The Inaugural Senior Mission Trip to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic

For the first time in Legacy Christian Academy’s history, the senior class of 2024 had the opportunity to go to Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic for a mission trip included within their tuition. 

Legacy partnered with Student International, an organization dedicated to connecting short term mission trip teams with missionaries who are already working full-time in the international mission field. What this means is that during the week, all of our student were divided into small groups and mentored by a missionary in unique occupational areas including:

Dentistry | Physical Therapy | Health Care | Women’s Social Work | Education | Special Education | Media & Communications | Baseball | Volleyball | Microfinance

Culturally, the Dominican Republic is extremely relational, so much so that Todd Kardell, Legacy’s High School Student Life Coordinator, observed that every day when students came back to the Student International base at the end of a day of serving,

They didn’t share what they were doing every day; they shared who they were with.

This is because of the unique model that Student International offers. Legacy seniors walked alongside missionaries for one week, entering homes, meeting families, sharing testimonies and devotionals, caring for the community, and seeing how God is already moving in Jarabacoa. 

Click on the video below to watch the recap of the week!

From the Health Care site, Ava Stel ‘24 shares,

The thing that has impacted me the most is seeing other peoples’ joy despite having major medical and physical problems. So many people still had a joy for simply being alive and knowing the Lord.

From the Women’s Social Work site at El Callejon, Paige Heppner ‘24 shares,

Making an impact on the women and kids that I met was actually more challenging than I thought it would be because of the language barrier, but throughout the week I learned to see beyond myself and remember this is for them and not for me.

The goal of the Senior Mission Trip is for our Legacy Seniors to put their Biblically-grounded faith into action as disciples of Christ in a very direct and tangible way. The week gave our Legacy Seniors the opportunity to live as God-glorifying, Spirit-led worshippers in all that they did. Ultimately, it was a week for our Legacy Seniors to be faithful and courageous by leading through Christ-centered service. 



Still Want More? Read the daily updates that were sent home to parents below!

Sunday, Day 1

We’ve Arrived in Jarabacoa! We are Safe, Fed, and Happy!

Hello from Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic!

We have all landed safely and are thankful for a meal (spaghetti!) and an early bedtime! No surprise that the most common comment this morning at the Minneapolis Airport (at 3:30am) was “I’m tired, but I’m excited.”

Throughout the day, our students snoozed on the plane, on the floor, in chairs, but still managed to show their excitement despite the fatigue.

Smiles. Camaraderie at 3:30am. Anticipation of what’s to come.

As chaperones, we are thrilled to be journeying with your child this week. What a blessing and delight.

As always, we covet your prayers. Tomorrow is an early start – orientation, breakfast, and then each team heads off to their site for the day.

But for now, goodnight.

Monday, day 2

You wouldn’t believe the stories our students shared over a meal of la bandera for dinner (an authentic Dominican meal of chicken, rice, red beans, and salad). Here are a few highlights that I both heard and had the opportunity to watch today while traveling from site to site.

Our micro finance group spent the morning making bread alongside the women who are building out a bakery business. One of our women’s social work teams spent an afternoon on a woman’s porch eating ice cream and listening to her share the heart of their Haitian-influenced community. Our education sites made more crafts than you could count, many of which were Christmas decorations — poinsettias, ornaments, snowflakes — as they prepare their hearts for the season. And our health care team? They had the opportunity to be in the delivery room of a Haitian woman as she gave birth to a baby boy. All three of our students held the infant just minutes after he was born. And this was only day one.

We ended the day learning the Merengue and Bachata, line dancing, dancing with partners, and even competing in the original Hispanic styles.

The things our students shared they are thankful for today: leaders, teachers, birth and life, and family.

tuesday, day 3

We began and ended our day in worship. This morning we worshipped in personal devotions, student-led worship, and a chapel message from Pastor Benjamin (pronounced ben-ha-MEEN). Tonight we gathered for worship in song, painting, coloring, journaling, Bible reading, and foot washing. As an adult who has been a Christian for many years, your children, our students, brought me to tears many times today because of their heart of worship.

The wonderful thing about this place and experience is that that heart of worship carries through the entire day. When our Physical Therapy group was tossing exercise balls with patients to strengthen their arms, they were worshipping. When our Appropriate Technology team was hand mixing and pouring concrete for a water filter, they were worshipping. When our education students were tackled again (and again) by little ones, they were worshipping. When members of our Microfinance Team were sharing their testimonies in Mama Lele’s home, they were worshipping. When our Volleyball Team was bump, setting, and spiking with a local school’s varsity volleyball team, they were worshipping.

That is the remarkable thing about serving. All is worship.

wednesday, day 4

Many of our students came into this trip with very little Spanish under their belt. Hola! Gracias! And maybe Denada! to get them through the day. But something has changed here in three days. It’s what I’ve come to call putting a face to a language. That is the beauty of being submerged in a culture. They are listening to Spanish all day. They are strategically learning phrases that they need to know to get through the day, and, even better, we are now ending our nights as English speakers with Buenos noches! Adios! Nos vemos manana! 

Tonight, we had the privilege of being invited into community homes for dinner. Most of the homes were the Student International site leaders or friends/family of site leaders. Not only is there a face to this language we are learning, but there is a home too. Our students met families and children, they met mothers and fathers, and they met friends. My media group ended the evening on our site leader’s porch singing worship songs with his sister in both English and Spanish. I believe, somewhere between the crickets and the reverberation of the guitar and our voices, we experienced a true taste of eternity.

This is a language that I love. And I think are students are learning to love it too.

Tonight, we are immensely thankful for the faces.

P.S. Tonight was so good that I almost forgot to send an email. I was too invested in a wild game of spoons with 16 seniors at a table in the dining hall. For the record, Gavin won.

Buenos noches, padres!

thursday, day 5

We are all a little tired. We are four days in, we have found a rhythm, and we have hit the place where we are not being sustained by our own strength. You can only play baseball or volleyball for so long before deep fatigue sets in! However, it was almost immediately noticeable though that the pace of life here in the Dominican is far different than American culture. There is embedded rest in every single day. Long lunch breaks. Time to sit. And most of these opportunities are prompted by relationship building. So although we are tired, we are being consistently rejuvenated by Lord-ordained rest. His grace is sufficient for us. Even when weeding strawberries in a hot greenhouse. Even when running lap after lap around the school with children. Even when carrying a cement water filter down a long flight of stairs. Even when saying good-bye (one of our sites had their last day today, and it was very hard for them). Our strength is God’s grace alone.

We also had the opportunity to think about this gospel truth from a unique perspective in the Poverty Simulation tonight. Although students had a blast in the game-like simulation and there was immense joy and laughter (imagine a life size version of the board game LIFE combined with Monopoly and a group of highly competitive students and adults – Quote of the evening, “I’ve never seen that side of Mr. Mulvihill before”), the post-simulation debrief was telling: there are incredible challenges in impoverished communities that no amount of ‘stuff’ can fix. There are challenges, exhaustion, and hard choices for families that face poverty every single day in the Dominican and around the world.

But at the end of the debrief, Eric, the Student International Site Leader, offered the students a profound depiction of the gospel – the one truth that can intersect poverty at its core. And this gospel has everything to do with grace, rest, and strength.

Which is something we all need today, tomorrow, and the next.

Tomorrow is going to be good-byes to the rest of our sites. This will be emotional for many of our students because they have built deep relationships this week. Pray for their hearts as we face this next challenge.

friday, day 6

Although we said good-bye, tonight we celebrated. All of our students, site leaders and their families, and Student International staff gathered for a final banquet tonight after our last day of serving. Students shared their experiences and highlights from the week, our media team shared a recap video, students received a final commission, and then our students encircled every single site leader, family member, and staff member to pray over the workers and missionaries that will wake up on Monday to begin another work week of caring and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the community of Jarabacoa.

To say we are thankful is an understatement.

Tomorrow we white water raft, hike, swim, and shop. But today we linger a little longer with our site leaders. We give hugs, we take a few more photos, we laugh over a few memories of the week, and then we say good-bye (for now — who knows what God has in store for each of our students!).

Nos vemos pronto! 

Saturday, day 7

I am sitting outside of the dining hall on our last night, listening to the voices of our students praising the Lord in a semi-impromptu worship night up at the chapel, and one word is clear tonight: unity. But there are a lot of other words too: stretching, community, Christ, learning, engaging, serving, seeing, finding, walking, listening. But those are my words. Soon, you will be able to ask your own child what their words are (These words may come slow for some, in waves for others — be gentle and listen as best you can).

Today, our students had the opportunity to either hike to a waterfall or white water raft. We then spent a rainy (but fun and relaxing) afternoon at a Country Club. We ended our excursion day shopping in downtown Jarabacoa.

Our time is coming to a close and there will never be enough words to capture every moment, to share in what I saw, but, parents, I saw so much. I saw students falling in love with Jesus and falling in love with people. I saw them washing dishes. I saw them leading. I saw them praying and washing each others’ feet. I saw them worshipping. I saw them smiling. I saw them laughing. Let your prayers tonight be prayers of absolute thanksgiving to our good God.