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
After boarding the second flight, we found that there were tablets installed in the seats for multiple forms of entertainment! A group of students connected across a trivia game and had fun playing a few rounds.
Once we arrived in Santiago at about 7:30, the student who had experienced the brunt of motion sickness was taken to an airport clinic. The doctor thought it would be necessary to send her to a second evaluation, but all she needed was rest and re-hydration. At about 9:20, we exited the airport and headed to a church who are hosting us while we’re on the North side of the island. We had a delicious late dinner, quickly debriefed on plans for Friday, and soon were on our way to our hotel. Many students were tired from the day’s happenings, but a more prominent feeling across the board was excitement for the next day.
Day 8 and today was Catalina Island day! Catalina Island is a relatively small island just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. We had to wake up early to get over there on time but it was so worth it! We waited on the boat for what seemed like hours but once we got going the excitement level exponentially increased. When we got close to the Island the boat stopped in a somewhat deep area for people to go snorkeling just a little ways from the coast of Catalina Island. Not many people went in at that point but I did along with most of my classmates and it was incredible. It was my first time snorkeling and just seeing all the differently shaped coral and beautifully colored tropical fish was such a great experience that I’m sure glad I took the opportunity to do.
After that, we went to the other side of the island where all the beaches and huts and people were. The water in the shallow parts was a clear teal blue and you could see the white sand at the bottom which was more than likely over 10 meters deep. It was jaw dropping. It was a very sunny day for the most part although it rained ever so slightly while we were snorkeling in the deep part. As we got on the actual Island I was filled with energy as I’m sure all my classmates were as well. The beaches were so nice and clean. Some went swimming some just walked around a bit but as for me, I went straight for looking for cool pieces of coral and shells. Call me lame but it was a fun experience as I had already swum a lot prior to this day and yes I found some pretty cool pieces.
Just as I was getting back to unload all my pieces of coral and small shells it started to rain and hard. I heard thunder as I was walking back but I didn’t think anything of it. Unfortunately, we got rained on pretty hard during lunch but luckily the buffet was under a thatch pavilion hut type thing. The food was decent but I had better at Score where we go for our meals every day. The heavy rain turned into light rain and as a group effort, we all decided to make the most of an unfortunate situation and continue to go cliff jumping as planned. We took a small boat to the edge of the island designated for cliff jumping not too far from the huts and beaches. Mostly everyone went cliff jumping and we had an amazing time enjoying the nice blue warm water and the 15-foot drop into the ocean.
Shortly after our little cliff jumping voyage we went back to the main area and were taken back to the big boat. It was a party on the way back much more entertaining than on the way there. There was so much energy on that little watercraft. There was music, dancing, and singing. It was just a great day, to say the least despite the weather not being on our side. Just seeing all the beautiful views of the Ocean and the large coastal city of La Romana was enough to leave me in awe.
On the seventh day of our trip, we started out by visiting a girl’s orphanage. None of us knew what to expect. When we arrived, they all had a hard time warming up to us. We all didn’t quite know what to do, and they weren’t very interactive. After a while, all of the orphans were having a great time with us. I spent time playing volleyball, while others were drawing, and playing jump-rope and parachute. The girls were all sweet and loving, and a lot of fun to play with. A lot of us were choked up when we had to leave and all of the girls came forward and hugged us all and thanked us for coming.
Later, we had lunch with a beautiful view and then moved on to the straw market. At the straw market, we had the opportunity to purchase a large variety of different items. These items ranged from bracelets to jewelry to machetes. Noah and I were haggling for a very large painting of Jesus, and managed to get the price of $35. After giving the merchant the money, his boss walked by and thought the price he sold it to us was absurd, and made us pay another $25 for it. The painting is beautiful though, and I am very excited to take it home.
After that, we walked through a handful of the historical sights of Santo Domingo. It was very interesting to be able to see buildings and walls that were older than the United States of America itself! We had many great photo opportunities and I loved spending time with my dear classmates.
The new week has started! This morning we left the house at 7:15 AM for breakfast at SCORE. I think everyone was pretty much dead of energy like a normal Monday, even though we rested up all Sunday. Some of us had nasty sunburns that felt like they gotten worse overnight. Anyway, everything became better once we started our missions work for the day. Much like Friday, we went to Freedom to work with the preschoolers in language immersion. There were less students as before, so some of us had just one child each, and some had a few different children. Generally, though, we all got the same kids as we did on Friday, so the kids still remembered us! Again, we rotated through fourteen different stations, but they were new ones than what we had last week. For me, though, I got to work with only one child, which made things a lot easier and more fun! It was sad to leave them. Juniors, those kids will be first graders when you go on your trip!
After eating lunch at Freedom at noon, we began our last session of construction on the Freedom school for our trip. We mostly worked on starting the block-laying for the walls, which lasted the entire time. Some put up barbed wire, some made the wet slurry (that “slushy cement” from whoever wrote Saturday’s post), and some worked on the actual walls. I don’t remember if there was anything else. The day which started out blazing hot from the sun became gradually cooler, and we even had a small shower! I’m sure some of us enjoyed that. We actually had another group working with us the whole construction time, who were also working with SCORE and had come from California.
After working a little bit of overtime (the other group had left about half an hour earlier) to 4:30, we left to eat dinner at SCORE then went back to the house. We had originally prepared to have group devotions at 6:45 (expecting pizza delivery at about 8 PM), so we all took showers. However, a guy we thought was the pizza man arriving early had come to drive us to SCORE for SCORE night, and we were all showering and/or dressed to stay home the rest of the evening! We rushed off to SCORE and had a worship time with another group of senior students, who were from… Pennsylvania, I think?
We got home and ate pizza. The others are playing with cards as I write this, and it sounds like there’s a storm going on. After a whole day of good, fulfilling work and a great workout, it’s nice to have relaxation and fellowship with each other. Today was overall great, in my opinion. It’s amazing to be a part of giving those Dominican Republic students a great Christian education!
Okay, I wrote way too much. See ya next week with our rippling muscles, poofy bug bites, and luscious tans! Oh, can’t forget those tan lines.
Personally, this day has been a big and exciting day for me. We started the day by going to a local church, and there is no way you can put that experience into good enough words. The worship in that church blew me away. The room was filled with the voices of those singing, I swear that you could hear it from blocks away. Not to mention it was really cool to hear such familiar songs, but in Spanish obviously. Although I hardly understood any of what was said, I was so into the pastor’s message because he used so much emotion throughout his message. Now, this was the most exciting part of the day for me, the ocean. This was my first time seeing the ocean up close and being able to swim in it, and it was amazing. The view from the shore was beautiful, the horizon seemed too stretched forever. The water was a light turquoise blue color, and it felt amazing. Some of us went out away from the shore, maybe 60 meters or so, maybe a little farther. It was so much fun to jump and play in the waves. When we were getting out we were bombarded by vendors, a few people spent a lot. After the ocean, we went back to Score and swam for a little bit in the pool. Then we went to the Lily House. We looked at their little shops, a lot of us bought some paintings. After the nice relaxing day we went back to our house and had an amazing group time. To me I would say that this day was part of an amazing experience and went beyond amazing.
Saturday was another early morning full of labor intensive activities. Once we arrived at Freedom, at about 8:30, we went back out to our construction site to haul slushy cement to the roof. This was 3 hours full of hard work, but also fun and joyful singing together. Around noon we ate lunch and prepared for our VBS. A bunch of missionaries and their families from Freedom joined us in going to a batey (village) to do our program for the kids. On the way there, we stopped to get some sugar cane, and it was deliciously sweet-;) pun pun. Some fathers of the kids at Freedom International worked there so they gave us a lot for free which was awesome. We went to a batey called Cabeza de Toro and set out to find some kids to come with us. Once we got a pretty decent amount to follow us, we went under a pavilion to sing our songs with the kids and perform our skit. It seemed like a lot of them really enjoyed singing and dancing with us, and they seemed very attentive during our skit of the Easter Story. Victoria did an amazing job with the kids doing the object lesson of the 9 different eggs representing different parts of the Easter story. We explained to the kids what Jesus did for us because of his love for us, and Sam gave his testimony about what God’s love has done for him in his life and how he was changed by that love. After this, we went out to the field with them and had face paint and nail polish (which the girls LOVED) and a bunch of different balls and jump ropes, and we played with them for hours. I don’t think I am alone when I say it was sooo hard to leave those kids, and a part of my heart is still with them. We all really love them and loved being with them. Today was a blast, and we all really enjoyed being with the kids of the batey.
Thank you so much for your faithfulness in praying for our team! We are having an amazing time and have really been enjoying seeing God at work here in the Dominican. Please continue to pray for our protection, for unity as a team, and for our hearts to be open to let the Holy Spirit speak and move through us. You are a blessing!
WCA Senior Class
We started off the day today a little later than expected because of our late night last night (we arrived at 2am). We had a late breakfast at SCORE, the missions organization we are staying at. After breakfast we headed over to Freedom, the school with which we help out in the classrooms in the morning and do construction in the afternoon. When we got to Freedom, we got a mini tour of the grounds from Jason, the head of the school. He calls himself the vice president because he says that God is the one really in control of the organization. He told us about how they acquired the land and resources for the school through what can only be God’s provision. The school is expanding rapidly; they have added a whole new building since last year’s seniors were there. It was incredible to see how much God has provided for these people who obviously put His will above anything else.
We had a quick lunch and then got to work on construction. Today they had us split up into two groups to clear out two separate rooms for their use. There were desks and filing cabinets and pieces of wood filling up the rooms. I’m pretty sure I can speak for everyone when I say that I will definitely be sore tomorrow. Manual labor may not be my gift (to put it lightly), but it is great to step out of your comfort zone. It made me think of 2 Corinthians 12 where God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We may not always do things right, but God helps us use our imperfections to make known His perfection.
Thank you to the people who have made this trip possible for us. We already are growing and learning more about God, and we have been able to witness how beautiful it is to see God at work. We hope that you will continue to pray for us as the week continues! God bless!
Update: The Seniors are flying to NYC before then flying to the Dominican Republic. They are scheduled to arrive after midnight. Pray that there are no more delays and they all (along with their luggage) arrive safely at their destination.
Update 2: So Day 1 was a very stressful day. When we arrived at O’Hare we had to stand in very a long line which took like an hour to get through. I was super tired because all the excitement of traveling was kicking in. We got on the plane to Atlanta at 6:00am, but when we were a little over half way there we found out that the airport was closed due to bad weather. We thought that the weather was going to get better and allow us to land, but God had other plans. We were not able to land at Atlanta even though we had circled the airport for like 2 hours.
We ended up landing in North Carolina, and from there we had to figure out if we were going to go back to Atlanta to and then catch our next flight to the Dominican Republic, but we couldn’t find any flights that were going back to Atlanta because of the bad weather still. We ended up having to wait in the North Carolina airport for 4 hours. We as a class did not have any tantrums, we instead had binding moments that we all enjoyed, we played cards, talked, walked around in the airport and we ate. If I was to redo this day I would do it in an instant. I loved the time I spent with my class. I want to thank God for keeping us safe while we were in so many planes and for letting us arrive late but well. And thank you to all back home who are praying for our safety and well-being. God bless.