Sophomore distance runners Katie Bianchini and Brook Gordon provide further insight into the track and field team's mision trip to the Dominican Republic by sharing their experiences throughout day four of the trip.
This morning we started out with an awesome Manna church service.Tons of people from the community gathered on the campus for a bilingual church service. We sang some Spanish songs where many people in our group didn’t know the words but definitely recognized the tunes. After the songs, the entire congregation was broken into four groups to do a campus-wide prayer walk. Each location had a different focus—the community, the church, the children’s church, and the Manna Christian School—with a corresponding set of scriptures that were read in both Spanish and English. We ended service with communion and a prayer.
Today, our big focus was community so we were split into groups to have lunch with three local families. We (Katie Bianchini and Brooke Gordon) were in the same group and got to meet Anita, Domingo, Katie, and Carly. Anita makes t-shirt rugs and sells them to Manna for visitors to buy at the souvenir shop. She helped us maneuver the big needle in and out of the material, and we found that we were quite clumsy at the seemingly easy job. While Anita turns out the rugs in just two days, we imagined that with our pace, it would take a week or so. Soon we sat down for a delicious authentic Dominican lunch of oregano chicken, rice, and potato salad with carrots with a coconut bar for lunch. As we began to say our goodbyes, the family generously gave us gifts like bracelets and small purses, smiling with joy. When we have guests in the U.S., sometimes we don’t even walk them to the door to send them off, but these people that we hardly even knew gave us gifts from the little that they had. The love and kindness of all the people we’ve met in the DR continues to inspire us every day.
Later on, the Manna leaders and several boys from the community took us on an amazing hike to a lookout point. We started out by climbing through a muddy cow pasture, up a hill, and under a barbed-wire fence into the forest. We slipped through grassy fields, up more hills, around trees, under more wire fences, and finally reached the top where we enjoyed a fruit that the community boys carried up called ganamana (guessing on spelling there…said “guh-nah-mun-awe”). The view was spectacular, overlooking valleys and pastures, and allowing us to look all the way back to the Manna Campus which was tucked into a far-off hill.
We carefully made our way back down the slippery slopes and returned to the Manna campus for dinner—the best taco soup ever! After dinner, kids from the Manna Children’s Home and the community arrived for movie night and we watched Home Alone in Spanish!
Our week here in the Dominican is going by so quickly! With each day we get more and more experiences and we’re trying our best to soak up every second of it all. As we get to the second half of the week and the tiredness begins to wear on us, it’s important to remember exactly what we are here for. People like Anita and her family show us the expressions of Jesus with their kindness and great faith and give us an awesome example of what we should aim for when we leave here in just a few days.