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News > Commentary - A step of faith in a joint environment: Airmen, Soldiers work together in aid mission
A step of faith in a joint environment
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Airman 1st Class Ron Bowling (right) helps his sponsored child Henry in lifting sand using a rope pulling system. Bowling had the opportunity to interact daily with his newly sponsored child. Like Henry, there a several children who are being sponsored at this school by Airmen and Soldiers like Bowling. Bowling is an electrical and environmental specialist with the 3rd Component Maintenance Squadron. (Photo by Senior Airman Cynthia Spalding/JBER PAO)
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A step of faith in a joint environment: Airmen, Soldiers work together in aid mission

Posted 12/3/2010   Updated 12/3/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Airman 1st Class Cynthia Spalding

12/3/2010 - SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic  -- Airmen and Soldiers traveled here to offer aid and ministry to a local community in November.

A lot of hard work and dedication goes into planning a mission trip.

Plans started in December 2009. With the combined hard work and dedication of the Mountain Chapel Hospitality House members and the support from Elmendorf's chapel team, eight were able to get things together: Dan, Pat, John, Shawn, Ron, Kyle, Kristy and me.

"We all helped out in different ways. It was either checking up on each other to make sure we had our sponsorship letters mailed, the proper paperwork done or our memory verses memorized, but more so it was a combined effort that got the job done," said Army 1st Lt. John Close, transportation officer, 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

After 30 hours of travel time, we met up with the founders of Hands of Grace, DeAnn Eddy and Tammy Biggs.

An organization much like Compassion International, Hands of Grace is just getting started and their focus point is currently finding sponsors for four schools in the Dominican Republic. Our group had the opportunity to go to two of the schools.

One of the schools that we visited was in danger of closing. They didn't have enough sponsors to keep it open. In a community of nearly 10,000 children, only an estimated 2,000 were in school.

Needing a minimum of 44 sponsors, not only did our team take on some of those sponsorships, but just by contacting our MCHH family we saved that school with 60-plus sponsorships.

Most people don't get the opportunity to meet the child they sponsor. A huge part of our mission was to build relationships with these children and let them know they are cared for.

"It was the time of my life interacting with the kids at the schools. It's truly amazing how kids from a different culture, no matter how difficult their lives may seem to us, still live so happy and full of faith," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Ron Bowling, electrical and environmental specialist, 3rd Component Maintenance Squadron.

We did get down and dirty. The first day was labor extensive. We raised the money for the equipment as well as for the workers to show us what to do and we got started.

We were tasked to help get the third floor of a building started, as well as laying tile down in soon to be new classrooms. After we finished working the first day, we were told "You guys did two days work in one day."

Unfortunately construction is only done when money is available or when teams like ours come down to work. When I first saw the building, I had thought that it was the
old building, and we were building a new one.

The building has been under-construction for three years. Realizing that the way people work in other countries is a lot different than what we are used to was a big picture moment for us all. We wanted to keep working.

We each were given a family whom we would live with for the duration of our stay. With the Spanish-English language barrier, communication seemed very difficult at times.

Charades and the phrase "Como se dice?" (how do you say?) became our pastime activities as we built our lasting friendships with those who opened their homes to us.
We all felt changes in our lives from the trip; our love for God, children and for each other, Airmen or Soldier.

"Its exciting to see how effectively our armed forces operate in joint environments and how that mentally carries over even in off-duty activities. Events like this work project make our Army better, our Air Force better and our joint capabilities stronger," said Army Chaplain (Capt.) Pat Devine, Battalion Chaplain, 425th BSTB.

It wasn't all about the planning and labor service. God had a huge role.

No one went on this trip with their best friend, and afterwards we all grew closer together as the family Christ had intended us to be in the first place, to include our new Dominican families. As things wrapped up, we are excited for what happens next.

"We worked bone tired, blistering hard to serve and better this Dominican school... But the real blessing that God did was in our own hearts and lives. We are coming back changed men and women," said Pastor Dan Evans, Cadence International.

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