By Cory Kroon
This trip was my tenth to La Romana with the DRMT. Every year brings a different team and a different experience, and while I thought I had all the experiences under my belt, this would be a trip unlike any other. Don’t get me wrong, I am always happy to go and always looking for God to show me where I need to be as a medical professional, but this year he went above and beyond. This trip was the experience of a lifetime for this ‘veteran’.
The relationships that are created while in La Romana are life changing and grow stronger every year. This year, I was blessed to have four different relationships grow. Seeing Tata’s smiling face when we enter Casa Pastoral is always one of my favorite moments. You would think that seeing eighty-eight Americans walking through the gates would mean ten days of exhaustion but that’s not the case. The women who work tirelessly to feed us and clean for us do it in a joyous manner. When I was leaving Tata this year, we said “I love you, sister” to each other. The bond over thousands of miles, sharing ten days together every year, and sharing about fifteen words of Spanish, is one of the best relationships I have ever created.
The next relationship that was created and strengthened was with my team. As John has always said, the night before we leave, this is the last time that THIS team will be together. The bonds we create during the ten days in La Romana are some that cannot be broken and no one else will understand. New friendships are created and bonds that have already been there are strengthened in your experiences together.
Another amazing relationship is with Deivi, my sponsor child. His face melts my heart every time I see him. When you sponsor a child at the Joe Hartman School, you actually become their “Madrina” or God-Mother. I could not wait to see him. The relationship that can be formed, even with a language barrier, is stronger than any other.
The highlight of my experience was not in La Romana, nor was it with the Americans (Sorry guys). The experience that changed my whole trip started on Monday and peaked on Wednesday. For the medical clinics, we travel to a different Batey or Barrio every day. The opportunity to create a relationship and bond with the Haitians is during the time we are able to consult with them, or when we play with the kids outside. Since there are so many, it is rare that we actually visit a Batey more than once. A few years ago, we started building the houses for Batey 50 as well as providing them with food.
We have started to know faces and names and have been able to start creating those relationships with the people on Batey 50. After two years of Batey 50 day, we were even able to spend extended periods of time with the Haitians. This is when my relationship started with Reynaldito. Last year at Batey 50 day, he found me and we spent the afternoon together. We ate, laughed and danced to Maranatha. The day ended and the bond we created stuck in my head for the year.
However, after a year of being in America, and teams coming and going in Batey 50, I held onto those memories from Batey 50 Day 2013. Monday morning of the 2014 trip came, and we made our way out to Batey 50. We rounded the corner from the sugar cane and you could already see all the children out by the road yelling and screaming with excitement that we were there! We parked and went about our daily routine. I stepped off the bus, made my way over to the church and felt a tap on my arm. I looked down and found Reynaldito with a big smile on his face and he gave me the biggest hug and wouldn’t let me go. Throughout the day, I tried to see him and his family, but our time was short as we had to work. Wednesday came and it was the movie night. We were able to get to the Batey a little earlier than most, and Reynaldito and Carmela (his sister) took me to their house.
Reynaldito has seven brothers and sisters including a five month old chubby little brother. They and their parents live in a small few room house that is probably the size of my living room. It’s dark, it’s hot, but there is a lot of love in that house. Yolanda put on her best dress for the movie night. Carmela was showing me her parent’s wedding picture and baby Juan coo’ed without a care in the world. Their mother was happy to see me and happy to give me the tour of their house. The day went on and Reynaldito ran to me to sit with me on the ground in anticipation of the movie. Needless to say, it wasn’t the comfortable seating of the American theaters we have come to know and love. But to these kids and their families, it was the perfect night. Reynaldito sat with me, laid on me, let’s face it, I was the human couch. But about 30 minutes before the movie ended, I could see his eyes getting heavy. He turned on his stomach and fell asleep on my arms. I looked at him, peacefully and comforted by the 88 American’s who surrounded him, with a full belly of sandwich, juice and popcorn. I started to think of the house and bed he had to go back to. I wondered if that gravel he was laying on was better or worse than what he slept on in his house. But I took comfort in knowing that the Powers family was able to raise the money for him and his nine family members to have an extended house to sleep in, to find shelter and comfort in. That house was completed in the following week for them to move into.
The movie came to a close, and I woke up Reynaldito. He grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. I gave him a hug and kiss and told him I would be back next year. I don’t know that he understood me, since it was mostly in English. By the sad face, I think he did. I pray for him and his family. I pray for that amazing village that God’s love continues to run through it. I was sad that I would only get to see him those two days. But I will be eternally grateful for the time we were able to spend together.
Each trip has changed my life in a different way. Every year I come home and it gets harder and harder to live in America with our “first world problems”. Every year I come home more and more blessed. Every year I come home with a new friendship. Every year, I can’t wait for the 365 days to pass….and these will not pass quickly enough.
For more information in how to get involved in this life-changing work with the DR Mission Team, please visithttp://drmissionteam.org.