Batey Central.

{March 18th, 2015}

The last week in February, we were given the opportunity to participate in a mission trip with our church to Barahona, Dominican Republic. The trip so surpassed my expectations, that I have had a pretty hard time articulating to friends and family just what it meant to me.

The "mission" of the trip was two-fold. Practically, we were there to pour floors in a new medical clinic and in some homes in the batey, a neighborhood of Haitian immigrants transplanted in the DR after the 2009 earthquake. Ultimately however, we were there to grow and build upon a foundation of relationships with the children and families there. Our motto was "if it's not eternal, it's not important"; the most important thing was to share the unconditional love of Jesus. Thinking upon that, along with the principles of "Helping without Hurting", we hit the ground running in one of the most beautiful places I have ever set foot. I'm not going to lie. When I heard "we are going to do some concrete work, but also spend a lot of time with the school children," I walked straight past the cement being mixed and joined a group of girls playing games. I had found my spot. 

We were welcomed with open arms by the locals and the missionaries we were working alongside. The week before was so stressful, attempting to finish work and get everything ready for a week away. I had placed a lot of pressure on myself considering this was my first overseas mission trip. I spent a lot of time worried about how effective I would be, as I didn't want the locals to look at me and think, "Oh, here's that white girl that just showed up to take her pictures and leave". So, when we arrived and they ran to us with hugs and questions and giggles and this happy-love with no conditions, it was like "ok I'm supposed to be here!" and sigh, a breath of fresh air. We could not have had a more fun and rewarding time. The fact that it was 80 degrees and sunny with a constant breeze didn't hurt either.

 The whole trip was somewhat paradoxical in nature. I was so nervous, yet so excited. I was absolutely heart-broken by the circumstances, but so incredibly uplifted by the spirit of the people. I cried harder than I have in a while, but I laughed bigger than I had in an even longer while. I felt so rich by material standards, all while realizing how poor I am in contentment and true joy. I wasn't comfortable in my surroundings, yet I felt like a queen given the hospitality of our amazing host family. Our Spanish was less than mediocre, yet love, respect, and admiration could not have been communicated more loudly. I'm so happy to be at home with my American comforts, yet (and at the risk of sounding corny Christian) I'm pretty sure a piece of my heart is somewhere in the Dominican, mixed in with the rocks, the dirt, and the ocean air.

I learned so much about Jesus and His church. Church isn't a building. It isn't organs or man-made routines and traditions or projector screens or fancy prayer rooms. It's a body of people ALL around the world! I can now say that one of the most powerful church experiences I've had was in a concrete, open-air school building with about thirty people...with "Hosanna" in Spanish playing over one speaker plugged up to an ipod. ;)

I learned so much about my husband (confirmed: still the kindest, funniest, most hard-working, servant-hearted person I've ever been around). Watching him and the others we served with taught me that there are still people who gladly put others before themselves, who are willing to put in the dirty work (quiet literally) to see others' lives enriched.

I learned so much about myself. There's still a lot of heart-work to be done. There are still things left to be wrestled with and prayed about- specifically the deep pull in my heart to advocate for children and education in SOME capacity (and my er, tendency to run from it). I'm still unsure what that looks like exactly, though I do know it won't be that glamorous nor easy (hence the running). A friend once posed a wonderful question to me, "Lizanne, when do you feel that you are at your best self?"  Well, this trip provided some much-needed space for my best self to appear- surrounded by community, serving children and families, learning new things and being encouraged from others working towards a common goal.

Plus- hello, nike shorts and no makeup, covered in dirt and stickers, with the most beautiful children at my hip. I MEAN COME ON.

I also have to highlight some other tremendous happies:

Learning from the full-time missions families (they were so transparent and honest and we learned a LOT!)
Experiencing Dominican culture
Eating new foods
Drinking ice-cold cokes made with real sugar
Playing 162537 games of baseball with the kids
Having half my hair pulled while being braided by sticky little hands
Experiencing 916421050 hugs and snuggles
Sleeping with open windows and a breezy 70 degrees
Listening to the group's stories and experiences during nightly devotions on the porch
 Waking up every morning to a gorgeous sunrise over a mountain
Hiking said mountain with the group (first pic at the top of this post) and taking in an amazing view
Singing Hosanna in Spanish in church
Watching little hands raise high in praise of Jesucristo
Having lots of quiet, distraction-free time to pray and reflect and chat with Jesus
Riding in the back of a pickup through town and taking in all the sites
Seeing our marriage strengthened through shared hardships and joys
Being around the energy of the happiest, most polite children I've ever met
Resting in the fact I could be myself, and would be loved either way
Making life-long friendships

 (That would be Princess Lisa in her Clemson tee, her bearded husband Andres, and their two children, Anjel and Lusia. Laugh!)

Am I saying that mission trips are absolutely perfect and everyone should become a missionary? No. There will be moments of stress, not every moment is instagram worthy, and these trips can open some things in your heart that you're just not quite ready to deal with. We came back exhausted and with knock-ya-down colds. It was hard to transition back to work. We missed out on some fun happenings at home while we were gone. My heart ached for days after hugging "my kids" goodbye. Yet I'm so glad we took that step of faith and took this trip. I miss it like crazy and pray for the opportunity to return one day.

Full-time missions may not be for us, yet I now have a deeper appreciation for those who are in it. So if you're wanting to take a trip, yet are worried about costs or timing or your abilities, I couldn't encourage you  more to pursue the opportunity! These are all things that worried us, but God came through and we experienced an amazing time and trip. And we know we will still be learning from this trip for years to come. Jesus is so good, y'all. He truly meets us in the places of our doubt. He shows us how following the uncomfortable leads to great joy.

Thanks for reading this long post friends, and for encouraging us and supporting us on this venture! We sure love ya.

Until next time, Batey Central!


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