What I'm Doing

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My Dominican Republic Trip

If you've been following my blog, you'll have noticed a couple things. First of all, I've been updating at an abnormal frequency the past week. Secondly, all these posts include photos of a trip to the Dominican Republic. So, here's a bit of an explanation:

Why I Was In the D.R.
I was in the Dominican Republic for the Kosmos conference. Kosmos is, as the promotional materials say, "a missions conference on the mission field." It was put on by my church in conjunction with SCORE International, a missions organization that has a facility (including a hotel and clinic) in Juan Dolio, a town near Santo Domingo. The idea for the conference is that each day will begin and end with preaching, speakers, etc., and, in the middle of the day, everyone goes out to "the field" to work with missionaries in surrounding villages. While evangelism is certainly an important part of the activities of this conference, the main thrust is exposing young people to missions, hoping to inspire (i.e., God would call) some to missions in some capacity.

Oh, and, while some of the groups stayed at the SCORE hotel, the conference itself was held at the "Costa Caribe Coral by Hilton" resort, where most of the people (including us) stayed (except, on the first and last nights my group stayed in the SCORE hotel).

I went on this trip because our former college pastor, who is now working in the missions department of the church and who I have lunch with every Tuesday, encouraged me to go, along with some other people from my church. I had wanted to do something worthwhile with my vacation time (not that lounging on the beach in Hawaii isn't worthwhile, but I don't think I'd be doing that, anyway), and this was right here. Being the kind of guy I am, I figured, "What the heck?" and decided to go. Oh, of course, this was after praying for direction and not receiving an answer. That never seems to work, anyway...

What I Did In the D.R.
The first few days of the trip, my church's group served as staff for the conference. We were split into two teams, one smaller group that went to the airport to meet incoming groups and get them onto the buses back to the hotels, and the rest to get the groups registered at the hotel and orientated for the conference. The first day, I was on the group that stayed at the hotel, and ended up watching the luggage. The second day, I went to the airport and ended up watching the luggage truck. The third day, I watched luggage at the hotel again.

The conference started Monday night. Once the conference started, my group was no longer staff, but just normal attendees. The schedule was very packed, and there wasn't much time for anything but listening to speakers, eating at appropriate times, and going to "ministry time". Oh, and sleep at night. That lack of time was the most common complaint, and one which will be fixed for the next Kosmos conference (this was the very first one).

The conference schedule basically consisted of 4 speakers in the morning, lunch, "ministry time" (when we go out to work with the missionaries), dinner, and a speaker in the evening. The conference ran until Friday evening. On Tuesday and Thursday, my group visited some villages around the area. On Wednesday, we visited some apartment buildings.

On Saturday, most of my group flew home. However, some of us (including me), had to wait until Sunday. So, Saturday, we checked out of the resort and moved back to the SCORE hotel. We then took the morning and went to Catalina Island, which is supposed to be, basically, some nice, resort island or something. I'll give that experience its own section. Afterward, we just enjoyed the evening at the SCORE hotel. Sunday, we had a church service with some others at the hotel, then went to the airport, did the normal airport thing, got on a plane (I picked up some duty-free coffee beans at the airport), and then went through all the crap one must go through to get into the USA.

Catalina Island
Our excursion to Catalina Island was very interesting, and I think it deserves its own section. We traveled about an hour or so to La Romana to get on a boat that would ferry us out to the island. Our bus was supposed to return at 5pm to pick us up, I believe.

We went out on the boat, and, as we approached an undeveloped part of the island, the boat stopped so people could snorkel. Then, we made our way around to the beach. As we approached the docks, we got pelted with rain so heavy, you could hardly see. After a few minutes, the rain let up, and we got to chill out for a bit. I believe there was a bit of rain off-and-on throughout the time we were on the island, and the sky was ominously gray the whole time. We had lunch, hung out for a bit, but before we actually got to get into the water, they announced the boats were getting ready to head out.

So, we had to leave early (I suppose this was due to the ominous clouds). As we pulled out, the heavy storms hit again, and didn't let up even when we got back to La Romana. Since we were back early, we stood huddled under some trees for an hour trying not to get any wetter than we already were (well, the wetter we were, the colder we were) while we waited for our transportation. It was really a good time, with a group of good-humored people. As Johnny (the aforementioned former college pastor, who was there with his wife and two of his sons) said, "At least it wasn't sunny and boring."

On the way back, the streets of La Romana were flooded. Most people seemed to just be standing around inside the shops, a few wading through the streets. On the bus, we were getting cold, so we opened some windows. A few minutes later, a number of young adults, teens, etc. started swarming the bus begging for money. The bus driver finally told us to close the windows, which we kept closed the rest of the ride. Once we got out of the flooded area, we came upon an intersection where traffic was being rerouted around a block because there was a car on fire. This car was really burning. I hope no one was hurt.

We eventually made it back to the SCORE hotel, and dried off. It was definately an experience.

I was going to post some thoughts I had over the past week, but I've run out of time for now. I guess I can do that in a later post. For now, it's bedtime.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Catalina Island

My last late post. On Saturday, most of our group went home. Those of who were staying until Sunday went out to Catalina Island for the first part of the day. In the photo, some of the group went snorkeling. Once we got out to the island, it started raining. A lot. The ferry ended us leaving early, so we ended up waiting in the rain for our ride back to the hotel. It was fun, though.

Dinner On Friday

This is a few days late, sorry. I've been busy. On Friday evening a small group of us went to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. It was a great time with great conversation. I can't remember a lot of the conversation now, but we discussed everything from politics to postmodernism and the emerging church.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Reflection Time

Today was the last day of the conference. As such, instead of ministry time, we had reflection time. Each church group met together and shared any insights we had over the week. We got off subject for a little bit, and I probably talked too much, as usual. I need to learn to talk less. We did get back on track, though, and had a good time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thursday in Another Village

Today, we visited another village. The photo is the home of a local convert. I didn't catch the whole story, but as I understand it, his house burned down (?) some time ago, and a Baptist church from Santo Domingo helped him rebuild. When the missionaries came, he and his family believed and were baptised. Now, he's planning to build a church in the village.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Visiting Some Apartments

Today, we visited some apartments in a somewhat better off area. The homes here were a vast improvement over the village. I don't think there people would be considered poor, but the village probably would be. The people were very nice and even invited us inside. We got to talk with some, and handed out tracts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tuesday Evening

Tonight, Johnny Hunt spoke as a keynote speaker. He spoke on the four lepers in 1 Kings 7, and how we who have the Good News of God's provision should not be silent about it; rather, we should proclaim it. The photo above is Johnny, Janet (his wife), and Kelly, a friend from church. Also, Anna, from Columbia, who lost her first husband in the jungles while doing mission work, shared her story.

Visiting a Dominican Village

Today, we visited a local village where missionaries a trying to start a church. This is some of our people playing a game with some local children. It was an interesting time; I enjoyed it. One thing I wonder: would there people consider themselves poor? Is our calling them poor just cultural arrogance? I think it's a question worth asking.

First Morning of the Conference

We just had our first two speakers this morning. Johnny Hunt gave a short devotional on God's provisions for us when we obey Him. Then, Carrie McDonnell told us her story, how she became a missionary, and ultimately lost her husband and nearly lost her own life in Iraq. We also had our first breakout session, though I can't remember the speaker's name. He spoke on Hell, and saving people from it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dinner with Our Pastor

Tonight, we had dinner with Johnny Hunt, our pastor. He will be speaking tomorrow evening. I forget who is speaking tonight, though.

More Luggage

More groups coming go today. This time, I've returned to watching luggage at the hotel. This is the last day of receiving groups; the conference starts tonight. In other news, good signal has been hard to find today, so I've not been able to check email. I can use the hotel's Internet connection for $5/half an hour, so I may do that he I get time.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Playing Chess at the Airport

At the airport, Jonathan and I were giving the task of watching the luggage on the truck. This got a little boring, so I pulled out my chess set and we played a couple games. Finally, I'm finding more people to play chess with.

Sunday Morning Worship

UPDATE: Ron Bishop is the president of SCORE International, not just the D.R. facility.

This morning we had a small worship service before starting the day. Ron Bishop, director of the SCORE facility in the DR spoke about God wanting to scatter His people around the world to spread the Gospel.

Now, we're about to eat lunch and my group is going to meet other churches at the airport.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Schedule for the Week

I'm not sure if this is readable, but this is the conference schedule for the week.

Breakfast on Saturday Morning

Here we're eating breakfast at the SCORE hotel, and getting ready to move to the Hilton where we'll be staying the rest of the week. This hotel's pretty nice, but everything except the rooms is outside. The DR is really humid.

Friday, June 16, 2006

At the Airport

We just arrived in Dominican Republic. The flight was good and on time, and I'm happy to find I still have Internet access on my phone. Here's everyone loading our luggage onto the buses that will take us to the hotel.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Energy Drinks: The Phenomenon

In high school, my brother did some news anchoring for his school's weekly news show. Check out this humorous segment he and his co-anchor did on energy drinks: