Mission Trip Report – June 2010

Mission Trip Report (El Pedregal, June 12-19, 2010)

The Rev. Tar Drazdowski accompanies a student in a school graduation parade.

The Diocese of Georgia conducted a mission trip to the Episcopal Camp of the Transfiguration (Campamento Episcopal Monte de la Transfiguración) from June 12-19, 2010. The Camp of the Transfiguration is located in El Pedregal, a small village about 2 miles east of the large city of Jarabacoa. This mission trip was organized by Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, and included 18 people from 5 congregations, including three teenagers and one child accompanied by their parents or other adult family member. This trip in 2010 marked the ninth year that a mission trip from the Diocese of Georgia has come to this location. The team flew from Orlando to Santo Domingo on June 12th and rode in a chartered bus from the airport to El Pedregal, a trip of about 4 hours. The bus transport was coordinated by the mission team support staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The team members stayed in the dormitory rooms of the Episcopal camp, and their meals were prepared by members of the camp staff and served in the camp dining room.

On Sunday, June 13, the team’s first full day in El Pedregal, The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, assisted by The Rev. Deacon Carlos Santana, deacon-in-charge of the camp and principal of the Episcopal school, celebrated Eucharist with the local Episcopal congregation in the church on the grounds of the camp, and had a walking tour through the village of El Pedregal. Later that afternoon, some team members joined village residents for swimming and cliff diving in a nearby river.

On Monday – Wednesday, June 14-16, the team’s primary activities were assisting with the construction of two homes in the village of El Pedregal, teaching Vacation Bible School classes and supervising playground activities for the village children, and teaching knitting classes to the village residents. The construction work involved clearing the sites of vegetation and debris, erection of concrete block walls, and reinforcing corners with concrete mix poured into wooded frames and then allowed to set. On the last day of construction at one house site, wooden roof beams were cut and put into place. All construction was supervised by Dominicans, and the team members supplied much of the manual labor required. Vacation Bible School included songs, Bible stories, and individual craft projects, followed by supervised play on the camp’s playground equipment. The knitting classes made use of donated yarn, needles and project patterns for purses and flowers that had been translated into Spanish and laminated to protect them from the humid conditions. The knitting classes were held in the camp dining room in the afternoons, but often continued informally into the evening as the less-experienced knitters asked for extra help.

After supper on the evening of June 16th, the team members were invited to attend a softball game between a team that included two members of the Episcopal youth group in El Pedregal and another team from the Jarabacoa area. The game was held in a softball stadium on the outskirts of Jarabacoa, and the presence of the mission team was recognized over the public address speaker system by the game announcer.

On Thursday, June 17, the team set up equipment on the grounds of the camp for a “splash day” water party for the village children, complete with water hoses, inflatable swimming pools, “slip-and-slide” tarpaulins, and a meal featuring hot dogs. While that party was ongoing, the team participated in the graduation exercise for the Episcopal elementary school located at the camp. They walked in a parade with the school children, their teachers, and their parents from the outskirts of the city of Jarabacoa through the village of El Pedregal, and were invited to sit in places of honor while the graduation exercise was conducted in a plaza in front of the school building. The Rev. Tar Drazdowski was presented a plaque in recognition of her work as leader of the Christ Church mission team over the years in the construction and support of the church and school. Following the graduation exercise, the village residents and the mission team members enjoyed a “pot luck” supper in the camp’s dining room, followed by dancing.

On Friday, June 18th, the team left the camp and rode in a chartered bus to Santo Domingo, staying overnight in the Hotel Mercure. Early Saturday morning, they boarded the same chartered bus and rode to the Santo Domingo airport for their flight back to Orlando.

An online album of a selected group of photographs from this mission trip is available here. More extensive collections of photographs are available here (part 1) and here (part 2).

For more information about this mission trip, contact The Rev. Tar Drazdowski at Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta GA.