How Time Flies

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It has been almost 2 weeks since I have gotten back from the Dominican Republic and it is amazing to me how the time has flown by. It seems like almost yesterday i was waking up in my third floor bedroom, scratching all those pesky bug bites, and getting ready to do more amazing work for G.O.

While in the DR I learned so much about the people and the culture. One thing that seemed important to the people of the DR was the since or ease and community that the people have with each other. Because of the large cultural need for community, people will forgo time restraints or scheduling, to grow relationships between each other. The forgoing of times tables and schedules was something that took me a long time to get used to. But once I accepted this as the norm, I actually enjoyed it. I enjoyed being able to grow my relationships with the other UE students, John, Tim’s family, and the surrounding community.

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The sense of community and importance place in relationships has been something that I have tried to implement in my return to the States. I have put growing the relationships I have with people above being so schedule and time oriented. Even though I have only been trying this for about 2 weeks I think I can see a change already. I  feel that I have become closer to the people in my life, sincerely caring about their wellbeing and their interests and thoughts about different things

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Eyes to See

It has been over a week since I’ve been back in the US.  In that time I’ve readjusted to living what to me is “normally” and eating American food. In the mean time, I have been able to actually digest what exactly I saw in the DR and how it will affect me now and in the future.

 

The reality is that the neighborhoods of Santiago that we visited were low-income to middle class.  People are desperate to have electricity but cannot afford it, so they “splice” into the power lines when there is an outage, leading to electrocution being the second highest cause of death in the country.  About 70% of school-aged children have parasites and 40% of people live in poverty.  Many cannot afford quality medical care, hence G.O. Ministries’ new medical facility.

 

On the flight back home, I became angry when I saw a commercial promoting the newest smartphone that could control the temperature of your house.  I thought, “the Dominicans don’t even have consistent electricity, much less air-conditioning, and here we are spending so much money on the latest smartphone to avoid looking ‘dumb.’”

 

However, if I look closely and deeper into the problems, I realize that they are not so incredibly different from those we face here, although they are not manifested in the same way.  My trip to a developing nation has, in many ways, opened my eyes more to the problems surrounding me here more than anything else. The problems in the Dominican are more immediate, but I don’t think that we should simply brush “first-world problems” under the rug.

 

For example, one challenge in the Dominican is the access to education.  Many older adults are illiterate and it is especially hard for children of Haitian immigrants to receive an education.  We heard many times from G.O. Ministries staff that the Dominicans are intelligent, but they often lack the resources that we have in a developed nation—that is why they run a private school where children can be “sponsored” by individuals who pay for their education.

 

Here in the US, all children have the right to receive schooling through high school.  However, that does not mean that all children will receive the same education. For example, living south of St. Louis, I have seen how the St. Louis City Public Schools system became unaccredited and for a time was run completely by the state of Missouri.  This year, the district finally earned back its accreditation after years of hard work.  The point is that education can be just as big of a struggle here for low-income families.

 

Obviously, the contexts of these issues are very different and they are on different scales.  But for me, this is just the beginning of being able issues such as poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and education from a different viewpoint.  My Dominican experience was one will allow me to see in ways I couldn’t before and impact me for years to come.

Expectations and Impact

When I initially signed up for this class, I was not thinking necessarily about the impact our project would have on others, but more about the benefits I would receive from the class such as 3 credits hours and a trip to a foreign country. As soon as we arrived my view of the trip completely changed and my focus was redirected to the true focus of the trip. The need of the community and how important we needed to interact and understand the culture were necessary in order for us to create a sustainable plan that would be accepted by the community.

The first few days really sent the message home for me because the bulk of our interactions began right away. We toured the area of Calle Dos and the GO Ministries Clinic and saw many homes and people along the way.  We were able to see the difference in living conditions and resources from what is readily available in the states. After talking with Deloris and other GO Ministries staff, we could begin to see the impact two weeks of work would have on the clinic.

The day a local family and the GO Ministry Clinic Staff came to Tim’s house for dinner was a day that will always stand out in my mind. By talking with the community, I realized that we were not just helping organize the working operations of the clinic, but changing some of the norms of the community to improve the health of the people in the area. The fear we all had up to this point was that we would change the clinic too much with American healthcare ideas and the community would not accept the new plan. By talking with them that night, I realized how much the community was accepting and wanting this change and how they were willing to accept the ideas with an opened mind and acceptance.

This experience has changed life for the better and has helped me realize how important it is to seek out opportunities like this one and how necessary these opportunities are. This experience has provided me with a new perspective on my view of life. I have a greater appreciation for what I have and I am thankful to all the people who have made that change possible.

Responsible Irresponsibility

I was reading a book called Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson when I first came across the phrase “Responsible Irresponsibility” and if I had to choose one phrase to describe this trip for me, that is what it would be. Mark Batterson describes “Responsible Irresponsibility” like this: “Sometimes the will of God feels downright irresponsible. You are called to make a decision or take a course of action that seems to make no sense. And if you do it, the people closest to you may think you are crazy… But responsible irresponsibility means refusing to allow your human responsibilities to get in the way of pursuing the passions God puts in your heart.”

I have always had my heart in missions and I’m always looking for new ways to serve the kingdom of God. I got into nursing one because I love caring for people and two because my mom convinced me that I could be more helpful as a nurse missionary and when I came home from wherever I might be I could easily get a job. I remember a year ago I was entertaining the idea of opening health clinics in foreign countries and I had been considering taking a business course to help me understand how to do it, but I had no idea where to begin. When I heard about this class I knew right away that I was supposed to be a part of it, but I had no idea how it was going to happen. I didn’t have any money saved up for it and I didn’t have any student loan money on the way. I was very excited that there were already scholarships for all of us, but what was left was still a big chunk of money. Thankfully, my tax return paid for all but five dollars of what I needed to pay. However, that left my husband and I with next to no money for the rest of the summer. I knew that the responsible thing to do would have been to save our tax return to pay bills or have a little money saved in case of emergency, but I just couldn’t do it. I knew what I was supposed to do even if it didn’t seem to be the most cautious route financially.

As the time neared to get ready to go to the Dominican I realized that it wasn’t just the money that I had already spent on this trip, but also the money that I wouldn’t be able to make while I was away, that would affect us. I was scrambling right up to the end wondering how we were going to pay all our bills while I was gone. Somehow it all worked itself out. And even though I am having to work harder now that I’m back home, I don’t regret it because this trip really did open my eyes to so many things. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this team and I know what we did will have a lasting impact. It makes me feel good to know that even though it may appear like I was acting irresponsibly with my money, I used it in pursuit of the passion that God has put in my heart, which is the most responsible thing I could have done.

Home Reflections

It was a great experience to become immersed in the community in the DR over the last two weeks and meeting some wonderful new friends was the icing on the cake!  Working with the statistical date about the DR and its healthcare system really brings home how far behind the US it is in the scheme of education and healthcare.  Dr. Layer, if your reading this I hope it makes you happy that I had to work with statistics!   Some of the people in the little store up the street asked us to please come back and teach them some English.  I feel that the community wants more education and they want to learn more about being healthier, but they have very few resources available to them.

IMPACT is real and every part has touched me in some way. The simple everyday things in my life I now stop and give thanks for, like being able to drink from the tap, no roosters waking me up at 3am, and being able to sit outside without worrying about getting Dengue fever from insects.   I am so thankful that John is doing well and is back helping the people of the DR.

My feelings have changed since the trip; what was important has shifted a little.  My family and friends are still very important to me but I now understand how a strong family community plays in the well-being of your health.  In the DR I saw families that lived in a dirt floor house; it had few walls, and no windows, but as we walked by they greeted us with smiles and ollas.  Most of the time they were sitting around talking to each other and seemed to enjoy each other’s company.   I saw the woman washing clothes out of a five gallon bucket, and the next day she gave her child a bath out of the same bucket.  I can’t remember the last time my family sat around and talked without having some sort of distraction, like TV or a computer, and my bath is a hot shower in the privacy of my own bathroom.

This experience has given me a glimpse into a third world country and has forever changed my outlook on the world.  God does work through people and it was great to see his presence in the people of the DR.  I took away knowledge as to how DR and Haitians might work through the grief process.  I am the perinatal loss counselor at my hospital and have taken care of several families from Haiti.  This experience will help me understand how to help other families in the future. It has IMPACT’ed my life tremendously.  Thanks to the University of Evansville and G.O. Ministries for this great experience.

Definitions

Each of us had our own set of expectations prior to arriving in Santiago.  We had expectations on what we would see, what we would experience, how we would feel.  I do not think any of us can say everything was as expected.  I expected to learn about a different culture and fulfill a dream I’ve had since middle school (one I never thought I would get the chance to do).  I expected to become grateful for the life I have.  What I didn’t expect was this trip to teach me new meanings to words I thought I knew well.  Just to list a few….
Beauty: The Dominican is a beautiful country.  The women, the landscape, even the city buildings look beautiful in their dilapidated state.  Beauty is not how flawless or pristine something is.  It’s more about how it fits into it’s surroundings.  If you looked at one single home on Calle Dos, you would see poverty and trash.  But if you looked from the balcony over the neighborhood you saw bright colors and a blended community.

Hope: Briefly discussing the history of Haiti and the Dominican Republic taught me a little something about hope.  Haiti is in rough shape, and even its citizens have begun giving up on the idea of prosperity.  Dominicans don’t think of Haiti too highly either.  But GO Ministries is there and continues to try.  Hope isn’t crossing your fingers and wishing for a miracle.  Hope is found in people who don’t believe in giving up.  Those who don’t believe something is ever too lost.

Faith: Personally, I have struggled with my faith the past few years.  I’ve always held true to what I did believe but the struggle lied in the pursuit of more, expanding and opening my life to God.  John and Delores quickly showed me the power of faith and how precious it is.  They were two of the most passionate, and just downright amazing people, I have ever encountered in my life.

Expectations changed.  Definitions changed.  People changed.  I hope everyone has the opportunity to do something that impacts their life as much as this trip did for me.  I became aware of a skill I did not know I possessed, I learned to work with very different people, I learned the power of God, I learned the importance of perspective.  This trip did change me, and will define part of my life.

The day we flew home, all I could think about was getting back home to Evansville. And it seemed everything was trying to stop me. Our flight in Miami was delayed due to lightning (that no one could see) and our flight in Chicago was delayed due to no pilot, and then again due  to instrument failure. It was miserable for me, all I wanted to do was come home. But it wasn’t the US I missed, it wasn’t Evansville, it wasn’t my job at the hospital, my friends, or even my church, all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around my husband and my 3 beautiful children!!! I had missed them so much and I just wanted to hold them. I also wanted to tell them about all I had seen, learned, and the people I met while I was gone. I soon realized that in telling my stories, I was beginning to miss the DR! I realized that I wasn’t just there taking a class for 3 credit hours, God had put all of us there to make a difference. To make a difference in the DR, to make a difference in the US, and to make a difference in ourselves! These differences will be seen in everything we do from now on. None of us will forget the time we spent together, the smiles, the laughs, the tears, and the love that we have for the people of the DR. I am truly blessed and thankful for GO Ministries and UE for the opportunity. A piece of my heart will always remain in the DR, I can’t wait to return and serve again!!

A Big Thanks

The salt water made my hair all crazy!

The salt water made my hair all crazy!

This was an amazing trip. My top five memories, in no particular order, from the last two weeks are; the hike up to the waterfall, the trip to the hole, hearing about Brandi at age 19, the beach, and building the spaghetti tower. Meeting the children of the hole was such a wonderful experience, they were all so happy. They are happier than most “normal” people. That was definitely not something I was expecting on that trip. Brandi at age 19 is an interesting tale but what made it so much more exciting and hilarious were the comments and questions that Brynne and Matt were coming up with. The beach was so great, even if I did end up pretty burnt. I got to go snorkeling for the first time! I also managed to get all of the souvenirs I wanted.
I would like to thank Tim and his wife for opening his home to us. And thank his children for being so adorable and brightening our final days in the Dominican. A thank you is also thrown to Deloris for being such an amazing and lovely person and to John for being a great guide, even if he is a sub-par “galfer” :). I can’t wait DSCN2403for the day each of you comes to visit. You will be welcomed with open arms. I would also like to thank our professors for making this experience unique, and not too much like work. Even Rictator made this trip enjoyable. But most of all I want to thank the rest of you who were there with me.
I will never forget this trip. I was pretty nervous coming with knowing only one person, but this has been one of the best experiences in my life. I was also nervous that because I didn’t know anyone I would end up spending most of my time alone, and if that happened I might slip back into my depression. But thankfully that did not happen. I got some crazy and awesome roommates. You guys were great and kept me out of my shell. I never make new friends as quickly as I did on this trip and because of that I have one more reason to live. So thank you all so very much for that.

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

I could write about the things that I saw during my two week stay in the Dominican, but you weren’t there. I couldn’t hope to describe the beautiful countryside or the poverty stricken suburbs; a few short sentences wouldn’t cut it. Instead what I can do is paint a picture of how I felt during the trip and the way it changed me; this is what really matters. The people of the Dominican are some of the truest people I have ever met. They have a patience that I could never dream of displaying, gratefulness that I wish I had, and a heart for their neighbors. They don’t keep time. Their lives are not focused around the hours in the day, but rather the relationships that they make and the company that they keep. Children don’t want for more and are happy with what they have, despite their obvious lack of the essentials. I went on the trip wanting only to help myself, and left wanting only to help others more. I realized how lucky I am to have grown up in America and have anything I ever needed and more. I realized how selfish I was to expect everything I WANT, when there are people out there who don’t have what they NEED. I realized now that a life without helping others is hardly a life worth living. This experience has changed me more than I could have ever imagined. I pray that everyone has the chance to impact the lives of those around them the way I was able to impact the lives of the Dominicans. G.O. Ministries is doing great work and I’m beyond blessed to have gotten this opportunity. God bless. Matty B out!

Reflections

P1000697It’s difficult to describe my feelings that resulted from my return home. I’ve spent time in classrooms learning about impoverished parts of the world. Hearing stories of struggle, no access to clean water, constant food sources or medical care, none of it is meaningful. The impact comes from living it, feeling it and experiencing it every second of the day.

Expecting a different environment is something they tell you to think about before you leave your home country. Naturally we all do this without instruction. When faced with a lack of resources, not being able to meet your usual daily needs for two weeks. It makes you grateful for what you have. I haven’t been able to do anything; wash my hands, turn on the air conditioning in my home or just sit in a bed without a mosquito net without being grateful.

The experience UE and G.O. Ministries has given me has changed my life in the most meaningful way. I held a 45 minute interview with John Martinez, a G.O. Ministries Missionary. Upon meeting him, I knew his story had to be told. If I still have access to this in the future, I’ll post it on here.