…but I thought you went on a missions trip??

or the who? what? where? when? why? and how? of our 2014 Dominican Republic trip…

I have uploaded 80 pics to my Facebook wall from our trip last week. So many people have looked and commented on my pictures of the beach and cousin lovin’ and the jungle monkeys. It has been fun to read all of the comments. My favorite comment, by far, was this, “I thought you were on a missions trip????”

So, if you bear with me (and read the longest post I have ever written), I will explain…

Last Christmas (2012), my extended family gathered around my sister and brother in law and their two girls. Tears flowed freely as we said goodbye to them. They were embarking on a great adventure…a two year commitment to Makarios International in the Dominican Republic as the staff and school medical director. Though we were all excited for them, it was hard for my heart to know that they would be so far away.


Over this past summer, God laid it on our hearts to go see them….to see where they are and what they do…and to help when and where we could. So, my man challenged our kids that all five of us would raise the money to go by working hard at any and all odd jobs we could find. Chad and I put no money into this trip. It was 100% earned by all of us by making and selling bags, washing and detailing cars, pulling weeds, moving bricks, and anything else we could find.





As the funds came in, we applied for passports and continued to add money to our coffee can. And we prayed here and my sister and niece prayed there.


By Thanksgiving, we found airline tickets that required us to travel through the night but by traveling that way, we had enough money to go. Oh the excitement! As we made plans, God showered His favor on us. Over and over again, we came upon things that seemed as insurmountable as a mountain. Each time that God conquered the mountain for us.

We packed our bags and loaded them with medical supplies for the school and things that my sister needed…and, on January 15, we saw the sun set in Chicago, and the sun rise in Puerto Plata, DR. And, there is no joy greater than being greeted by your nieces in their pjs!



We unloaded all that we brought and quite literally moved in to their house for eight days. My sister found us all nice mattresses and had us set up on various floors of her casa. For me, the greatest part of our trip was experiencing their life and learning how to live it with them. They live with little hot water and intermittent power outages. They’ve learned to wash everything they eat and where the safe places to get food are. We learned to brush our teeth with bottled water and to not flush toilet paper.

That first day, Thursday, we took it easy…a trip to the beach and then naps and such…after the night of travel. On Friday, we went to the Makarios school. We cleaned and organized Dr. Darren’s (my brother in law) office and helped pass out new uniforms to the students. We toured the school and joined in with recreo (recess). Ellen even stayed for lunch and afternoon class with my niece, Jenna. Later in the day, they taught us how to snorkel and Ellen fell in love! She took her new under water camera and stayed out for over an hour with Darren and Chad. Emme and Eric came didn’t last as long.




Saturday morning, Chad and Emme left early with Dr. Darren. Twice a month, Darren volunteers his time at a mountain clinic called Monkey Jungle. Chad and Emme volunteered with him and throughout the morning they saw over 50 patients. The rest of us joined them after lunch and were able to zip line and feed the monkeys there.



We spent the remainder of the weekend enjoying our visit with Becky and Darren. We went out to dinner on the beach and watched the sun set over the beach at Caberete. On Sunday, Jenna treated us to a trolley car ride up Mt. Isabel. While we were working hard here in the States to earn money to go, Jenna was doing the same at her house to save money to take us to her favorite spot on the island. She was our tour guide and did a great job!




Monday, we went to the Makarios House. This is where Doug and Margaret host the teams that come to help Makarios throughout the year. Because there was no team there, we were able to help them cross off some their “to-do” list. Chad used his great knowledge of mechanics to change the oil and flush the radiators of the missionaries cars. He found out how difficult it is to find simple tools in the D.R. Without things like oil pans and correct sized fuel filters, it took time and ingenuity to get the job done. We were all rewarded with a wonderful day getting to know Doug and Margaret and a supper of true Dominican food and the best fried chicken ever by Lucia, the Makarios housekeeper.




Chad’s mechanic skills were put to the test all week. At one point, both Darren’s motorcycle and Becky’s truck were not working. Many trips to various stores later, Chad was able to fix both. We saw just how important their vehicles are to them as we traveled back and forth to the school and to the Mak house. Darren has become more than just the doctor at the school. He’s also the doctor to the Makarios staff and to other friends they have there. He was called on a few times while we were with them and his moto gets him to where he needs to be. He even pulled sea urchin spines out of Eric’s foot.

Motorcycles, or motos, are the most popular means of travel and we laughed at the many things locals carry on their motos…anything from a washing machine to propane tanks. Becky’s car is used daily to get to the store and to take her and the girls to places that she volunteers her time.




Tuesday was a national holiday which gave Darren the day off. Chad and Eric rented motos and three of them took off for the day. They had a blast riding through sugar cane fields and mountainous roads. As the story goes, there were a couple of times of running out of gas and even a time of losing Eric in the town of Puerto Plata. After an all-day adventure, Eric’s motorcycle skills are ready for just about anything Indiana has to offer. 🙂

While they were riding, we went shopping and to the beach. The kids had Christmas money to spend and the girls spent theirs at a local market. It was fun to see them argue a price with the shop owners. It’s a good life-skill that they got from their father. 🙂




On Wednesday. Chad did more work on Becky and Darren’s vehicles. Chad and the kids also went on a village visit. Each Wednesday, the staff of the school visits a village of the Makarios students. The students come from three main villages and the staff goes to visit the families. I heard it was an amazing experience to see the homes of the students. I stayed back with my cold and took a nap. At some point, I caught a nasty respiratory bug and brought it home with me. I’m still waiting for my ears to unpop from the flight yesterday.

Thursday was our last day. Chad finished the vehicles and we spent the last afternoon at the beach. Chad and Ellen snorkeled one last time and we all tried to soak up as much sun as we could. And when it was time…another round of tearful hugs and a long flight home.


So, did we go on a missions trip? Yes. Did we go on vacation? Yes. You can call it either and be correct. And Chad and I decided that a vacation of serving is the best kind of trip to go on. In fact, while I sit and blow my nose some more, the other four are out shoveling snow right now for the next trip. 🙂



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