Jordan Scruggs and Dana Capasso: "No longer invisible"
[Editor's note: We invited several YDS students to offer reflections on the theme "What I Did Over Summer Vacation." Jordan Scruggs '15 M.Div. shared this reflection about an interfaith immersion program in the Dominican Republic she attended.]
Read more articles from students:
Joel Bergeland: "Good work, no matter how it ends."
Natalie Blasco: "We are the church of God and we are responsible for one another"
Angel Collie: rewriting exclusive theological narratives—globally and locally
This summer, Dana Capasso '14 M.Div. and I received a scholarship to allow us to attend an interfaith immersion program in the Dominican Republic with International Partners in Mission. The bulk of our time in the country was spent in the back of a truck owned by a woman named JoAnn, a community organizer from the United States who moved to the Dominican Republic over thirty years ago. JoAnn acted as our host and guide and drove us, along with seven other women from the United States, over the bumpy roads between the varying and colorful villages in her community, El Cercado.
Dana Capasso, left, and Marilyn L. Staveger, Right, in the Dominican Republic (Photo: courtesy of Dana Capasso)
The residents of El Cercado share a remarkable love for one another and work tirelessly to promote peace and equality in their homes and neighborhoods. Because of IPM's relational connection with local leadership, our group received a warm welcome into community spaces and churches. We visited public service centers and health clinics run mostly by volunteers who open their homes and lives to the needs of others, even to the point of risking their own exposure to disease and illness.
We spent time listening to the women of Mujeres en Desarollo talk about developing a peanut microenterprise, a business that relies on the peanut production of local farmers to produce "Nutrifort," a high-protein, high-vitamin nutrition bar developed in El Cercado that is used to combat severe malnutrition in young children. We also met some of the men and women who run local organic farms who, despite their limited resources, are discovering creative ways to grow healthful, blight resistant crops to feed their families and communities.
We were also grateful for the opportunity to get to know Marilyn L. Staveger '61 M.Div., a YDS alumna who was also participated in the program. We enjoyed hiking around the Dominican Republic with her and are inspired by her lively spirit!
Jordan Scruggs, rear center, with some of the children of El Cercado (Photo: courtesy of Jordon Scruggs)
One of the most meaningful parts of our trip, at least for me, was the afternoon that we had the opportunity to sit in on an adult literacy class, when JoAnn dropped us off in a small village on the outskirts of El Cercado. This adult literacy education program was sponsored by the Catholic Church and theoretically funded by the government, though the coordinator of this site had been working for six months without pay.
At the instructor's request, one of the women in the literacy class stood to introduce herself and explain why she had decided to join the reading group. This woman, who was in her mid-sixties, explained that she was working and raising six grandchildren on her own. She had never had the opportunity to learn to read and write when she was a growing up, which had been a source of deep embarrassment and shame for her. "But now, because of this program," she glowed, "I have learned to sign my name. And on the day that I learned to sign my name, I became a person. I am no longer invisible."
It was moments like this one in which I sensed the true nature of "mission," when I felt the spirit of God move between cultures and spaces and hearts. In this woman's articulation of her individuality and sense of self-worth, there existed an invitation for me to affirm my own value. It was a sweet and rare privilege and one that I will not soon forget. Dana and I hope to cultivate a partnership with International Partners in Mission that would enable us to participate in another immersion program along with other YDS students in the Spring of 2014.
International Partners in Mission was founded in 1974 by returning Lutheran missionaries who desired to reshape the way churches view mission. In its present form, IPM is an international, interfaith program that works to link persons across socio-economic, national and cultural boundaries and to promote meaningful partnerships based on equality and justice. In 2003, IPM began offering interfaith immersion programs with the intention of providing these partners with opportunities to encounter one another in meaningful, sincere relationships. For more information on dates and locations of other IPM trips, please visit www.ipmconnect.org.