Sunday, July 13, 2014

Adventures!! {Denver Photographer Abroad}

My family and I had the great privilege of getting to travel with a team of people from our church down to the Dominican Republic.  Our church has partnered with a community there for the last five years, whose name used to be "Aguas Negras" (literally "black water" and slang for "sewage") but is now Nuevo Renacer (meaning "new birth").  There has been beautiful transformation taking place in the community through the efforts of a handful of dedicated and faith-filled Dominicans.  We Americans got to come alongside them - to learn from them, be loved by them and to offer a little of what we could do too!

I wish I could show you every picture I took.  Every image of the vibrant colors, the beautiful faces of the people, and the connections that link us.  I would tell you a story for each image while we drank a cup of Cafe Santa Domingo!  Alas, I cannot.  So you'll have to settle for the pictures and small reflections that follow:

Upon arriving in the community we were taken on a tour.  The first stop was this room - filled with fabric, sewing machines, thread, and beautiful women eager to learn.  Yes, we entered into a sewing class, but without knowing it, we entered into a larger vision for the future and into opportunity for these ladies.  This class allows the women to learn a trade - namely sewing - and helps subsidize the cost of materials so they can make and sell their amazing creations, the hope being that they will be able to have their own sewing business and bring some financial stability to their families.

(No the purse below is not $500, but 500 Dominican pesos - about $12!!)

Of course, there are kids everywhere!!  They were there as we walked through the streets, holding our hands, playing games with us, practicing their English as they giggled at our attempts at Spanish!!  There are now 2 schools in the community - serving little ones, preschool through third grade.  My friend Shannon and I got to be with the teachers for an extended time over 2 days for some teacher training.  Though we had prepared different topics for discussion, the one topic we kept coming back to were the "super especial needs kids" (which in their community are those "tough customer" kids who need extra tender loving care because they have a tough time remembering how to be students!)

I hope our conversation/training was of benefit to them!  However, I learned that teachers and teaching everywhere have similarities....we all have "super especial needs kids" AND we do what we do from the heart and for the love of kids, not for want of financial gain!  (Many of these ladies make about $70 a month...much of which they need to spend on transportation to get to school!!)

It was a privilege to get to be with them!!  And the last day we were able to give them a bunch of class sets of awesome children's books (in Spanish, of course!) that we brought from the US with us!  May those books be loved by the children and be part of their learning to read!!

The BIG project we went down to work on was a building for a program for the single moms in the community.  It was a huge undertaking...WAY too big for us gringos who have never worked with rebar or cement blocks....but we got to work alongside local, hired workers who taught us a lot (and probably laughed a little at us too!!)

Though drenched in sweat it was great to watch transformation happen before our eyes.  It wasn't in a big sudden miraculous moment, but with each shovel of dirt scooped out of the first level of the building, or with one last twist of the wires holding the rebar together.  The metamorphasis was happening with with hands, feet, shovels, gloves, sweat, and cooperation.

My favorite "construction" story came near the end of the third day.  A few of our men had worked hard alongside "Hefe" (the Dominican boss!) on the roof all day long.  One of the young men with us had gone to a little store and bought Cokes for all the Dominican workers.  Hefe had been drinking some sort of soda all day long and now had an empty bottle AND a fresh, full one.  He motioned for my husband to come over and poured half the Coke into his now empty bottle.  With great generosity, he handed the fresh (half full) bottle to my husband and kept his now half full, old bottle for himself.  They shared a drink and a moment of deep respect for the hard work each had done that day.

(Truly...had I been able to film it, Coke would have used it as its next big commercial!!)

We didn't finish the project while we were there, but know it was left in good (and actually competent) hands!  Can't wait to see it when it is all done!

All of the previously mentioned items were the planned and organized projects, but the best, craziest, and most chaotic "project" was playing with the children of the community!  They are loving, full of laughter and creativity, and are always willing to hold a hand!!

Though all the projects are good, the relationships that our church has cultivated over the last handful of years are most important!  We want them to know that we don't have all the answers, but we are brothers and sisters who can learn from one another.  There are those in this community who are strongly faith-filled, and others maybe not so much, but we want them to know that they matter and being WITH them is most important!  We got to hang out with some of the coolest people!  We prayed for them, we listened to their hopes and dreams, we laughed together, and we chose to knit our hearts with theirs!

 (Our translator)

 (Extraordinary woman and visionary)

It was tough to say goodbye!

A million thank you's to our friends in the DR!!  You modeled generosity, hospitality, hard work, commitment to your community, vibrant faith, joy, play, and above all connecting relationships!  I know that your goal is to "Shine the Light" into your community, but you also have shined it into our lives as well!!

(Again...I don't feel like this has done justice to tell the story from the week we were there.  I have about 500 more pictures to share!!  So, in the weeks to come, you may see some more pictures with stories attached..stories that fed my soul.)

No comments: