Cultural Capstone Commencement

For our last morning in Baharona, we were invited to attend a worship service at a Pentecostal church. It was a moving experience. The music was so loud that even our youth were wide eyed at the explosive volume. We swayed, danced, raised our arms and belted out music that we didn’t understand, but saw the words projected on a screen. It was warm and many were sweating as we sang 3 songs for 45 minutes. Following that, the preacher began speaking on texts from Exodus and Numbers and the meaning of a call. He compared the Bible to our GPS and stated that where we are called, we are equipped for that call. A timely message (thank you Lord) for our youth, who patiently waited over 30 minutes as we listened to the first half of the sermon before needing to leave to catch our bus from the Casa. This sermon made Pastor Jim’s seem short –shocker, I know.

As we departed from Casa Bethesda, we said our thank you’s and goodbyes to our hosts: the kitchen staff that fed us, to the translators that had become our best of friends, and all that will hold a special place in our hearts.  We were fortunate to have Franklin to translate our expression of thanks to these staff, but even our English words didn’t feel adequate (as seems to be a theme in these posts). It is so difficult to describe how completely and wonderfully we were cared for and how wholly held in their hands and care we were.

The bus drive to Santo Domingo began with many of us resting. After a quick bathroom stop at a large local grocery store, we began the movie Fireproof. If you haven’t seen it – it is a wonderful Christian movie starring  Kirk Cameron. It was a terrific time-filler that was even more impactful with our emotions already bubbling out of our hearts.

We then unloaded the bus in Santo Domingo and walked through the streets past and through buildings that had been standing when Columbus arrived. Next we spent our remaining pesos at a local souvenir shop. Many of us had purchased Larimar from our bus driver, Alejandra and one of his sons, Willie. Larimar is a beautiful aqua colored stone, that is only found in the Dominican Republic. It is rumored to be a stone from the lost city, Atlantis and bring peace and tranquility to the wearer. The souviner shop was a flurry as we bustled and bartered for the items we wanted and looked for items for our friends and family back home.

We then were treated to a dinner in town, that was so rich in culture and filled with dancing, laughing, singing and enjoying one another’s company. We first witnessed some incredible Spanish (with a Dominican flare) dancing including the couple taking turns spinning on a bottle. Then we were individually invited to dance with these incredible dancers. After teaching us different dances, we joined together in group dances. It was a joyous celebration of the week and a cultural capstone.

We then met this morning at 4:00 am in our hotel lobby to arrive at the airport at 4:45. The airport staff was again friendly, patient, and kind to our large group. Currently in Miami, we are collecting our photos on one laptop and reflecting on our trip together. We look forward to sharing more stories and seeing our loved ones tonight.

Taran Denning

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