Distance runner Brooke Gordon checks in from the Track and Field team's first day of its mission trip in the Dominican Republic.
Today was the first full day in the Dominican and it was a great starting point for our week here in the DR. We’ve been told that many groups don’t get the chance to spend a day in Santiago, which makes me a little sad for them because we had an awesome time today!
Here at Manna, they’ve recently began to launch a new college ministry, and we got the chance to see a little more of what that looks like in Santiago. To support the ministry, we wanted to take some time to pray about the cool things God is doing. We took a short walk up a monument that took us to a spot that overlooked the entire town, which was absolutely gorgeous by the way, and prayed over the town that would be hosting Manna’s recent graduates at the college level. It was nice to take a minute to look over Santiago and see the vastness of God’s glory. An amazing opportunity is coming for those graduating seniors, and it was nice to have a small part in the preparations for that ministry. But my favorite part of the day happened after our Santiago tours.
Later in the day, we got the chance to help with a local church outreach project. Around 100 kids from a surrounding neighborhood came to play games and receive Magi boxes from Santa Clause. We spent around an hour preparing around four or five games for the kids’ prizes and all. We didn’t really realize how big of a deal this event was until families were lining up at the door 30 minutes before it started. As I was told, “You can tell the kids are so excited because Dominicans are never early and they’re here half an hour before the start. That never happens.” Excited is probably a severe understatement but I could certainly see some eager kids pour into the building. Then organized chaos ensued.
When planning these kinds of events, you can pretty much always count on “winging it” but one thing you can’t really fake is the ability to speak Spanish well. Note to everyone: these kids run circles around your average high school Spanish 3 class vocabulary. Knowing how to ask “when does the train arrive?” isn’t exactly a great conversation starter but, you know, we did our best with a language barrier.
Despite the whole Spanish thing, we were able to gather the general idea of the conversations from hand motions and just general body language. I met lots of little kids and their families because I was armed with a bag full of Jolly Ranchers. We gave some candy, which was great but the best part was watching the kids be blessed by the Magi boxes. These were gifts given by a real-life Santa Claus. And when I say real-life, I seriously mean real-life because this guy was legit. Hearing the shrieks and cheers of kids as they received gifts was such a heartwarming thing to be a part of. My little amiga, Ashley, popped out of my lap and jumped into Santa’s to get her gift and the absolute joy that radiated out of her was amazing. I know that on Christmas, I get excited for gifts but I don’t have anything on these kids, the kids who have nothing but are so deserving of so much more. Being able to meet some of their needs and wants was beautiful because God was in that place.
One of the key phrases to know is “Como se dice?” because even though I wouldn’t know the words, they could teach me what I needed and wanted to say. But more than anything, today we learned that smiles and hugs can go a really long way. So even when you don’t have the words you’re so desperately seeking, you can still show love, which was a great thing for us. So maybe they had no clue what we were saying, but they knew that we cared and that they were loved so I’d say today was a great success :)