Dordt College News

AMOR team volunteers in Dominican Republic

January 25, 2007

AMOR Group

A 20-person mission team from Dordt College traveled to the Dominican Republic the first two weeks of January, using part of their winter break to serve with AMOR (A Mission OutReach), an international service/mission opportunity offered annually to Dordt students.

AMOR teams do construction or renovation projects while being introduced to the culture and the mission challenges of their host country.

Traveling to the Dominican Republic were Robert Haan, Megan (Vonk) Haan, Hala Sun, Jason Wyenberg, and Brian and Barb Mellema, Sioux Center; Lynae Walburg from Hartley, IA; Sara Burgin, Exira, IA; Kevin Franje, New Sharon, IA; Amy Groen, Renville, MN; Nathan Otten, Sheboygan, WI; Jeremiah Mills and Craig Bielema, Fulton, IL; Steven Koning, Jerome, ID; Angela Flikkema, Manhattan, MT; Jessi Rieken, Stanwood, WA; Jill Bratt, Lynden, WA; Judy Schep, Thunder Bay, ON; Michelle Vis, Maple Ridge, BC; and Sae Mee Lee from Baguio City, Phillippines.

This year’s team had a monumental task: laying cement floors on the third story of a Christian school in Santo Domingo. This involved hauling buckets of sand, gravel, cement mix and water up to the third floor, where mixing was done by shovels and pick axes, then manually pouring and smoothing the concrete floor.

“It was a lot of hard labor, but we gained some muscles and accomplished what needed to be done,” said Amy Groen. During their two week stay the group also did some painting, cleaning and odd jobs around the school, as well as pouring concrete braces for the wall of a school kitchen in a batay (a Haitian village), plastering the outside wall of a school, and knocking down a wall to open up the space for a new classroom. Groen said the work was made enjoyable by the Dominican people they worked with, who were so full of life and happiness.

The Creole/Spanish/English language barrier was bridged by two people on the team who were fluent in Spanish. “By the grace of God we were able to communicate and get to know these people very well,” said Michelle Vis.

Despite no Spanish language skills, Jeremiah Mills made a special connection with a 17-year-old construction worker, and recalls “Joel and I had an awesome time working together and just having fun without even needing a single word. He was a true blessing on my experience.”

“I was blown away by the hospitality of the Dominicans and the love that they all showed our group,” added Jessi Rieken. A special experience for Rieken was being invited to play dominoes at the home of a 12-year-old girl, who wanted Jessi to be her friend forever. On the beach, the American tourists were also swarmed by Dominicans, many of whom earn their living by braiding hair, giving pedicures, and massages.

“It was amazing to see what a different lifestyle people live there,” commented Amy Groen. “People were just so content with having so little… we get so wrapped up with technology and having the newest and biggest items, that I think we often forget to thank God for all our blessings. Going on this trip just made me appreciate how well off I am living in the states. My little daily complaints don't see so big compared to the way 80 percent of the world’s population is living.”

One of the big adjustments for the AMOR team was sharing their living quarters with various “critters.” At the mission center where they stayed, “our numbers increased: not only were there six girls in my room, we also had a few cockroaches, geckos and every once in awhile a rat or mouse came in,” recalls Michelle Vis. “Of course we could tell when the rat was there by the screams coming from the next room.”

Driving was also an experience: rather than using turn signals, the people use their horns, with mopeds weaving between the lanes of traffic. “On the sides of the roads everywhere we went, we saw raw meat hanging from booths,” recalls Vis, who added that usually the animal was identifiable, but they tried not to think about that as they ate.

Jessi Rieken summed up her mission experience by saying, “Going on AMOR really showed me just how big God really is.” Knowing that God has a plan for each person’s life became more of a reality for her in a different place and culture.

Jeremiah Mills said the Dominican experience reinforced to him that happiness comes not through money, but through God and family. “These people have shown me that with God and family a person can be happy. We don't always need to be going through life with such a fast pace, if we take time to slow down and enjoy what is going on around us we will be able to truly appreciate what is going on so much more. I have grown so much because of this trip, God truly blessed me through this experience.”

“I encourage others to go on trips like this if they have the opportunity,” concluded Amy Groen, who said their adventure was an excellent reminder of how blessed we are.

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