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REFLECTIONS FROM THE D.R.


ADAM CROFT is part of our pastoral team. Along with helping to care and cast vision for our community, he helps lead our West End home group and worship teams

 

I recently spent 3.5 weeks in the Dominican Republic…

with 9 AMAZING students from all over New England. Brown, RIC, UCONN, UNH, Tufts & Smith College were all represented. The trip is part of InterVarsity’s Global Issues Internship program. It is a three part trip including an academic piece before we leave the country, the in country piece in the D.R. and finally campus integration the following school year. So before we left we all gathered for 4 days in New Haven CT and asked some hard questions about world missions, sustainability, dependability and the social systemic injustice issues present in the places we were all headed. We wanted the students to think critically about missions and how we can “do missions well.” The second piece is the actual trip itself and the third piece asks students to bring this experience back to campus in the fall and use it as a part of the mission on campus.

The first place we went in the D.R. was the city of La Romana. We worked in a batey for the week. A batey is a sugar cane farming community. They are very poor and mostly filled with illegal Haitians. The men work in the fields for 12-14 hours a day for about the equivalent of $5 US dollars a day. Emilio, our host and guide for this week told us that “the only difference between these people and slaves are that slaves know that they are slaves, these people have no clue.” They are essentially trapped in a cyclical system of injustice. In order to get a better job to make more money they need to have papers, and in order to get papers they need to make more money to get to the city and pay the fees. They are trapped. During our time there we met many amazing people. There were two people that made had an impact on me profoundly. One was a child named Peterson and the other was Pastor of the church in the batey, Martin. Meeting Peterson him really awakened my sense of anger and sadness at the injustice and oppression around me. Meeting Pastor Martin gave me a new level of hope and confidence in the Kingdom of God as the only means by which the brokenness of the world will be put to rights.

Peterson and I barely spoke enough of each other’s language to hold any real conversation but by the end of the few days I felt a deep connection to him. One of the days all the kids started playing an AWESOME beat on the hand drums in the church. Always eager and willing to try a new instrument I asked Peterson to teach me the beat. He was pretty surprised when I was able to play along with the group, as if white boys have no rhythm! From that point on Peterson and I became silent friends. Like all good friends do, Peterson wanted to show me around his abode! So he led me all around the batey with a pointing finger. When we got to the sugar cane field he stops and says to me, “caña de azúcar?” (I knew enough Spanish to know he was asking if I wanted some) Of course I said “Si!” So, like all good hosts, Peterson took off running towards the field, jumping over mud piles and looking back every 5 seconds or so to put his hand up towards me in a “wait there” motion just to make sure I would be there when he came back. About 5 minutes later littler Peterson emerges from the cane field carrying a load of cane that probably weighed more than he did. Then an older friend took the machete and cut some sugar cane for us to all suck on. It was AMAZING. So, the injustice part comes in when I started to reflect on how much I liked Peterson and the reality that he may spend his whole life in the batey. As the reality of his situation sunk in, it wasn’t only that he may not get out of the batey, but that because of that his gifts may never be shared with the world. (The other side is that he may very well get out of the batey!) I started to remember how much I love hosting people in my house, cooking for them and just playing host. I saw a pride in Peterson for the place he lived, even if it wasn’t much. He knew he had sugar cane and that we didn’t and wanted to share that with us.

The other person I met was Pastor Martin. We did not come bringing tons of money or material goods for the people of batey Brador. This is somewhat expected of American teams because it happens so often. So, needless to say Pastor Martin was a little confused. This created a small amount of welcomed tension for our team, because these were the issues that the trip was designed to confront and help students think critically about. One day mid week, I prayed Proverb 10:28 over the team as we got off the bus. It says “The hope of the righteous brings joy…” I challenged us to be alright with seeing ourselves as encouragers and joy bringers from the Lord to the people of the batey. The last day, Pastor Martin said to Brendan and I “You come here, and don’t bring me one dollar, but you bring more…you look, see with your eye, they are happy.” We then all gathered in the church to say our goodbyes and Pastor Martin took the floor. Apparently Pastor Martin has some pull around the batey because all the children became quiet and immediately listened. He then began to tell the whole team as tears streamed down his face, that he thanks God for us and our trip and for the joy we have brought the people of Brador. Through his tears, he offered prayers of thanksgiving to God for us and then collapsed on Tom Brink’s shoulder in tears. Then we all gathered around him and laid our hands on him as Tom prayed for him and the ministry God has called him to in the batey. As a few tears streamed down my face, I got a glimpse of a pastor’s heart for his people and an even smaller glimpse of God’s heart. “The heart of a Pastor for his people is a beautiful thing,” was the thought that stuck in my head as we left that day.

We then transitioned to a different city to work with a different organization. It was here that I got to teach Spanish, learn how to cook Dominican, have some Dominican coffee, swim in a waterfall and learn about Dominican culture. Here we really started to wrestle with issues of our identity and calling. God brought up a lot of things in me as I led students wrestling with the same things I was. There is so much I would love to tell about that but it would take another 4 pages, so if you want to know, buy me a coffee sometime! ☺

We had some amazing times of intercession for the people we met and the situations we were encountering. The song “Your Great Name” became our anthem for the trip. As we said the same prayers every night and morning and sang some of the same songs, God began to answer our prayer to FEEL his heart for the brokenness of the world, and not merely comprehend it. As we prayed “Lord Jesus, soothe the suffering” each night, names and faces came rushing back. As we sang “the fatherless find their rest at the sound of Your great name, Redeemer, their Healer, Lord Almighty, Defender, their Savior, You are their King,” I believe we got a glimpse into the heart of God.

At the risk of already having written too much, I’ll sum up. This was an amazing trip, with an amazing team. God spoke in so many CLEAR ways to each of us. We learned so much about God’s heart for the poor, oppressed and forgotten. We learned about our role in the Kingdom as bringers of this Good News, that God has not abandon his world. We learned that God has said the ultimate and final “NO!” to injustice, pain and sin at the Cross. We learned that as followers of Jesus we are called to care about the people and issues that break God’s heart all while being made more into the likeness of Christ, because without Him we are nothing.

I will leave you with part of the prayer we ended our night with. Spend a minute in prayer for the people that God brings to your mind as you read this prayer.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; all for your love’s sake. Amen.

-Adam Croft