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Students reflect on AMOR

By Jane Ver Steeg

The Nicaraguan AMOR mission team helped manually dig a water resevoir at Rancho Ebenezer, where Nicaraguans are trained to be able to sustain a farm on their small plots of land.

The Nicaraguan AMOR mission team helped manually dig a water resevoir at Rancho Ebenezer, where Nicaraguans are trained to be able to sustain a farm on their small plots of land.

Twenty-two Dordt College students traveled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic during the semester break, serving as mission workers with AMOR (A Mission OutReach).

The Nicaraguan team worked with two mission organizations in Managua: Provadenic, which trains Nicaraguan people in how to use natural resources productively; and the Nicaraguan Christian Academy, where construction of a new school building was underway. The team helped dig a 26,000-gallon reservoir at Rancho Ebenezer. The reservoir will provide that agricultural education facility and nearby residents with water during the dry season and also enable them to have indoor plumbing at the ranch. At the Christian Academy, the team painted an undercoat/sealant on a new building, dug a drainage trench, removed tree stumps, and used machetes to chop overgrowth so that a sand parking lot could be created, all without the help of any machinery.

The Dominican Republic team helped Christian Reformed World Missions volunteers lay the foundation for a new school in a small village outside Santo Domingo called La Pared. Over 500 students who previously had to travel to a school one hour away will now be able to go to school closer to home. During their time there, the AMOR team finished building a retaining wall, mixed hundreds of pounds of cement, shaped rebar, and began building cement block walls.

Sara Prins was struck by the obvious differences between the rich and the poor in the Dominican Republic. “There seemed to be no middle class or middle ground,” she commented.  Despite the language barrier, she got to know many children in a refugee village, and was invited to visit the home of a native girl, Yajaira, who offered her a coconut right off the tree in her backyard and braided her hair. Prins said the K-12 school will be more valuable to the people of that village than anything else she could have given them.

“The people we worked with were passionate about the work they were doing,” says Kearsen Boman. She noted that everyone in the community watched out for everybody else’s children, and they all shared living space and food. “Americans are much more possessive with their personal space …it was fun to see people living comfortably with their community.”

Senior Rachel Pontier said the relaxed mindset of the Dominican Republic was therapeutic. “I love the country and the people that I met down there, and I would jump at the chance to go back.” She and a Creole-speaking boy, Benito, managed to get each other to laugh, and her most touching moment was the night that Benito whispered in her ear, “I love Jesus.”

“I often wonder what it would be like to grow up in a culture like that, [where] the people... seem more content with life,” said Myron Kamper. "Maybe it is because most of them have so little.”

"People were full of joy, optimism, trust, and faith,” says Rosie Grantham. She enjoyed Ezeqiel, the son of the man who ran the mission center. Ezeqiel, who has been studying English, amused team members with language faux pas, such as, “Don’t worry, be huggy.” Soon Rosie was correcting Ezeqiel’s English, and he was correcting her Spanish.

In Nicaragua, similar relationships sprang up in spite of differences in language, lifestyle, and race. Merribeth Van Engen and Lisa Huizenga describe working and singing alongside a construction worker named Aleman who sang Christian songs in Spanish as he worked.

Dan Hummel’s reaction to the tin and wooden shacks that he saw was, “The kids that you see on World Vision actually became alive.” An agriculture major, Dan most enjoyed work at Rancho Ebenezer, where he helped with digging a reservoir, picking coffee beans, and even milking a goat.

Harah Sun, a political studies major, was not shocked by the poverty in Nicaragua, which was greater than that in the Philippines where she grew up. Nicaragua, devastated by several earthquakes and still living in the shadows of volcanoes, needs a lot of reconstruction. “People in Nicaragua are hoping every day that their lives will be better.”

None of these students had been on AMOR before, and each had to raise their own funds to make the trip, funds which primarily came from families, friends and churches. Several team members said the extreme poverty they viewed made them reconsider their own definitions of contentment, as well as their own stewardship habits. The trip made them more sympathetic towards the plight of others in the light of the love of Christ.

“One of the things I brought out of this is to ask ‘What am I here for, and what can I do with what I have right here, right now?’” says Merribeth Van Engen.

“I think that I will not take for granted as much where God has placed me, and instead of thinking how good I have it, search for ways to use my current situation and opportunities to serve God,” concluded Sarah Schaap in response to her AMOR experience.


Mission team participants

The Nicaraguan volunteer mission team consisted of Hannah Nuiver, Dyer, Indiana; Beverly Sparkman, Denver, Iowa; Sarah Schaap, South Holland, Illinois; Harah Sun, South Korea; Rachel Davelaar, Fulton, Illinois; Daniel Hummel, Coalhurst, Alberta; Lisa Huizenga, Highland, Indiana; Sarah Davelaar, Bigelow, Minnesota; Merribeth Van Engen, Sioux Center, Iowa; and team leader Sam Gutierrez, Sioux Center, Iowa.

The Dominican volunteers were Rosie Grantham, San Jose, California; Lori Rowenhorst, Orange City, Iowa; Molly McLaughlin, Clear Lake, Iowa: Kearsen Boman, Manhattan, Montana; Rebecca Groenendyk, Leighton, Iowa; Rachel Pontier, Orange City, Iowa; Brian Hannink, Modesto, California; Myron Kamper, Oakdale, California; Elbert Bakker, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Sara Prins, Lacombe, Alberta, and team leaders Arlo and Heidi Bakker, Sioux Center.