Dordt College News

Joy, hope, and community are evident when students join AMOR

January 28, 2011

AMOR (A Mission OutReach) sent 28 Dordt students on week-long mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Nicaragua for a week to help with construction, renovation projects, and to share Christian love and to minister, even though most students returned from their mission with a sense that they were the ones who had been ministered to.

Briana Wubben, a Dordt College sophomore, shared that AMOR participants are doing more than building structures; they are “helping a community, forming friendships, and creating memories.”

Dominican Republic
“They could be content with what they have because they don’t have the ‘American Dream.’ They don’t have ‘the pursuit of happiness’ that Americans all chase.” This was a typical response Wubben and her team heard when they asked people in the Dominican Republic how people in such a poor neighborhood could be so content with so little.

Kaitlin Troost, a Dordt College junior, was impressed with the sense of community and joy all around her, especially in the church services on Sundays. “The sermons were quite different than anything that I had experienced back in the states. The environment was much more relaxed. The singing was up-beat with clapping and dancing…The church in Dominican was very tight knit. In fact, all over the city you could see the community between the people. Hugs are given all around before and after sermons. Communication and conversation are highly valued among people.”

One 12-year-old boy left a lasting impression on the team and helped them get to know the community. Neftali spent the first day sitting on a wall just watching the workers begin the process of putting a roof on his new school building. After that day of evaluation, Naftali grew enamored with the group, and they with him. He would greet them in the morning as they got out of their van. He celebrated his 12th birthday with the group, which sang him Happy Birthday in both English and Spanish. He even brought his friends from the town to meet the team, and he joyfully helped them work on the roof of his new school.

In addition to being recognized as Americans, Ryan Baas, a Dordt College junior, was called Yao Ming by groups of local boys who thought Ryan, at 6 feet 4 inches, was very tall.

They group got out their dancing shoes when the community tried to teach them to salsa dance. “All of the people in Dominican seem to be naturally very good dancers, and all of us from Dordt were very poor [dancers], but the experience was so fun!” said Troost.

The team spent the week cutting rebar, tying rebar, leveling the ground, mixing concrete, and ultimately creating a roof for three classrooms. But Vero Visser Galvan, a Dordt sophomore, said the experience was about so much more. “While being there we built more than a roof for a school. We built relationships, we got to know the community, and we got to know each other. We learned the importance of team work and trusting one another. We learned how important it is to work and simply to live with love and joy.”

The Dominican Republic team had nine students led by Dordt College English Professor Judy Bowman. Students included Ruth Mahaffy, Sioux Center, Iowa; Ryan Baas, Orland Park, Ill.; Briana Wubben, Clara City, Minn.; Samantha Sahagian, Chino, Calif.; Henry Byl, Sioux Center, Iowa; Kendra Kroeze, Hull, Iowa; Kaitlin Troost, Parma, Idaho; Kaitlyn Broersma, Sunnyside, Wash.; and Vero Visser Galvan, Asuncion, Paraguay.

Though the work was grueling, the scenic views in Guatemala were breath-taking and inspiring. San Cristabol, the town in which the AMOR team lived and worked, was high in the mountains. The weather, too, was wonderful – that is, wonderful for the Dordt students who came from the snowy and blustery conditions of northwest Iowa.

“The workers from Guatemala would always ask me if I was cold. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts most of the week. They, however, were wearing jeans, long sleeve shirts or sweaters because it was their winter – in the 70s!” said Sarah Skidmore, a Dordt senior. “Of course I would say ‘no’ and asked them in return, to which they said ‘yes’.”

The cultural differences were evident in the Guatemalans’ sense of community. “Professor Kuiper, our leader, informed us that Guatemala is ranked highest in the world in community, and that was very evident from what we saw,” said junior Dordt student Danae Geels. “The hospitality and Christian love was wonderful, and the delicious food was a great extra bonus.”

The team spent the majority of its time helping to construct a second story floor in a school. The first day was spent carrying and laying 4,000 cement bricks for the second floor of the school. “That was an exhausting day, but I think our team grew closer during it, and we had fun while working.”

The team grew especially close to their translator, Loren Anderson, a former missionary in Guatemala and the founder of Primitive Methodist Church in Guatemala, built over 50 years ago. Anderson shared stories from his missionary work and encouraged the students to live out the Great Commission – Christ’s calling for Christians to go throughout the world and share the gospel. Amber Van’t Hof remembers Anderson saying, “If you’re going to follow Jesus, you better put on your running shoes, because he is going places.”

The Guatemala AMOR team had nine students and was accompanied by Dordt Communication Professor Bruce Kuiper. The team consisted of Eric Tudor, Charles City, Iowa; Jordan Herrema, Highlands, Colo.; Rachel Endicott, Mora, Minn.; Jennifer Brown, Orange City, Iowa; Danae Geels, Sheldon, Iowa; Stephen Pederson, Gretna, Neb.; Amber Van’t Hof, Edgerton, Minn.; Tasha Nikkel, Sully, Iowa; and Sarah Skidmore, Jacksonville, Fla.

Hope is the word that might best describe the Nicaragua AMOR team’s feelings about their mission. Hope for the work of God’s kingdom throughout the world, and hope for the lives of many women and children who visit La Casa de Esperanza each day.

La Casa de Esperanza is translated in English as “House of Hope.” This Nicaraguan ministry rescues women and children who are living in desperate situations. “This was a newly formed house that takes in girls and women – often homeless and from the streets,” said Emily De Vries, a Dordt College junior. “There are hundreds of girls who go here every day to try and build some hope in their shattered situations…Many have been raped, abused, and forced to mature way too soon.”

The Nicaragua AMOR team worked at a high school that was started by Pastor Daniel Argon and his family. They built the 11th grade classroom and spent their time painting, cleaning, and mixing and pouring concrete. The school was in session as they worked, and they learned that several girls who attended the school came from La Casa de Esperanza. “One of the youngest girls rescued is an eight-year-old who was sold to a brothel by her parents for $7.50,” said Kristin Janssen, a Dordt junior. “La Casa de Esperanza spends lots of time teaching the women to make small crafts such as beads or jewelry. The women then receive payment for the crafts they make in order to learn that they can make a living without being mistreated for their bodies.”

Despite the horror that many of the women of Guatemala face, hope is abundant for the women served by La Casa de Esperanza. And hope is present in the AMOR students who reflect on the work that the Lord is doing throughout the globe.

“I’m hopeful,” said De Vries. “I’m hopeful because God’s church is so large. Even in Nicaragua we were able to worship our God with brothers and sisters in the Lord. God has allowed the gospel to spread all over the earth. How awesome is that!”

Janssen reflects on the eternal hope she shares with her new Guatemalan friends. “By simply having the sole similarity of a relationship in Jesus Christ, we were able to exchange hugs and smiles, knowing we would meet again one day in heaven.”

The Nicaragua team had 10 students accompanied by Dordt Admissions Counselor Mark Eekhoff. Teams members were Daniel Hofland, Hartley, Iowa; Lindsay Anderson, Fulda, Minn.; Tyler Buys, Hull, Iowa; James Hondred, Altoona, Iowa; Dana Kuiper, Oak Forest, Ill.; Abby Tebben, Prinsburg, Minn.; Emily DeVries, Lynden, Wash.; Kayla Graves, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Kristin Janssen, Hospers, Iowa; Derek Brumfield, Kent, Wash.

Called to Serve
One reason international mission work is encouraged and promoted at Dordt is because of the multicultural learning opportunity it presents to students. A common thread through the stories shared by AMOR participants is that of learning about themselves in the light of these other cultures. Most come back with a sense of what is truly important to them, and a new understanding of, especially, material wealth and the independent nature of many North Americans.

Galvan summed up many participants’ sentiments with this: “God has used this AMOR trip as a way to show me how much he hurts and he cares about the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captives. Sometimes we are just too worried about little things, while there are people in the world that don’t have any water to drink, any shoes to wear, even any food to eat. I saw all that poverty, all those little smiley (yet dirty) faces that think they don’t deserve any of the work that we were doing for them… and I ask why…why…why? So much injustice. God showed me through AMOR that he calls his church to be his feet and hands and serve the poor, the orphan, the widow. We are called to be free, to be blessed, and, most important, to be a blessing and to serve others as Jesus did all his life on earth.”

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