Things I Learned in the Dominican Republic

Earlier this week I returned from a mission trip with my home parish to our sister parish in the Dominican Republic.  I am really thankful for the opportunity I had to take this trip because it taught me a lot: about myself, about faith, about the world we live in.  You’re sure to hear plenty more about my adventures in the Dominican Republic, but we’re going to start with the list I made while I was down there of the things I was learning.

  1. You don’t know hot until all you have to do is stand in one place and breathe and you’re already sweating.
  2. Appreciate water.  We play in it when others hardly have enough to bathe.
  3. It’s hard to say “no” when you have things to give but shouldn’t give them out all at once.
  4. Challenge your presuppositions.  They can be (and often are) wrong.
  5. Things are different when you’re the minority.  Take note.  What does this mean for when you’re in the majority?
  6. Moms and dads never stop being moms and dads.  And that’s okay.
  7. Assess your fears.  How many of them are actually founded?
  8. I probably should have an entire category on this blog dedicated to “Things I Learned” articles.  But that’s a great thing.
  9. Priests are many things, but above all else, they are humans too.
  10. Your ears sweat too.  But you don’t realize it until you experience #1 of this list.
  11. 3 a.m. is the hour of no electricity but plenty of crowing roosters.
  12. Think about the things you are and are not willing to do.  What do they and do they not say about you?
  13. Things will happen that will make you doubt; what matters is what you do with them.
  14. You apologize for more things you shouldn’t and less for things you should.
  15. As fun as it is for us to go down there and give candy and toys because it feels like we’re getting immediate results, it teaches the children to expect gifts whenever someone comes.
  16. “You never have enough money to get married or have kids; you just have to do it in faith.” (not directly relevant to the trip, but one of the women on the trip said that someone she knew has always said that, and I found it very valuable)
  17. Never apologize for doing things the safe way, even if they take longer.
  18. Find God in those you serve.
  19. The most difficult thing about humbling oneself is accepting that there is a disparity in status, living condition, etc.; recognizing that it is unjust; and being willing to put aside our own pride in order to do something about it.
  20. You can’t force a “God moment.”  They happen when they happen, frequently when you least expect it.
  21. Switching constantly between your native and secondary languages (“code switching”) is taxing.  Cut yourself some slack.
  22. Some places do not flush toilet paper.
  23. Honesty operates independently of need.
  24. What an animal in a zoo feels like being oggled at all the time.
  25. If you’re not going to shower, use baby wipes to wipe off dirt, sand, and other grime.
  26. Don’t feel bad if you can’t understand or pronounce a name if a priest can’t even do either during a Baptism.
  27. Everyone should spend a night completely alone in a hotel room at least once in his life.
  28. Just because someone looks as if he is a native doesn’t mean he is.
  29. Don’t panic when you’re body doesn’t function exactly the way it does in your home country.  It’s adjusting.  Just like it will have to when you return home again.
  30. When traveling in a group, mark all suitcases with colorful duct tape.  It will make locating and keeping track of everyone’s suitcases significantly easier.
  31. After going on a trip like this, it is your job to advocate and educate long after you return home.

More about DR to come!




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