Today’s trip began with breakfast in Santo Domingo, followed by a bus ride to Casa Bethesda in Barahona. As a first timer to the DR, as with many others who have never been, this bus ride was surprising. Our bus was one of the larger vehicles on the road. Because of this, we would honk to signal smaller vehicles that we were passing. This honking was a signal to scoot over or move out of our way. In addition to this different tradition, we say motorcycles with three and four people on them speed down the shoulders of the road. I was thankful we hadn’t decided to travel by 13 bikes instead of the bus.
We then arrived at Casa Bethesda and unpacked quickly because Madre Belkis was ready for us to eat. Because my own Madre always asks and I’m guessing others may wonder…we had some delicious pork (that had a teriyaki/BBQ flavor), white rice, beans, mango juice, Coke, Fanta and/or sprite with the best ice cream for dessert. After dinner we covered ourselves in sunscreen and headed out to tour the local COTN head quarters and join the I love baseball team and children in one of the local bateys.
Now I have to admit, our youth by the time we had unpacked at the Casa, were taking a sigh of relief that we had arrived at our final destination and it felt like our energy was dipping. This all changed after we met the Niños De Las Naciones (Children of the Nations) staff here in Bahrona and then proceeded to the batey. As we arrived, the bus driver honked in a rhythmic pattern beckoning the children to the baseball field. One of our venture leaders Franklin had to get out of the bus to ask children to move as they stood in the road, wide-eyed and waving in anticipation of these Americanos who were about to arrive. As we got off the bus, I quickly took a photo of the batey sign before children surrounded us. Each and every one of our youth and chaperones had at least one child on each hand. It was a joyous and beautiful moment. We proceeded to play with the littlest of children and some older ones. We played baseball with the I Love Baseball program. The group’s momentum, attitude and demeanor instantly switched directions. We were so uplifted by the love of these children. The Dominican children’s joy, love and smiles were more than contagious. It was something that changed something in our group. We felt like our hearts, smiles and emotions were literally raised up. Our smiles beamed from ear to hear. Our hearts were overflowing. It was incredible.
We then came back for dinner and took the evening to reflect on our experience and cool off in the pool. As I sat, I thought and thought about how to write this post. I didn’t know how to express how we were so affected and how our compassion for these people had so greatly swelled. So I opened up my camera to the first photo I took getting off of the bus (see below). The name of the batey we played in was “Batey Altagracia”. My Spanish isn’t good, but I am told this means high or lifted up grace. And I couldn’t help but raise my hands, head and heart to thank God for this trip. It was a reminder that God had called us to this place. Thank you Lord for the Dominican children, these youth, the opportunity to be on this trip, the COTN staff and the grace that showers us. God, all the glory be yours! Amen.