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D.R. Bound

Seniors’ annual trip to the Dominican Republic.

Presenting the Gospel can be a nerve-wracking step of faith for some people. Now, imagine having to do that in a foreign language. This is one of the many challenges that Worthington Christian senior class members face as they head off on the school’s annual trip to the Dominican Republic (March 14-21).

Senior Rachel Hooley, a member of the trip’s Green Team, has been designing a series of skits that will be presented to elementary school students in the Dominican Republic.

“It’s been a challenge, but so far, it has been going well,” said Hooley, who is taking Spanish 3 this year. “I translate most of the skits from English to Spanish, and then we’ll go in and tweak some of the scripts for people. We make sure they are not long sentences in Spanish.”

Science teacher and trip organizer Dawn McMahon said navigating the language barrier is only a fragment of the seniors’ challenges while preparing for the journey.

“There really is not anything easy about preparing to take 80-plus people to another country for eight days,” said McMahon, who is making her eighth school trip and was part of two alumni trips to the Dominican Republic. “All the details and prep work are 100 percent worth it.”

The trip to the Dominican Republic has been a Worthington Christian tradition since the early 2000s, but the missionary project was put on hold because of COVID in 2020 and 2021.

Senior Maddie Bradshaw said the trip is the milestone of many students’ senior year.

“In the past, I’ve seen all of these seniors come back from the trip, and they talk about their incredible experiences and the amazing things the Lord has done to help impact so many kids and how they were impacted.

“I’ve been just really, really looking forward to that. I’ve been praying we feel the Holy Spirit of God move while we are there.”

The trip offers seniors a chance to finally meet the Ensanche Altagracia Elementary School students their house has been sponsoring.

“Each house at the Upper School sponsors two children at our partner school (there),” McMahon said. “Our students contribute financially to the sponsorship and send cards and letters throughout the year to our sponsor kids.

“Each senior then can visit that school when we are there. Meeting these students is another beautiful and life-changing experience for our kids. They go from faces on a postcard to real-life people they can play games with and high-five and talk to about Jesus. Those moments are very special.”

The poverty in the Dominican Republic is often an eye-opener for Worthington Christian students. According to a study by the International Monetary Fund, the Dominican Republic remains on an upswing financially, but “the country’s standard of living is approximately one-third that of the United States.”

“All of us need to have experiences that remove us from our ‘bubble,’ that change our perspective and challenge our egocentrism,” McMahon said. “Proximity breeds empathy, so any interactions we can have with people who are different from us are healthy for better understanding and loving the Kingdom of God.”

One of the new experiences for students will be a chance to serve on a medical team made up of parents who are medical professionals by trade and school nurse Lisa Cunningham.

“They will open free pop-up medical clinics in local villages and give our students the opportunity to learn about medical missions while serving the local communities,” McMahon said.

Senior Deyonna Johnston, who is planning on a pre-med track at the University of South Carolina next year, is looking forward to being a part of that.

“It was like someone said, ‘Hey, you want to help out with the medical team for a day or something?” she said. “I was like, ‘Of course I’m interested in that,’ and I signed up for that right away.”

McMahon said the trip has a three-pronged purpose: deepening relationships between the students, increasing understanding of people from a completely different culture, and strengthening the trip participants’ relationship with Jesus Christ.

“They enter the trip with expectancy for encountering the Holy Spirit, and He meets them where they are, allowing them to join Him in His work in the D.R.,” McMahon said. “Often old wounds are healed, new relationships are built, and students develop a clearer picture of the Kingdom of God.”

Last year, McMahon said one of the highlights of the trip was completely unplanned. The group was scheduled to have evening devotions, but instead, it became an extended prayer and worship time.

“It was the most powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit I have ever encountered,” McMahon said. “Chaperone Joel Walton likened it to a place where the space between Heaven and Earth was thin.

“That thin space allowed our students to experience something together that shaped them, their relationships, and their understanding of who Jesus is. I will forever be thankful for that night in the Upper Room.”

Follow the Class of 2024’s adventures in the Dominican Republic.

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