The Secret Thoughts of a COTN Volunteer

10/16/17

Four young women spent their summer volunteering with COTN–Dominican Republic on a college-immersion trip. Kristina, Kadyn, and Bekah spent eight weeks in the Dominican Republic, teaching summer school, helping at the clinic, assisting in medical trips, and living day-to-day life with the locals. A fourth student, Courtney, spent much of the summer stateside but traveled to the Dominican Republic for two weeks to join the others.

At the end of their time, they shared their experiences and wrote an in-depth reflection of what it means to serve on a long-term mission trip. Keep reading for highlights from their thoughtful observations.
 
Kristina, Bekah, and Kadyn. After eight weeks together in the Dominican Republic, they got quite close! 
 
On the most prominent lesson they learned this summer:
 
“After some disappointing days teaching, I realized my goals for teaching were unrealistic and God had bigger plans. Rather than teaching the kids specific new topics, we were there to encourage and make sure the kids knew that they were loved, smart, and capable.” — Bekah
 
“We are always looking to the next season, always thinking how much better it will be to get out of the one we are in. But I think God calls us to immerse ourselves in the place He has us in.” — Kadyn
 
“At times I would be living alone, at times I couldn’t understand anyone talking around me, and at times we just did nothing the entire day. . . . But having these times of stillness gave me time to think and turn these questions to God. . . . I was reminded that I should stop and slow down my life. To remember what gives me life and to refocus it on God.” — Kristina
 
The college-immersion volunteers taught summer school in the Dominican Republic. Things didn’t always go as planned, but everyone had a fun, rewarding experience! 
 
On what made this trip special:
 
“It is definitely difficult and testing but the rewards are far worth it. . . . Giving your summer up to God and allowing Him to use you creates possibilities that you can't find in any other posture. . . . COTN’s goal is for the countries we serve to become sustainable. . . . COTN was the perfect fit for me because of their commitment to build up and support the work already occurring in communities in Barahona.” — Bekah
 
“I think that at some point in everyone’s life, it is so valuable to experience another culture. . .to understand that your way isn't always the only way, that listening can be very powerful and if you never ask questions you won't gain anything. I think that COTN is a great opportunity to experience this, and a place where you have a platform to start.” — Kristina
 
“With COTN I have found a place where I can take what I learn in the classroom and apply it to the real world of work and business. This business also happens to be a ministry where I am able to work for the benefit of God’s Kingdom, serving and caring for others. It all goes together.” — Courtney
 
A summer school student practices English on the white board. The volunteers also taught math and reading lessons.
 
On long-term versus short-time missions:
 
“Living in the DR has not been eight weeks of camp high, but rather He has been teaching and shaping me slowly in a lasting way. After week-long trips, it is easy to drift back into your normal routine, but I truly believe God has created a lasting change in me that I am only beginning to understand.” — Bekah
 
“Over the eight weeks you see the trust start to form with the kids you’ve been teaching, the smiles on the nurses’ faces when you finish counting all their inventory, and the lightbulbs clicking in the kids' heads when they remember something from English class. Progress isn’t fast and it isn’t easy, but over time change will happen if you are persistently present.” — Kristina
 
“This summer I questioned mission trips altogether and wondered if they were good for the people in the community being served. God has been showing me that each type of mission is important to Him. He can use any type of commitment someone has given up for His work. He has helped me to change my perspective on why missions are important and how they further the kingdom and His plan.” — Kadyn
 
                      A Dominican girl shows off a picture of herself with her sponsor. 
 
To read more about what it’s like to go on a college-immersion trip with COTN, check out Courtney’s full blog post.
 
P.S. You too can travel to another country to share God’s love!