Sunday 1/8/17: Nadia Carter
The Dominican Republic is a mostly Christian country. Driving through the cities, there are several churches within blocks of each other, with services in Spanish as well as Haitian creole. Additionally, many walls were decorated with passages from the Bible about Jesus Cristo (Jesus Christ) and Dios (God). Given that we were here with a Christian mission, our experience was immersed with prayer and moments where we thanked God for the opportunity to be here to help. Many of the people in our group come from diverse religious/spiritual backgrounds, but were very receptive of a religious experience that varied from their own.
Today, we received a double dose of spirituality (going to church in the morning and in the evening). After breakfast, we headed about an hour to Batey Brador, where we attended a church service. The church was small – it consisted of a few pews and a stand for the minister. We were warmly greeted and welcomed by the church members. Fortunately for us, the pastor of the church translated his sermon to English, allowing us to become more engaged in the service. Surrounded by Afro-latino rhythms, the church was filled with beautiful music, making it hard to not clap or dance along. We were even invited to the pulpit to sing a song to the church. With some effort, we managed to sing “Amazing Grace”, in addition to the chorus of another song lead by Muni, to which the church members enjoyed.
It was most of our first times visiting a batey, the living community of the sugar cane workers. The batey was located right next to the sugar cane field, making it easily accessible to the workers. The workers reside at the batayes for free in exchange for their labor. As you can see from the pictures, the living conditions were different from what most of us are used to. The area was essentially very rural and there were no stores or centers that were easily within distance. Due to the remote setting, health care providers and aids, called promoters, come to the batayes and provide basic primary care needs, such as health assessment, testing, and treatment.
Our group briefly returned to the dorm to eat lunch, change, and then head to the beach. Today the beach was crowded due to its being a holiday. At the beach there was a restaurant and several vendors selling beautiful paintings, as well as other crafts and trinkets. The weather was hot, but luckily for us we had the ocean to cool down. The time at the beach provided us with a great opportunity to wind down and have some fun, prior to starting our volunteer work Monday. I personally believe it contributed to our group morale and gave us a chance to bond in a casual setting (especially those of us from different specialty tracks).
Following the beach, we returned to the dorm, to eat dinner, change, then head to an evening church service in La Romana. We entered a large beautiful church, where we were acknowledged and welcomed upon our arrival. This church was vastly different from that of the batey – there were 2 levels (ground floor and balcony), the décor was more modern, there were fans and professional instruments. Again, we were invited up to sing for the congregation. This service was totally in Spanish and lead by the women’s ministry. The music again, was beautiful and rhythmic.
For some of us, going to church twice in a day is a new record; however, it allowed us to see the vast differences between the 2 types of churches. Despite the settings being different, one thing that was the same was the wonderful uplifting spirit of the churchgoers. Even though our group was full of strangers, they all managed to make us feel welcomed and appreciated.