JOY is dedicated to creating sustainable relationships of service between colleges and deserving ministries in the Dominican Republic and other places where children face a cycle of poverty, abuse, and malnutrition. These partnerships encourage young people to invest in a lifetime of service through child sponsorship, hands-on service, and advocacy for incredible organizations who serving at-risk and orphaned youth. Our service trips are often a catalyst for young people to use their passions for purpose!
Miami University student Lindsey Rudek traveled with us to the Dominican Republic in January. Read about her experience of learning what it looks like to live joyfully!
Before I left for the Dominican Republic this past January with JOY, I said goodbye to one of my friends who had been on a similar trip and she told me “get ready, because you couldn't even begin to imagine what you're going to experience”. I took it with a grain of salt, but that is exactly how I would describe the two weeks I spent in Jarabacoa and Santo Domingo. There are no words that could explain exactly what I learned and took away from this trip, but there are a few things I will never forget.
One night our entire group was gathered in the small living area of the team house where we were staying. We had spent the past week together- serving at the schools, building relationships, playing soccer with kids and learning about what true joy is. An 18-year-old boy named Joel, who lives in Santo Domingo, was over to have dinner with us. After we ate, he shared his testimony of how God has transformed his life and given him a new purpose for all of his days going forward. When the power went out at the team house, we lit a bunch of candles and Joel picked up his guitar and started playing the song “oceans” by Hillsong united. While majority of the group sang in English, Joel and a few others sang passionately in Spanish. Seeing an incredibly diverse group come together and worship the same God in two different languages was indescribable. At this moment, I realized that although so many of our lives appear to be totally different, all of humanity shares a similar story.
It quickly became clear to me that we all want to be living for something bigger than ourselves. It doesn't matter if a person lives in a dirt house with no electricity and survives on some rice and minimal clothing or if someone lives in an excessively nice house with fancy cars and an over abundance of food. The fact of the matter is that you will not be fulfilled until you have found a purpose for your life- something to live for.
At home I am surrounded by people who are searching for their purpose. I have seen people transformed when they come to realize the hope that they can trust in for the rest of their days and the impact this can have on their lives. Seeing this exact same phenomenon happen with people in the Dominican was life changing.
Kids shared their stories of broken, tragic lives being changed forever by their realization that God died for their sins and loves them unconditionally. Prior to this I had been stuck in a bubble, only seeing the stories and struggles of people in close proximity to me. This trip gave me eyes to see the pain of those whose lives are very different than mine, but more importantly it gave me eyes to see the way God’s love and power is constant across the world. And how his love changes everything. This realization encourages me to spread his joy everywhere so that those who are searching can find their worth in something bigger than themselves and devote their life to the one thing that will fulfill them eternally.
The hope and trust in God that so many of the missionaries, teachers, parents, and kids have in the Dominican gives me chills. They believe that what they are living for is worth it. Even when things get hard they continue to fight.
I want to live like that, trusting in God more and more each day and genuinely believing that I have a purpose-to spread joy.
Do you want to be a part of a movement to bind your passions with purpose?
Join us on our upcoming trips in the Dominican Republic (March + May)
Not a student? There are many ways to #spreadjoynow