Spring Break 2014: The Dominican Republic

I really wanted to feature a post about what one of my friends did over spring break that I thought was really cool and defiantly worth sharing. One of the greatest (and busiest) people I have met at school is Sarah Och. For break, she went with CCM here at Bucknell down to the DR. Before she left, I asked if she would want to write about her experience, and was thrilled when she agreed. If you go to Bucknell, be her best friend, because she never fails to make me laugh, and is definitely going to continue to do big things into the future.

Over spring break, five of us from Catholic Campus Ministry here at Bucknell had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Nagua, Dominican Republic. Our mission while in Nagua was primarily to share the love of Christ with the kids and residents in the local communities. We also built a playground for one of the local schools (without power tools, waddup?!) and got the chance to participate in a Dominican mass. It was hands- down one of the most exhausting weeks of my life, but I wouldn’t have spent my spring break any other way.

One specific thing that surprised me was that the people we met in the DR were sincerely happy. Before going on this trip, I was prepared to see an abundance of the homeless and oppressed and sick. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The people we met in Nagua were poor but also some of the happiest people I’ve ever encountered. They were so grateful for every single thing they had, and possessed such an unexplainable joy that was present in everything they did, including their hospitality and kindness to our group.

A lot of times on mission trips like these, there is one definitive moment that is the turning point of the trip. I didn’t necessarily find that. Instead, I found that it was a compilation of moments that made the lasting impact on me. Maybe it was the overwhelming gratitude from the little boy who we gave a pack of Sweet Tarts to, or maybe it was the countless ways in which I saw God in my friends, nature, and the people we were serving throughout the week. In any case, there’s something to be said about the way that being immersed in a completely different culture can open your mind to the point where you reconsider your own way of life.

I think the main lesson that going on mission to the Dominican Republic made me realize is that joy is not quantifiable – it doesn’t always come from having a prized possession, or winning an award, or being recognized for a significant achievement. Sometimes, joy arises in the midst of serving the least of the least, the poorest of the poor. Joy, over the course of a week, came in the surrender of myself to a cause bigger than myself. And I think that’s a lesson that couldn’t have come from a reading in a textbook, or a lecture on poverty. It was a lesson that could only come from serving alongside the people and living in the culture for a week.

Ministering in Nagua together with my friends was the best way I could have spent my spring break. Having the opportunity to share the joy of Christ with so many people while giving back to their communities is an experience I will never forget. In the end, we all having something we can give back to those around us. Maybe it’s a passion or a talent. Maybe it’s a smile.
Maybe it’s as simple as a pack of Sweet Tarts to a little boy.

Sarah Och left her life as a girl working in her parent's ice cream shop in Jersey and is a first year student at Bucknell. When not pursuing every activity on campus to which she holds leadership roles in most, she enjoys the little things in life: running and Mac 'n' cheese Monday at the Bison. She plans on majoring in religion and is excited to be an RA next fall- so watch out. 

Thanks so much Sarah! Happy Wednesday!

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