I am the minority. It does not make me an expert. It gives me an experience. An experience that I can share with all of you.
I am the minority when we are in the Dominican Republic. I have been called names and I have been treated differently because of my skin color. People have made assumptions about me. I thought about dying my hair black. I had trouble connecting with people because I did not belong. I had trouble communicating exactly what I wanted to say because of the language barrier. I have had moments where I did not understand what someone was telling me. Even in church, I felt the difference. People did not sit beside me because I was not the same. I am the minority there.
When we first moved (November 2016) to the Dominican Republic, I was constantly reminded that I was different. I was in a culture that was not my own. I only felt completely comfortable in my own skin when I was around other Americans. Group visits made me feel whole again.
But… over time those feelings changed. It did not come from some policy that the Dominican government instituted that made Dominicans treat me better. It did not come from more time with Americans. It did not come through a dream and it was not carried in through a breeze. I never dyed my hair black. So, what changed?
I developed relationships. Friendships were formed. Dominicans cared about me. Without awareness to the process, we took off all the layers of differences and found our common ground. We served others together. We relied on one another. We trusted one another. The barriers came crashing down. And the profound effects that followed give me my story to tell. Now, I feel myself gravitating to the company of Dominicans when I am around North Americans for too much time (sorry folks-just trying to tell the truth here). It’s not that I don’t love and care about my fellow North Americans and they don’t care about me, but it’s that I also love and care about my fellow Dominicans in the same way and I also have a sense of belonging when I am within their company. It is that middle space that I have mentioned in prior blogs. I do not completely belong to one group or the other anymore, but I find comforts in either setting. Give me a mixed group, and it is even better for me.
My experience leads me to give you some practical advice because I know that real change is not going to come from some government policy. While policy reform may provide some positive things, real change is going to happen at the individual level. Therefore, we need to change ourselves. We need to change our behaviors. If you do not believe that you have been called to do this, read the gospel accounts in the Bible. We have been called to care about all people. We have been called to care about the malnourished babies, the immigrants, the sick, the orphans, the widows, the foreigners, our neighbors, and even sinners. All people. That includes those that may be different than ourselves. Ok… returning to that practical advice that I have gained from my experience of living as a minority in the Dominican Republic.
- 1. Do not make assumptions. Reach out and get to know those that are different than you. It will not happen overnight. It will take time. You must develop and cultivate relationships. Stop thinking that it is not your job to do it or that someone else will. Feeling like you do not belong is so uncomfortable. Make people feel like they belong.
I have super close Dominican friends. Those relationships took time to build. They developed because my DR friends reached out and visited us and in turn, we felt comfortable to do the same.
- 2. Do not treat someone differently because they seem different. Do not make assumptions about how someone wants to be treated.
I remember my first trip to the Dominican. I served a week in a small town in Los Toros with Jason and a small group from our church. We stayed in homes in the town. Jason and I were in a grandma’s home with another couple and 2 females. I did not know a word of Spanish at the time. That did not matter to Grandma. She still told me everything about her family. She showed me all the pictures in her small hallway and talked about the people in those pictures to me. I have no idea what she said, but I knew that she was happy and proud. She knew that I barely understood a word that she was telling me, but that did not stop her from continuing the conversation. Her conversation with me invited me in. I felt the warmth and friendliness radiating from her. It made me feel like I could live in the Dominican because there was kindness. One 10-minute, conversation (conversation? Hmmm… I do not know if that is the correct word, but I am not sure what else to call it) had profound effects!
- 3. Serve together. You may need step #1 first, but I have realized that so many barriers are put to the wayside when you are serving other people together. Reach out and invite others to serve with you.
- 4. Be patient and empathetic. It will not be perfect. It may be challenging. It does not mean that you give up hope or run the other direction. As I always tell me kiddos- you can do hard things!
- 5. Pray. Ask God to help you reach out to others. Pray for those others that may feel marginalized or isolated. Ask for God’s eyes so that you may see.
This world needs us to care about one another.
If you have any personal questions for me about my experience, please reach out. I would love to talk about this more. I will never be able to express everything in written words.
We have been busy!
We have officially finished English homeschool for 5th and 2nd grade. We are taking a small break and are looking to begin again in early August.
We have picked up books at the local library, taken a lot of bike rides, gone swimming in the pond, gone fishing, gone hiking, played with friends, visited family, and maintained and enjoyed the fresh food from the garden.
We have been reunited with our dog, Zane. We had to leave him in the DR when we left in March because his rabies vaccination was not administered in time. Some friends that live/serve in Santo Domingo who helped care for him recently traveled to the US and were able to bring him here for us. It has been a huge blessing because we all missed him!
We have worked. We have made phone calls to supporters, sent emails, wrote/organized the rice and beans challenge devotional, had meetings, participated in discussions about ministry moving forward, and continued to be in communication with the Dominican clinics/child nutrition program that are still operational.
Jason has also been keeping his hands busy by helping friends with projects and helping on the farm where he was previously employed.
- Discernment. We keep hearing that the Dominican airports are going to open to international travelers on July 1st. We will be watching this closely and deciding when it will be the best time to return.
- For my brother’s funeral/memorial service on Monday, July 6th.
- For dental appointments for Miriam and Ethan.
Thank you so much to all of you! We appreciate you!