Amanda Zamora reflects on a recent mission to the Dominican Republic on Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity’s Franciscanized World. Photo by Amanda Zamora
I recently went to the Dominican Republic with 17 other people on a trip organized by Commissioned by Christ, a small non-profit based in the Arlington diocese that runs short-term mission trips. Our goal was to help the priests running a mission in Banica, DR, which is the center of a “parish” that serves a network of campos (villages) in the border area. The priests aim to say mass in each of their campos at least once a month. Our goal was to paint or otherwise upgrade chapels in four mountain villages, the largest being Guayajayuco, where we spent the majority of our time. In our short time in the mountains near the Haiti border, we encountered Christ in more ways than I could have anticipated.
We started our trip in Banica and nearby Pedro Santana — both poor towns, but relative metroplexes compared to the mountain villages. We discovered Sunday that the group just finishing their visit to Banica had been struck by a nasty stomach bug, so we avoided the mission compound, keeping busy with a visit to the Sunday market and a hike to the cave of St. Francis Assissi. Legend has it that he appeared in this hilltop cave, and now pilgrims hike to the top to shed their sins (and rocks that they have carried) with an act of contrition at the top. Returning from the hike, we joined a pickup game of baseball before heading to evening mass in in Pedro Santana. Afterward, the locals feted us with a welcome feast and an impromptu concert led by an old man and his tambón, assisted by washboard and accordion. Everyone danced, and the locals seemed surprised that this American could move.:)
At dinner, I noted our American instinct to cluster together as a big group and made a point to choose a seat at a table full of local children. I tried to honor a different American tradition in waiting until all had been served at my table to eat, but this ended up being a long time. The elder women were keen on ensuring all their visitors (and then, the other adults) were sated first. Finally, the children were served one by one, the youngest at the very last. They didn’t issue a single complaint or grumble, instead entertaining my halting Spanish happily (if not a bit cautiously). I decided that the children would be my guides for the remainder of the week.
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