The most significant impact that the DR mission trip had on me was just seeing the absolute, abject poverty that some of the people of El Cercado were living in. Throughout schooling we learn about third world countries, and on TV or the internet, we often see humanitarian advertisements. However, while we’re in the comfort of our homes, they mean little to nothing to us. When you actually immerse yourself in that sort of culture, it becomes real not only in a material sense, but in a human sense.
In America, we become desensitized to poverty, and even suspicious of it. When we see a man begging on the street, a number of thoughts run through our heads. We don’t know if he genuinely needs help; if we give him money, we don’t know that he will spend it responsibly; we don’t want to spend our own money on food for him; and after all, how do we know he’s not just begging because he is lazy? I think that I’m not alone in jumping to these conclusions sometimes, and it leads to a less sensitive society.
What the Dominican people were lacking in material possession, they more than made up for with faith. I’ve never witnessed such a strong faith community. Sure, the groups I’m involved in at home are made up of truly good and faithful people, and I’m proud to be a part of them; Newman Club is why I was in the DR in the first place. But, for me, it just seemed different because we can all return to our everyday comforts outside of our faith lives, but these people’s comforts were their faith lives. They don’t all necessarily have warm beds, television, or even families to turn to throughout the day. However, they know that they always have God, and that is enough for them. It’s an example that we should emulate in our own lives.
This all culminated for me on a day when we went to visit a Haitian market in a town called Elias Pina. We visited a bakery being run by a mission out of Green Bay, WI and got some bread (which was delicious, for what it’s worth). As a few of us waited in the back of the truck, a man walked up to our truck and asked for some of my bread. My American mindset made me suspicious of him, and I slowly lowered the bread in my hand. Understanding that I wasn’t giving him any, his face dropped and he walked away. Then, guilt poured into me, and I remembered a passage from Matthew’s Gospel (25:40), “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.’” I turning away someone who was less fortunate than me, and the fact that I was holding food and blatantly refused to give him any filled me with shame. New questions dawned on me: what if he was starving? What if he was working all day to feed his family, and he only sought something as small as a piece of bread for himself? Who was I to deny him that? As we pulled away, we were driving past him. I yelled out “Mi hermano (my brother),” and tried tossing him a piece of bread, but unfortunately it flew past him because he was surprised by it. Then, after we got the truck to stop, I handed him a few pieces and wished him well. The look in his eyes as he received it showed me that he needed that bread, and an intense feeling of love dawned on me. The next day, we worked with local agriculture projects in the village, and I continued handing bread to people throughout the day. Elderly adults and small children alike took it graciously and thanked me. I constantly asked people “Tu quiere pan? (Do you want bread?)” in my broken Spanish and horrible accent, but they took it with a smile and a “gracias.” In such a small act, I felt real solidarity and shared an experience in a very basic, human way with them. And all through it, I felt the intercession of God. I’ll carry those moments with me wherever I go in life, and I’ll try to remind myself and others that helping the least of our brothers is a service to God Himself.
-Sean Grealy, Sophomore at Hofstra
Our College Missionaries
This blog is by our student and missionaries so that you can learn a little more about our experience on our mission trips!