West Side Youth Missions | Dominican Republic 2020

Learn more about the DR from Kids Alive

What's Happening in the Dominican Republic?

Dominican Republic is a country mired in deep poverty and home to more than 10 million people. For over 25 years, Kids Alive has grown to serve over 2,000 children in family-style residential homes, care centers, and schools. Without intervention, most of our children would be unable to break the cycle of poverty that traps them in hopelessness.

Education is crucial to lifting people out of poverty and giving them hope for a better future, but the Dominican public school system is rated the worst of all Spanish-speaking countries*, with both poor quality and high drop-out rates. Several studies estimate that less than 20% of poor children graduate from high school, which perpetuates cyclical poverty in families.

Kids Alive remains steadfast in our mission to bring hope to those who feel trapped, and we have clearly seen God’s hand working to transform lives. Our ministries are experiencing success in breaking cycles of poverty and putting kids on the road to brighter futures. Most importantly, every child we serve hears about the God of hope who desperately loves them.

From the ashes of many societal problems, young, excited Christians are emerging, and we feel privileged to play a role in this process. This past year has been particularly exciting as we have had Christian weddings, record numbers of high school and university graduates, and increasing quality of our programs in several important areas. Through an inspired national staff, talented missionaries, dedicated church partners and Service Teams – and the many child sponsors who support transformation from afar – we see God’s work filling hearts with hope.

Meet Our DR 2020 Team

Between now and when we leave at the end of June, we want to introduce you to our amazing team of students and leaders who will be going on the Dominican Republic Mission Trip.

Kaitlyn A.

10th grade, West Seattle High School

Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
I want to go because I would like to experience different cultures and explore the way other people worship God and work with the community to help some of the town. I think the experience  could change my perspective of the world and people in it and how God put us here. When I go I will be looking for ways that I see god working in an unfamiliar community.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
Jesus became real to me when I was in 4th grade at a Fall Fusion camp with the church. We were asking God to forgive our sins and we put a band-aid on the cross to represent our sins being forgiven. That night is when I realized who God really was and what he has done for us.

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
I would like to grow in my ability to forgive and to put my trust in people and God. I have trouble forgiving people that have hurt me because I can't trust that they won't do it again and that scares me. This trip will definitely stretch my trust to the limits.

Katie B.

Adult Leader

Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
I am excited to go back to the DR! When I went as a student, 14 and 15 years ago, my perspective of the world broadened. I was able to see how God is present in these communities. I look forward to working with this team to grow closer in relationship with God, team members, and share God's love with the people of the DR.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
I grew up at West Side. My faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior developed through family, Sunday school, VBS, youth group, MDR, Bible studies, and beyond. God has comforted me through loss at a young age, encouraged me through countless challenges, and loved on me through this church family. I experience God anew each time I move out of my comfort zone. Specifically, I recall devotional and prayer times shared as part of the PNC. When I take the time to actively focus on God's word, he speaks!

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
I can get wrapped up in the day-to-day work, and I often don't take enough time to pause, reflect, and listen. I would like to shift my priorities so that God comes first. I want to help foster and participate in meaningful community, and worship together. I want to be open to how God can use me on this trip, and how he will call me to continue serving him at home.

Luke L.

9th grade, Seattle Prep

Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
Growing up at West Side, I have always been aware of the high school mission trips. The Dominican Republic trip has always excited me, and I have anticipated going on it for the past few years. I always knew that I wanted to go, but I had to think about why I wanted to go a lot more this year. We’ve talked a lot about how we are not going to show the people in the DR God but going to worship God with them. I want to experience worship in a completely new environment. I have never been to Central America, so I think it will be eye-opening to visit a church and interact with Christians who live in a completely different culture than I do.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
I never had a big event in my life that made me believe in God. God was someone I could always count on and trust, so I would say I have always had a very deep relationship to God. I remember praying in Sunday School, or attending church whenever we weren't skiing. At some point in one’s life, they must consider what it means to be a Christian, and a member of a church. When I became a member of West Side, I started to ponder what it really meant to be part of a church and declare my faith publicly. I have come to the realization that being a Christian is one the most important areas in my life, and that God will always be with me.

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
I feel like lately I have gotten into the routine of only praying to God on Sundays, during meals, or when I have a problem. In the DR I anticipate we will be more cognizant that we are surrounded by God’s love, and I think it will be easy to get into a habit of worshiping God all the time. We will be aware of all the blessings we have, and of the ways God is working in the DR in ways we could never fathom.

Greta C.

11th grade, West Seattle High School

Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
I want to participate in the mission trip to the DR to see the way God is working in the world and have the opportunity to serve and experience God’s love. For years, I have heard about the life changing experiences youth have had on the DR Mission Trip. Not only do I want to build my relationship with God, but reestablish my faith. I have only been outside of the country a few times so exploring the Dominican Republic sounds like an incredible experience. I would love to understand the different characteristics and aspects of a completely different country. I love the West Side youth group and getting the opportunity to grow my faith surrounded by people I love is life changing.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
Jesus became real to me as my Lord and Savior during the MOVE Conference in 2018. Before I went on the trip, my relationship with God wasn’t very personal and I hadn’t taken the time to grow and learn more about Christianity. During the Conference I was having a difficult time dealing with anxiety and looked to prayer for comfort. It wasn’t long until God’s presence completely replaced my anxiety. That trip showed me the importance of prayer and the importance of having Jesus Christ in the center of my life.

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
I want to have a better understanding of how God works through people in different cultures. I think being surrounded by a completely different culture will give me a new perspective on God’s mission in the world. I also want God to be a more central part of my life and grow in my faith. Finally I want to grow my relationships with people in the youth group as well as people I meet in the Dominican Republic.

Claire M.

10th grade, West Seattle High School

Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
I want to participate on the mission trip to the DR for a variety of reasons. The main reason I want to go is I want to experience how God impacts different people’s lives in different ways even if we live miles apart and how religion influences the kid’s lives. I also want to grow and connect more with the kids in the DR and the other West Side kids.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
I have not grown up in a religious family. Both my mom, dad, and brother do not participate in religious activities. I was sent to a Christian preschool so I did have an idea about God but I became more invested in religion when I started middle school. Due to my lack of knowledge about God and the bible, it took me until I was in 8th grade to accept God into my life and I am still working on strengthening my faith with God.

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
During the trip, I would like to improve my Spanish speaking skills and learn more about cultures that are underprivileged and different from the US. I am also excited to create new connections with the kids at the school, learn from them, and learn about their lives and how God plays a part in it. I also want to improve my connection and faith with God and strengthen that connection so I can make religion and God even more influential in my life.

Nathaniel O.

10th grade, West Seattle High School

Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
I want to participate in the Dominican Republic (DR) Mission Trip for a multitude of reasons. One of them being that I love being around people from our youth group. I have participated in a mission trip before and I think that this trip will be another incredible experience. I also want to be able to give back and this is a great opportunity to do so. I am looking forward to going somewhere new and helping people out who are from a different culture and country. I would like to see aspects of life that are significantly different from the U.S. in the DR because I have never been to a different country in the Americas. Additionally, I want to see what worshipping is like in other countries, and through this, learn more about God and my peers. While I have been to other places aside from just Seattle, I have never had the opportunity to worship in a different country. Finally, I would like to be a better Spanish speaker.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
Jesus Christ became real to me as my Lord and Savior during middle school. I don’t feel as though I had one specific moment, I felt the truth over a longer period of time. I went to UPC up until partway through seventh grade, which was when I began attending West Side. In both of the youth groups there were people whom I respected and cared about. Hearing similar content from people in different places in their lives opened my eyes to reality. Somewhere within that time I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
I would like to be more aware of how others praise and worship God. I want to be able to have a better understanding of how God works through everyone in their own individual ways. I would also like to learn what I can do to strengthen the relationships that I have now with friends and God.

Sophia H.

10th grade, Chief Sealth International High School

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Why do you want to participate in the mission trip to the DR?
I want to participate in the mission trip to the Dominican Republic because I think that it will help me grow in my faith and help me see God in other environments aside from my own. I think the DR will be a great opportunity to also grow my relationships with not only God but others who love God. This trip has significantly impacted others who have gone and I have seen that in them so I would also like to experience God’s love there and come back impacted like these other people who have already gone. Another thing this trip will help me with I think is helping me see that God is working even when it doesn’t seem like it because although we will see many things I’m sure that through those things God will show himself and it will become clear that he is working in that place.

Describe when Jesus Christ became real to you as your Lord and Savior.
I have been exposed to the word and God my whole life, I grew up in the church so I’ve always known about God but there did come a time where I had to own my own faith and take him as MY savior. I believe I have experienced this many times it seems like every time I start to drift from him I have a moment where I come to the realization again that he truly is my savior. I’d say the time when I truly took him as my Lord and Savior, and claimed my faith was when I was at MDR actually. I had always been exposed to God like I said before but at camp was when I really got to experience him aside from my parents and got to feel him in others and in me. I could feel his presence the whole time I was there but I believe I accepted him into my heart at the campfire where everyone told their story and I got to see God through all of them, it occurred to me that our God is everywhere. He is always going to be there and it would be foolish for me to not accept him and that’s when I broke down crying overwhelmed with his love, and I believe that’s when he really became real to me as my lord and savior.

In what areas of your life would you like to grow during this trip?
I want to grow in my faith as I’ve said before so I think that the biggest aspect of my life I’d like to grow in on this trip is just my relationship with God there and here, and making him the center of my life. I would also like to grow in my ability to feel God through others as well as just improving my communication with other people who believe the same things as me and growing a relationship with them and with God. I believe there I can also learn and grow in my understanding of service I haven’t ever really been a person who served because I wanted to, it was never my strong suit to be the first to help but I think in the DR I can improve my perspective and attitude on what it means to serve.

Photos from DR 2017

Here I am. Send me. — Isaiah 6:8