Each day here has topped the last and today was no exception. We were able to sleep in an hour today then all met for breakfast. I really enjoy coming together for our meals. I’m so glad that we are a small enough team that we can all squash 7 people around a small table. Meal times have been some of the most memorable bonding experiences for the team. Conversation always seemed to circle back around to Strengths Finder and we learned so much about each other and how to accept our differences. We talked about past experiences, recounted our days, and always ended the meal laughing.
Driving times were much of the same cramming the whole team into a van along with the driver, interpreters, and whoever else bummed a ride with us into town. Closeness isn’t just something that we want, but something unavoidable… and we like it! We grabbed all the food we prepared last night headed off to Don Bosco, the village where Holly’s sponsor child lived. I think this was our 3rd attempt to see him and finally he was there. Holly, Vicky and Derek went with the boy to see his family and his home while Amber, Travis, Caitlin and I stayed back at the school.
This was the first time I really saw Travis come completely out of his shell. With him being the only guy there, the little boys flocked to him. It was nice to see Travis playing with them, lifting them up to the swing set so they could show him their pull ups, and taking the time to just be a kid himself. Amber, Caitlin and I were sat down so the little girls could play with our hair.
When Holly and the others arrived back from their “epic journey” (so they tell us), we all piled back in the van and headed to San Rafael. It really laid heavy on our hearts to do something to give back to the DR staff. We painted the school, but we really wanted to do something specifically for the staff and their families. The DR staff has been going non-stop for months now with hosting teams coming through to help out in Haiti (even a 100 person team!). Juanchi was telling us that many of them are exhausted and haven’t been able to relax and yet, they have been showing us nothing but love and grace and compassion the whole week and were always willing to offer their service. So we decided to give back.
We arrived at an area with waterfalls coming off the mountain into several pools in the hillside as well as an actual swimming pool at the bottom. We brought out all the food we had prepared and put together an American BBQ of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, creamed corn, barbequed veggie skewers, watermelon, chocolate cake, and peach cobbler. We were a little worried about how we would rig up the grill, but it all worked out perfectly.
When the staff arrived, they began jumping in the pool and tossing around a beach ball. We weren’t sure if Ben would be able to make it because he was flying out a day before us and he wasn’t sure when he’d be able to catch a ride. When he walked around the corner, I think all of our team was thankful that he was able to make it. We hit around a beach ball until the meal was ready and the American team stepped back to allow the Dominican staff and families to have first pick. It was really great to watch them from the grill up above enjoying the food and laughing and joking around.
After we ate, the water games began. They got in a circle in the water and waved me in to play, so I joined in. When Ramone handed me the ball I bounced it across the circle and they all started saying “no no no!” Ramone motioned that I hand it to the person next to me. When I did, the Dominican guy behind me on the pool edge started shouting “Dat De Dat De Dat De” with a shirt over his head getting faster and faster as they passed the ball until he yelled “BOOM!” I realized we were playing Dominican Hot Potato. It was so fun to play with them. We got Travis, Derek, and Caitlin to play in the next round. After that, the guys stood on one side of the pool and the girls were on the other hitting the ball back and forth until one of the kitchen ladies came down the line and pushed all the girls in (and the water was freezing!) That started the great water war.
After that it became a free for all and people were pushing each other off the edge into the water, girls were getting picked up and just tossed while the guys wrestled to get each other in the water. No one was safe and I’m pretty sure everyone ended up in the pool. Even Holly (which took all the Dominican and American guys to accomplish). It wasn’t like American work parties where the adults sit around and chat while the children played, most of the people there were staff, and they were the ones playing and being mischievous.
Juanchi kept pointing people out and exclaiming that they are always so stressed out and has never seen them this relaxed, or enjoying themselves so much. By the end of the day we were all good friends. We took a group picture and continued to wave and high-five through the windows of their bus as it pulled away. Ben unexpectedly had to jump on the bus and we didn’t get the chance to say goodbye.
We then got to take a tour of the coast taking tons of group pictures on the rocks and with the Caribbean Sea behind us. When we finally got back to Casa Batesda, we were happily surprised to see Ben sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch as we usually found him in the evenings with his bags packed up. We were able to say goodbye and see him off for his drive back to Santo Domingo for his flight to Seattle, WA.
Then we all had dinner and sat down for devotions. We ended up singing through all 3 of the worship songs Derek had chosen and discussed spiritual warfare. Derek then had us write our names on a piece of paper and write 3 words to describe ourselves and a short paragraph of affirmation. Then we passed around our paper to write the same for each person. At the end we were to take the paper and read it later for encouragement. I think I am going to save mine for when I’m back in the states missing the closeness of the team.
No late night swim tonight. We are all ready for bed!
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25