When I was 16, I went on my first missions trip, and it changed me.
Well, as cliché as it is, it’s entirely true. During both my junior and senior years of high school, I spent my spring break in the Dominican Republic. If you don’t know anything about the Dominican, let me tell you this: it’s pretty poor. There are some nice areas, like Punta Cana, but where we were, Juan Dolio, was pretty run-down. We visited different villages where the people basically had nothing. That trip was not a vacation. It wasn’t about us. And yet, it became my favorite place in the world.
The villagers in the DR were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. They approached us, grabbed our hands without hesitation and pulled us to play with them. The girls sat us down to braid our hair, and the boys climbed on our backs to hitch a ride. Mothers would hand us their babies and walk away, seeing no reason not to trust us with them. They had such a sense of community in each place.
In one village, we handed out bags of food for each family, then went to their homes and prayed with them. In another, we donated a whole box of shoes so that the kids wouldn’t have to run around barefoot. It made my entire week to see them so excited to have even one pair of shoes. The next year, we painted an entire church, and the girls on the trip had the opportunity to go to the Lily House, which houses girls who have been rescued from human trafficking. Despite having been through so much, the girls there were incredibly strong and friendly.
If you haven’t ever had the opportunity to help someone, whether on the same scale or just one person, I encourage you to seek one out. I have never felt so rewarded as I did those two weeks. The kids were always in high spirits and ready to play with us, and seeing how happy they were with how little they had made me think that here in the States, we are way too caught up in having ‘stuff,’ especially stuff we definitely don’t need. It changed my perspective.
Even though I will be the first to admit that I’m not the most positive person, I get a little happier every time I think of my time in the DR. Even though we were there to spread the love of God to others, I grew in my own faith, and I don’t think that would have happened if I hadn’t gone on a mission trip.One day I hope to go back to the Dominican on another mission trip. It was a necessary gift to be able to shift my focus onto something other than my own problems. If you haven’t, maybe you can find your own favorite place in the world through missioning.