A week into their Dominican Republic missionary trip, the Kingsmen are already noticing changes in the way they perceive their everyday lives.
“Our bad days are their best days,” says Darrien Whitaker. “I’ve been really keen on that as these people are so happy with what little they have…if they are able to have a smile on their face with what they’re going through, then I should be able to push through and keep going with what I have going on in my life.”
Over the past week, the Kingsmen have helped our translator, Kike, lay the concrete roof on his new home in San Pedro, spent time at separate boys and girls orphanages––Orfanto Niños de Cristo and Orfanato Niñas de Cristo––and passed out food in El Peñon, a sugar cane village the team visits annually. In between their missionary work, the team has played games at Boca de Chavon and Paulino Baseball Academy. The Kingsmen won both games, but most importantly, shared the Gospel with their opponents following each game.
Needless to say, it’s been an eventful first week in the Dominican Republic with more to come.
Even with the jammed packed schedule, the team devotes time in the morning and night to grow in their faith. Before and after the day’s activities, the team gathers for Bible studies where they attentively read specific passages to learn exactly what it means to be a Christian. Whitaker can already see the studies paying dividends for his own personal spiritual growth.
“I didn’t really grow up in a truly religious family,” the outfielder from North Greenville started. “Getting closer to God was definitely something I wanted to do this summer. I’ve seen myself grow as a person and so has my family. Being able to go to Bible studies this week and learn all about God has really been eye opening for me and I’m beginning to understand it more.”
Matthew Gross echoed Whitaker’s thoughts as he believes the studies have kept him grounded over the past week. “It’s definitely a good start and a good end to the day because it keeps me centered in Christ,” Gross explained.“It keeps me present and makes me feel His presence more.”
Being in the presence of Christ has been a constant theme thus far on the trip. Wherever the Kingsmen go, they often gather in prayer with local communities and have a player share their testimony. After games, the team distributes Bibles to the opposing players and encourages them to accept Jesus into their lives. While the team hopes to have a spiritual impact on their opponents, it is evident that the people the Kingsmen meet are having a similar effect on them.
As Gross puts it, “Seeing their love and compassion––it’s really stood out to me just how grateful these people are.”
Grateful for a roof over their heads, a nearby Church, and, of course, a baseball field. Though the Kingsmen have only played two games over the past week, the team has taken notice of the Dominican talent they’ve faced and feel that the atmosphere is reigniting their love for the game.
“I expected a little more heat,” said Nick George, who will be a freshman at Fairmont State this year. “But they’re still 14-15-year-olds and we’re college guys. You give them a few more years to develop and they’re probably studs…Playing them was great and they brought the fun back to the game. It made you feel like a kid again.”
The fields the Kingsmen have played on are nothing like the college fields they’re used to back in America. For example, the field in Boca de Chavon looked like it belonged in “The Sandlot.” The infield was mostly grass, it had sponges for bases, and there were goats and chickens in right field. Nevertheless, the village took pride in the field’s simplicity.
“Even though they don’t have a lot, they have just as much joy as any of us,” said Michael Gracer, who has admired the strong faith that burns inside of each individual the pitcher has met here in the Dominican. When asked about what has stood out to him the most through the missionary work the Kingsmen have done, the Belmont-Abbey transfer explained, “Just how happy this country is as a whole. They really don’t have much of anything but they’re still really strong in their faith.”
George agrees with Gracer’s perception of the Dominican people’s mindset. Reflecting on his own worries, George said, “After seeing everything here, I need to stop worrying about the little things at home. These people have major things going on and they’re not even worried about it. They just put on a smile…you walk up to their house and they’re so welcoming and happy to see you.”
While the Kingsmen are here to minister to several Dominican communities, it seems that they are being returned the favor. Throughout the first week, the team is being shown how to appreciate the little things. As Gross puts it, “I see what little they have and how they live, they never complain even though they have nothing…My biggest takeaway is to try not to take anything for granted anymore.”
With a week left in their final trip together, the Kingsmen are sure to live in the moment with a smile on their faces. Like a strong faith, a roof over their heads, and good company, it’s the little things that matter.