Friday, June 19, 2009

The Church in Latin America; Wartburg students first-hand experience in the Dominican Republic

From May 1 to May 15, 2009, eight Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) students accompanied their professor Judith Jones to the Dominican Republic, as part of their May term class, "The Church in Latin America."
Photo: Rosa, the woman in yellow, asked for this picture of, as she put it: "black & white together." The Wartburg team was in Batey Regajo, a sugar cane workers' community, where they had just finished distributing donated clothing & medicine. Rosa, the owner of the store behind the group, helped with the distribution by organizing the crowds and by translating from Spanish to Creole and vice versa so that the team could communicate with the Haitian immigrants in the community who had not yet learned Spanish.
Judith reports: We studied the history of the Church in Latin America (the good, the bad and the ugly), the structural causes of poverty in the Dominican Republic, and different Christian understandings of the relationship among mission, charity and justice.
During our two weeks in the Dominican Republic, we actively engaged in three service projects: 1) donating three chlorinators and teaching the receiving organizations how to use them; 2) distributing clothing and medicine in remote sugar cane company towns, and 3) working with students at a residential technical school for disadvantaged youth to prepare the ground and plant a vegetable garden and a variety of fruit trees. The seeds we used were open-pollinated so that the school students and staff can harvest seeds and plant more in coming years.

Photo: Dr. Judith Jones & Wartburg student Jessica Knutson teaching Santiago, the maintenance supervisor at the Episcopal Church's Bishop Kellogg Center in San Pedro de Macoris, how to use a chlorinator. Santiago will be responsible for producing chlorine solution to purify water at the Episcopal clinics and schools in and around San Pedro.

Photo: Dominican students & Wartburg students working together to plant a vegetable garden in San Pedro de Macoris. The soil was so rocky that we had to sift it before we could plant small seeds, such as parsley, green pepper & tomato.
All of the students said that their time in the Dominican Republic was a life-changing experience. Two of the students are planning to become doctors, and another plans to be a dentist. All three of the pre-med students stated their intentions to volunteer their services in the Dominican Republic and other impoverished countries -- once they are trained.
Michael, a student who blogged about the class, wrote the following: We read the following quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu in one of the class texts: "If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has his foot on the tail of the mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." After spending some time thinking about what this quote means and how it is applicable to my life, I cannot help but ask questions. How can I live a life with an abundance of 'things,' when there are people who barely have enought to survive? What can I do to make a difference. How can my faith play a role in fighting for justice and peace?
Melody's global missioner's note: What a shining demonstration of our "next generations of faith" in mission!