[Before I say anything, shout-out to Amalia, my adorable little friend in the photo! She is the same one who is pictured as the blog header above this post!]
As I write this, I am currently sitting in Fort Lauderdale International Airport on a five-and-a-half-hour layover with many mixed emotions, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee prior to reading...
Having to leave the team a day early that you spent so much time with for a week and have been through really high highs and really low lows together, one side of me says, “You are an adult, you are honoring your prior commitments and being responsible,” but the other side of me says, “Get back on the next flight back to Santo Domingo and finish what you started!” Kelly said something great this week about how there was a moment she felt a sense of peace while in Los Robles (the Batey we worked in all week) and I feel the same right now because I know I am not needed anymore since we have an absolutely incredible team who put the final touches on the house today and furnished it for the family! A few of us talked about how we like to get the job done and move onto the next thing, but this week stretched us to learn to be patient.
Last night at our debrief meeting I was asked what my takeaway from this trip was, but so many good and bad things happened this week that I was not able to share right away since I probably would’ve talked forever, so for those currently reading this blog, congrats, you get to hear my word vomit about my experience this week. Having slept on it and thinking about it while riding in an over-crowded bus from Barahona to Santo Domingo this morning for four hours, I have a simple takeaway that I will expand on.
I cannot live the same way that I used to before this trip.
This one simple statement addresses so many areas in my life; physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Even though I have been to the DR before and served in the Bateyes back in 2008, I came at a different stage in my life this time, a little older and a little wiser.
Physically, I saw maybe five heavy-set Dominicans the entire time being there, so I began thinking, why is that? In the Bateyes, it’s no surprise. Most families aren’t wealthy enough to have a daily meal for their family and sometimes parents will eat only every other day because whatever money they have that comes in will go directly to the children for their sustainability, not the parents. The average family in Los Robles has just enough food each day to survive. One family, generous enough, when Kaysa got extremely ill one day, they even made a soup for her to boost her nutrition out of the kindness of their heart. I want to start living like they do in the Bateyes, but an Americanized version of it. I seem to always be on the go, so I will normally eat at fast food restaurants and drop a bunch of money to buy food I really don’t need when I could’ve waited a bit longer and made food at home. I want to remember Junior, a young boy who asked numerous times for peanut butter crackers when we had them for Matthew when he wasn’t feeling well, each time I decided to make a choice towards a life of gluttony.
Emotionally, I have focused too much on myself over the last year or so. Being able to help lead a team of students and parents to the Dominican Republic was enough drive and desire to begin thinking about other people to help our team get fundraised in order to successfully build a home for Nocilia and her family, but also when we got there, making sure that the team was having a good time to remember their experiences forever. A focus on selflessness begins today and I know I am not going to be perfect at first, but I will be setting myself reminders to stay persistent in my quest to be less self-centered and more others-centered.
Spiritually, I am a Christ-follower and struggle every day at maintaining a thought process that reflects and honors Him. I tend to let material possessions get in my way and let them distract me from strengthening my relationship with God. The thing that rocked my world this week is that even though they might not have a lot in their homes, enough food for the whole family one day, or even a home that might not withstand a severe storm, they are EXTREMELY happy people. Some of the Christians in the Bateyes that I communicated with through a translator stated in a summarized fashion, “We don’t have much, but what we have comes from God and that’s all we need!” I want to say the same thing six months from now when I have purged a lot of my things and really think about what I own to refocus my purpose and my relationship with Christ.
And lastly, mentally, this is going to be the toughest for me. I focus too much on what others think of me and tell myself I am fat (el gordo) all the time; I even did it multiple times this week in front of our team and the locals. There was a man we met on this trip that forever changed my perspective on the way to treat people, but also the way that one should think on a daily basis. He knows how to communicate and relate to anyone, no matter what mood you are in he can make you smile, and he is loved by EVERYONE. What if I told you that he was deaf and a mute? That isn’t a typo. I don’t know his real name, but the locals and our team call him El Mudo (the mute). The Dominicans are a straight-forward people and they call it like it is so calling him that is not derogatory. He makes up his own sign language and we clearly understood him in every interaction and he could care less what people think of him, especially when he tries to rap (see Aaron Foley for an impression). He may never know the level of influence he has had in my life, but he is an example of the way that I will carry myself from now on.
That’s it. If you made it this far, props to you. Thank you for reading. If you have never done missions work, I’d highly recommend it as your life will radically change for the better. You don’t have to go far as missions are all around you, but there is something special about the Dominican Republic. Just saying.
All the best,
Andrew John Griesemer