On the plane, drifting over clouds
And so it begins. We will play in unfamiliar settings and take in all the smells and textures that make up the tiny portion of the Dominican Republic which awaits us.
On my bed, beneath a creaky ceiling fan
Sweat. Drips. Sopping wet. H-U-M-I-D is how you spell Dominican Republic.
On the bus, heading to our first community
The intern announces, “It’s Terrible Joke Tuesday!”
Later, he says our gang of 6 participated more than last week’s group of 18. We attribute that to Senor Tim.
In a school room where the Village Savings & Loan members meet
A woman says, “We are grateful a thousand times a thousand – grateful for so many things. If we were to share them all, it would take days.”
On a balcony, surrounded by Dominican people, food and music
The Merengue starts, with guitar and drum and guida. They sing about the hard work of coffee growers. We clap and dance.
In a one-room church building, where children line the walls, eager to engage
The teacher leads a lesson on a familiar story: the birth of Jesus. Her emphasis is on a detail maybe we’ve missed before: “Jesus was born into nothing.”
On the patio, while roosters call and shoo away the morning gray
Doves embark on playful races and the chants of a dozen birds are muted by the scuffing of tired feet. Morning has broken.
On a thickly forested mountaintop
A young boy and his father drive the oxen to haul logs – carefully selected trees removed for the health of the forest.
Rosa, a most impressive farmer, shows the diversity of plants she has tended. Watching the chatter between gringos and her neighbors, she wraps her arms around a tree and smiles.
On a restaurant deck, over the lapping waves of the Caribbean Sea
We eat breakfast: four weary Americans and a cheerful Dominican named Chico.
How quickly bonds are made. With or without a common language, there is joy and understanding.
On a bench outside Denver’s Union Station
Three new friends reflect on their good fortune: they have seen poverty and richness redefined by Dominicans. And they forge ahead as apostles of a gospel that blends care of the earth with care of those who inhabit it.
Written by Kate Vanskike, who journeyed to the Dominican Republic
with Amber Smith and Tim Busse to experience the work of Plant With Purpose, August 2016.
For more on how planting trees has helped diminish poverty, visit www.plantwithpurpose.org.