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Photo of a smiling student carrying a smiling boy on her back.

Seniors learn much about Christ, themselves, and each other during the trip.

During a meeting near the end of Worthington Christian’s senior trip to the Dominican Republic, one of Beth Rider’s classmates summed up the trip perfectly.

“One person shared, ‘Before this trip, I thought you could only do one of two things: you could serve God and live the Christian life, or you could have fun,’” Rider said. “Then she said, ‘Here I felt like I was serving God and having the time of my life.’

“The Dominican Republic trip is essential to the Worthington Christian experience. Otherwise, you leave here without understanding what the Christian life looks like.”

The March 16-23 trip was Worthington Christian’s first to the D.R. since 2019. After making its first D.R. trip in 2001, the school has made 20 trips to the Dominican Republic. The school planned a trip in 2002, but those plans were scrubbed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Worthington Christian then made the voyage every year from 2003 to 2019. However, the missionary journey was placed on hiatus in 2020-22 because of the Covid pandemic.

Principal Tim Kraynak made his first trip to the Dominican Republic with the school and called the event life-changing.

“It was an amazing experience. I have a greater level of appreciation of why we do it now,” Kraynak said. “Sometimes you can get into the mindset that the Kingdom of God is limited to the community you live in.

“When you go to a place like that, you realize the Kingdom of God also exists in a third-world country where people do much more with much fewer resources than we have.”

Part of the reason for the impact the trip makes on students is due to careful planning. Dawn McMahon was the trip coordinator, who was making her eighth school trip to the D.R. (six with the school’s seniors and two with alumni groups).

“Planning a vacation for my family of six is a lot of work,” McMahon said with a chuckle. “Planning a trip for 69 people is something completely different. You need a full year to plan a trip. We’ve already started working on next year’s trip.”

Prior to arriving at the Score Ministry Training Center in Santo Domingo, D.R., students were divided into red, green, and blue teams that would spend most of their time together.

McMahon said the groups were designed to break down friend groups and place seniors with other students outside their comfort zone.

“Somehow removing them from their normal circle of friends allowed the seniors to see each other in a different light and recognize gifts they didn’t see before,” McMahon said.

“I’m very thankful (for the team I was in),” Rider added. “Every day was a full day of togetherness from sunup at 6:30 a.m. to curfew at 10:30 p.m. We really tried not to let any moment go unused.”

Each group spent three days doing various missionary tasks, from sharing with people in the sugar cane villages, working with local elementary school students, and worshipping with students their own age.

Senior Meghan Mayotte was moved by the visit to the sugar cane fields, and seeing how the people lived was incredibly eye-opening.

“You see pictures of things like it online, but just seeing it in real life, you wonder, ‘How are they possibly living here?’” she said. “Their houses were like poorly made tree houses. Yet the people were so willing to invite us in and pray with them.”

“It always blows me away how much more hospitable Dominicans are than we are,” McMahon added. “If a random group of 20 kids from another country showed up at my door, I’m not sure I’d be like, ‘Come on in.’”

According to Mayotte, the highlight of the trip was being overwhelmed by elementary school students at the Emmanuel House in Santo Domingo.

A nine-year-old named Mery grabbed Mayotte’s hand and wouldn’t let it go from when the senior walked through the school gates.

“She was so sweet and joyful,” Mayotte said. “We didn’t even speak the same language, but we were able to connect. We all worship the same God. That’s something that is so much bigger than language.”

Mayotte knew the power the D.R. experience could have after her sister Amanda (WC ’19) went there her senior year. She also saw the void it created when her other sister Abby (WC ’21), had her trip canceled.

“For Amanda, the trip was a turning point in her life, honestly,” Mayotte said. “Ever since that trip, she wanted to return on a mission trip, and now she’s living in Haiti. Abby didn’t know what she was missing because her whole class knew they wouldn’t be going.

“I think during this trip, many people saw a glimpse of what heaven will be like.”

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