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Three Weeks among Episcopalians in the Dominican Republic

3/14/2013

Every time an airplane lands in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican passengers cheer heartily. This is a good symbol for my observations of the Dominican people in general. The cheering I heard seemed to say, “Well, would you look at that? We’re home again in the country we love, and God has chosen to give us yet another day of life.” For this, the people are joyful.

In the three weeks our team spent in the Dominican Republic, Annie Pierpoint, Sarah Saxe, Kristin Saylor and I studied Spanish, attended seminary classes, visited churches, saw the sights, went to the beach, prayed together, ate together, saw each other through minor illnesses, and learned a lot. At first, speaking Spanish completely exhausted me: after an hour of listening I would need to lie down for ten minutes to clear my head! I thought about people who move to the United States and need to learn English quickly, and perhaps now I understand a little bit better what they go through.

My stamina increased along with my confidence. Perhaps my most rewarding Spanish conversation was with a Haitian seminarian named Vanel Saint Juste on the day we went to the beach. We were two weeks into our trip by then, and I was able to compare church experiences with Vanel. We commiserated about the challenges facing the Episcopal Church, and especially the challenges of retaining membership. Vanel is excited about the possibilities the Episcopal Church holds as a crossroads between the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions.

We were almost always connected to the internet, and it occurred to me toward the end of the trip that there were pluses and minuses to this situation. On the plus side, I was able to communicate the details of our immersion to people back home via my blog, and each of my classmates wrote for it as well. I was told many times how grateful people were for this connection with us. On the other hand, the constant availability of the outside world made it easier to be a little less present. I think we are all learning a new balance in this young internet age: how to be where we need to be right now, without the distraction of all the places in the world where we could be otherwise.

Yet thanks to the internet, I was also able to leave a gift. One afternoon I sat down with missionary Charlie Nakash from New Jersey and helped him develop an English-language Facebook presence for the Episcopal Church in the Dominican Republic. I hope this page will increase the visibility of the church’s work and help funnel more funds to it from the United States.

When our plane landed back in Washington, D.C., I felt like cheering myself. I am very happy I took on three weeks in the Dominican Republic. In our post-trip conversations with professors and fellow students, we seem to be leaning toward a few ideas for future action at VTS: (1) to present a forum in April 2013 recounting our pilgrimage and encouraging others to go next year, (2) to help the seminary strengthen the ability of its students to learn Spanish and speak it regularly, (3) to encourage VTS to develop and offer more elective courses related to Latin American cultures, and (4) to present an evening event during Hispanic Heritage month in the fall of 2013. As difficult as it was to be away from my family, and as glad as I was to be home, the trip was extremely valuable for me. I couldn’t be happier, and I thank God for giving me this opportunity.

Josh Hosler, M.Div., 2014
Diocese of Olympia