I have a sweet friend here in the Dominican Republic. She is one that God planted in my journey, this I am certain of! Her friendship has been a gift to say the least. She is a fellow missionary here in La Vega who came right around the same time I did at the baby age of 18 years old, right out of High School!
Meet Katherine. Her story is so rich it leaves me crying when I am met by the realities that she has gone through and overcome in her life... Overcoming lymes disease, spinal fusion surgery, near death, depression, true healing, freedom, mercy, grace... It has it all and I love how I have been able to watch God continue to shape her over the last 5 months of our friendship.. Oh we have BOTH grown so much and it is been a treasure to have someone to share it with and process throughout the trying days, weeks and months.
Last Thursday we planned a spontaneous trip to Jarabacoa, a mountain town about 30 minutes out from we live. We both have had the opportunity to visit perviously, but never together and I booked a hostel that I stayed with back in December that I loved so much and was excited to share it with her.
We headed out Friday afternoon and were just so ready to enjoy and feel the freedom to go and seek, play and climb, and look for our God amidst the beauty of His mountains, rivers, and jungle settings.
When we got there mid afternoon and checked into our little mountain hostel stay our minds were on one thing: WATERFALLS.
While Katherine and I were on the bus over, we both discussed that waterfall searching was a must, and we couldn’t leave without swimming in their clear and cascading waters. There were many individuals who had suggested different places to go and explore, and while we sat there planning we decided we would leave our waterfall exploration for the next day and focus on the few spots that others had told us about first.
There is a Dominican Young Life camp situated in Jarabacoa that became our first venture. We called up a moto concho to take us there (a man with a motorcycle that is essentially a taxi service) who ended up being our man for the rest of our stay, His name is Christian and we were so grateful for him!! The drive was longer than we thought, and after a few wrong turns and mounting a LARGE hill lined with pastures and a funky smell of cows, we finally made it to our destination.
The young life camp was beautiful, as all of the ones I have visited are. It is during the off season so there weren’t any campers around and Katherine and I just explored, played some frisbee and greeted the property staff there. It didn’t take us too long to hike through the grounds, and we started to explore elsewhere outside the camp gates.
We saw a sign on our way out that said there was a monastery farther up the hill and asked around to see if it was worth visiting. Some of our new acquaintances at the camp told us yes so we began making our way up the next hill. We had our own little mini-adventure on our way up as well and I couldn't help but try and capture it all:
When we arrived at the monastery there seemed to be no one around, no sound to hear, no sights to see except the housing and chapel buildings before us. It was beautiful and peaceful but we didn't know if we should really explore the grounds. Fortunately, there was a man that we spotted outside of the church and asked him if we could explore a bit. He told us yes, and asked if we had come to go to the river. We told him no, but were instantly intrigued and he pointed out the trail to get there. After we walked around a few minutes we hit the trail and were excited by its potential. Now, you never know what you are going to get here in the Dominican Republic... Sometimes a river can mean a small stream mixed with garbage and dirty run off water from a broken sewage system... At least that’s what we are used to in La Vega where Katherine and I live. Granted, Jarabacoa is much nicer and better kept but you never know what you could be hiking to...
As we continued on the trail we came upon a beautiful, mysterious, abandoned-looking house that had multiple structures and incredibly intriguing architecture.
I immediately began taking photos, until we started to see people come out from the structure. We were confused because the path led us right to the house, but if it was private property than where would the river be? As I began going closer, we saw a group of men in paint clothes. Katherine cautioned me, like a wise friend would, as I asked the men where the river was. They told us that they were just painting this house for the owners and we could pass through and that the river was down below. We walked through with hesitation, asking for God’s protection, and made our way down as we began hearing the sounds of the river below us.
We first saw water rushing over a large rock bed and were in awe that this was indeed a clean and flowing river! As we got closer, Katherine began to scream and celebrate before I could even see it....
There was a WATERFALL. RIGHT before us, within a near distance, flowing waters that were powerful, captivating... a fountain of life. She was so excited and overcome with emotion she immediately began making her way into the water. I stood there, watched her, captured her emotion as best as I could behind the lens, and began preparing myself to engage as well.
As we mounted and climbed the rocks with our wet, slippery feet, the ends of our pants began to become wet and our desire to swim only continued to grow. When we were finally close to the waterfall and pool that formed at its base, we were SO sad that we had forgotten our bathing suits... But that didn’t stop us. We found a way (I’ll leave out the details hehe) and enjoyed the refreshing waters that washed over us and reminded us of the beauty that the Dominican Republic possesses, a revival of purpose that was so needed for both Katherine and I as we have endured so many difficult days here, especially recently.
We just couldn’t believe it... We hadn’t set out to chase any waterfalls that day but the Lord led us right to one, it was like He was saving it special for us and just wanted to make us smile, hear us laugh, and let us enjoy His healing waters.
The next day we found ourselves caught in another adventure, this time led by our concho man Christian. He suggested a few different places we could go and we asked him to take us to them both if there was enough time. The first place we stopped was composed of scattered foot bridges that eventually led us to a waterfall destination.
Unfortunately, the base of the waterfall was surrounded by quicksand and we didn't have the opportunity to swim like we had planned. So, we decided it was onto the next and hopped back onto the moto and rode in the opposite direction for another 30 minutes or so until we made our way to a concrete path that led straight to our next waterfall excursion.
I love that God always knows the language of love to speak to us. He gave us the sweetest adventures in under 24 hours, let us rest in His creation, affirmed our love for this country, and gave us a sweet sisterhood to continue to grow and establish through it all.
One thing I am learning is that this life truly is a day by day reality... We plan, dream, imagine, and seek but really what is in front of us is the day we've been given. The Lord is speaking and showing me that His voice is the sweetest I could ever listen for, and He has the greatest direction I could ever follow.