ACT1V8 Youth Group, Summer 2016
"This past week I had the opportunity of taking part in the Our Lady Star of the Sea Sister Parish Ministry mission trip in El Mamey, Dominican Republic. I connected with Christ, formed lifetime relationships with the children I assisted in the small village of El Mamey, and I was able to learn about the two types of poverty.
Here in the United States, when the word "poverty" is mentioned, people automatically think of homeless, dirty, malnourished, broken individuals...but that is material poverty. In El Mamey, I witnessed material poverty. The roads were dirt, the water was toxic, the clothing was ripped, the houses had one room, and the sewer system was non-existent. Although the individuals living in El Mamey did not have the luxury of what many of you have here in America, I believe many of them are more wealthy than you are. Contrasting with material poverty, spiritual poverty is the lack of love of God in our hearts.
Interacting with the young individuals of El Mamey, I witnessed Christ. Even though each child was special, two kids stood out to me the most. They helped me paint houses, they helped me deliver food to the elders in their village, they became my friends and my sweet source of happiness during the mission trip. Their names are Mario, who is 5 years of age, and Sterlin, who is 11 years of age.
The smile on Mario's face, the minute-long hugs, the constant, warm feeling of love and affection that Mario gave to me was Christ himself reaching out to me. It was amazing, truly awe-inspiring that a young boy who owned so little was so rich in love and spirit. As for Sterlin, oooh my wonderful Sterlin, Christ was absolutely evident in him as well. Although only 11, Sterlin was the most mature, wise, spiritual, helpful, and peaceful young individual I have ever met. Sterlin would always ask me how he could assist me, he would tell kids to stop fighting, he would advise the ones younger than him on how to be more Christ-like, and that is something so rare that it had to be the work of Jesus Christ. On the last day I was there to work in El Mamey, Sterlin invited me to his home to see his mother. I spoke with her and told her how grateful I was to have met her son and how great of a job she did raising him. She then told me how much he loved helping me and she told me he spent the night before making me a gift. Immediately, tears fell from my eyes. I was in shock, in disbelief, that an individual who owned so little and who had only known me for such a short time, had thought of me so highly as to give me a gift that he made himself. It is indeed true that the soul striving for sanctity detaches himself from worldly things to obtain the gold that never tarnishes. "It remains for the holy people to struggle, with grace from on high, to obtain the good things God promises. In order to possess and contemplate God, Christ's faithful mortify their cravings and, with the grace of God, prevail over the seductions of pleasure and power."
I want to say thank you to Bob, Catherine, Joe, Chris, Gabby, Amy, Yasmin, G Keller, Louis, and Jeremy for being with me on this trip and allowing me the opportunity to experience Christ through others and further my relationship with Our Lord. I honestly cannot wait to go visit the little kiddos and everyone else in El Mamey next year. And to those who have never been on a mission trip, I strongly encourage you to go to strengthen your relationship with Christ, make life-long friendships and memories, and help others as children of God."
Intern, May-July 2017
"I packed my bag, grabbed my passport, smushed in $20, and headed to the car. After nine months in a foreign country and four days back at home, I stepped onto the plane and into a new segment of my life: For the next two months I would be living in a new home and starting a new quest in search of happiness, love, and community. These two months in this new home presented new struggles, new passions, and new, extraordinary people. In two months, I opened my arms to a small municipality called Guerra in the Dominican Republic.
When people think of mission trips, I think we tend to over-idealize. The truth is, it’s hard. Adjusting to a life where every day means facing several new obstacles is challenging. And it’s not that the rewarding nature of the trips wipes out the “bad”- all the struggles remain; one just finds that the struggles become unimportant in the face of what is discovered: Stripping the material away leaves behind raw humanity. If there is one thing that stayed with me, it was finding humanity among the inhumanity: in the giddy laughter of a small boy; the sharing of a piece of candy; the extended arms and toothless smile of a child craving just being held. All this, in a slum.
“They look like houses for animals,” one friend said. And yet - we find the core of humanity, hidden in a zinc-bordered shack in a Haitian slum in the outskirts of paradise.
After volunteering for two months in the DR, I think saying that I went to ‘serve’ is an inadequate picture of reality. Mission trips aren’t for the Instagram likes, they’re not to ‘have an experience’ - they are to grow. To live your life and share in the ones of others who seem at first so very different. I recommend doing at least one. Whether it's building houses, parks, helping the elderly, playing with children, encouraging a student - all these small moments instill something great in you and in that other person you encounter. Stretching your comfort zone to wrap around the novel and uncomfortable scenarios is scary and empowering. Most importantly, building relationships with people over the span of a few minutes, or days, or months- whatever you have; it is surely time well spent."