Learning to build up people and structures

Learning to build up people and structures

Written by: Tyler Evans

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” ― Mother Teresa

Overview of the Trip

Twelve strangers full of passion, compassion, kindness and love came down to build a home for a pastor and his family that so desperately needed a home in the community. We had a few meetings to get to know one another, but for the most part, we were complete strangers before the trip. But what we gained from that was the chance to learn about each other, learn from one another and share in an experience with a new friend.

The need to build

When we signed up for the trip we knew that we would be building a physical structure in the Dominican Republic, but who and what that was for, was not known. What we learned when we landed in the DR was that we were going to be building a home for a local pastor and his family so that he could live near those he was serving. This is a man who is committed to helping others, overcoming obstacles of distance, poverty and violence just to help others. Powerful actions, by a humble man – inspiring.

What is it like?

People often ask what it was like to go on a journey like this.  To be honest, it is hard to put in words. It’s hard to describe the emotion, the internal struggles, the breath-taking love that is experienced, the deep feelings of not doing enough, the joy that you feel when you know that you are helping someone in need and the pure kindness and humility that surrounds you the entire time.

We started our journey a bit later than we had hoped as the storm of the century raged and halted our travel. We were disappointed by that, but we kept our spirits high knowing that in just a short while we would be working alongside the Haitian born Dominicans that so desperately needed our help.

Mindset

The pastor and his family

We are here to help, learn, serve, love, and work – that was our mindset. We all came there with an open mind and a wiliness to help in any way that we could. Most of the group did not know Spanish so there was a definite language barrier, but with the mindset that we shared as a group, that was easily overcome.

Our time there

We spent days working alongside one another (see pictures below), laying block, pouring concrete, playing with children, laughing and communicating with the local people, eating the native food and experiencing the love that was so prevalent. Very few of us had construction or masonry experience, but that didn’t matter. We dug in and got started, full of enthusiasm and positivity. We had days that were so hot it felt like you could not catch your breath, but we fought through that with the support of one another and the energy provided in knowing that you were there to help a family and change lives. If that does not get you excited to tackle the day ahead, then I am not sure what will.

What we learned

Love is powerful. Love is transformative. Love is inspiring. Love knows every language and culture. We experienced pure joy and love. The folks we were helping had very little in material items, but they were joyful, happy, kind and welcoming. We felt at home from the time we arrived until the movement we left. We left with tears in our eyes – you see in just a few short days, we were able to build relationships and connections that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. We will remember our friends down in the Dominican Republic as who they are: Kind souls with a heart of gold, great attitudes, and a sense of humor that could bring even the most rigid to crack a smile. I will forever remember the smiles, the hugs, the handshakes, the laughter, and the love. Now, it’s our job to spread the love we received to all and not let this trip be in vein. We need to take the lessons to our homes, our friends, our places of work and worship. That is how we can ensure that the love we received that week will echo in eternity.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the King will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:35-40

Dominican Republic, 2016

Every year, Dispatch sends a team to the Dominican Republic to help churches and pastors with local building projects.  These trips are a great way to work along side the locals and make a difference in the lives of the Haitian and Dominican people.

Our next trip is scheduled for January 23-30, 2016!  We’re excited to partner with individuals and businesses who want to get involved in the Christian community abroad and make a difference! This trip is construction oriented but offers something for everyone who might be interested!

This trip is sure to give you a new perspective and open your eyes to new things!

Participant Spotlight: Ben Arnold

Ben Arnold attended a Dispatch trip to the Dominican Republic this past February.  We had a chance to ask him a few questions about his experience, takeaways and ways he is paying it forward. His story is shared with you below!

If you’re interested in next year’s trip to the Dominican, just send us an email and we can get you more information!

What did you take away from your Dispatch trip?

I think there were three key take-away’s for me:

First; The trip leader (Duane) talked with us Saturday night (our first night in the DR) to give some context around how shockingly different it might be for us attending church with the Dominicans with respect to cultural, language and socio-economic differences. Any differences that might have been noticeable completely became irrelevant the second we started worshipping with the congregation. We sang, “Gloria a Su Nombre…” (Glory to Your Name) and were instantly united under the same God.

Second; the new church building had already been started before we arrived, and it was finished after we left, which meant that this was not “our” (Dispatch Project members) church. It was a privilege and blessing to work alongside the community to participate in building THEIR church – we didn’t build the church, and in fact, they didn’t need us from a physical construction standpoint.

Third; BUT the fact that they didn’t need our construction expertise doesn’t minimize the impact that our physical presence made – They thanked us specifically for being the face of the answer to prayer for their new church building. How humbling!

Tell me about a specific moment that stands out from your trip.

I am going to talk about two; worshipping with the congregation on the Sunday before we started working and the dedication prayer that we had late Friday afternoon to conclude our work, were perfect God-centered bookends to the experience. In both cases the gracious and graceful welcome, embrace and heartfelt gratitude was so warm – I was touched and changed for the experience.

How did this trip impact you as an individual and in the roles you play (father, husband, employee, leader, etc)?

Ironically, this trip coincided with being about half-way through VantagePoint3’s “The Journey, which is a nine month academic study that drives a group-based, highly introspective study of who is God, who am I, and what does God intend to do through me. My Dispatch Project experience in the Dominican Republic confirmed for me that I am called to serve in some service capacity on mission – this will not be my last service trip.

Within two weeks of my return from the Dominican Republic, my daughter who was in her 22nd week of a difficult pregnancy had complications that nearly ended her pregnancy and resulted in 10 weeks of bed rest – she moved in with my wife and I and I was able to serve her with more grace and from a position of deep joy. At this same time, my father was brought to Sioux Falls by ambulance to the VA hospital, where he went through several surgeries and nearly six weeks in ICU with terminal lung cancer. He also has moved in with my wife and I so that we can care for him through this last journey of his life. Again, I have found deep joy that comes from our sovereign God that I know was deeply impacted by my Dispatch Project experience.

I love the work that I am privileged to have both with my employer and in my church. I am mentoring a couple of young men, one from each context and sincerely grateful for the incredible blessings that I experience on a daily basis. I have a much different framework for my approach to mentoring that I hope will help the extend a sense of how richly we are blessed.

Have you had the opportunity to share your experiences with others? And if so, how?

I have been able to consistently share my experience, starting with our plane ride home – on the last leg of the journey – the flight into Sioux Falls, I sat next a woman on the legal counsel team from Citi and we were chatting about where we had just traveled and I shared my experience and about Dispatch Project – she was very interested in talking with her management team about bringing the idea to Citi.

I have shared with many of my friends and was able to bring my experience to my company, sharing pictures and stories with my work colleagues. I will be the on-site coordinator for sending the next two Meta employees in 2015/2016 and will take any opportunity to share Dispatch Project with my friends and contacts in other companies!

If there is one word or one phrase that would sum up your experience, what would it be?

Dispatch Project was an incredible, God-centered experience that blessed me beyond anything I was able to do in the work of serving saints in the Dominican Republic in the building of their new church.

Progress in the Dominican

In February, a team visited the Dominican to help a local church put up a new building. The team members helped with block work, cement work and putting up a roof.  But when they left La Romana, the building wasn’t quite complete.

However, we’ve received an update and the progress with the building is moving right along! The note and pictures below document what’s happened since the Dispatch team returned home.

The floor, front stage, shudders, doors, and stuccoing was all finished.  It was interesting to see the detail they had included in the entrance of the church and the stage area in front of church which showed the pride they take in their new facility.   The group inspired the community not only with their presence but also with their dirt moving, concrete hauling, forming of columns, roof building, and interacting with the children.  – Duane, contact with CRWM

Dominican Republic Trip Recap

Dispatch recently sent a team to the Dominican Republic. Their time was spent helping the Haitian locals finish a new church building. The current dwelling place couldn’t hold all of it’s members in a given Sunday. They needed a new church! The team came along side the church members and helped move dirt, build forms and pour concrete (with buckets, by hand!), leading to an almost complete structure by week’s end.

Former church building!

Helping build the rafters

Helping build the rafters

Though our presence there was helpful (when we weren’t getting in the way), a message was reiterated multiple times throughout the week: we were not there just to work and sweat and get our hands dirty; we were there to be there.  – Mark Drzycimski

 

And more than the work that they did, the impact came from working beside the Haitian people.

On this project we saw that it wasn’t just a group of benevolent first-worlders helping those less fortunate. I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that we left enriched with a perspective on life that we, in our luxury, miss.

Progress on the new building!