We traveled to Santo Domingo and from there we went by van for two hours to the small town of El Factor. Our housing was a convent that had been converted into a preschool. We prepared daily to work with children from many neighboring parishes. Throughout our two-week stay we encountered close to 600 children. We began each day with Morning Prayer. Then we headed out by truck, sometimes into areas that had paved roads but others were dirt roads with shallow channels of water flowing through them. The day ended close to midnight or later when we had faith sharing on where we saw the face of Christ in others, and evening prayer which included examination of conscience.
Sr. Lisa reached out to the children in animated songs and told them stories of Christ in such a manner that the children ages two to teenager were quiet and listened. These sessions lasted three to four hours and we assisted by leading religious themed craft group sessions. Each day we would either have one or two sessions in different locations. The children were excited to make yarn covered popsicle stick crosses, tissue paper flowers in honor of the Virgin Mary, and backpacks to carry their crafts. They decorated the backpacks with crayons the stenciled words, “Jesús Me Ama!”
We assisted Sr. Lisa in preparing three Catechist workshops that were in separate locations. Sr. Lisa, through God’s providence, was able to give many needed materials to the Catechists. She found scraps of paper in a neighbor’s can. We used them in making small banners for the workshops and the excess were given to the Catechists to provide simple materials for their students. The Catechists were given markers, crayons and especially new ideas that would help their teaching for the upcoming school year.
During my time I deepened my own principles and Gospel values. I was made aware of this through my interactions with the beautiful Dominican people and their children. These people lived mostly without running water or electricity. They had very little material resources, food, furnishings or technology but they were happy people. We attended Mass in small chapels, churches, in habitat communities and even in a front yard. All experiences had a common denominator, the people were spiritually devout. Their prayer, their singing, their lives were rich in the spirit of the Lord.
I was blessed to be able to experience their richness of life, love and the immeasurable trust they have in God. I witnessed this every day with the Dominican people and especially with the loving presence of “nun-love” from Sr. Lisa, her Dominican helpers and the other young adult missionaries that I was honored to serve with. I carried that feeling back in my heart. I’ve always known that we must love and trust God to take care of us. Have I ever truly lived it? Have I ever had to? I know now that I have to foster the spiritual richness I received. I have to trust God and His love and know that it is all I need in life to be truly happy.
I now look for the face of Christ in everything and in the people around me. I see it in my mother’s eyes, my husband’s rough hands, the homeless, my co workers…and I thank God for the opportunity to keep living my Mission Experience everyday.
Elena Klopfer is Secretary of the Diocesan Office of Missions.