I can’t believe that exactly one week ago, at this time, I was indulging in my very last authentic Dominican meal- Chicken, Rice and beans. My mouth is watering now. They sure know how to cook over there! So, on to the second part of our adventure. I’ll rewind back to last Monday- our 2 hour bus ride down to the south side of the island. The busy capital city right on the ocean- Santo Domingo.
This was our ‘break day’. The only items on the agenda were the bus ride and an afternoon meeting with the IOM. The meeting went well, we learned that there is a great need for trafficking-specific shelters with aftercare for victims. Very specifically, the need is great for safe homes that speak Creole. A lot of the rescued trafficking victims are Haitian children, and they get put in a Spanish-speaking shelter, sometimes long-term. This is very difficult for them! My heart goes out to these children. So, we learned a lot, asked the IOM many questions, and they graciously gave us lots of answers. And, really, if I had a million dollars, I would start a safe home with a Creole-speaking house mom, and aftercare, counselling, discipling and everything these children need. Right now. No- yesterday. My heart for these kids is SO big.
The rest of the day included almost being run over by motorcycles (at least twice) on our long walk back to the hotel, and walking past a transformer that was on fire, then exploded (I thought it was a gunshot and that we were all going to die. I was a little on edge).
Seriously, there wasn’t a boring moment. Not one.
Tuesday, we got back on the bus and headed back north. We had no idea what to expect going to Jarabacoa, so we just figured it would be similar to everything else we had seen. What a pleasant surprise it was, as we rolled in to a beautiful, mountain town. We soon found out that it was the vacation destination for locals. If you saw my Facebook plea for someone to help book a hotel for us in Spanish, since there was no website, no online photos, hotel description, online booking, etc. You can see why my expectations were low. But, wow! What a beautiful town filled with beautiful people.
So, here we are, at La Alianza in Jarabacoa! La Alianza is an amazing ministry that reaches out to women trapped in the web of sex trafficking. They also reach out to women that have left prostitution, by offering a daycare program on the weekdays for their children. This enables the women to work without having to worry about childcare. The beautiful kids (from toddlers up to age 8) come and play games, learn social skills, get bathed, fed a good dinner (often their only decent meal) and receive a foundation of Jesus’ love in their hearts.
We did a few work projects while we were there. We painted the outdoor wall of their ministry centre (my fingernails are still orange, haha) and did some touchups and fixes inside.
We also got to experience some real Dominican-style shopping for the daycare ministry while we were there. Let me just say I wish I learned more Spanish before this trip, it would’ve made much of our trip easier. But, the locals are so gracious, and accommodating to all my mumbling and pointing (in my attempt to speak Spanish, pretty sure I spoke more French, ugh!). And, Madeline, she saved the day and acted as our translator for much of our time in Jarabacoa. Thanks, Madeline!
We filled up five bags worth of educational toys, Spanish books, playdough and even a chalkboard. We also brought along a suitcase full of donated items from our community. Thank you to everyone who donated in this way, your generosity was a blessing.
On our second evening there, we finished making the gift bags to bring to the ladies in the brothels (you can see in the picture below, even Nich got involved by putting bath poufs in each bag). There are so
many people in our community who got on board with this, and donated thoughtful items and funds to fill these bags. I have sought out most of you by now, but if not, our heartfelt thank you for your generosity and kindness. You donated nail polish, perfume, makeup, hair accessories, and more. The La Alianza team, Danielle and I got to walk into the small, dingy bedrooms of the brothels, look those sweet ladies in the eyes with great love, and hand them a gift. Our humble hope was that this would communicate to them that they are loved, cherished and blessed. And, I think it did. We don’t speak Spanish, but we let our eyes, kisses, hugs and gifts do the talking. And, we were under the wings of the lovely Spanish-speaking team at La Alianza that spoke for us, and prayed for the ladies. There were lots of tears. And, honestly? I’ll never be the same. I won’t dive any deeper into our time in the brothels on the blog, to respect the privacy of the ladies’ there. But if you want to hear my heart on this (or Danielle’s), we’d love to chat with you.
While we were in Jarabacoa, we also got to visit The Ark, an orphanage set on a beautiful acreage, with lots of space for the kids to run and play.
There are quite a few brightly-coloured houses houses scattered around the grounds. They each have a kitchen, living room, dining room and three bedrooms. Each has a house mom, and around a dozen children. The rooms are set-up camp style, with three bunk beds in each room. There is a boys room and a girls room in each house. I can’t help but think this would be such a divine place for a child to live- summer camp forever! How blessed these children are by this ministry. It was a pleasure to visit, tour their grounds, and play with their children!
Pretty sure Ryan would’ve stayed there all day if we let him. He has such a big heart for kids, and they are just drawn to him like magnets.
Glenn, the director of La Alianza, took us for a short hike to a beautiful waterfall while we were in Jarabacoa. The tropical scenery there is so divine!
On our last morning in the Dominican, we sought out an authentic Dominican breakfast. We bought mangoes from a street vendor, then crossed the street and Ryan braved a traditional cooked breakfast from a food cart. It was the tastiest mango I’ve ever had. And, if I never see a power bar again (my daily breakfast on the run) that will be fine with me. I will also never take clean drinking water for granted again. Or hot showers. Or the love of a family, healthy children and a loving, supportive community.
I am forever changed. We saw God at work, but also saw some dark places that desperately need His light. There is a lot of brokenness in the world. But, that’s not the end of the story. God always gets the last word. And, He has called us to shine His light and to be His hands and feet. I am learning that all that is required of me? Is to say Yes.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 MSG
We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. We saw the darkness of trafficking first-hand, and witnessed God’s light shining into those dark places.
We want to keep shining that light.
And, we want to stand beside the organizations down there that are a floodlight of love and hope to some of the world’s most forgotten people. We can’t do it without you, so we are so thankful for all your support! We are in this fight to end trafficking together.