The Dominican – Part 1 – An Overview

So here we go.  I’m still not sure where to start and it’s going to take more than one post so I’m just going to dive right in.

First, an overview.

How it all started.  My church, Prince of Peace in Burnsville MN, has had a relationship with the Doulos Discovery School in Jarabacoa, La Vega, Dominican Republic for many years (more on what an amazing thing that Doulos is, coming later).  POP sends groups of men, women and families down to Doulos each year to work on projects.

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This fall one of the leaders of the women’s trip, Pat, cornered a group of us at church and said, that we really needed to go on the trip this year.  For some crazy reason my friend Barb and I said “sure, we’re in!”  Ok, so it wasn’t quite that smooth.  There were multiple phone calls back in forth – “I’ll go if you go”, “I don’t know…do you think we should go?”  “we should totally go”, “well….maybe…I don’t know….do you still want to go”, “no pressure but I”m totally not going if you don’t go but seriously no pressure” and then finally “you know what I think I’m going to go even if you don’t go…but it’d be super fun if you came too…but seriously no pressure”.

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Barb and I

Let’s just say that Pat is a very patient person.  She never once pressured us.  She just let us stumble our way to what was the obvious choice all along.

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Pat is patient and kind and very funny and occasionally tries to blend into walls…
Photo credit – Julie Peterson

A Service/Learning Trip.  We spent half of our time learning and half of our time serving. We learned about the Dominican culture, the strengths and challenges of the community, the philosophy and mission of the Doulos school and also another school in the area T.E.A.R.S (much more on both of those in an upcoming post).  We also did a book study on poverty.  We served by substitute teachers at Doulos so the teachers could attend a workshop with Nancy Lee.  We painted and landscaped.  We brought donations that we had gathered before leaving, to both Doulas and T.E.A.R.S.

And we had some serious fun.  I know, I know, when you think about this type of trip you’re probably picturing something kind of somber, right?  I know that’s what I pictured.   And I know that there are trips to other places and different situations that are somber.  But this one wasn’t.  We just flat out had fun together.  I thought about trying to downplay that part, you know, so it would sound more….I don’t know sacrificial? important?  But all the pictures have too many smiling faces, I just couldn’t spin it that way.  And maybe it’s an important thing to get out there, that serving and learning in community is just some of the best kind of fun there is.

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We were a very serious group as you can see

The Book.  Here is the book that we studied together.  When Helping Hurts; How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…And Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

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If serving the poor is something that you, your family or your church is interested in, you really should read this book.  It truly changed the way I think about the poor, poverty and how we can make lasting change in our communities.  We had so many great discussions around this book, my brain is still processing it all.

The Preparations. So we met.  We planned.  We gathered supplies to donate.  We read.  We prayed. We packed.  Some of us re-packed….multiple times…..and made the suitcase worse every time we touched it. The down side of never vacationing out of your home state as a child, is that you do not understand how to pack for international travel, like at all.  The upside is you have seen everything there is to see in Yellowstone Park multiple times.

Some of us emailed Pat everyday asking for more details and more guidance on how to pack.  And she wisely gave us (and the “us” here is basically just me) just enough information to keep us from having a panic attack without giving away everything.  Because part of the “learning” of a service/learning trip is learning how to let go of the idea of control (because we can’t really control much of anything you know) and trusting that with God’s help and some good friends to lean on we can figure it out as we go along.

And off we go.  So that’s where it started.  Suitcases bulging, bleary eyed, not sure what to expect but willing to keep fighting off the panic attack to find out, we met at 4:45 am on a very cold Minnesota morning at the airport, greeted by….incredibly long security lines!  Thinking, “who are all these crazy people up at 4:45am!”

And the fun began….

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