Misconceptions of Mission Work & Driving in the Dominican

I’ve struggled to feel like I’m on a mission trip so far this week. I’ve struggled to feel “out of my comfort zone.” Aside from an occasional lack of wireless internet (or at least the password to connect to it), and the water temperature of my most recent shower, there are few comforts of home I’ve surrendered.

But this leads to misconception number one about cross cultural missions. It’s not about being uncomfortable, it’s about building up the Kingdom. Our own personal comfort should not prohibit us from going wherever the people of God need to be served/encouraged/educated, but us being uncomfortable doesn’t really make it a noble pursuit. So whether you fly to an island or walk down the street, be a missionary — whether it makes you uncomfortable or not.

But I’ve still struggled to feel like I’m on a cross cultural mission experience. There’s an obvious language barrier (though today I did tell a man that I was not selling Cokes, that my friends were giving them out to specific people), and Santiago, Dominican Republic is not all that similar to Katy, Texas. But other than that, things have seemed strangely normal.

I’m teaching college kids most of the time, or hanging out with them at least. As it turns out they value the same things I valued in college — friends, free food, coffee, and sleep. So we sit in class and then we eat and visit and then we sit in class some more and during break times some of them sleep. The seminary here is doing some incredible work, and to see the community of guys gathered here is really encouraging. Kind of takes me back to my college days.

This leads to misconception number two — that people are “so different” other places. Sure, there are some cultural differences. But most folks are pretty much the same. They value their friends, their communities, gathering around some food or beverage and being together. If they can sort some life stuff out while they’re at it, all the better.

Another reason I feel kinda normal is because today I talked youth ministry with students. Funny enough, teenagers here struggle with the same stuff American teenagers struggle with, and youth ministers are asking the same questions. The conversation was enjoyable and robust. I walked away encouraged by the state of the church here and by the reality of its bright future.

I am going to write more about this tomorrow, but another thing that stuck out today was just how much tail G.O. Ministries is kicking for Jesus in this city. The scope of their effort is impressive, but more impressive is the strategy they employ. It’s all about strategic partnerships with local pastors. Everything that happens happens with that in mind.

And there is a lot happening. But like I said, more on that tomorrow.

Suffice it to say that leads to misconception number three — that the rich, white Americans need to swoop in to fix everything. Truth is we don’t. God’s given gifts to folks on this island to do the work that He intends to do. Coming alongside is the language G.O. uses, and it speaks to partnership, not a rescue mission.

All these experiences leave me feeling pretty satisfied, and not all that out of place here.  There are a lot of distinctions, but there is also much that is the same.

There is one thing is not the same, and that’s driving. I actually got behind the wheel of a vehicle and drove it today, Dominican style. i would equate it to walking through a crowded hallway in high school, except that everyone is walking fast and with their elbows out and eyes closed. There’s order, but it’s a chaotic order based on rules that are unwritten but you’re expected to somehow know. Bottom line: act like you know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. So I acted. And it was only a few blocks. All is well.

So much more to write and share, but dinner is on the patio tonight and I can smell that it’s almost done. Will post again tomorrow night.