Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Essential 3 ::: The Dominican Republic - 1993

In the summer of 1993, I led, along with a female co-leader, a team of 6 students and leaders to spend three and a half weeks working with an orphanage in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. The context for the trip was working with a missionary and his family supported via our local church. This trip was also 'phase 3' in an intentional progression of mission experiences much like SPACE. [In fact, this is where SPACE got the idea of progression from.] Every person on this team had traveled with me the summer before, on a 6 week buffet of mission experiences such as inner city summer camp, beach outreach and local vacation Bible schools in the coal mine communities in Kentucky. In light of the three questions:

1. Am I planning to have an impact that lasts for 500 years?
We were very short sighted and didn't think past that summer. Much of our time was spent working with orphans and local children - certainly an admirable task. We didn't, however, spend any time developing, catalyzing or equipping any local people to do any leading on their own. What we accomplished only lasted for that summer, if even that long. Yes, we certainly helped build energy and momentum for the teams that were there long term. But no, we didn't provide anything that was reproducible or replicable.

2. Can both host and teams trust each other because we are partners?
Both host and team had a high level of trust. The experience itself was built upon each other's needs and strengths - our team having lots of experience with kids ministry while the host team definitely needing a team to come in and do that ministry.
The crux of this trust was our team having to travel across the country to meet our host who had gone ahead of us by a day. Think haggling with taxis in broken Spanish over a three hour car ride.

3. How will I engage the culture?
Not very well. The majority of our time was spent in a compound on the host property. We lived with mostly Americans and while we had a few Dominicans staying with us, when they went dancing, we sat at home and played cards. Although that isn't meant to sound pious, it reflects our working paradigm - we hardly engaged the culture. Short of staying in a Dominican home, going dancing would have given us a huge exposure to Dominican culture, such as food, music, practicing Spanish and building relationships.

Although this was a fascinating experience, asking the 3 essential questions before we left would have given the experience a much different tone and level of effectiveness.

Photo: Some of our team at Christopher Columbus' grave site. [Yeah right...]

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