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