The Dominican Republic

Hola, my name is Trevor Haddick and I am currently in the Dominican Republic as part of a mission trip. I am on a team that is going to a small little community called Los Higos, our main goal there is to reach the youth to get them to get connected with the church. So far it has been going well and it has been a lot fun. I’ve experienced a lot of new things and I am thankful for God pushing me out of my comfort zone and showing me this whole new world where I can make an impact. Something different about the Dominican culture that I found interesting is that personal space does not exist here which I kind of like because it gives me an opportunity to connect with the people and strike up a conversation. The people here are so welcoming and nice, they are very communally driven so that’s why grabbing youth to the church is so important because if we get them going others will follow.

My Baptism

               Although, the purpose of us coming here is to help other people and impact the communities, I have been taking huge steps in my faith and expanding my relationship with God also learning more about him. Today, (6/18/2019) I was baptized for the first time. On this day our whole group went to a river near a community called “Los Calabazos” It was beautiful place with mountains and this huge river that felt nice in the hot sun. A couple weeks before this mission I was considering getting baptized in the Dominican Republic. I have thought about baptism on and off for a couple years, but I have just been pushing it back continually. Mostly, the reason I haven’t been baptized yet was because I didn’t understand the full meaning of it, and I haven’t felt as strong in my faith. Also, another big reason I wasn’t ready was because I felt like I wasn’t ready to commit to living for God in fear of letting him down. During this trip though I really came to realize that everyone has troubles and things they are not proud of but that’s just what we suffer from as humans. We make mistakes and we take the wrong path sometimes, but Jesus died for our sins so that we can live our lives for Christ. During this trip God has really showed me that its okay and that I can lean on him and not have to put things on my own shoulders all the time. I was on the fence about getting baptized up until I shared my testimony the other night. After I shared, I sat on the balcony and just spent some time with God, I spent a good amount of time on that balcony and after I knew I was ready. I wanted to devote my life to God no matter the troubles I may face. It was like all the sudden I got super excited about God and getting baptized. Last night I just stayed up thinking about what this day was going to bring me. So, this morning we went to the river, we stood on the shore of the river and Pastor Chaco talked for a bit about baptism and I couldn’t help but smile, I was so ready. When it was my turn, he called me down into the river, I talked to the group about how this was my first time getting baptized and how I’ve been debating about doing it for a couple years. When Pastor Chaco dipped me into the water and pulled me back up, I was so happy I let out a big whoop! The group was clapping, I felt such joy and my heart just swelled up. After each person got baptized, we sang a song and at the end it would go “no turning back” this resonated with me because I knew right then that God has me no matter what. I feel like this whole day I have had a smile on my face. Now, I am ready to live for Christ and read the bible and do whatever God has planned for me. This experience was priceless, and it is something I will remember forever. If you are reading this and want to get baptized, I strongly suggest that you do, it makes me so excited to walk with God in my life now and knowing that he is there with me.

My name is Nick Kastner, and I am a part of the El Montana group in the Dominican Republic. Here in the Dominican Republic, I have experienced many wonderful and not so great sights. The Dominican culture is very neat because everyone is very friendly, and they aren’t afraid to say hello by getting into your personal space. The people greet one another as if everyone is their closest friend. It is very different than in the U.S. because normally, as Americans, we don’t usually like interacting with people we don’t know. When preparing for this trip, I was a little nervous about the food. I didn’t know what it would be like since pastor John told us that the food was different. I had nothing to worry about. The food here is amazing. I have enjoyed every meal so far. When we first started to venture out into El Montana, the first thing I noticed were the houses that people lived in and the trash that filled the streets. At that moment, I felt that our team could make a huge impact in the community by just cleaning up the streets. I felt that our team needed to start there, but a missionary, Rick Mackey, explained to our group that when we do things like that, the people will learn to rely on handouts and not go to the church for help. That is why it is so important for our team to pour into the church in order for the Dominicans to go there in time of need instead of going to rich Americans. I found it interesting to interact with the locals. With the help of a translator, we were able to hear their stories. After we listened to their stories, we invited them to nightly rallies at the local church. At these rallies, we started by getting everyone excited about church by playing games. All of the Dominicans really enjoyed the games, because they didn’t want them to end. After, we would worship, a team member would share their testimony, and a team member would give a quick message portraying a character from the Bible. These rallies have been a huge success in getting the local community to come to church. I talked with this one lady who told me that she had never been to church before because she didn’t feel that she was being called to church by God. That night at the rally, she attended! It was really inspiring to see what God can do through simple words of just asking someone to come to church.

On Sunday, our whole team attended the local church, La Vid, of Jarabacoa. That evening, my team attended El Montana’s local church service. Before the service started, John came up to me and asked if I would share my testimony tonight. I wasn’t quite sure because it was on the fly and I didn’t know if I was prepared to speak. I figured that it was my time and that God was calling me to do so. When I stepped up on stage, I felt confident. I began by explaining how I excepted Christ when I was eight years old, but it didn’t mean a whole lot because I felt like I just did it since I knew that I would go to Heaven. I continued by explaining when I was growing up, my best friend, who was like a brother to me, moved all the way across the country. This was the moment where I couldn’t keep my tears back. I explained that I felt like God didn’t have a plan for me, and I didn’t know who I was going to be. Before my friend moved, I liked going to church, but now, I only went because my family went every Sunday. I didn’t like going to youth group anymore, and I fell away from God. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I fell into a trap where I didn’t have self-worth. I hated God and myself for it. I needed an escape, so I turned to lust. But through all of this, God was preparing a blessing to give me. That blessing came a couple of years later when he blessed me with one of my current best friends named Caleb. I got very connected with him and his brother Ben. Our relationships took off, and God blessed me with even more wonderful friends. Caleb and Ben started to invite me to their youth group at Calvary and I got connected back into the church again. I actually wanted to go to church. I felt like God had truly blessed me, and I knew that he was completely in control of the plan that he has for me. Throughout the planning and actually coming on the trip, I realized that I want to make my faith mine. I want to change for myself. I want to change for the people around me because I affect them, and I don’t want to drag them down. I want to change for God because he deserves praise from all people. I didn’t know what I was doing when I was eight years old. But I do now. I am ready to take the steps of what it means to get closer to God. That first step is baptism. That is why I am planning on getting baptized at Los Calabazos on Tuesday. A testimony is shared to give the story of how someone comes or is coming to Christ, but my faith story, making it my own starts now. I was super glad to share my story in front of the whole church, and I am ready to move forward in my walk with Christ.

It’s not right or wrong it’s just different

After recuperating a bit from the long travel day we spent our first morning in the Dominican Republic learning about the D.R. and one phrase we are becoming familiar with is the one you just read above.

We visited each community as a team and got to take in the lay of the land and pray over the local leaders including each team from Calvary that would be ministering in that community. The next day we were able to mingle with the people as we went door to door visiting with the locals and inviting them to our rallies that evening. I have to be honest it definitely felt different. As we walked through the community an open door was an open invitation to come in. “Ah this is completely normal” our translator reassured us, as we followed him into the porch of the house. Chairs were quickly brought out to us and if there was not enough our host or hostess insisted we sit on the chairs as they sat on the floor. Even if our host was elderly they would insist we sit on the chairs. These were complete strangers welcoming complete strangers into their homes.  Most homes in the D.R. have a front patio with many seats, a sign that talking with your neighbors is not only common but expected.  We spent a minimum of twenty minutes at each home getting to know each other, asking questions and ending our time together in prayer and everyone was so friendly.  We look forward going back tonight to each community for a evening church service.  We appreciate your ongoing prayers as each team will teach tonight, share a testimony and maybe even share another skit.  Thanks for following along with us.