The first time that my husband Kyle and I went to the Dominican Republic, the country captured our hearts. After that Impact Trip, we spent a summer at the Children of the Nations (COTN) base working with their I Love Baseball (ILB) ministry and producing media for their marketing team. Children of the Nations is an organization that believes in taking care of people with food and education while sharing the joy of Christ. I Love Baseball is a branch of COTN that provides baseball training for kids and an opportunity to stay in school in their communities. This helps end the cycle of poverty in the Dominican Republic because the boys have something to fall back on if they don’t make it in the big leagues. At the end of that summer, we left with rich friendships and everyone’s last question was “when are you coming back?” That question was answered when we returned this past fall.
It was such a joy to see the COTN staff members again and catch up. On our previous trip, we built some strong mentoring relationships with the boys in the ILB program. When we pulled up to the practice field, I had butterflies of excitement in my stomach. It was incredible to experience picking up right where we left off. However, we immediately saw how much they had grown in character as well as in height.
In the prior summer spent in the Dominican Republic, we gave the ILB kids opportunities to teach the younger kids how to play baseball. Many acted like they were too cool for school at first, but eventually more and more joined us to teach. When we returned in fall, they had created an afternoon practice that was fully run by the older boys. They invited the younger boys to join and the older ILB boys to be volunteer coaches. This was a rare moment where we got to plant something and watch it grow at the same time.
One of the things that Kyle and I are drawn to in the Dominican Republic is how they do community. America can be a very individualistic culture and the Dominican Republic is all about taking care of the group. For instance, when Dominicans make dinner, they make an extra plate of food because they know someone will stop by and join them. One of the most eye-opening conversations Kyle and I had with the ILB boys was when we realized that they didn’t know what a homeless person was. Their response was, “so Americans just let people live on the streets rather than invite them into their homes?” After a pause, we sadly answered “yes.” The Dominican Republic is a very different culture than we live in, but it made us ask the question, “What can we take back with us to the States?”
The community we have in the Dominican Republic is special and we are very grateful for those friendships. Maybe we can’t bring everything back, but we can bring how much they value community. Until the next time we go back, we’ll continue to work on making that kind of community a reality here.