I’m so thrilled to welcome my long-time friend Becky Rolph and her son Noah to SNEI today. They have recently returned from a missions trip and I look forward to learning more.
Becky, where did you do?
We went to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We stayed, and worked, at The Haitian Missionary Baptist Church. It is a church that offers support to Haitian refugees. They are a very discriminated against group of people in a very poverty stricken area of Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is about 104 km2, which is about ¼ the land size of London, Ontario and yet, it houses 3,000,000 people.
Noah, who else went on the trip with you?
We went with a group of 19 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 and 6 adult leaders from our church, Faith. We were led by a team from Praying Pelican – which is an organization that develops short term mission projects worldwide. They provided us with knowledge of the culture, daily devotionals, and basically planned our itinerary for the 10 days. We also had interpreters working with us who could speak Creole and Spanish.
Noah, you are extremely busy training for the various sporting competitions that lie ahead of you. Why did you choose to take time out and go on this trip?
I usually spend my March break at a training facility in Florida preparing for my track and field endeavours. This year I felt God calling me to something different. I wanted to visit another part of the world and see how others live. I know that we take a lot for granted here, and I wanted to come back thankful for all God has given to me.
And, Becky, what were your reasons for going . . . besides spending time with your son? What were your primary responsibilities on the trip?
I was approached to go on the trip in place of the youth pastor’s wife, who was six months pregnant at the time and unable to travel. I was honoured to be asked – and even more honoured to work alongside such an amazing group of young people and adults. I have some experience with short term missions, both as a student and leader in the past. However, never to a third world country. I was responsible, along with another adult female leader, to oversee the safety and productivity of the girls on the team – which, by the way, was an easy, and very enjoyable job! I had a great time getting to know these wonderful young ladies, who had real hearts of service and a willingness to do whatever was asked of them. Our days usually included a time of children’s ministry with stories, games, crafts and songs, helping out with the worship services at the church, including music and testimonies, street and door-to-door visits, a building project, and team-building sessions.
What was your favourite part of the trip, Noah? Becky?
My favourite part of the trip was working with the kids. My favourite part of the day was, without a doubt, spending time connecting with the kids. They took such pride in completing their crafts and listened intently to the stories. They just wanted to soak in everything we had to offer. What a privilege to share God’s love with these kids even for just a week. One boy in particular really sticks out in my mind. His name is Luma and I think he is about 7 or 8 years old. He loved to play games and had lots of facial expressions and a real animated personality. One day while I was giving him a piggy back ride back from the park, he told me, “I love you.” I’m not even sure how he learned those English words, but I will never forget them or him. (Noah)
My favourite part of the trip by far was watching our Canadian team become part of life in Santo Domingo. Despite the language barrier, we were able to connect in a way that is almost indescribable. We became like family to the people of the church, like big brothers and sisters to the children, and like new friends to those we would meet on the street. The people of Santo Domingo were so welcoming of us and what we had to share. Lives were definitely changed…our lives!
Another highlight would have to be having the opportunity to meet our sponsor child. Our family sponsors a child in the Dominican through Compassion. Alicia is a 10-year-old girl who lives in the Santo Domingo area. Our youth leader arranged for those on the trip with sponsor children in the area to meet and spend the day with them. What an incredible experience! It was wonderful to put a face and voice to all of the letters that we have been exchanging. Alicia was rather reserved at first but quickly warmed up to us. A translator was provided for the day so that we could communicate with one another. We are now not only pen pals; we are family! (Becky)
And your least favourite?
I don’t know if I really have a least favourite part, but I guess it would have to be the noise. Santo Domingo never sleeps. All night long, every night, we could hear barking dogs, wailing cats, loud music, car horns, motorcycles, gates banging, roosters …just noise, noise, noise! After two nights with very little sleep, I begged our Praying Pelicans leader to find me a pair of earplugs. I told her I would pay ANYTHING and she came through. I was able to get some sleep after that. (Becky)
The most difficult part of the trip was the language barrier. There was so much I would’ve liked to say at certain times, but couldn’t. It didn’t stop us from connecting with people. It just made the task more difficult. My least favourite part was having to leave. (Noah)
What was the most life-changing part of the trip for each of you?
The most life-changing part of the trip was seeing just how happy the people are despite the conditions they live in every day. I can’t even begin to describe the smell of the street there. There is garbage and raw sewage and blood from a chicken butchery running down the street. Homes are tiny and rundown. The water is unusable (that is, if it is even available). Just very unsanitary conditions all round. The children play with kites they have constructed out of the garbage on the streets and rocks they find on the ground, and yet, are carefree and loving. I’m sure this was a big eye-opener for our teens on the trip – to compare our techno world and all that we have at our disposal and children here still never seem to have enough. The people were just so happy that we were there and made us feel so welcome and at home. I would definitely go on a trip like this again and would recommend that if someone has the opportunity to get involved in an experience like this, that they don’t think twice. Just go! (Becky)
Every aspect of this trip was life-changing. We went on prayer walks through the city and I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a number of people on the streets. One older man even gave his life to Christ! It doesn’t get any sweeter than that. I would definitely go on another trip like this again. The more the week went on, the more comfortable I got with my surroundings and the more confident in sharing the gospel. The next time I have an opportunity like this, I would be able to give my all right from day one. (Noah)
If any of my readers are considering going on a missions trip, what one piece of advice would you give them, Becky?
If I could give advice to readers who may be considering a short term missions trip, I would recommend that they prepare well and join up with an organization who is on the ground where you are planning on going, like Praying Pelican. Our team had regular meetings and assignments to complete along the way. We were responsible for reading the book, Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli, which I would recommend, by the way, memorizing scripture, learning about the culture and history of Santo Domingo, preparing and sharing our testimonies, planning activities and collecting supplies for the children’s ministry, raising our financial support, and praying for each other and the people of Santo Domingo. A lot of time and effort went into getting ready for this mission, but it was time well spent. God was in control every step of the way and we were exactly where we were meant to be in March, 2014.