Below is a reflection by Emma Towne of Northeast Catholic College who went on a Mission Trip to NPH Dominican Republic.
For me, the NPH Dominican Republic mission trip was a lesson, first and foremost, in giving. Giving on a mission trip sounds complicated and hard, but as I discovered, giving does not consist of many difficult tasks, but in seemingly little things that must be done with your total self. When first touring NPH, I was swiftly captured by a little boy who proceeded to teach me how to dance the salsa. At first, taken aback by his boldness and not being much of a dancer, I thought hurriedly of ways to politely get out of dancing. But then I realized that the purpose of this mission trip wasn’t maintaining my own personal comfort, but giving myself, even when it was annoying and uncomfortable, or simply a nuisance.
Throughout the course of the week, I reflected on what is meant by the words: give yourself. Giving yourself on a mission trip does not mean you show yourself off, or have a set plan in mind that absolutely must work. “Giving yourself” is when you set aside your own desires and focus completely on the person next to you, listening to him, playing with him, enjoying him. You must cast aside your own ideas and visions of glory and be content with playing on seesaws and kicking deflated soccer balls. The paradox of giving yourself is that you also must be receptive to love, in the varying forms it takes. At NPH, love was expressed through the children’s constant hand-holding and playing with our hair, their unceasing hugging and dancing, which made me mildly uncomfortable as an introvert. And yet here was the call to love! Love is simple and uncomplicated, but it demands surrendering yourself, even when it is awkward or painful, or simply not in your comfort zone. It was this that I found the most arduous—because it demanded me to surrender myself for the sake of someone else. Yet when I surrendered myself, I was rewarded with the greatest of gifts: the friendship of a child.
Of all the wonderful things that I saw and experienced while in the Dominican, it was playing with the children that struck me the most. At NPH, the children are so joyful and happy, despite the circumstances many have faced. There was a love of life that was delightful to witness, and an energy and enthusiasm that was certainly hard to keep up with! Their openness was a blessing to us on the trip, as we struggled with Spanish, the heat and basketball. The children gave us so much, more than we could possibly ever give them.
The trip to NPH Dominican Republic was a beautiful, eye-opening experience, a trip I am very happy to have undertaken. The exposure to an entirely different culture, poorer than America, yet rich in faith, love and joy, has influenced me incredibly; it taught me about love and self-gift, and what happens when you truly open yourself up to others.