San Juan, Dominican Republic – Vero Beach missionary Sara Hansen has made a few discoveries about herself and life while digging canals in the Dominican Republic.
Guatcupita, one of the worst slums of San Juan, is the place where Hansen and her 45 other missionaries have spent several days trenching canals to help stem the flooding waters when the rains come.
The rain does more than flood the residents’ shacks, Hansen writes in her blog chronicling her 11-month-11-country missions trip as part of The World Race Christian Missions. The rain promotes disease and mosquitoes.
Upon entering Guatcupita, Hansen’s team is told that this is “where the thieves, where the drug lords, where the demons are.”
Undeterred, they proceed.
“Once our feet hit their border, they’re on us,” Hansen writes. “Swarms. Dark skin, filthy torn swatches to no clothing covering their bodies. Ailments of all kinds exposing themselves on the outside, their eyes reflecting those on the inside. And all it takes is one of us to lean forward and offer, ‘Como te llamos?’ Smiles break out. Bright eyes ignite. Dirty, miniature fingers become intertwined with ours not willing to let go until we pull them apart to begin our work. “
Not quite a full month into her journey and already Hansen is learning more about herself and the world around her.
“Since launch, I’ve been noticing this trend,” she writes. “It’s more than sharing. It’s sleeping where there is literally enough space for a body to fit horizontally. It’s taking a small portion when you’re starving so you know there will be enough for the end of the line. It’s interceding for those you don’t have a relationship with. It’s living in community.”
Hansen writes that it’s a new concept for her – a self-proclaimed “I like my space” introvert.
The close proximity of those she travels with has made “personal space seem like Never Never Land,” she says.
“When I say, ‘Nothing is my own’, I mean it,” she writes. “Time is not owned by me anymore. My emotions are no longer mine to withhold. My energy got high jacked a few hundred miles back. I can’t really recall the days when I owned stock in personal space.”
The train of thought leads back to her calling to missions work – Jesus.
She writes that Jesus walked the earth helping others, that he gave freely to all around him.
“He didn’t become sullen, hide inside his iPod and check out because He was having a bad day,” Hansen writes.
A few other things she has learned, she posted in a “You Might Not Realize…” blog entry.
The following is a sampling:
Packing everything you need to survive for the next year of your life into a pack that fits on your back is not normal.
How much water it actually takes to flush the toilet. Until you have to fill up a bucket with water every time you have to go…
How much water you actually use when taking a ‘quick’ shower.
You really can be thankful for just a roof over your head and food in your belly.
Cockroaches really aren’t that scary – Even ones that are the size of large chihuahuas with wings.
It is possible to quit caffeine cold turkey.
How often you can have acceptable, detailed conversations about bowel movements during meals.
The value of toilet paper.
Conflict breeds intimacy. There’s nothing to be scared of – it’s life.
The world is a more interesting place when you choose to say yes to things that make you uncomfortable.
To read more about Sara Hansen’s missions journey around the world, visit her blog at http://sarahansen.theworldrace.org