One of our own, Julia Grubinski, had the opportunity to serve in the Dominican Republic for a year. Read about her trip and how God worked in her life and the lives of those around her in her article below.
This past year I, Julia Grubinski, have been in the Dominican Republic. For the first nine months I was in a program called GAP, or Global Adventure Pursuit. The program includes Spanish and Bible classes four days out of the week; Spanish four hours during the morning and Bible two to three hours in the afternoon. Each week we would have a different bible teacher, with a different topic or book of the bible. Every Monday we would serve in a ministry, getting fully involved with the ministry while building relationships with the people who were already serving there. Once a month the other students and I would spend a weekend in a host home. There, we were submersed in the culture, trying their food, speaking Spanish, and hearing the stories of different Dominican families.
For me, this year was the best year of my life. As I look back I see who I was and now who I am. This year I was stretched, thrown into uncomfortable situations, and filled spiritually beyond belief. Spending nine months in a foreign country with 18 people I barely knew put me out of my comfort zone. Turns out those 18 people who I barely knew are now part of my family and are my closest friends. Every single one of them pushed and held me accountable and I owe them a lot for this past year. We were all able to grow together and even as we go our separate ways we will always remain family.
It is very easy to say, since I have been to the DR multiple times, that I am comfortable there because I know the country. Yes, I lived there for two years when I was five or six, but that doesn’t mean I know it. Through the GAP program I was thrown into the culture and I learned more than I could ever imagine. I call it home and now I have more of a reason to. Knowing the culture and the language, I was able to build and grow many relationships, ones that I know will last a lifetime. Looking back at this year I was put into many uncomfortable situations, ones that I wouldn’t normally put myself in. But they were good situations, whether it was translating in front of multiple people, sharing the gospel one on one, or just sharing my testimony with a bunch of strangers, God grew me from all of the experiences.
One of my favorite parts about this past year were the bible classes. Since I attended a public high school I never had the opportunity to take bible classes; therefore, it being my first time, I absolutely loved it. I was able to learn multiple different topics, more in depth than I ever have before. I was also able to hear different viewpoints on different topics and see for myself what I believe in, by searching the bible and learning it for myself. I was also able to learn that there are many different view points on many different topics, but Paul talks about how we should not focus on the little things. The gospel is the most important and we can all have our different convictions on drinking, predestination, tattoos etc., but we can not have different view points on the gospel, that does not change. That is one thing I had to learn for myself and see where I stood on other topics.
There was a lot of work, but you work hard so you can play hard, right? During the year we also did different excursions and two mission trips throughout the country. Some of the excursions included a weekend trip to the mountains, white water rafting, zip-lining, and even swimming with dolphins. There were such great and exciting trips! But honestly the two mission trips were my favorite. The first one we went to was in Santiago. We prepared a VBS and helped out a church that was there. Later in the week we went further up the mountain, it had been raining and the road was very slippery and muddy. That made it interesting especially when you are driving a giant bus with 20 people in it. We ended up getting out of the bus and hiking about 10 minutes to another church; in our dresses from church that morning. We stayed the night in a cabin and the inside was wet because of the rain and it got really cold at night! We had no blankets and the beds were damp. The overall experience was awful, but it created such great memories! The second mission trip was in Jarabacoa with an organization called Students International. We all served in a different ministries throughout the week and served the missionaries that were there. I really enjoyed working with them and I would love to go back again sometime!
When my GAP year ended I returned to the US for the month of May. I was able to reconnect with my support team and my family. Then on June 12th I went back to the DR for a two month internship. I was able to continue the ministry I was serving in during my GAP year and continue building those relationships especially in the church. I was also able to help translate in the groups that came down. Part of my ministry was helping the director of SCORE in the DR. That entailed leading orientation, picking up groups from the airport, and then preparing them to go out and do ministry and do it well. I was able to learn more about the organization and the people that came down.
I said earlier that this was the best year of my life and that is the truth, but it was also the hardest. In a good way. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.. Literally. Classes were very stressful, being away from my family was hard, and being surrounded by strangers was uncomfortable. God’s plan is sovereign and doing the GAP program was part of His plan for me. I needed that time away to grow and learn things for myself. I needed to see my identity through the eyes of Jesus Christ. No one could ever teach me that, only my Lord and Savior can open my eyes to the truth. I am still learning new things everyday. I do not know everything, even if I have been deeply studying the bible this past year. I am not perfect and I am still going to make mistakes, but I am living my life for Christ and that will not change. I praise God everyday for this year and I also want to thank you, Gateway Church, for supporting me. Without your help I would have never been able to go. Thank you again and God bless!