In the Dominican Republic, the standard of education is lower than other countries. Only 90% of those 15 or older are able to read or write and this number is decreasing. Their education system is known as one of the worst in the world. Within the last year the government started investing money in classrooms and the construction for new buildings, but the changes are slow to develop.
The underlying problem? Eager students wait in classrooms to learn but very few teachers are willing to teach.
To help, eight Crown College students and one staff member traveled to the Dominican Republic (DR) for a 12-day mission trip campaign called Destination: Serve. They stayed at the Students International (SI) base in Jarabacoa with the SI working staff who help the poor and marginalized in small communities. They meet the needs of people through various occupational ministry sites while sharing the love of Jesus. One of the ways to help meet those goals is by bridging the gap of eager students wanting to learn yet have limited teachers access to teachers.
“The base was beautiful, surrounded by mountains and endless greenery,” says Mary Krupski, the Crown College Communication Manager who is in charge of processing student applications and transcripts. “We had comfortable accommodations in a cabin that fit our entire team. Plumbing and electricity could be tentative at times but overall, the space provided all we needed.”
The team partnered with the staff at Students International (SI). SI works through occupational sites to demonstrate discipleship, Christ-centered model to the community. The SI team provided orientation, meals, daily worship, and prayer time. They also led a poverty simulation, a culture night, dinner in the community, the church at a local orphanage, and diverse service opportunities.
The DR team began each day with one and one-half hours of quiet time, prayer, studying, and teaching. Then they headed to individual ministry sites which included a pre-school, an after-school program, a dentistry site, a women’s sports program, a special education school, and many more.
Alyssa Kranz, a senior at Crown College, had the opportunity to work at the women’s sports site. This group at Hato Viejo was in a more wealthy part of the community, although still poor, and it was a very large school. The kids there were very respectful and even knew some English.
Kranz realized, the team learned very quickly that having a plan isn’t always the best. Being willing is important, and you have to stay open to whatever God has planned. Kranz said, “He leads us through difficult yet rewarding times as stated in Proverbs 16:9: ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’”
The team started to realize that other passages of Scripture guided them on the trip. For example, the verses in Matthew 25:37-40 that talk about being the hands and feet of Christ really hit home.
After one of the workdays, the team regathered for debriefing and other evening activities. They participated in a poverty simulation, in which they played the roles of families struggling to survive against all odds. This opened their eyes to the realities of life for people throughout the world and gave them a chance to experience just a glimpse of what people go through every day in the struggle to overcome poverty.
The team discovered that service should not be for their gain or even only for the good of others. In the end, it’s to love and glorify God by showing love to those around the team. This is what separates a secular mission trip from one that is meant to show Christ’s love. The DR team took comfort in knowing that, since they are in his care and working for him, God will always provide for them.
One story helped illustrate this point. On the last day, three little girls were following Kranz around trying to ask her a multitude of questions in English. Unfortunately, their English was not fluent and they had a hard time understanding the answers. Despite the difficulties, the girls still spent the rest of the day clinging to Kranz.
“They didn’t want me to go back to America. It was nice to know that through the little time we were there, we could build bonds with these kids,” Kranz noted.
“I think we all returned home knowing God used that trip in each of our lives and as an opportunity to see what God is doing in another part of this world,” Mary Krupski states.