By Gabby Mejia
Batey Lecheria, Dominican Republic
I have been serving as a missionary in the Dominican Republic for about 8 months. It has been an incredibly humbling, challenging, adventurous, overwhelming, crazy time. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about this culture, but most importantly, I have deepened my relationship with Christ by serving His people.
|Gabby Mejia (far right) with the Holy Child sisters
and another volunteer in the Dominican Republic
This experience has not been how I thought it would be, in reality, it has been better. I thank God every day for calling me here and for trusting me enough to serve His people in this way.
I found out I would be moving to the Dominican Republic in February of last year. It always seemed far away. I thought, “I’ll be leaving in 5 months” or “oh whoa I can’t believe I’ll be leaving in 2 months.” As the time for my departure drew near, I started to think about all the ways my life in the next year would change. I realized I was being given an opportunity to live in a beautiful country for a year. I was going to be able to spread God’s love to people who the world seems to have forgotten about. That’s why I was going.
The first couple of months were difficult. Getting accustomed to a new culture, new people, new everything proved to be more difficult than I had imagined. There were times when I doubted my ability to stay here. However, I always repeated to myself the quote that says, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.” I definitely found that to be true.
The first couple of months came and went and I found myself in a much better place. Sure, there were still some things I was getting used to, but the doubt that once cluttered my mind was no longer there. Instead, I found myself building relationships with the kids, with my fellow teachers, and with my community.
I’m serving as an assistant teacher in a school in one of the bateys in the Dominican Republic. Bateys were once used to house immigrant Haitians that came to work the sugar harvest. However, since the cane industry dried up, bateys are now home to Dominican and undocumented Haitian families and are some of the poorest areas in the Dominican Republic.
Many of our kids have behavioral problems. Many witness family violence regularly. Many are victims of abuse and maltreatment. Many are hungry. All of them, however, are beautiful children created in the image and likeness of God. All are worthy of love. That is what I have tried to share since I got here. My mission has always been to spread love. Though sometimes I may not know what I’m doing as a teacher, I know that these kids, mykids, know that I love them. To me, that’s all that matters. I am incredibly grateful to get the opportunity to serve these lovely kids and people who show me every day that Jesus is alive and works in us.
As I embark on my last few months here, I can’t help but look back at the last 8 months and see how much this experience has impacted me. It has changed the way I see the world. It has helped me grow as a person. It has also taught me a lot about faith. This experience is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
I know that once I leave, these kids’ lives will continue on as normal. They will grow up and may not even remember me, but I will always carry them with me in my heart. I have always loved the poem titled “Do It Anyway” by Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and I think it sums up my experience as a missionary beautifully. The end says, “The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give it your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”