After the Wednesday night church service, the Las Palmas director and the pastor of the church thanked us for our work and presented certificates to thank each member of our group. The director commented that we had done a wide variety of things during our short stay. Reflecting on it, I was kind of surprised myself. But all thanks and praise should be directed to God, because it is clear that He helped us accomplish so much.
It feels wrong to break our two weeks down into activities, since is was really about building relationships, but I think it will help us with planning for the future.
Our team: 12 high school students, 3 adults
Our time: about 10 1/2 days
- Pepped and painted the church´s interior and exterior and the guest house exterior
- 7 students participated in the music workshop and concert, with some of our student musicians serving as mentors to others in their sections
- 5 students and I presented a 3 day (1 1/2 hour) VBS to 20-35 children
- Spent a day together with 35 Las Palmas teens, young adults and house parents at waterfalls
- Presented Sabbath school skit
- Visited Adonis for a couple hours, sang, Chelsea played the violin for him, prayed with him
- Enjoyed an educational tour of historic landmarks and cave with 10 older teens and college students
- Taught 6 elementary and high school English classes and made some suggestions to the three English teachers (all of whom are college students)
- Presented Wednesday evening church service about medical missionary work among lepers in China that Mike and I helped with last July
- Gave books written by Spanish 2 and 3 students to 40 children
- Entertained campus with a clown show and ice cream social
- Team encouraged one another to faithfully spend one on one time with God every morning, and shared what we had learned with each other, following the pattern of I Corinthians 14:26
- Team learned more about ICC in our story time, reading Alcyon Fleck's A Leap of Faith
- Team studied John 13-17 and its implications for us: "Without Me, you can do nothing," "Ask whatever you want and I will do it," "Love each other as I have loved you."
- In many little unquantifiable ways, built relationships--among our team, with Las Palmas kids and staff, and above all with God.
And thinking ahead...
Yes, I am already thinking of next year! I would love to go back and build on what we did this year, making some adjustments.
#1 It is oh, so natural for the students to segregate themselves. At our picnic lunch on our Santo Domingo tour day, I noticed all the gringos were on one side of the picnic area, Dominicans on the other, despite sitting on the bus together. The same thing happened on the waterfall outing. I understand this. Speaking Spanish is hard work, and so you say something in English to the friend you know well, pretty soon someone else joins you and, next thing you know, you are no longer interacting with Dominicans at all. My students were great about mixing it up again once I helped them see what they were doing, but I think some pre-trip training would really help. I could give the job of anti-segregation police to a couple students and we could all be more conscious of staying in mixed groups.
#2 We spoke almost exclusively English in the house. From my own study abroad experience, I know how very, very difficult it is for people who can converse easily in their first language to speak a foreign language together. We can do better and I can work harder at this, but it needs to be student-led, not just my nagging them to speak Spanish. It's hard to make it a true immersion experience with the various levels of Spanish, but we can improve here.
#3 This was the most intentionally discipleship-oriented trip Mike and I have ever led and my students really embraced the opportunity for spiritual growth. However, I believe we could have shared Jesus more with the Dominican young people. One student suggested in the debrief document that we study the Bible with the Dominicans. My students had prepared short testimonies of God's work in their lives, but we didn't find the opportunity for sharing them. I would like to be more intentional about sharing, not just our friendship, but our faith, beyond simply praying at events and going to church together.
#4 We appointed small group leaders to help make sure everyone was present and to encourage their group members to get up for their morning one-on-one with God time. I would like to use these leaders in a stronger mentoring role in the future. It would be great to have experienced students fill this role--perhaps have 3 repeat team members to 9 first-timers.