Two Weeks In: A Student Reflects on A.One.8
By Lizzie Butler
23 July 2017—The first two weeks of A.One.8 are wrapping up. Just one more day and we’ll be heading down to the Dominican Republic. So far, this trip has been full of learning, experiencing, and growth. Our team of 12 has grown individually and in community with one another.
Our first weekend together was spent canoeing down the Peace River. It was a trip that pushed us all out of our comfort zones in many different ways. We experienced the beauty of God’s creation while also getting to know one another and figuring out how we work as a group. Together we overcame physical obstacles, material loss, and some discomfort. Many of us found it to be challenging, but a worthwhile experience. This weekend led into our stay at Warner University, where we spent our first week learning about culture, each other, and what serving on a short-term missions trip should or shouldn’t look like. Throughout the week, we were provided with a small tastes of different cultures as we ate a few ethnic foods and visited places like a Buddhist temple. Our perspectives began widening as we were taught a lot of meaningful information. We began living in close quarters with one another, and the start of community in our group began to bloom. We, thankfully, experienced the comforts of air conditioning and electricity in this first week, and savored every moment as we knew our time at h.e.a.r.t. was approaching.
h.e.a.r.t. stands for hunger education and resource training. The h.e.a.r.t. village is a part of Warner University’s campus, and it provides a feel of what it would be like to live in and serve in a rural setting in developing countries. I have to be honest, if you do not look into what h.e.a.r.t. is before coming here, when you arrive, you will be surprised. We arrived for our weeklong stay in the h.e.a.r.t. village this past Sunday, and we had gotten a taste of it the week before when we came for the canoe trip.
The time at h.e.a.r.t. has stretched me and pushed me in ways that I haven’t been stretched before. Experiencing life in the heat of Florida without air conditioning, with minimal electricity, and with hardly any protection from bugs, made me realize how much I depend on my personal comfort. When I lose that comfort, I tend to focus on the discomfort and forget to put my whole self into whatever it is I’m doing in that moment. This week taught me to let go of that dependency and listen better to and obey what God is calling me to do in each moment. It may have taken me awhile, but as I’m sitting writing this, on a swing tied to a tree in the middle of a clearing in what seems like an actual forest, my feelings towards this place are much different than what I felt the first night while lying in my bed in the hot, humid, and crowded space of our cabin. Our time spent here has helped us grow even further in community. Being forced to spend time and interact with one another and work together in different agricultural areas has helped us to see one another and know each other surprisingly well for what was a fairly short amount of time.
During our week at h.e.a.r.t. we also had the opportunity to experience and serve at the Lake Wales Care Center. This is a wonderful outreach ministry with many different programs that benefit the Lake Wales community as a whole. It was great opportunity to serve and learn what it means to not just help people but also help them help themselves. We were able to participate in Meals on Wheels and home visits and repairs, and learn about emergency services. We also visited the Care Center’s thrift stores, medical clinic, and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program. Through serving together in each of these areas, we saw what it truly means to serve in a Christ-centered, accepting, responsive, and resourceful way. We saw how bridges can be built between those in need and those with a desire to serve.
On Monday, we will head out early in the morning to fly from Tampa to the Dominican Republic. We hope that the experiences we had and the things we learned these past two weeks will enhance our time in the DR. I also hope that many of us will bring what we have learned back to each of our own communities and use this time as a starting point for moving forward.