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Coming to the end.

May 22, 2011
by

So now finally, FINALLY…the book is done. Or, at least as done as it will ever be. And I just want to fall into a chair and let out a deep, contented sigh. It has been quite a journey. I think I speak for the majority of us when I say that this semester has not been easy. Each student in the class—and both professors as well—have had to pull-off an impressive juggling act throughout this semester. Many of our writers worked on The Chimes Newspaper staff; we even had the editor-in-chief herself write some great chapters on the business of baseball! We had some really solid writers on our team and I am so proud to see so many journalism students stepping out of their emphasis for this project. Two photojournalism majors decided to contribute to the written portion of the book. The Chimes news editor decided to concentrate on photography—which, by the way, she did fabulous job. One of our photographers bust up his knee while snowboarding right before we went to spring training. Somehow, he managed to make his way to the dugout and get some great shots all while sporting crutches. I am, most of all, so thankful for those on our team who prayed fervently for the trip, and especially for the girls who consistently came out to the weekly prayer meetings! I have been encouraged by the positivity and lightheartedness that so many managed to maintain throughout all the unexpected occurrences we ran into—from random blackouts to running out of water. Together, we learned to endure changes in plans, enjoyed freak rainstorms, and gathered up the boldness to approach random young’ins in baseball uniforms walking along the sidewalk to ask them about their dreams. I was so proud to see so many on our team speaking Spanish more fluently as the week progressed. I, myself, managed to learn about a word or two—much more than I knew beforehand. And despite the craziness of it all, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was definitely apero. Love you all and hope you all felt the same.

Looking forward to seeing our book in print,

Liz :)

Collision Course

May 20, 2011

Dear Reader,

Have you ever collided with someone?
Like a literal collision… where atoms smash into each other and for a split second, you’re left discombobulated?
Where you actually don’t know what happened, and your reaction is the tell-all-be-all.
It’s followed by excuse me’s and I’m sorry’s…and is more often than not brushed off as nothing important. Other times, it stops the world for a moment, and lives are changed.

This is what happens in every good story… it is the meet cute of a romance, with a shy grin and a blush of intrigue… it’s the instant you know whether or not the characters will be enemies or friends… it’s even the second the very first scene comes into view.
It is the moment that stands still, and replays itself over and over again in your mind.
It can be on accident, it can be on purpose (like at the end of You’ve Got Mail)… but it happens.

It’s what happened in my story.

Dearest reader, I think to say that my trip to the Dominican rocked my world would underplay the fact outrageously.
The second I signed up for the class, I knew it was bound to be a wild ride… God never likes to disappoint in the area of my expectations, and He stretched me further than I ever expected.

I thought I was going to write…. to help write a book about the culture.
Really, I was going to fall in love with a tiny country, who’s people smile almost all the time.
I thought I knew what I was getting myself into… when really, God laughed and said “No, dearest heart… let Me show you what you need to get into.”

What shook me to my core was watching God move in a foreign land. I know very well that God doesn’t just stay in America because a). I’m not foolish and b). I’m not 3… but there was borderline amazement when I saw Him there.
Almost as if I didn’t expect to see Him.

But I saw Him more than anything, and it knocked me off my feet. I saw Him every single day in the wonderful translators we rubbed shoulders with for the entirety of the trip… who loved Jesus, and wanted to see Him move in a different way.
I saw Him in the poorest of neighborhoods… where the hopeless situations turned down the corners of my mouth, and misunderstanding flooded my mind as the people who lived there had such great joy and hope for their lives through Christ.
I saw Him in the people I went with… in the people I worked with, and grew with… who each wanted to tell the stories that mattered.

I heard Him… saw Him move… felt His touch.
And that left me speechless.
It still leaves me speechless.

You see, as horrendous as this may sound in light of the purpose of this trip, I don’t think the book was the important part about this experience.
I don’t think it is as important as the little hands that we held, or the broken hearts that poured forth their sorrows and entrusted to our care.
I don’t think that it was more important than the smiles of our new found friends.

Most importantly, I don’t think it was it was more significant than seeing the light of Christ impacting lives all over the Santo Domingo area… seeing salvation played out in every place we went… seeing God scream forth His ways from the lives that we thought we were going into help by means of a tiny book.

I collided with a country that taught me more about the God who created us…. I collided with a people who understand struggle better than I do, and who live lives of faith that put my own to shame… I collided with moments that spin in my head even still, in tremendous vividness.

I fell in love with the people, with the culture, with Christ more so than ever.

The Readers Digest Version?
The trip was insanely awesome, and I’m different because of it.

God’s collision course plan?
Complete success.

Your friend,
Alethia

Growth and Reflection.

May 20, 2011

It seems like a lifetime since we were drinking strong black coffee and furiously transcribing interviews into the wee hours of the morning, unsure of what the next day would hold. It seems like ages since we crammed 20 people into a van and heard “Americano!” and “Chino!” around every turn.

Was it really just three weeks a go? Wow, time flies.

I am a very organized, detailed planner.  Before I go into anything, I write it out, check it twice and know inside and out what my goal is in that situation.  This project challenged me by forcing me outside of this control and structure.

I had interviewed dozens of people before, but I had ample time to prepare for them.  Unlike what I was used to, there were days in the DR when we did not know what the day would hold for us. Who were we going to get to talk to?  How long?  What kinds of questions would we be able to ask?  Because of this, it was often difficult to prepare for interviews.  There were times we saw people on the street and decided to talk to them without any preparation at all (“Look he has a baseball bat, go talk to him!” ;)).

It was initially challenging for me, because it forced me outside of my “I-am-O-C-D” comfort zone. However, I ended up thriving in these situations.  I found myself becoming more comfortable in my skin, knowing the direction I wanted to take my interviews and seeing them through, no matter what the obstacle.  It was a fantastic growing experience.

I can honestly say I was able to throw myself completely into the project. By the end of the week, I truly felt as though I had deeply tried to understand Dominican culture and the hopes of the people.  Through talking with school kids, administrators, women entrepreneurs, our translators, etc., I developed a connection with a culture that I had only begun to tap into.  I developed a love for a people with whom I could barely communicate.  I developed a dream of returning to give hope to prostitutes there.

…I had even danced the meringue with a stranger at the corner store, the last night there…

After talking with one of the teens at El Refugio Capotillo, he told me that he didn’t believe I was completely American.  He said, “You have some Dominican blood in you!” I don’t think he knew how happy this made me.

I will never forget our trip to the Dominican Republic. I love each and every one of you on the team, and feel honored to have had the chance to seek truth and stories with you.  Thank you for your passion and desire to uncover the hope of the DR, and diligence in creating meaningful stories and photos.

Reflecting on what seems ages ago

May 19, 2011

We’ve seen a rough of the book now, and will probably see a proof this Friday. I’m very excited to see the final product. Looking back, though, I’m amazed at how quickly I got used to being in the U.S. again.

I was looking through some of my photos today and was not as moved as I expected. This trip was supposed to be life changing, and, in a way, it was, but as with many life changing God moments, the good feelings, the lessons and the results of God’s hand quickly fade away. I’ve seen God work miracles in my life before, and I was excited to talk about them after they happened, but years later I easily forget how God was there for me. And I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who went on this trip who has forgotten so quickly.

Unfortunately, it’s a part of who I am. I’m not super emotional. I don’t really feel like I care. Let’s just say I’m still in the beginning stages of what I hope will be a life long transformation led by the Holy Spirit. Every once in a while I look back at what God has done in my life and He encourages me. And, so, this Dominican Republic trip can be added to that list.

I won’t forget it, although the good feelings may disappear and although the trip was not as exciting for me because I didn’t fit in with the “que lo que” mentality of the group and the Dominicans. But I’m working on accepting myself as the quiet girl everyone thought was so weird. I long for community, but won’t always be able to have it. But I’ll always have God. And I’ll always have the memory of how this trip changed my perspective on other people, especially those who are different than myself. So, here’s to the future, as rough as it may be to navigate.

The stories I told

May 18, 2011

When friends and family members have asked how the Dominican was, I usually tell two stories. Well, I do so after I tell them it was amazing.

I tell them about Wednesday night when in a more impoverished neighborhood in Santo Domingo, we hung out with kids and teens in a place that really lived up to its name: El Refugio. I tell them about how the worship music actually related to the culture — hip-hop, merengue, Spanish rap? — and how it glorified God. I tell them about the family I met there across the street on Friday night who told me that even though we were in a poorer neighborhood he wanted me to feel welcome. So he welcomed me. And I felt a part of the community.

And then I tell them about Jimmy. The little league player on the Los Tres Brazos field who told us he wanted to fix his broken house. I tell them about his smile and sweet spirit, I tell them about his hope, how he prayed God willing, that he could make it to the big leagues.

The contrast of poverty and hope that I saw — hope not just in material possessions, but hope in Jesus — is what I still remember. I remember all of the times I felt God pointing out to me, saying: Look, this is what I am doing, this is how I am working. And I knew, despite the surface of problems I saw on first glance, that God was doing things in the Dominican.

So I told them about that. And I shared a few more stories.

-Amanda W.

“Pa Pa Americano”

May 17, 2011

2:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m.,4:00 a.m., 4:29 a.m. Buzz, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.

The slow crescendo of the Beatle’s hit song “I Feel Fine,” starts blaring
through my phone speakers. It’s time to wake up.

The trip I had been anxiously awaiting the entire two weeks before had
finally come, and yet I did not feel excited. I was not looking
forward to the journey mostly because I longed to be with my friends
and family back home. I had been listening to my friends before I left
talk about their planned relaxing vacations to Hawaii or their
extravagant roadtrips to San Fransisco and I felt jealous.

I was not excited about spending a week being stressed and sweaty in
the Dominican Republic. What I did not predict was that I would be
wishing to return by the end of our voyage.

The whole week was memorable. Things I will never forget: the tune of “Pa pa Americano,” cramming
twenty sweaty and sticky kids into a van, being clueless about where
we were visiting, being pummeled by the Dominican kids begging for
piggy-back rides, and having a baby boy pee on me in the Haitian
batey.

The memories I collected over the trip will never be erased, mostly
because everything was quoted on Mike’s Twitter.

The Dominican people taught me how to be more receptive to acts of
physical love. I cannot explain how having Iris wrap her warm arms
around me made me feel loved and want to reciprocate that same love to
others. The people truly have an exuberant joy that is infectious and
encourages me to mirror that kindness. The laughter and dancing of the
children displayed the freedom and cheerful hearts of the country.

Even the team that went on the trip. I felt so loved by and cared about! My sides hurt almost everyday from laughing so much.

Transitioning back into chaos here in California has been challenging.
I do not want to let the joy and peace that I found in the Dominican
go. I want to keep the reel of memories from that week playing in my
head forever. Sometime when I feel myself slipping back into the
complaining and apathy that is common here, I stop and reflect back
onto the trip.

I do not want to forget the hugs, laughs, and tears we shared.

-Christina Helen Bryson

“Now that I have seen I am responsible.”

May 10, 2011

A popular song writer, Brooke Fraser, wrote these words on a plane ride home from Africa.

She saw with her own eyes the suffocation of poverty. She saw with her own eyes the death and destruction of HIV/AIDs. This was not simply a photograph. This was not even a video. It was real life. She held these kids in her own arms and looked into their beautiful eyes.

Returning from the Dominican, this line was reverberating in my head. I saw a small glimpse of what life is like with so little. I saw the bondage of prostitution and sex slavery. I saw the potential God sees in these people who are weighed down by their circumstances. I had only ever seen these things in magazines or movies, never in such a tangible way. My senses soaked every part in; the sight of a mango-smeared smile of a child, the smell of the Caribbean air mixed with alcohol and flowers, the sound of a rooster’s repeated call.

Through observation, God gave me His heart for these people. He gave me His desire for justice. He gave me His desire to see these people be filled with His love and joy. This is a responsibility. We cannot see such pain without doing something about it. We cannot see joy in the midst of suffering without letting it change us.

- Jamie Corder

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