This is a whole new world. It is very loud. Horns honk nonsensically. It is extremely dirty. Beyond what I could have imagined. Trash is strewn everywhere.
After unloading bags from the bus the first day there was a swell of voices ascending from the concrete stairwell. The boys left their bunks with backpacks disheveled. Some stumbled out the door with one shoe on and one in hand. The girls walked gingerly through aisles between their bunks, working to lay claim to new beds. The noise evaporated from the building, soft echos could be heard outside, as the boys sprinted down the sidewalk to a nearby park to play basketball.
Teenagers swarmed the park and a pick-up Basketball game was followed by a series of Gospel presentations. Various team members shared the reason we are in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican streets are filled with people hungry for something more than sport.
Boarding a bus in the Dominican heat, we departed the mission house and arrived in a muted neighborhood. The quietness was eerie as we stepped off the bus. Colors weren't as bright in this part of the island. We were sent out, door-to-door, to share the Gospel. Darkness covered the rough neighborhood we were evangelizing. Nervous excitement filled my heart. It seemed like there were incessant prayers for the Lord to speak through us. Every step I took was filled with a short prayer. This pace prepared us for day two.
We woke up the next morning at 5 a.m. to what sounded like a choking hyena, marking our second day in the Dominican Republic. I'm told that’s what roosters sound like here. Between cackles, I drifted in and out of sleep until the call for breakfast.
There was a slight dance to our shuffling feet in the breakfast line, syncopated beats are constantly in the air in the Dominican. We hustle to grab water bottles before boarding the bus to visit a christian school. Poverty cannot be escaped. Though they have little, the kids are filled with joy.
We transition from the poor Christian school to our sister school, Santa Fe. After walking through the gated fence all the senior boys became “caballos” (horses). The school yard was a shower of dust and bubbles. The mothers needed to turn their eyes from our dirty faces. Smiles are brighter in a face caked with dirt.
The following events are a blur because of the evening street evangelism. It's exhilarating.
In the first moments of going door-to-door for the second time in two days I made a new friend. His name is Jerry. Reggie Undseth and I shared the Gospel with him. Closing our time in prayer, we shook hands and continued down the street, thoughts moving to the next people we would share Jesus with.
As we turned the corner of one of the dusty, make shift street, I saw Jerry in the distance. He wasn't alone. Five friends flanked Jerry, whose smile was contagious. Jerry informed us that his five friends wanted to hear the message of the Gospel from “los americanos.” We said Jesus' name a lot in the next few minutes, showing the release from sin in Christ after identifying the pain of sin.
We left the boys smiling, eventually meandering back to the church for a worship service. During the boisterous singing and clapping, six young boys stepped from the darkness of the street to the church stoop. Their faces lit up the room. All five of Jerry's friends showed up to the church service, Jerry by their side, and we praised the Lord together, as brothers.