April 21, 2019

April 20-21

International Block Learning Trip - London & Toronto HANDS Team:

Alrighty. I guess it’s my turn to write the blog. I’ll start with offering a little glimpse into my life at the current moment. It’s 8:15 pm, the sky is dark, the lights are on, and Jenna just gave me a sucker. It’s a blue and white sucker, probably bought today from the mall. William is sitting across from me writing his journal, eating his red heart sucker, and people are consuming various snacks around the room. David is strumming on Karen’s guitar just outside the window while Zoe and Karen are laughing about something or other. Jaden has just made his nightly instant coffee, using the kettle that Rebecca packed for her showers, and is now yelling for Mr. Lammers to come and take his. I’ll probably make myself a peanut butter sandwich later with the supplies we smuggled from the kitchen. Eighteen by Ed Sheeran is playing on the speaker and life is good.


I burned the bottoms of my feet on Saturday. I made the mistake of refusing to put on my flip-flops while we worked on painting the desks. The pavement was extremely hot in the afternoon sun and my feet, still not used to being bare, didn’t enjoy the freedom as much as I did. Half of us stayed at the compound and finished up 16 desks (I think) and a few more chairs than that. The tops are on and varnished with almost as much varnish as we scrubbed off our arms. The other half of the group that wasn’t marooned at the compound all day went to a village/drug rehab house. The place, according to Yvonne and David, was called Matagorda. It’s a rehab center for men that are struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol and the like. Apparently, they had an amazing time digging trenches and laying cinderblocks. Oh yeah, and “Be sure to include that they didn’t like women doing any of the work.” (again, a quote from Jenna).   


Elaine arrived today. She brought along mini eggs and a warm smile. As a whole group (for the first time so far) we set off for church. In all honesty, the service was long, church feels so different when you don't understand the words that were being sung. There was about an hour and a half of just songs. Kimberly (Kimberley?) translated the 20-minute sermon for us. It was about Easter, which, given the day it is today, wasn’t too much of a surprise. After the church service, we ate an amazing lunch of pasta and peanut butter sandwiches. Peanut butter sandwiches have become a staple in our diet these past few weeks, so be prepared when we come home. Also, Kate and I have been talking non-stop about how much we miss our milk. At the mall, we talked to our family and I bought some milk to drink even though the milk here isn’t half as good at the 2% Nielson’s Canadian milk from the grocery stores in Canada. (Do not get us started on how gross/weird it is that we reverted to powdered chocolate milk mix in our water). As we worked on our self/leader evaluations, Henry Martin Lammers set up a Spike Ball tournament for us to participate in. We’re only about half way through so the outcome may come in a later blog post.


The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country. Not only are the people welcoming and warm, the landscape and the view of the mountains from the roof are breathtaking. Believe it or not, though, I’ve begun to miss the cold weather of Canada. It’s so hot here all the time. The roosters still crow right outside our window every morning, and the dogs still bark throughout the night, but these things have become part of our daily routine and I couldn’t imagine our time here without them. It’s nights like this night that help me appreciate the moments for what they are.


Best wishes to everyone at home. I hope you’re all getting along just fine without us. Don’t miss us too much because we’re having the time of our lives. It’s 9:15 pm, the night is dark, the lights are on, and the sounds of friends and happy chatter drift throughout the compound. Jenna, Will, Yvonne, and Henry are playing dice, Kate is doing her journal, Curtis has just finished eating his oatmeal, and the guys are playing Spike Ball again. Let Her Go by Passenger is playing on the speaker and life is good.  

-Emily van Leeuwen


Apr 22, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Thanks for the post! It made us feel like we were right there with you! It's great knowing how well everyone is getting along. Still praying daily for health, safety and the strengthening of everyone's walk with Christ.

Apr 22, 2019 at 6:15 pm

Thanks, Emily, for giving us a glimpse into an hour of your day. It was good to read about you all.

Apr 22, 2019 at 6:49 pm

It was good to chat with you this past weekend. You write as candidly as you speak; a really great description of what Dominican must be. Put it in your novel :)

Apr 22, 2019 at 7:51 pm

Love hearing from you Emily! I'll make sure to give you some great Canadian milk when you get back! :)

Apr 22, 2019 at 8:02 pm

I miss you Emily. You make me want to run away and return to mission field. Keep safe.

Ps I too agree that you should put this in your upcoming novel:)

Apr 22, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Yay! It’s super exciting to get to hear from you Em! I will join Hannah in running away to your mission field.

Are we to expect peanut butter sandwiches instead to pizza pockets from now on? :)

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