By Eric Hoogland, Paolo Alcala, and Emma Dekker
Today we started off the morning with some delicious breakfast (once again) before heading off to the GO Ministries compound to help out with different sports camps. We split up into two groups, one that went and played basketball and one that went and played soccer. At soccer we played a bunch of games on their beautiful field with a group of young girls. One of the players made us laugh by hanging out way offsides and calling for the ball by shouting “gringo!!!” every time one of us had the ball. After a few hours out in the hot Dominican sun we were definitely feeling the effects. Some of us ended the session by talking to the group of girls about the importance of women in sports and sharing some knowledge we have gained through our experiences as female college athletes. While some of us were at the fields playing soccer, others were on the basketball courts playing game after game with the kids. The kids were very excited to scrimmage us and show off their skills. The first 3 games were rough and we found ourselves losing but over time we built up some team chemistry and rallied together. We ended up winning the next four games. Let us remind you these were full court 5v5 basketball games to 16. To say the least, the five basketball players found ourselves extremely tired after playing, but they had a blast. It was amazing to see the smiles on the kids faces and the love for the game we all shared.
After spending the morning at GO’s Leadership Development Complex, we went back to home base for lunch of rice, beans, and steak, then headed to “The Hole.” The Hole is a place that we have been talking about all week, so we were all a little anxious to experience it – but we had no idea what to expect. It is a village in the middle of the city set on a river that used to be a garbage dump but after it was shut down people began building homes at the site. It set lower than the stores and city streets surrounding it – hence the title. We parked our bus on a curb, with some stores on one side and a sidewalk and some grass on the other. Just a few steps over was a turn leading down into the Hole, an alleyway that descends down into what looks like a maze of small homes leaning into each other, many in very poor condition. The walkways for this town weren’t wider than two people across, and flowing through the middle of the walkway was a small moat in the concrete of flowing water. I think all of us would agree that it was unlike anything we have seen before.
As we walked through the Hole we arrived to the church that we will be visiting tomorrow for a service. We met a couple of people who work with GO and the church and they talked to us about how the church started and about their stories. One of the men, named Estarlin, shared how he grew up in the Hole, going to the church’s nutrition center and playing basketball through GO, and how he is an example of how sports brings people to the feet of Christ.
After we met them, we walked back through the streets of the Hole, collecting kids as we made our way to the park. Our group flooded the park and the craziness commenced. We brought our balls and bubbles and toys and everyone was doing something different with so many children. Paulo played basketball with some of the kids and was working pretty hard. There was a young kid who was playing incredible. It was a great experience to just be in the sun and play with the kids.
We then returned to GO Ministries for the night. We were all pretty exhausted and ready for a shower. After we had the chance to clean up and soak in some of the amazing A/C we took a short walk to a GO Ministries store and Empanada restaurant. We had fresh empanadas and local juices for dinner.
After dinner we took a nice walk around the neighborhoods surrounding our home. This was a great time spent together talking and growing closer as a group and individually. Returning from the walk we had our daily debrief where we reflected as a group on where we saw God today. Everyday we see God in different ways and it truly has been a blessing seeing the way God has worked through each other during this trip. Next the team listened to Dan, Elisa, and Jake share their life stories with the group. Every night the group has had great conversations as we learn more about each other. Today was another great, long day filled with a number of amazing experiences. We are excited for what the rest of the trip has in store!