From Monday July 6th, to Sunday July 12th, I joined my church in a trip to the Dominican Republic for a conference titled Unapologetic. I first want to give a shoutout to everyone that worked to put this trip, the sessions, and everything else together for us. There were 400 people that went on this trip, and it’s alot of work, and I appreciate it!
For the past few years we’ve taken trips to different countries for conferences, from Puerto Rico to Mexico, but this year had a different and more urgent/poignant feel to it than the rest. For anyone who hasn’t been aware, the relationship between DR and Haiti historically hasn’t been the best to put it lightly. Instances of racism/xenophobia exist within the culture, but also immigration issues exist as well.
This came to a head a few years back, when there was a law passed that required everyone to have a proof of citizenship in order to stay in the country. I won’t get into the complex details of that order, but a month before we were to go to DR, the deadline passed in regards to it. It put the danger of deportation on many individuals, majority of Haitian descent, and brought to remembrance the racist history between the two countries that dwell on the same island of Hispaniola.
It is in the midst of all of these situations that we found ourselves traveling on this trip. There were even some who backed out of the trip because of it. This is aside from what’s going on in America. It’s one thing to have another country dealing with racial/ethnic tensions and injustice, but it’s another thing to leave from a country that’s going through the same thing in regards to social injustice and the revisiting of historic evils perpetrated upon people of color.
As the trip approached these and many other things were like a constant hover over my head and in my thoughts, from how to respond to this and what I personally needed to learn in regards to these issues. I can’t say that I’m 100% aware of everything totally, but I can say that in looking deeper, that me not going on this trip wouldn’t serve as strong of a statement as going.
Adding to what I mentioned, I come to the theme of the conference and how it actually fits with what’s going on in society today. There are movements that have succeeded in redefining several institutions within human society for American society. Conversations about transgender individuals, gender identity, and what constitutes marriage have become an almost daily occurrence. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban against gay marriage was unconstitutional, allowing this relationship to have the same meaning as the covenant union between a man and a woman.
It’s with this complex backdrop of many issues that the Unapologetic theme comes through, it was a very needed theme for our church, and I believe the Church as a whole. The recent events in society are indeed troubling, especially for me as a Christian, but it’s also one where the opportunity to distinguish where you stand is even more easily afforded to us all.
Being unapologetic takes having your faith in Christ as a conviction rather than as a preference, with no apology. It takes being intentional in your relationships with God and towards people, consistent in your own walk, and the ability to stand with strength no matter the cost. No matter what generation you find yourself in, there has always been a stream that the greater culture swims with that Christians had to go the opposite way. American society is similar to Roman society in it’s accommodating nature to various lifestyles and belief systems, and faith in Christ is as loving as can be, yet stands in stark contrast when it comes to accommodation. Christ is the only way, His way of doing things is not only the best and preferred choice, but is the only life-giving choice.
Living the lifestyle of a Christian means it’s more than religious/pious decisions and commandments, but it informs your approach to cultural norms and life in general. When slavery and racism was a visible norm, Christians were at the helm of proclaiming freedom because of the convictions of Christ. Even when many of the Church was influenced by cultural views and even tried to put Christ on it, some unapologetically said this wasn’t right. The fight against systemic injustice still continues as we see, but now the cultural norms we deal with involve ideologies and views on human sexuality, gender, religion, and others which has required us as the Church to be able to stand on the word and be clear on it.
It’s also required those who are sleeping to wake up and examine their own lives as well. Living unapologetically isn’t just about telling people all the sins they’re doing, but looking at our own lives first and seeing where we stand with Christ. It brings humility to your life, patience towards the lives of others, and love for a God who unapologetically loved on you first.
Now with that said, I had a BLAST! Got to drive the buggies that I thought I wasn’t gonna do, swim(or wade LOL!) in the waters of Macao Beach, lounge back at the resort beach at night with wonderful friends and see the stars. I also got to learn of, taste and buy things from cocoa tea to coconut oil.
I rested, ate some good food(some was ehh haha!), enjoyed some awesome people, and was really blessed during my time there! I look forward to next year, and with what I took from the conference, I will apply it to my life. I encourage whoever reads this as well to be unapologetic ambassadors for Christ.
Here are the rest of the pics!