DR Mission Trip Day 7 – Friday

The eye clinic was a success!!! There were lots of people that got glasses, and we are even ordering some for other people! Some people that came in didn’t even need glasses – they were so shocked! On Wednesday we didn’t have Randy, our translator, but we still managed to understand the people and give them glasses. There were people in their 70’s that needed glasses. We thought, “how could someone go that long and just now realize they need glasses?”  

The kids LOVED vacation bible school, even the little ones!! They  would come up to you and hug and kiss you, then they would ramble on and on even if you didn’t understand them! The older ones would cheat in the games here and there, but then Father Hipolito talked to some of them and calmed everything down. Some of the older kids were helpers, and they are slowly learning English from some of us. 

So many good things happened this week: meeting new people and remembering kids from last year, happy people from the eye clinic, our adventures to Bon, meeting a parrot, and unexpected rain storms. This week was one for the books, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. One of the hardest things was saying goodbye – since this is our senior year we don’t know what the future holds. We hope we can come back and see their beautiful faces again some day. 

– Abby and Sarah Wheeler, Resurrection Church, Hermitage, PA

DR Mission Trip Day 6 – Thursday

I’m not much of a writer, so please bear with me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on this mission trip, but when my twin daughters Abby and Sarah said they were interested I thought this would be a great opportunity for the three of us to have together. And what an experience it has been!

As I sit on this balcony of the hotel listening to the sounds of traffic, the occasional siren, horns honking and people talking in their native language, i’m absolutely amazed. It’s busy, it’s hectic,but at the same time soothing and relaxing. It’s mesmerizing. Yesterday some of us from our group sat for an hour on the balcony and watched people jump start a car! That is definitely something I would not take the time to watch at home, so why here? I just can’t explain it.

When we attended church on Sunday I was intimidated. I didn’t know what to expect. I was so surprised by the warm welcome along with the feeling of love and acceptance from Father Hipolito and the people from his church. The language barrier was there but the smiles broke through that barrier and put me at ease. After church, as we set up for bible school and the eye clinic, I began to feel at home. Some of the staff and children helped and joined us for lunch where we became better acquainted.

In the morning as we climb out of the van, some of the children greet us with hugs and kisses as we walk into the church. Throughout the day the outpouring of affection continues. If you sit for more than a few minutes chances are there will be a little one on your lap or braiding your hair. Their excitement and enthusiasm for every song, every game, every craft is infectious. You can’t help but smile, sing and laugh right along! It seems hard to believe we have only one more day to experience all this joy.

Speaking of joy, the eye clinic has brought that and so much more! We have had the privilege of seeing faces light up as they put glasses on and see all the beauty that surrounds them. We have received many a hug from complete strangers who are so grateful and appreciative. In America we go to our yearly eye exams and never think twice. Here, there are older adults who have never experienced an exam let alone had glasses to see clearly.

In the evenings our group gathers on the roof of our hotel for evening prayer and a time to share. We’ve become comfortable with one another. As the nights go by we spend more time up there telling stories and laughing. We have become a family. We have become one church. It’s a great day in the kingdom!!

– Chris Wheeler, Resurrection Church, Hermitage, PA

DR Mission Trip Day 5 – Wednesday

Today was a warm and uncomfortable day, like most days here.  I started off at breakfast with a veggie omelet that was not a veggie omelet, but regular scrambled eggs. I was glad it was a nutritious breakfast and I am glad I ordered it. It gave me energy for my busy day ahead.

My day got better after breakfast at Bible School. I saw the kids and that made my day. I love their chubby cheeks and their bright eyes. I always pinch the cheeks. For our craft of the day we made bead bracelets.  The beads were made out of plastic and wood and a silver heart hung from the middle. They seemed to really enjoy that. The beads flew everywhere!

Today at the eye clinic I had the job of helping patients read the eye chart. This job was especially hard to do because they were saying “up, down, left, right” in Spanish.  I had to pay attention to what their motions were, if they were correct,  and what line they were reading. I got frustrated at times, but I made it through.

Although it’s hard down here, I am learning a lot and I am having fun.

Anyah  Holben

DR Mission Trip Day 4 – Tuesday

I have always felt a calling to mission and am finding this first opportunity to be all that I had imagined it to be. What has made the trip an even richer experience is being able to share it with my son, Ben. Watching him interact with the mission team and the Dominican children and adults we are here serving has been a real pleasure.

Today, we completed day two of our Vacation Bible School and held another successful vision clinic. We are finding that the need is great in the community surrounding the church. The language barrier is frustrating, but we are fortunate to have a dedicated translator, Randy, who has been so wonderful in helping us to communicate. Several children from the church have been a big help each day. While they don’t speak English, they are getting familiar with our routines and needs and are able to give directions to our clients as we do the vision screenings. They are even trying to teach us some Spanish and are very patient!

After a busy day at the church when we return to our hotel, my favorite place to sit is the hotel balcony. A nice breeze and a chance to observe the busy street below are a welcome diversion after our busy day. Before we head to bed, we meet on the hotel rooftop for evening prayer and spend time reflecting on the day’s events. It’s the perfect way to end the day.

– Missy Baron

DR Mission Trip Day 3 – Monday

After our first days here in the Dominican Republic, I have made a few realizations about what I will take away from this experience. As we have settled into our routines, become familiar with the differences of the culture, and completed a successful day doing God’s work, I am certain I will come away from this trip with a better understanding of myself and a desire to continue to use my gifts to help others.

My first realization came from today’s work.  I have become accustomed to my privilege and often do not give thanks for the things that I take for granted on a daily basis.  Today we set up for the first appointments of the vision clinic. Most of the people who came to the clinic, having never received an eye exam, did not question their ability to see. I did not realize that the annual eye exams that I have been fortunate enough to have would be considered a luxury to the people I encountered today in the Dominican Republic. In a total of 3 hours, our team was successfully able to see 26 people and distribute 23 pairs of glasses.  Together, our team worked diligently to meet the needs of others. It was encouraging to see that we really did make a difference.

Likewise, this brings me to my next realization: we all have gifts that we need to share.  Along with the first day of the vision clinic, today was also the first day we worked with the children in the vacation bible school. Each person did their part to make sure activities ran smoothly and that the children had a memorable experience. In order for us to reach the end goal (to build up the kingdom) we must use and share the gifts that God has given us.

I was able to use some of my gifts today.  For the last 3 years I’ve taken a Spanish course in school. I’m definitely not fluent but I can form simple sentences and struggle my way through understanding other’s requests. Today I was really able to practice and put my acquired gifts to use when I gave instructions to people receiving prescriptions from the auto-refractor. When I didn’t understand a person’s request, the young girls in the church assisted me by presenting it in simpler Spanish terms I knew.

I’m overjoyed to be able to work with such an amazing team and have no doubt in our group’s success. I am happy to contribute to the good work that Father Hipolito has done to build the church in this community.

-Ben Baron  

DR Mission Trip Day Two – Sunday

Glorious Sunday!!

Our team was up early today for breakfast because the van needed to pick us up at 8:30. We didn’t want to be late for 9:00 service. Our friends here have not changed. Only the children have grown taller since my last visit two years ago. Fr. Hipolito looks just the same. His humor is the same as is his energy level. Not bad for a man who’s 88 years old!! We waited for over half an hour for the service to actually begin. That’s just how things are done here.

Fr. Adam Trambley presented the sermon in English while our interpreter Ernesto translated. Wow, what a great talk he gave regarding us going out to others to help, love, and serve God. He also led much of the service–in impressive Spanish, I must say. Afterward we were whisked upstairs in the school to begin setting up eye clinic supplies. Miraculously, we were able to successfully register 640 or so pairs of glasses. Tomorrow we will hold clinic each afternoon. Our hope is to see 20 patients each day. The need here is great, so hopefully we’ll be able to do these wonderful people some good!

All our Bible School supplies are ready and waiting for tomorrow as well. We expect to welcome 60 or more children each day. We are really excited to begin!

What will I remember about today? The breathtaking view from the school where we ate a delicious homemade lunch prepared by the church women, a solo to entertain the congregation while we waited for our service to begin (our singer was all of 5 years old and never missed a beat), the colorful parrot owned by a parishioner who sat on our arms, fingers, and necks. I will remember comments from our wonderful team members who are here for the first time. Every single person stepped up and helped with anything needed today. We have so many gifts to give and share, from our ability to work with children, to our ability to lead others, to our ability to adjust in a completely situation. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!!

– Sue Frontino

DR Mission Trip Day One – Saturday

I love to travel for the same reason why I love History. I enjoy learning about how other people live (or lived). Today, I got to learn about both.

After starting the morning off with a wonderful breakfast and changing our US Dollars into Dominican Pesos, our group went to the Leon Center, a museum and cultural center. There, we looked at exhibits of ancient artifacts and art. Personally, I love art, so this was quite exciting. There were some absolutely beautiful pieces, and some that really made you think. One thing I found interesting was that all of the artwork was from local, Dominican artists. Next, we headed to lunch and did some shopping at a Walmart-type grocery store called La Sirena (The Mermaid).

After that, we went to the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration. This was my favorite excursion. It is a large building with a tall spire that is lit up and changes colors at night. There are a few floors with paintings and  exhibits of the history of the first uprising and restoration of the Dominican Republic. It offered great history lessons, incredible views, and lots of stairs! When we finally came down, we left for an indoor marketplace to buy souvenirs. For me, this was the most challenging thing. There were a lot of items and people packed into a very tight space. The vendors were fairly pushy, and it was even more difficult to navigate, as I don’t speak Spanish. However, we all made it through, and I found some really nice souvenirs! Finally, a group of seven of us walked to a cemetery a block and a half from our hotel. It was quite beautiful and unique, as it was almost all above-ground mausoleums. We then finished off the night with another excellent dinner.

I very much enjoyed learning about and seeing a new and different culture, and I am very excited for the coming week!

– Julia Trambley

Now Accepting Applications for Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic

And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.’  Mark 16:15

The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania will conduct a third mission trip to the Dominican Republic to work with our partner congregation, Cristo Salvador, from July 21-29, 2017.

Cristo Salvador Episcopal Church in Santiago offers hope amidst the drug use and poverty of their neighborhood, ever trying to reach out to IMG_9607those around them. With this in mind, rather than simply sending money and never meeting one another, folks from our diocese will work with the folks there, getting to know one another, learning from each other, and experiencing different ways of life. We will also assist with the church’s Vacation Bible School, which will help Cristo Salvador proclaim the good news to the youth and adults of their neighborhood. We are going to support them, hoping that what we do furthers their ministry in that community. You can read more about our diocese’s relationship with Cristo Salvador and the mission trips in 2015 and 2016 here.

image1We are currently accepting applications for volunteers for this year’s mission trip through February 15th. More information about the trip can be found at http://dionwpa.org/our-diocese/mission-trip-2017, as well as an online application. Please note that at this time you must be 15 years of age or older to participate in the DR Mission Trip.

If you have further questions about the trip or how to apply, please contact the Rev. Melinda Hall. We look forward to sharing the experiences of this year’s group of volunteers this coming July!

Wrap-Up Post from the DR Mission Team

‘I would like to see Senor Hidalgo.’ This is how my morning begins on Saturday: with an inquiry to see the customs official at the Santiago airport. I’m shown into a small office with dingy lights, one high-heeled shoe lying ominously next to the metal-framed desk. A previous misadventure with customs? I briefly contemplate what my Brooks sneaker would look like next to it, before snapping out of it. I’m never very rational or clear-headed at 3:30am.

Hidalgo appears, in his official uniform, with a ring of keys. ‘You’re here too early.’ He says, looking only briefly at the carbon form in my hands, while unlocking a door to a larger room where I glimpse the two bags that are my reason for being here. With the dim lights and the carbon paper and the suspense, I really feel like I’m in a film noir set in 1940. ‘Too early?’ I reply back, really not liking where this seems to be leading. I want the two bags of our 640 pairs of glasses to take back to America, and I want them now, not later. Who knows what the line is like at immigration? ‘You must wait,’ he says. That’s when I wish it were a movie, because then I’d be some super cool CIA person with karate skills and the ability to teach Hidalgo a real lesson. Instead, I’m a puny priest with no real arm muscles and only a passing knowledge of Spanish.

‘No. No. I’m not waiting. We are not too early; your airport website says arrive 3 hours early. I am taking the glasses. I am going to Delta. You can come with me, but I am going. Now. Right now.’ At least that is what I think I said- this is all happening in Spanish- in my most defiant tone with blazing eyes. A long pause, hands on my hips; heart beats shallow, anger pulsing behind my eyes as I try to think of my next move, but I can’t because it is 3:30am, and I’ve not had any coffee.

Then he looks at the man with him, in a regular button-down shirt, round faced and younger. A decision is made as they point me to the door and grab the cart with the glasses. I become the ringleader of a parade through the outdoor airport, complete with a giant cart holding the big black bags and two customs officials. They escort me to the Delta check-in and wait with me until I check the glasses, procuring copies of my tickets and baggage tags before giving me a stack of stapled papers they assure me I’ll need in the US, which I put away because no one in the US cares about 640 pairs of glasses, all looking like they came from 1982. Only Hidalgo cared.

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And that is probably the only ‘rational’ explanation for why our vision clinic never happened this past week. Let me be clear: no one we worked with anticipated any trouble. The company from whom we rented the equipment and bought the glasses sends teams all over the world- often to the DR- with little trouble; the American missionary in the DR, who plans our trip, works with teams that do vision clinics and has never encountered an issue. The priest at Christo Salvador also did not anticipate this problem. Over the course of the week, Father Hipolito made repeated phone calls and visits to the airport; the diocese involved their government liaison. Despite having the paperwork all finished on Wednesday, customs refused to give the glasses back. I feel quite relieved even to have received them back to take home.

The losers in this are the people of the barrio where we work. They were signed up for appointments. The last day, a little girl asked Tina about glasses; it was the worst feeling in the world to say ‘no, no glasses.’ I have sent scans of the paperwork I received back to the missionary in the DR to try and get an answer, but I remain unsure whether we will have an answer. By no means was the week a waste of time, but this was undeniably disappointing. We will do our best to figure out what went wrong and make an informed decision about next year.

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In wrapping up this blog, I would like to extend an enormous ‘thank you’ to those who kept us in your prayers and to the churches and individuals who supported us financially. Without the assistance and commitment of our sponsors, we could not have gone. The team is grateful for their support of this ‘one church’ endeavor that grows the kingdom and changes lives.

– Melinda Hall

Post from Friday of DR Mission Trip

The dreaded time has come to say our goodbyes. We were only here for a short period of time,  and made such a huge impact on the kids’ lives. Just by being here for a little while the kids even made an impact on me. Despite what happens in the children’s lives, they came to Vacation Bible School and forgot whatever was the matter at home, and had a huge smile on their face. They also loved playing with my hair every day! I cannot wait to come next year and see the kids again. I am going to miss them so much. They were so cheerful to see us come and happy we were having fun too. By the end of the week we had 73 kids. This is a lot for the community the church is located in. The first day we had about 45 children show up.  They loved the games and crafts we had for them. For this being my first time being out of the country and first mission trip, I was scared of the different culture and food.  Once we got here Friday, I noticed a lot of things were the same and not a lot different from home. The food was different but I tried a lot of news things, including rice, fried eggplant, and papaya.

-Abby Wheeler