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Johnson volunteers in the Dominican Republic

Thursday, January 29, 2009

(Photo)
Participating in the Dordt College AMOR trip to the Dominican Republic were (kneeling from left) Liz Brand, Kiley Schouten, Tina Heilman, Erin Mouw, and Ryan Johnson (standing) Amber DeKoekkoek, Sierrra Zomer, Rachel Gorter, Moreno (a Dominican construction worker), Katie Van Den Top, Natalie Feenstra, Jaci VerMulm, and Joseph Buhlig. Photo contributed
SIOUX CENTER - Thirty-three Dordt College students and three Dordt employees served as mission volunteers in Nicaragua, Belize, and the Dominican Republic in January through the college's A Mission OutReach (AMOR) program.

Ryan Johnson, a college senior from Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, participated in the international service/missions opportunity that has been offered annually to students at Dordt College since the 1980s. Johnson is the son of Mark and Karen Johnson, Cleghorn. He is majoring in agri-business.

Students serving on AMOR teams do construction/renovation projects and youth ministry and, in the process, are introduced to the culture and the mission challenges of their host country. They return with a much broader understanding of the needs of the world.

The Dominican Republic team included 12 students: Kiley Schouten, Sioux Center; Tina Heilman, Orange City; Jaclyn Ver Mulm, Le Mars; Katie Van Den Top, Doon; Elizabeth Brand, Newton; Rachel Gorter, Otley; Ryan Johnson, Cleghorn; Erin Mouw, Leota, Minn.; Sierra Zomer, Corsica, S.D.; Amber DeKoekkoek, Falmouth, Mich.; Natalie Feenstra, Everson, Wash.; and Joseph Buhlig, Northborne, Mo. They were accompanied by Bruce Kuiper, a communication instructor at Dordt.

"Our team worked on the Bienvenido School to prepare for adding a second floor," explained Jaclyn Ver Mulm, a junior exercise science major. "The added floor will allow the school of 289 students to double in size and give many more children the opportunity for an education."

The work consisted of sledgehammering sections of cement walls down and hauling debris away so that new walls could be reinforced with rebar. They mixed many tons of concrete on the ground with shovels and pick axes to pour foundation and pillars for the second floor. They estimate that in six days of work they hauled roughly 25 tons of material. "The work was rigorous, but when we talked with the teachers and saw the joy in their smiles because they knew more students will be educated, the hard work seemed easy," says Ver Mulm.

The girls were repeatedly called fuerte (strong) by a crew of Dominican men who worked alongside them, recalls nursing student Natalie Feenstra. "We received the compliment with big smiles or by flexing our arm muscles." Ag major Rachel Gorter noted that it was nice to experience "Dominican time," meaning the clock does not rule the lifestyle there.

"Fast driving, warm weather, and friendly people," were what stood out to junior Katie Van Den Top about the trip. "Driving is crazy there: drivers weave in and out, and honk their horns a lot, but they never seem to get annoyed with each other," commented Elizabeth Brand, who also noted it was never quiet, with festive, joyful, rhythmic, and loud music regularly being played out in the streets, in cars, homes, and even during school.

The weather is gorgeous, the sunsets are breathtaking, and the water is beautiful, blue, and clear, reports the Dominican AMOR team.



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