Last July, three Pax Christi community members spent a week at Hogar Teresa Toda in Azua, Dominican Republic as part of an annual mission trip that the Church of St. Edward’s in Bloomington has led for 16 years. The three of us—Victoria Gregus, Joan Pare, and I (Mary Beth Schleif)—departed with our own expectations and reasons for experiencing a mission trip, but we came back with very similar impressions and conclusions.
Hogar Teresa Toda is a home for very poor girls operated by two Carmelite nuns. The St. Edward’s mission group plans and conducts a Bible camp every summer to enable the girls to return to their school-year home, reconnect, leave their lives of chaotic poverty behind for two weeks, and enjoy the love and devotion of American women and teenage girls sharing the love of God.
The bible camp is a two-week experience and two groups of volunteers/guests each spend a week with the girls. Besides sharing Bible stories, doing crafts, and leading brief math and English lessons each day, we shared fun adventures with the girls—going to the pool and beach, doing Zumba in the park, celebrating quinceañera parties for several girls turning 15, singing, meeting other Carmelite sisters serving Azua and Santo Domingo, and visiting the homes and families of several of the girls.
And what do we get from this experience? We get so much: a view inside a culture, a country, and life experiences very different from our own; tremendous respect and admiration for Srs. Fifi and Stephanie and their incredible love and commitment to protect and advance these girls’ lives; opportunities to meet and spend time with young Dominican girls who seem very much like girls we know here; the chance to live out God’s call to love one another and give glory through service; opportunities to reflect on our place in the world; and good times and great food.
This mission trip is open to women of any age, with a special invitation to moms and teenage daughters. Planning for next year’s trip begins in January. It’s a life-enriching, perspective-enhancing, rewarding experience. Photos, blogs, and more information are available at https://campamento.blog/ (and while there, check out Victoria’s “Letter from a First Time Traveler to a First Time Traveler”).