The Lipscomb cross country and track and field teams have been serving in the Dominican Republic with Mana Global Ministries. Four of the student-athletes have decided to share some thoughts from their experience. First up will be senior Christian Freeman and freshman Kyra Drobny.
Thoughts from Christian Freeman:
I used to have a problem with short term mission trips. I didn’t believe they were beneficial or caused much good; instead, they were facades created to serve the purpose of advancing one’s own sense of spirituality, as opposed to actually helping people. It turns out I didn’t come close to fully understanding how mission trips work, especially the kind we have been doing here at Lipscomb.
After thinking about it for a long time and talking to one of the student leaders (Brooke), I was convinced to go because I believed in the cause of relational mission trips and the empowerment of the Dominican college students to change their community from the inside out. Mission trips are extremely beneficial and powerful when you have a relationship with the community you are helping.
Everyone who has gone to the Dominican Republic on our team knows Ranger. He is hilarious, loud, goofy, caring, outgoing, sensitive, optimistic, artistic, intelligent and above all, loving. As soon as you meet him, you can see God radiating out from him like a star in the night sky.
My favorite memory of this trip so far was when we were hosting a movie night for the kids in Bobita. During the movie—when all the kids were eating popcorn and being fascinated by Antz—Ranger and I stepped away from the group and talked. That time flew by. He told me his life story, which is one full of tragedy, hardship, heartbreak, abandonment and hunger. It made me want to burst into tears. Any hardship I had endured, Ranger had endured exponentially more. You would have never guessed the absolutely horrible things he has experienced because of his relentless positive outlook on life. He summed up how he felt about life pretty simply: he loves to love people.
For Ranger, it’s all about loving people. He loves to see the good in people, and forgiveness—which I think is the highest possible stage of love—comes naturally to him. God has truly blessed him with His spirit, and he makes it very clear to those around him, whether that’s doing personal drawings of all the Lipscomb students, playing with kids he doesn’t know on top of a mountain in Puerto Plata, talking about how he wants to take his Mom to all kinds of places, or just seeing me from across the room and saying “SUUUHHHH DUDE,” Ranger truly displays the kind of love and forgiveness every Christian should strive for.
Thoughts from Kyra Drobny:
Being in the Dominican Republic has opened my eyes to the differences in other countries and cultures. It's crazy to see how the people of Santiago and Bobita live every day, and while it seems so crazy and uncomfortable for me, to the people of these towns it is normal. It is so easy to get caught up in my everyday life and to think that everywhere is like where I live, when in fact not even all of America lives without poverty.
In Bobita, most of the houses are very small, run-down places we would not consider as homes, yet these people are happy and don't see themselves as "poor" because this is their every day, their normal. It amazes me how much of an abundance I live in while people around the world have much less than I do, and sometimes not even enough to survive, yet I am still always asking for more money or new shoes or new clothes.
Experiences like this remind me when I go back home to stop seeking material things, to be more minimalistic and to focus on relationships with family and friends. It is obvious that the reason the people in the Dominican Republic are so happy is because they have tight bonds with their family, neighbors and friends to fill the gaps that most Americans try to fill with possessions.
I was able to go with a group leader to see one of his patients who had been having severe shoulder pain due to years of overuse and injury without proper recovery. This man was elderly and had probably been in some form of pain his whole life, but he continued to work because he had to provide for his family. He didn't know there were things that could be done to help his shoulder pain because those things, such as a chiropractor, were not available to him.
Meanwhile, in the states, if I have a slight discomfort I want to immediately see a doctor to relieve my pain. Also, another woman was having horrible stress headaches due to the tightness in her shoulders and back, again due to hard work and horrible sleeping conditions. If this was me, I would have stopped working and gotten a new mattress to relieve my pain, but these options were not available to her.
This week has been very humbling as I realize yet again the uselessness of the abundance I live in, and as I realize the diversity around the globe. It has been so cool to interact with a different culture this week—to see all that we have in common and to talk about our differences, too. I have loved getting to know the Dominican students and the people of the community.