It feels like chaos at first. Everyone stumbles off the bus, bleary eyed and a little carsick. They just spent an hour driving through afternoon traffic, excited and hot, taking in the new surroundings after getting off a plane. After months of anticipation, they are here – they’re really doing it. They are in the Dominican Republic! The driver drops them off at the door of a small house on a busy street. A tall, friendly Dominican guy and a long and lean Dominican girl are cheering for them as they get off the bus. But where are they?
The team has arrived at their homestay, a three day journey into another world, where Young Life club happens on rooftops, roosters crow at all hours of the day and night, and nervous children peek around buildings, laughing and chattering excitedly. Jose and Isa, the team’s hosts, usher them in to the house, which turns out to be much larger than it appears on the street. It contains a maze of rooms and then opens up into a big patio in the back yard. Jose’s grandmother, who owns the house, is beaming at the new arrivals from the kitchen. She wants to say something, but knows they won’t understand her.
So now what? Well, the other Vida Joven leaders are not there yet – so the team must wait. They aren’t exactly aware that they are waiting for other leaders from that area. They know they are waiting for something, so they prop on furniture and talk about the trip, taking in their surroundings. Eventually, other Vida Joven leaders begin to trickle in, greeting every person with a kiss on the cheek, causing the girls to laugh at the awkwardness and the guys to sweat out of nervousness. After about an hour, Jose and Isa call everyone’s attention and introduce the leaders. They aren’t your typical Young Life leaders in college– these are skinny teenagers who look like they just went to summer camp themselves. The reality is – they did, as the team slowly learns. These teenagers have become a part of the ministry and are now sharing it with their friends, all while in high school.
The leaders take their new friends to their homes, each person from the team will stay with another teammate and a Vida Joven leader. The introductions are stiff – the Americans still don’t really understand what is going on and the leaders are energetically showing them their bed, their fan, the bathroom – explaining how you take a shower with a bucket… while the Americans stare at them in the fog of traveling since three am. The Vida Joven leader gives the Americans time to “bañarse/shower”, but the Americans don’t understand – why shower? They aren’t dirty… they probably won’t even shower until they get to Pico, after all – a bucket shower feels like too much work, and with cold water? The thoughts run in their mind while the Vida Joven leader waits to see what they are going to do. They plop on the bed and lean back, so it appears they aren’t going to shower. The leader shakes her head in confusion and goes to clean up herself, after all – tonight is club! We must look out best!
Fast forward twenty four hours to see the team helping clean up a basketball court with the leaders from the area. People are laughing, throwing water at each other and random dogs walking by, jumping to reach spider webs, and carrying tables to set up for a banquet. It looks like a whole different group of people than those that arrived on the bus yesterday. Everything looks different after a night of “sleep” (or tossing and turning on hard mattresses and listening to roosters crow). The team has also realized something important – that in the midst of all the differences and new things to learn, these Vida Joven leaders love Jesus too. They are their brothers and sisters, and share a common love for Jesus, laughter, and weird games that involve eating cheese puffs.
The team has seen the power of being welcomed into someone else’s world, and being served by them – realizing that Jesus had a whole lot more to teach their hearts than maybe they had to teach the Dominican Vida Joven leaders.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” – Ephesians 2:19-21
— written by Allison Preg Heredia