My wife and I had a blessed opportunity to go on a business trip/vacation this past week to a place half-way around the world.
It's a place that I have heard many talk about sending mission support to, and no doubt a place that may be a once in a lifetime sight for me.
We went to the Dominican Republic. As I mentioned, this was a business trip and vacation, so we got to see some of the prime of the land in an area named Punta Cana.
We stayed at a resort, and did not venture away very much except with part of our group of 90ish, so we really didn't see much of the culture at all. What we saw was just the "flashiness" of a tourist area - fortunately, and unfortunately.
With what little Spanish (muy pocquito Espanol) that I can speak, I managed to find out a bit more about the culture and some of its people. If our learnings were accurate, the workers on the resort made a whopping $10 per day plus room and food. The challenge with room and food though is that many of the workers had to leave their family in order to do this. One young lady told one of our group that she has 2 children, and is only able to go home to see them every 3-4 weeks for a few days at a time. Another boat worker told us that he only worked for tips and that the money that we all paid to go on a fun boat ride (as a pleasure) all went to the company that owned the boat, and none to the crew. Another told us in the marketplace about how they only earned commission on what they sold, which wasn't much unless you did not try to barter. We were told that if we went to the market places, that we should never pay the sticker or asking price, and that we could probably purchase nearly any item for 1/2 to 1/3 of the asking price. I found this to be very true...including at a restaurant! I have never bartered food before!
Such a poor community - in our way of thinking anyway. You would think that everything would be cheap for the workers there. Housing, cars, gas, etc. We found out that the "average" house (with thatch roof) was over $100,000, and that most people on the island had to save for about 10 years before they could purchase any type of transportation. So, you saw a lot of motorcycles with multiple passengers, overcrowded cars, and a lot of walking.
How can such a place of desperation be beautiful in our eyes? What a bittersweet scene. These were the most beautiful beaches that I had ever seen. The people were some of the nicest that I have ever talked with. The workers worked multiple positions and you saw them nearly round the clock. How in the world could this not be a great place to live? Well, if you Google the area, you will find out quickly that out of desperation, the crime is unreal. We were advised to not go off of our resort (although we did venture out as a group a few times). There were armed guards on the beach at night. When we went to a restaurant off-site, there was a Federale with a pistol shotgun on his chest as we entered. We were cautioned that if we rented a car or bike that if we saw a police officer behind us...do NOT stop, as they are known for forcing you to give all of the money you have, and so on.
We didn't see all of this negative...we only saw the positives. Let me tell you about one more very positive that we saw as well...
In the marketplace, the workers are trained to lure you in and try to bargain with you to sell as much as they can. They are certainly nice, most were not pushy, and some even wanted to carry on conversations.
One of the first vendors that we went to looked very sad and gave up pretty quick on trying to "sell" us something as Kristie had told him that we would look at all of the booths before making purchases. He hung his head and turned around putting the items back on the table. As I was standing there, I asked him about his family. He proudly showed me pictures of his children. He began to smile much more.
It was then that we noticed a Bible sitting on his table where he took money. I asked him if he read it often. He quickly wanted to tell me about how he came to know who Jesus Christ was about a year and a half before. I didn't get into asking his beliefs and what church that he belonged to, but did ask him one question that made him perk up and get so overly excited that you could not tell he was the same person as just a minute or two before.
"Can you tell me what John 3:16 says?" I had to rephrase as he did not understand as much Inglis as I had given credit to. "Juan Tres:Dieceseis" I repeated. He smiled and told me in the best form that he could that we could commonly understand. It was beautiful to hear someone be so excited about one person asking him to quote a single verse of the Bible.
We ended up purchasing some items from this man. He remembered me even hours later when I went back to purchase a bracelet, even after hundreds, maybe a thousand people had come through the marketplace since we had been there. You see, Christ made a difference in our conversation. Talking about the Bible turned this man's gloom to happiness. Quoting a verse in his own best way that I could understand him - really made his day.
And we...send mission teams....there?
I wondered the rest of the day how many times that I have seen Bibles at a place of business in America. I wondered - even in my own state that just declared the Bible the official book of the state - how many business people could quote John 3:16. I wondered why none had ever asked me in my secular work what John 3:16 says. I wondered...would I see this man in my own country some day...doing mission work...
Think about it...