DR Mission Trip

Last week was the fastest and slowest week I've had in a very long time. Ben and I had the privilege of providing dental services to a small village in the Dominican Republic alongside 3 other dentists and 30 team members from Fairview Village (a church in Pennsylvania). We were invited on this trip back in the fall and jumped at the opportunity to go on a mission trip together. I was so worried about leaving the kids and being away from them for 10 days, I didn't quite know what to expect for the trip, leaving me with little time to be nervous or excited, I just knew it was coming up and that we were going. Oh and Ben and I didn't know anyone going...or technically we had never met anyone face to face, just spoke on the phone to a few of the dental team members. 

After a red eye to JFK and a 5 hour layover, we met with the rest of the team, from Fairview Village, at JFK while getting ready to board our flight to Santo Domingo. Few hours later, then a long time in customs, a van ride to the Work and Witness house in Santo Domingo, we finally got to say a longer hello and meet the people we would be spending the week with. Sleep came soon after and then we packed the vans again in the morning for a 2 hour ride to a remote village called Rancho Arriba. Now when I say we loaded up the vans...I mean loaded a big cattle truck with bags and bags and bags of medical/dental supplies for the clinics, and then our own personal suitcases. The team from Fairview Village has been visiting Rancho Arriba for 8 years working on the Child Development Center...which has now been mostly completed with a second floor that includes a chapel and an orphanage. 

That's the big cattle truck we rode in everyday...but initially it was packed to capacity with supplies and suitcases.  Inventory on clinic supplies when setting up our rooms. Dr. Crystal hard at work as the extraction queen. 

That's the big cattle truck we rode in everyday...but initially it was packed to capacity with supplies and suitcases.  Inventory on clinic supplies when setting up our rooms. Dr. Crystal hard at work as the extraction queen. 

Everything was set up on Sunday for work to begin on Monday morning. Once the morning came, the dental team worked nonstop to see as many patients as they possibly could. It's quite difficult to explain how smoothly everyone worked together. It was amazing! For a group of dentists, 3 wives as assistants, 2 women who became our sterile techs, a high school girl as another assistant, and one "office manager"...no one knew each other, no one tried to prove anything, and everyone was humble and ready to serve in any way possible. It was so incredible to see how willing everyone was to step up and help where it was needed. To sum the process up...we worked for 4 days and saw approximately 246 patients!!! 

Dr. Ben and a beautiful smiling girl.  Kids can play soccer anywhere...this is the "playground" at the center.  Another beautiful smiling face we saw daily at the center.

Dr. Ben and a beautiful smiling girl.  Kids can play soccer anywhere...this is the "playground" at the center.  Another beautiful smiling face we saw daily at the center.

So now to process everything...we worked hard, we rested not so well, time flew by, I missed the babies, and now we're back in Oregon and back to the daily grind. Lives continue in the DR and lives continue here. People have asked me what the trip was like, how were the people, what the conditions were like, etc. I've been to worse places, seen worse conditions, seen people worse off is what comes to mind first. The people of Rancho Arriba were welcoming, they were happy to have dental services provided to them, they were thankful for pain being gone, they came back to thank the dentists for removing teeth and removing pain, they made us fresh coffee when there was little to else to give, they thanked the team for their hard work and dedication over the years, the kids were always smiling and giving hugs and high fives. Their homes are little shacks, most people ride motorcycles around towns, the roads need a lot of work, the food is delicious, the weather is perfect, wifi is unreliable, and the people are kind and have beautiful souls. 

All the dentists hard at work...and my favorite photo: the view from our "clinic" space (aka one of the classrooms) onto the generator that ran the clinic and drying clothes.

All the dentists hard at work...and my favorite photo: the view from our "clinic" space (aka one of the classrooms) onto the generator that ran the clinic and drying clothes.

Views of Rancho arriba

Views of Rancho arriba

Every day we loaded into the back of the cattle truck to go the short distance from our hotel to the child development center. Every morning we passed coffee plantations, and every morning the fields and mountains surrounding the village looked different. Some days the fog was really low lying, adding some mystery to the fields, other days the lush green colors of the fields shone brightly as the sun was rising. Although the ride was bumpy and windy, it was such a beautiful and serene landscape to take in before the rush of the day took over. 

Homemade coffee shared by "mama". And more views around the village. 

Homemade coffee shared by "mama". And more views around the village. 

Before going on the trip I was caught up in my own tangle of life...basically I had my head up my own a**, to put it bluntly. I don't know if I experienced something dramatic on this trip or had any major revelations, but it was really good for me. Sometimes the best way to get out of our own heads is to focus on others. To love others, serve others, do something for others...and that's exactly what we did. Not to say that my life issues don't matter, but a little change in scenery and a dose of reality is really beneficial. It just gives you different perspective on life. It helped to reset my brain a little bit. I'm a believer in routines and schedules, but this week away has shown me that routines aren't always super beneficial, flexibility is good to have, and that everyone needs to be on "island time" at least once a year to truly learn what it's like to be present and find joy in the moment. 

Last day was spent exploring Santo Domingo and the Colonial part of town

Last day was spent exploring Santo Domingo and the Colonial part of town

The dental team saying goodbye on the last day.  And as always, a selfie of Ben and myself (necessary on every trip).

The dental team saying goodbye on the last day.  And as always, a selfie of Ben and myself (necessary on every trip).

It was a whirlwind of a week, and like I mentioned earlier, we're back to the groove of everyday life here. Work is stressful for Ben, kids have way more energy than I do, a little more coffee is needed to get moving each morning, but it's a pretty good life considering those are my struggles. We're already thinking of the next time we can go and serve together, hoping it happens sooner than later. 

With love,

Ella

P.S. if you're interested in seeing more photos of the trip I shared a ton more on FB. Feel free to click here and check out the album. Thanks for stopping by.