Days 18-24: We did It! We have reached the end of this unbelievable journey. We all look back at our time together with joy, humility, and gratitude after all that we encountered while here. Before I get into that, I will let you know how our last few days went.
This whole week was packed with games. We played a game every day up until Saturday. Looking back on this week, as well as the rest of the trip, the opportunity to play against these guys was incredible. Not only was it cool to play guys from a country known for good baseball, but more so because we got to share time with other kids just like us who lived in a totally different world. This world is one of poverty, sickness, broken families, and extreme suffering. These kids, who on the ball field looked like any other kid, went home to almost nothing. Eighty percent of the country lives in poverty, making it a “third-world country.” What an easy thing to say, but yet still a harder thing to experience. We can’t even begin to comprehend what these guys go through on a daily basis. Some live in the equivalent of a tin can in scolding hot weather with very little clean water or food. To them, baseball is not just a game. It’s a source of life. Hope. For nine innings a day, these kids can escape whatever binds them at home. Here they can turn loose emotion, desire, and passion into something more than poverty.
For one particular game, we traveled all the way to Santiago where we were given a personal tour of the city and its main attractions. This included meeting the Governor, touring the Aguilas Cibaenas professional baseball stadium (home to Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada), and other tourist spots around the city. This tour was given to us by the Dean of Students of the University called ISA, an agricultural University in Santiago. We were treated to a great meal and also a wide support of fans. Sadly, all these gestures were done after the passing of the Universities 3rd baseman who had been murdered the day before. While the day celebrated a memorial of his life and also the welcoming of an “American team,” we all played with him on our minds and hearts. Culture there is different, however. They all wore a black ribbon in memory of him, but when it came time to do a moment of silence everybody joined in a continuous clap as if to celebrate his life and his passing from this life to the next one. We were all confused, but then reminded of the hope we brought with us that now we all celebrated. The hope that drowns the pain of death in the hope of life and resurrection. The way they celebrated his life was to play the game that he loved with the same energy and joy that they go about it every day. Makes you start to wonder, do we really know what hope means?
After we concluded our last game back at the UASD in Santo Domingo on Friday, we prepared for probably the best day we had all trip. Saturday was Awesome. We woke up to breakfast followed by a tour given by our bus driver. He drove us all around the city to show us the parts of the Dominican that the rest of the world doesn’t see. We were amazed as we drove through street markets filled with rotting food, fruit, and other things being sold to hungry and impoverished people. The glass of the bus windows really portrayed the situation well.. We live inside of it every day, completely oblivious to the reality of humanity. The cost of our freedom and well-being on the shoulders of these people. We fill our lives with expensive little luxuries to make us feel better or to cover up shame, when for these people just a clean glass of water would do. We talk about life being hard or lose hope at the thought of a pay cut or failing to live up to the world’s standards, while these people continue to walk in hope of something more. We rode over a bridge to look down at a city of tin box houses lying beside a contaminated river due to all the waste. The truth is, when I looked outside the window at these people and the lifestyle they live in, I saw myself and every other human being on the face of the planet. Hopeless and in need of a Savior. The same brokenness that is exposed to the world in these people’s lives is the same as what we hide behind our “status,” “wealth,” and “pride” that mask who we really are.
But still, in the midst of that, there is one more constant in us all. Hope. The reason anybody gets up in the morning in the first place. This hope can reveal itself in many ways and be hidden in our lives in places we don’t necessarily find at first glance. Our culture has told us to find worth in that which we can earn and accomplish. This can provide some spark of hope for a short while but what happens when dreams and reality don’t meet. These people didn’t earn what they are living in now. Most of them were likely born there and have never seen or hoped for anything more. The truth is, a lot of us here didn’t really earn what we have either. We just lucked out I guess?
Following the tour, we went to the beach for a little while and then returned to a Santo Domingo where we arrived at a children’s orphanage made up of all girls. We were met instantly by over 150 smiling, screaming, and laughing girls. Almost instantly we jumped into volleyball, patty cake, and all kinds of other games. It was a blast. So much energy, life, oh and Hope. After about an hour and a half of nonstop play, laughter, and fun we all gathered together as a group. There we spent time praying, sharing stories, and singing praise to our Wonderful God. Come to find out, most of these girls came from the very villages that we had passed earlier that day in the bus. How could anything good come out of a place like that? Maybe the same way anything good can come out of any of us. Cause just like these girls, we are all orphans, “hopeless” and in need of a home and a desire to love and to be loved. But then we hear the voice us our Savior say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). Maybe it’s time that we lose the pride of who we think we are and seek the reality of who we are. To accept and confess the brokenness of who we are and allow the only thing that can heal us to enter in.
“There is but one good; that is God, Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” - C.S. Lewis
I want to thank all of you for your support and prayers for us on our trip. It has definitely been an extremely life changing and life giving experience for all of us. So thankful for the opportunity to do and see everything that we did. Hope you enjoyed our story and that you can share in the joy.