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. Next up will be senior Aaron Beckwith and sophomore Bridgette Doucet.
Thoughts from Aaron Beckwith:
As the breeze flows through the mountains down Bobita road, and across the pages of my journal, relaxation has never come so easily. There is a peace I find in being away from school, from work, and from other obligations; here, I have the time to focus on growth, setting my sights on the mountain top, and stepping toward those goals with less distractions.
I see the Lord working while I watch the smiles on the faces of hard workers fighting through blisters and a hot sun to prepare a new house for a family.
I observe the Lord working while I watch the determination in the eyes of tired hikers, battling dehydration and the forces of nature to reach the telos of our adventure. The journey through the heavy forest to find the statue of Jesus on the mountain top acts as a constant reminder of our struggle through life. As Paul said, “[There is] one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Finally, it is obvious that the Lord is working through the bowed heads of God’s followers in prayer, constantly thinking about those less fortunate, and engaged in a love that focuses on the poor. I can clearly imagine Jesus saying to my friends, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'”
Moreover, after seeing the love of our team of Americans and Dominicans, I have a strong hope for the future of the Church. What brings me joy is looking at the community we have and seeing cultural differences and personal struggles melt away as we all focus on the same end, our commitment to God.
As we set our eyes on the mountain top, together we can break down all barriers and encourage each other in the work of glorifying our King. Not only do we find peace in relaxation, we find joy in our struggles because we know that God has something great planned for us. My mind constantly returns to the verse in Romans that says,
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Thoughts from Bridgette Doucet:
We'd insisted that we didn't want a guide. The officials at the base insisted that we did, in fact, need one. We were athletes, our friends were Dominicans; what could go wrong? Quite a bit, apparently, as we learned about an hour and a half into our unexpected bushwhacking adventure deep inside of a somewhat-resistant jungle landscape.
I'd had my suspicions about the wisdom of attempting to drag a group of unassuming college students and a few leaders (plus a nine-year-old girl) up a mountain when we had to double back close to the start after a wrong turn; now, those doubts were becoming bitter inevitabilities in my increasingly pessimistic mind.
Apparently there would eventually be hot pink markers assuring us that we'd found the right path, but as of yet the only colors we'd encountered were various shades of green and brown; at first beautiful, then interesting, then just plain exasperating. How could there possibly be a path in all of this wilderness, where everything was slippery, pointy, or overgrown?
I was starting to contemplate our odds of survival with a few bottles of water and a half-bag of pretzel sticks among us as our remaining provisions when something caught my eye. There in front of me was a glinting white shell, half-submerged but definitely visible in the inky black dirt.
Intrigued, I looked around to see if there were more in the area, but all I saw was more of the classic Jurassic Park decor I'd been staring at for the longest time. I shrugged it off, assuming that only one snail had dared to cross our half-hazardous blazed trail. A couple of minutes later, though, there was another one, and then another right after a difficult incline. By the time we finally found the actual markings, I'd seen no less than ten large shells along the way. Something told me that this was more than just a coincidence-- but I was far too tired at that point to be wondering about miracles.
We did reach the top, but not before more exciting moments like traversing a mud pit that had split the path and slogging up a long (and I mean long) uphill road. Surprisingly, I was one of the first ones up, which immediately brightened my mood (go figure). Rather than sprinting toward the nearest water bottle, however, I felt like I needed to trek back down the road to encourage my friends who had stopped along the way.
As time passed and I still hadn't seen anyone, I finally thought back to the shells. At that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit say, "I was with you on this journey, and I will continue to be with you. You are mine; I will never stop guiding you." I smiled in wonderment at the realization, then looked down. At my feet was one last white shell.