Where do I begin?
This 3 week trip has literally changed my life. I feel like it has brought me so much closer to the Maza family,one of the most loving and hilarious families ever, and it has brought me so much closer to Jehovah. But let me start at the beginning of this amazing adventure.
I have known the Mazarelli family for about 12 years now. When they told us that they were planning on moving to DR we were so excited for them, and we were thrilled when they invited us to spend a few weeks with them once they moved in. We arrived July 6 in Santo Domingo where the Maza's and a brother from their congregation picked us up at the airport. I'm not going to lie...I was pretty terrified at the beginning. This is the first time my sister and I have ever traveled alone, and we were traveling to a foreign country, and since I'm the big sister I am responsible for both of our well-beings. It was a little overwhelming and 3 weeks felt like a long time to be away from home. But our aunt gave us a pep talk our second night in Samana and told us to put our faith in Jehovah and just enjoy the experience as much as we could. I prayed and asked Him for the strength and courage to do what I came here to do, preach and enjoy the island.
The very next day we went out in service to "el campo" or the rural parts of town. This could not have been any better for us. The brothers we met that day were so loving and cheerful that crossing a river, walking down a hillside, and getting lost in the forest felt like the most amazing time of our lives. It was actually extremely enjoyable to go out in service. Preaching back home is also fun and I love the brothers from my congregation, but I think everyone can agree that every once in a while you get stuck in a rut and service starts to feel like something you have to do instead of something you want to do. Going out in service in Samana, though, reminded me of what service is supposed to feel like and the joy that it can bring you and Jehovah. I was also able to get to know many of the brothers in the local congregation. I was also able to go out one day with a sister in the Creole group and she brought me along with her to her two studies. It was amazing to see the poverty that some people are living in, but yet how receptive and open they are to getting to know Jehovah. Although I was only able to understand a little of what they said. I was so grateful for the opportunity to preach in another language.
The people in the Samana territory are so kind, respectful, and attentive. A few asked us to come in and talk with them and many more thanked us for visiting them and bringing them literature (well since we were campaigning for the assembly we were really giving them invitations). I also saw so much wildlife while out in service. I saw peacocks, giant pigs, baby pigs, and newborn litter of kittens, dogs, goats, horses, and much more.
We were also able to visit many of the gorgeous places here in Samana. Different brothers took us to the local beaches, Las Terrenas, Moron, Playa Rincon, and Cayo Levantado. Each one was beautiful in its own way. The beaches were so warm, and clear, and gorgeous. I never wanted to leave! I was able to try so many new things on this trip as well like getting on a Moto and driving a 4-wheeler. I have so many memories and experiences to take back with me and share with my friends back home.
My most favorite part of this entire experience was getting to know and spend time with the brothers and sisters in the Samana congregation. I LITERALLY can't describe how much love I feel for these brothers and how grateful I am to Jehovah for his organization because it allows us to be a part of such a beautiful family all over the world. It honestly took only about 3 days for me to feel already accepted and loved by the congregation. They brought us into their homes, took us sightseeing and took the time to get to know us. The joy I feel even just thinking about it makes me feel that much closer to the new world that we know is just around the corner. Everyday I woke up with a smile on my face and with a joy and excitement to serve Jehovah and spend time with the brothers.
I want to quickly thank every single brother and sister in the Samana congregation for the immense love that they showed towards me and my sister, the Mazarelli family for inviting us into their home and giving us the opportunity to have this experience, and Jehovah for truly giving us the best life ever and for always providing for us. These three weeks have brought me so much closer to Jehovah, more than I could have ever imagined. My love for him has been strengthened and my zeal to do my very best for him has grown. I am going back home with new goals in mind and with the hope of becoming a better servant of his every day.
For any brothers or sisters out there that may be thinking of visiting or moving to another city or country to help serve where the need is greater, I strongly encourage you do so. It truly is one of the most amazing and satisfying things that you can do with your life and it will bring you so much closer to Jehovah. I was so nervous and scared when I first came, but it was definitely worth it. Put it into prayer, place your faith in Jehovah, and just do it. Even if its just for a few weeks, try it out and I am certain that you will not regret it. Jehovah's organization is truly wonderful and full of love, and He rewards all of those who put him first in their lives and try their very best to serve him wholeheartedly. There are so many people that have the desire to draw closer to Jehovah, and having the opportunity and the privilege to be a part of the most amazing work in this world is truly the best thing you can do with your life.
One of my favorite Bible texts is Romans 8:38 which says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God's love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Thanks to this trip to Samana, I am truly convinced of Jehovah's love and of my determination and dedication to do my very best for him.
A common phrase around these parts is "Preach and Beach". In a nutshell, that's the life for many of the brothers that are here. Preaching the good news is first and foremost, but of course, they have to take time for rest, relaxation and recreation. The many gorgeous beaches here in Samana take up a lot of that time. The farthest one is probably about a 45 minute ride and they are all public beaches. (Yes, there are no private beaches in the DR) You can go to whichever one you want without worrying about paying or trespassing. Everyone has their favorite(s) and for different reasons. We've been to Playa Rincon, Las Terrenas, El Morron, Cayo Levantado, and the local beach, Playa Cayacoa. These aren't all of the beaches in Samana but they're some of the most popular and beautiful in the Caribbean.
After a good morning of preaching in town or in the campo until about 11:30am or so, (it gets too hot after that), a lot of times, we'll just go home, eat some lunch, change, and go to the local beach for a couple hours to cool off and relax. After feeling refreshed and revived, some brothers will go back out for another hour or so when its a little cooler to do some studies or return visits.
You see now how the term 'preach and beach' is so true here in Samana.
Wanted to share a few pictures that we have taken so far....
After three years of thinking, planning, making changes and praying.... It's finally here!
We finally arrived to Samana on Wednesday, June 29. A friend that we met on our last trip to Samana was able to pick us up from the airport and bring us 'home'... Thanks Natalie! We were so tired from the flights and overnight stay in the airport, that we slept so good that night. What a difference a good nights' rest does for you! We were up and ready to go Thursday morning.
We now live on a peninsula, so close to the beach. Where do you think our first stop was? The Beach, of course! It was beautiful... refreshing and we had a great time. Up until my daughter got stung by a jellyfish!! (Read about it here)
Friday was spent doing some shopping for things we needed around the house and for (finally) unpacking.... Priorities, people. These girls wanted to go to the beach first!
Saturday we ran a few errands and then studied for our weekend meeting. Weekend meeting is Saturday at 7pm. It was so nice to finally meet more of the friends.
A few things that we learned during the first few days here...
1. If you are walking around the streets, all the "moto-conchos" or "moto-taxis" ("taxi" service that will take you where you need to go - but it's a motorcycle) will ask if you need a ride. If you want to just walk, respond with "No, gracias." Rides are usually 40-50 RD each person (at least the one moto-taxi we took was 50 RD each). So from close to our home to the beach, our 'taxi' ride was about $2 for the four of us. The girls were so excited to finally take a 'moto' ride.
2. Everyone here in Samana is very friendly. It is very unusual to not hear a 'saludo' (greeting) from the people, either in the street or from their home. As we walk to and from the stores, Kingdom Hall and other places, you always give some kind of greeting.... "Buenos dias"... "Buenas tardes"... "Buen dia"... "Saludos".
3. Parties here are called 'pasaratos' or literally translated- pasar un rato or spend a while (spend some time). Which is what a party is essentially. The brothers here like to get together a lot, especially because there is a constant flow of visitors and needgreaters. A lot of brothers call Samana the 'airport' because so many brothers and sisters come through all year round, lol!
4. Cold showers are the norm here. However, living here in the heat, the cold showers feel wonderful! Taking 3 or 4 showers a day is common; and really it may not even be a real shower with soap. A lot of times its just to cool off and rinse the stickiness and heat away. We've found the best time to take a shower is right before bed as it helps you sleep better.
5. Fans, fans, and more fans. They are a must here! Air conditioning is great, but not everyone here can afford it; and as needgreaters, even if you can afford it you want to try to save and budget your money. So, we get fans like everyone else. They tend to do a good enough job keeping you cool. We may breakdown and get air conditioning for one room, but right now we're good!
6. If you're here to stay for awhile, for the first few weeks or even first month, be prepared to spend more than you planned. Why? Because you're still a tourist :) You will want to try everything and go different places, etc. You are a tourist for that time, and that's ok. Once you've done a few things and have bought all your essentials to setup your home, you'll know a lot better how and where to spend your money. You'll see your spending go down a lot.
7. In general, DR is never quiet. You will always here the sound of motorcycles going down the street, people talking loudly outside, and music almost always playing out of a store or someones house. Like anything else you get use to it and it doesn't bother you, but in the beginning it may be a little rough.
8. Don't drink the water. Let me repeat.... Do Not Drink The Water. This is pretty obvious to most people, but you need to be careful. It's not that the water is bad, it's that since the standards of cleaning the water are different in every country; our systems are not used to the levels of bacteria and other things in the water in whatever country. Therefore, you can get really sick if you drink water from the tap or someones house, restaurant, etc. that hasn't been properly sanitized. Sow hat do we do? We use what's called GSC (Grapefruit Seed Extract). It will kill any harmful stuff in the water that can make you sick. You can also use colloidal silver, white wine vinegar, or go old school and put a couple drops of bleach in your water. Everyone just buys the big water cooler bottles of water and uses that to drink, wash your fruit and veggies in. We also use it to do a quick rinse of our dishes after we wash them. Paranoid? Maybe. But I don't want to risk it.
I think that's all for now. Pictures will be coming later. Please check the blog periodically for more updates.
Thanks for reading!
We're the Mazarelli Family
Just a family of four trying to do our best. Our adventure to become Need-Greaters in the Dominican Republic is starting... and we want to share it with you.