Thanks to Lindsay Hicks, our July 2018 trip leader, for sharing her reflections on our most recent trip, as well as the impact of our partnership. We’re so thankful for a week serving in person alongside the Vargas family, and look forward to finally hosting Luis and Reina here in Boston this November!
Our team has been back stateside for over a week and yet so many memories are still fresh in my mind: in the ocean, Luis doing his best to remember everyone’s names as Reina helped him out by occasionally whispering in his ear. Nursing student Olivia fearlessly working with Jose as they treated deep wounds. Team debriefs on the top floor of our building all while overlooking Santiago. Sweet (and competitive) laughter during late night games with our team and Yeison, Dilson, and Primo. Kids finding joy in chalk, popcorn, and seeing their own faces on the screen. God moving in beautiful moments as the people of La Mosca prayed with our team before leaving the medical clinic. Our team sharing the burden of grief as we wrestled with how some places in the world could experience such tangible need—and our desire for God to move in ways to restore the community.
On one of the last evenings of our trip, our GO Ministries facilitator incredulously asked me, “How can your team have so much energy to stay up late to spend time with each other and the Dominicans that you know?” My answer was simple: “These people are our family. We only get to see them a few days out of the year so we want to make each moment count.” Although we may have been assisted by ice cream fuel from Bon (our second favorite place in the DR aside from La Mosca), I stand by what I said. Over the past 11 years and 12 trips, the Vargas family and La Mosca have become our family. The opportunity to love and serve in partnership has become as sweet as Bon ice cream itself. God has blessed the work that Luis Vargas and his family do every day. To partner in one week’s worth of work that mirrors the other 51 weeks out of the year is a deeply powerful blessing for our team.
This year in the medical clinic, our eyes were opened to some of the current issues within the community. We celebrated the fact that most children and adults were wearing shoes—which wasn’t the case in past years. There were still common ongoing problems like lice and parasites. And we also learned firsthand of systematic racism between Dominicans and Haitians. Although they’re neighbors, deeply ingrained prejudices have created barriers between neighbors, and can boil over into verbal and physical assault. While debriefing in our vans on the way back to our dorms, we wondered how anything could improve—how this community, as well as our communities, could ever be redeemed from the implicit hurt we saw all around us.
However, on Saturday night we were reminded that God’s intention is mightier than our current hardships. Luis asked us to divide into small groups and pray for the community around us. And people of La Mosca invited our small groups into their homes. We learned the hearts of our neighbors. We heard their desires for prayer, but we also learned about the things they value. People deeply love their families and celebrated their families’ successes. Others were grateful for their good health and the health of their children. Although our team previously struggled to find hope, our neighbors in La Mosca happily showed us where they saw moments of hope in their own lives—many with a foundational belief in Christ.
If you ask me how I’d describe our team experience in one sentence, I’d say that we experienced the Kingdom of God all while being rooted in the brokenness of this world. We celebrated the hope that Luis daily shares with his community while keeping our eyes alert to the fact that this is not how things should be. I think that we see this stateside, but often not in such extremes as in La Mosca. But at the end of the trip we flew away knowing that brokenness doesn’t have the final hold on any of us—what God is doing in La Mosca is far greater than the brokenness experienced. We only need to remember the glimpses of hope and pray that God continues to increase hope daily in La Mosca.
Leaving the Vargas family was significantly harder this year than last year. Saying goodbye to family is never easy, and it was clear that our whole team knows the Vargas family is our family. For me, the challenge is to remember and pray for my family in the other 51 weeks of the year. The partnership between REUNION and the Vargas family is such a gift—we have an all-family, all-church, and all-year partnership. I’m excited to welcome Luis and Reina to Boston this November for a week-long visit! I hope that all of our church can lovingly and graciously welcome the Vargas family just like they have done for us for so many years!
As a final note—this REUNION/Vargas family is always happy to grow! If you’d like to learn more about the trip, please reach out to any trip alumni. We’d love for you to love and serve our community in the Dominican Republic alongside us in the future!