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February 03, 2012 05:54 PM

Families Face Challenges In Dominican Republic

Benerito, Dominican Republic

If you've been watching the stories of a mission team made up of South Dakota business people serving in the Dominican Republic, you've probably noticed how different things are there compared to South Dakota.

The streets of Benerito in the Dominican Republic are different enough from those in South Dakota. The houses lining them too. Same story if you step inside one of them.

"I would like a car, but for economic reasons I can't do that," Rafael Javier said.

Rafael Javier and his wife, Mayalis, live in a house made up of two rooms total. And they have six children.

"When you buy a bag of rice, it doesn't last very long," Rafael said.

In addition to training for pastoring, he works in the sugar cane industry and like many others in this community, he doesn't bring home a lot of money.

"This varies a lot from one person to the other. Some of them will make 500 pesos, some of them 400 pesos, some less. But whatever they make, they have to pay for their transportation to get where they go," Rafael said.

500 Dominican pesos would fall between $12 and $13 and he says that's the daily wage for many. He says it can be very difficult to provide for a family. His wife, who is busy caring for the six children and doing housekeeping work for others as side work, can feel the stress too.

One of the main purposes of this trip was to give people from South Dakota with plenty some perspective. And it's been doing that.

"Multiple bedrooms for just my wife and I. And you feel a little guilt, but having that much resources right at your fingertips can create its own problems as well," Jeff Veltkamp said.

As he's been working on the project, Veltkamp has noticed how content many of the families are and how much joy and faith they exhibit as well.

"It's been a great experience to see how other Christians around the world are living and worshiping. And it's just a pleasure to be a part of that," Veltkamp said.

But his hope, and others going home to America as well, is not to forget the life those they've been working along side this week are living and will continue to live here.

"Yes, sometimes it's very difficult because the things are very expensive," Rafael said.

The South Dakota group returns to the U.S. this weekend.
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