The team of 11 missionaries — all from Westside Journey UMC — returned from the Dominican Republic July 29th, 2019.
We experienced great cross-cultural training and a great week of missions work and life impact.
The best moment for me in cross-cultural training was when our group was divided into four different “cultures” for which we were given one cultural trait. These were based on actual people groups from a missionary’s experience in Papua New Guinea.
Then we were instructed to decide based upon the trait how we would greet, welcome, engage with others, give gifts, etc. Then we were visited by each of the other cultural groups and we visited them. Finally, we visited while trying to adapt to their culture — receiving what they offered and appreciating who they were.
My culture’s trait was to value being relaxed, indeed we viewed anything done hurriedly as improper. Our overarching word was “calm.” We felt it offensive to greet or be greeted too quickly. Fast movements were shunned. For those who know me, this was the opposite of my wiring. It was really tough for me!
When we visited one of the groups who hugged instantly, enthusiastically greeted and offered gifts immediately, it overwhelmed me trying to be calm! And I realized how that specific other culture, group 3, was more how I am naturally wired. What an awakening moment. I wrote my family about the experience apologizing if I was ever overwhelming to them!
Grace, aged 32, wrote, “Dad, you are not overwhelming!”
Anna, her older sister at 34, wrote this: “I was thinking about your cross-cultural experience that you texted about yesterday! What an amazing exercise.”
“I hope you know, though, that no one is ‘poor’ for knowing you. You make every life you touch richer!”
“But it is probably helpful to understand why some people react to others in certain ways. And still, let people own their own feelings.
I’m sure you know all that. 😉
Love love love you!”
What gifts to receive these messages.
As we went into the community of Rio Grande we all kept in mind our cultural training experience. Indeed, we would joke, “Remember to tone down culture 3!” That was the super enthusiastic culture. That exercise had been so helpful.
We were allowed no cameras the first day.
“Focus on building relationships,” Tim, our leader said, “If you exit the week having built relationships but having finished no work, then you were successful. Money brings aid but relationships bring hope!”
Watching how relationships have changed lives was my lesson this trip.
Mary, whom I had met last year, gave me a huge hug this year when she saw me in the street and calling me, “Mi Brian!”
Mercedes, the mayor, and who runs a small grocery store came to bring coffee to our team and thanked us for coming.
Ken, who was one of our foremen, is off drugs and has met Jesus because of working alongside teams of people who weren’t talking about Jesus but who were living Him. It’s not possible to talk much about your faith across a language difference but faith communicates through smiles, hugs, gestures, and how you handle stress.
These are a few.
Five years ago, had you driven through this community, you might have seen little girls prostituting themselves. But no more. Instead, children are in school, learning, and dreaming of a future they never before dreamed possible. Rather than saying they will become farmers like their parents when they grow up, they say, “I want to be an airline pilot.” “I want to be a forensic scientist.” They have visions beyond the community. One little second grader is the top student in all of the DR and four years ago had no access to education.
We all were impacted by this experience— even though we were only there one week. Life changed for us.
In addition, because of the investment in this community, the government has taken an interest, they have redone the road and plan to pave it. The trip over the mountain from Constanza which took 40 minutes last year took 5-10 minutes this year. What transformation because a school put a community on the map. And a school and teams of servants put hope into a peoples’ hearts.
Relationships bring hope.
In my thoughts, I kept returning to the work God has called our congregation to do here with teens through Home Plate and families with Family Promise, to move families from the streets into housing. And I was struck with how much can happen when we live our faith. Even though we cannot use our words about Jesus unless a youth or adult asks, Jesus is not limited to words and if we live well, honestly, boldly and with love, if we embrace their lives, then this will speak loudly. Besides communication is only 13% verbal, the words, the rest is through facial expressions and gestures.
We are working to bring culture change as we do these works here. And interesting enough, the families in the family promise program tell the leaders that we are their favorite place to come, the food and love are best with us, they say. Having seen such changes through relationships possible in the DR, I know it works.