Day 1 & Day 2 - Divinely Directed Diversion to the Dominican Republic
An Early Start: It was finally time for the Senior Class to go on the Missions Trip to the Dominican Republic, but “Mother Nature” had other ideas. On Tuesday during school, we received word that a snow storm was on route to hit MD/PA and was bad enough to shut down the highways that were essential for us to get to Baltimore the next morning. Mr. Davis told us that the new plan was to leave that night at 7:00 PM before the snow really hit hard. That meant we had to stay in a hotel overnight in Baltimore (Let’s Go O’s!). We all grouped up and left together from school as parents said their goodbyes to us and a prayer was said. When we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and decided to explore, but alas, no pool was found - much to the dismay of some of the group members. We made our way to the meeting area as cards were broken out and a surprise pizza run was made by Mrs. Hoffacker - much to our enjoyment! As the time grew closer to midnight, everyone retired to their rooms to hit the hay because it was going to be a long travel day Wednesday.
A Day Divinely Re-Directed: We woke up early to a pleasant breakfast at the hotel. It was finally the morning that we would fly to Miami, then to the DR later that evening. Everyone seemed very excited to get on the road (or in the air), so we headed for BWI to head out on our 11:50 flight. During the ride, it was snowing (much to our dismay) but two-and-two were not put together yet. Everyone made it through the checkpoints fairly easily with only a few pat downs to be had, but no problems occurred there. We made our way to the waiting area for our flight as conditions outside worsened by the hour, and to our horror, with 45 minutes to go before the flight boarded, the flight was cancelled. We had no clue what to do next, but Mr. Puleo and Mr. Hanshaw immediately got to work making phone calls and checking other flights. There was no need for us to stay in the airport but leaving would not be easy as the shuttle system back to the hotel had been suspended due to the weather. While we claimed our baggage, Mr. Hanshaw and Mr. DeLong secured an Uber ride back to the hotel to retrieve our vans. Leaving the airport, we went for some lunch at Chili’s to settle in and brainstorm a plan to get to the DR no later than Friday evening. After spending a few hours there, we went back to the hotel and debriefed, but feared that the trip would not happen at this time as there were no flights for the fifteen of us out of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, or Washington, DC. Many prayers were said and to our amazement, a solution to the flight problem was found in Charlotte, NC. Yes, Charlotte, NC. That meant the next day we would make the 7 hour drive and stay overnight at Mr. Davis’s relatives’ homes. We went to bed having watched God divinely direct a diversion to the DR.
Our Trip to Charlotte: On Thursday, we enjoyed breakfast together before our long van rides to NC. The ride to our overnight stay was full of many drivers on the roads that made questionable decisions. It was decided that a Bojangles would be our first stop on our trek to Charlotte. For many of us, it was our first Bojangles experience (basically like KFC). Afterwards, we hit the road again for the last 3.5 hours of the drive, and that was full of many different types of conversations. Everyone finally arrived at the overnight stay as our hosts blessed us with a
meal almost the second we got in the door (Thanks to a pre-order by Mr. Davis).The night was full of fellowship with each other and a plan for the next day was laid out which included a departure to the airport at 4 AM. Please keep praying for us that God would use this experience in a positive way and that we can all grow closer as a class and as Christians.
3.22.18 Prepared by Ty Fackler on behalf of the HCS Class of 2018
Day 3 and Day 4 – Travel to the Dominican Republic and Day at Catalina Island
Travel to the Dominican Republic: We woke up at 3 AM to depart for the Charlotte Airport at 4 AM. The plan, yes we started planning again, was to depart for Miami in two groups. The first group would leave Charlotte for Tampa Bay to get to Miami. The other group would leave Charlotte for Tallahassee to get to Miami. After a travel day (Wednesday) where little went according to plan, this travel day went fairly smoothly, despite a couple of airline delays and a Dominican GPS that couldn’t seem to find our hotel. Meeting up in Miami, our entire team departed for Punta Cana (we were originally scheduled to fly into Santo Domingo). We arrived at 9 PM and made our way, with our luggage and boxes of supplies, through Dominican Customs. That took several hours. We “knew we made it” when we were welcomed outside of Customs by Kiko Alvarez, the SCORE missionary that HCS Seniors have been supporting for years. We arrived at our hotel and got settled in by 11:30 PM. You would think after an early start to the day that would be the end of the day. Not with teenagers, especially hungry ones. We found the place in the hotel that served complimentary foods and thus after some hamburgers, chicken wings, French fries, ice cream cones, etc. we called it a day at 1:00 AM.
A Day at Catalina Island: The morning began with a more than sufficient Dominican breakfast buffet. We traveled by bus and then boat to Catalina island for a day of “fun in the sun”. Usually reserving this activity for the last day of our trip, it was decided to do it on Saturday due to where we had flown into and spent the night (Punta Cana) and the opportunities for full-days of ministry on Monday and Tuesday. We enjoyed snorkeling, swimming, playing volleyball, and resting on a beautiful Caribbean island.
Arrival to the SCORE Complex: After a day at Catalina Island, we hit the road again to travel west to the Score Complex. It was exciting to finally arrive at our planned destination! The highlight of the evening was our team’s small group session of worship and reflection. We focused on Psalm 20:
1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
9 Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!
It was exciting to talk about how God provides provision and salvation during out times of “distress” and that He is worthy to place our trust in. It was an apropos discussion in light of our recent travel experiences and in light of the upcoming experience of graduating Seniors who are preparing to embark upon college, military, and work experiences after 13 years of day school education. Tomorrow provides us an opportunity to worship at Iglesia Bautista Evangelica de Macoris, the host church of Las Palmas Christian School.
Day 5 – Church, Commencement, and Comfort
Worship in San Pedro: This morning we worshiped at Iglesia Bautista Evangelica de Macoris. While the words were in Spanish, the songs were recognizable, including, and appropriately so, “Christ our Cornerstone”. We were encouraged both as members of the HCS Community and as Senior Students in a sign that was posted in the corner of the church to celebrate its 10th year of ministry. The sign read (in Spanish of course) . . .“Ready – Celebrating our Past; Anticipating our Future”. As a school (HCS) now part of a Christian School District and as Seniors preparing to move forward to post high school endeavors, we are excited to celebrate our past and anticipate what God has for us in the future.
Visit to Las Palmas: Following service we traveled to Las Palmas Christian School where we were given a brief history of and tour of the school by Jen Brogan, Las Palmas Elementary Principal. She shared how 9 years ago, Harrisburg Christian School’s Senior Missions Team stayed a full day (not just the scheduled half day) to clear the grounds of trash and bamboo just three months before the opening of Las Palmas Christian School’s ”new” campus. Today, the HCS Class of 2018 came to drop off graduation gowns, hats, tassels, diploma covers, and senior diplomas just two months before Las Palmas celebrates its first graduating class. We are making arrangements to have the June Commencement “Facebook Live” so the HCS Community and specifically HCS Alumni can watch it. In addition to June’s Commencement, 2018 will be a historic year for Las Palmas. In January, they saw God provide a donor in the US to help them purchase their current property. This was a long awaited answer to many prayers. In February, Las Palmas received word that it would be accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International. Another long awaited answer to prayers. HCS and its alumni are excited that God has allowed us to play a small part in His work in San Pedro de Macoris through Las Palmas Christian School.
An Afternoon of Relaxation: Sunday afternoon is traditionally a day of rest for the visiting missionaries as well as the SCORE Missionaries. Today was no different. We walked across and down the street to spend a couple of hours at the beach. The rest of the evening was used in fellowshipping around the tables and enjoying each other’s company. We are excited to host a sports clinic tomorrow in San Pedro and to feed, both with food and the Gospel, people in a local sugar cane village outside of San Pedro.
Day 6 – Service with a Smile
We awoke Monday in anticipation of our first interactions with the children of two sugar cane villages.
When we arrived at the first village, children swarmed our bus. They were “claiming” their Americans with shouts of “mi Americanos!” before we even stepped off. We set up a soccer station, some of the boys played basketball, and most of the girls painted nails/got their nails painted and supervised bubbles. The phrase of the day was “COMPARTAN!” (directing large groups of children to share with each other). Many of us grew attached to the boys and girls that claimed us as their own. Even though our Spanish was flawed or nonexistent, the kids still jabbered away at us until we got a basic understanding of what they were trying to convey. Right before we left, we gathered together. Two of usshared our testimonies (one in Spanish and one in English that was translated by Kiko) and the whole group prayed together in Spanish. When it was time to go, many of us cried as we gave hugs and kisses to the kids.
We had a few moments back at the SCORE complex for lunch and naps before going to the second village. On the way to the second village, we stopped at Jumbo (a Dominican Walmart) to buy enough food to feed eighteen families for two to three days. We were told that most of the members of the communities we were visiting made enough money every five days to buy three days worth of food. After that, we went to deliver supplies to a daycare in need. There were no children there, but the staff received our donations of rags, flatware, and activities for the children with open arms.
The second village was in much worse condition than the first, which feels odd to say because of how shocked we were by the poverty of the first village. There were animal feces everywhere and the smell permeated the entire community. Again, children circled around as we exited the bus. Some of us pulled out coloring books, others crafts, and others grabbed balls and bats to play basketball, baseball, and/or volleyball. Many of the children in the second village knew a few basic English phrases, which was exciting for us. They really enjoyed taking photos with the Americans. After playing for a while, we began to deliver food to the people that the pastor deemed as “the poorest of the poor”. As we walked to their lean-tos, we were completely shocked by the conditions they lived in. We prayed for these members of the community as we gave them their food individually. With a better understanding of this village’s way of life, we were collectively hit with the realization that these kids had absolutely nothing and, yet, were willing to help us, share with us, and love on us in ways that we never would have thought possible for a stranger. It was heart-wrenching to say “adios” to two groups of kids in one day.
When we returned to the SCORE complex, we took a moment to de-brief together. It was very emotional for all of us to express how much those kids meant to us and how deeply we loved them after just a few hours. We discussed the grace of God and the fact that He shows an enormous amount of mercy to the members of the sugar cane villages (based on the fact that they even make it to adulthood, let alone old age). Our hearts ached as we talked about the prevalence of sex work in the Dominican Republic and the importance of missions like the Lily House that save women from the vicious cycle of the sex trade. We prayed together again before dinner.
After dinner, we spent time playing card games before going to bed.
3.26.18 Prepared by Allie Hanshaw on behalf of the HCS Class of 2018
Day 7 – A Day in Santo Domingo
Ministry in a Boca Chica Girls’ Orphanage: After an emotional experience at the sugar cane villages the previous day, we woke up the next morning not knowing what to expect. We were told that the day was going to begin by going to an orphanage. Based on our past experiences with the children we had visited, the group was eager to see them. When we arrived, we unloaded the van and began to head to the room where some girls were already sitting and talking. I was a bit nervous to meet this group of children not knowing whether they would like us or not, however, when we arrived the girls greeted us with smiling faces and bubbly personalities. We were able to immediately break the ice by painting little girls’nails, making bracelets, blowing bubbles, talking, coloring, and playing volleyball. The girls that we were able to spend time with were filled with attitudes of kindness and gratitude. It completely showed through their willingness to speak with us and be completely enthusiastic about participating in games. When we were called to leave the orphanage, we were all surprised by how quickly the time passed.
Shopping in the “Straw Market” and Lunch in Santo Domingo: After boarding the bus we headed to the straw markets in Santo Domingo. It was very apparent that many of the vendors were selling their items for the “best price possible”, so it was difficult to not buy at least one item. In the market we had the chance to view many trinkets and baubles that represented the country. The more we walked around the more we got to see the amazing art that represented the country. After spending our time in the markets we then traveled to “El Conuco” an amazingly authentic Dominican restaurant, filled with the rustic ambiance of Dominican heritage.
A Trip Back in Time: After dining at the authentic restaurant, we toured Old Santo Domingo and walked around the city. We toured the first and oldest church in the Western hemisphere, and the house of Christopher Columbus’ son. The architecture of the buildings we walked into was magnificent. It was hard to believe that the Catholic Church we visited was built in the 15th Century. As we walked around the town, we were followed by people who were trying to sell jewelry or paintings to make as much as they could. The city was incredible and had vintage architecture that is indescribable.
After touring the city, we made our way back to the Score International Hotel and ate dinner. We spent our night worshipping, sharing our experiences, and bonding at “Score Night”. As the evening came to a close, we played games and talked about our trip before heading back to our rooms and packing up for the long day of travelling the next day.
3.27.18 Prepared by Alex Baez-Ferreras and Anya Burns on behalf of the HCS Class of 2018
Day 8 – A Return Home
On Wednesday, we will leave the SCORE Complex at 5 AM to depart from Santo Domingo at 7:48 AM. We will head to Miami and then back to Charlotte (where our two vans are parked). We hope to arrive back safely at HCS between 12:30 AM and 1 AM. Please pray for safe, AND EVENT FREE, travel.