COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — The house was small, not much larger than a storage shelter some Americans might have in their backyard.
To the family for whom it was just built, it was like a mansion.
"I'll never forget the look of appreciation. It just blew me away," said Brookstone baseball coach Vince Massey.
The family had been living on the street.
Massey said a greater appreciation for what one has was gained by 46 members of the Brookstone School family on a recent mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
"To see so many living below the poverty level made us think," he said. "We as Americans have a lot of stuff we don't need."
Seventeen baseball players from the Columbus private school were among those making the trip.
"Despite the poverty, people approach life like someone who has everything," Massey said. "I told the players to think about those people every time they begin to let something that didn't go the way they wished ruin their day."
Besides Massey and baseball players, there were 10 students and 18 family members.
Mission members brought food, toiletries and baseball equipment to the Dominican Republic.
The group left Columbus on March 30 and returned April 6.
After arrival in Santo Domingo, there was a 20-minute bus ride to the city of Boca Chica.
Along the way, mission members saw a procession of about 200 people marching down the street.
"It was the day after Good Friday," freshman Drew Webb said. "I thought it was some kind of Easter celebration."
He asked the driver and discovered, to his dismay, it was a gathering of Satan worshippers.
"They were celebrating the death of Christ," Drew said. "It was strange."
"I just wondered why," junior Chance Wagner said. "I couldn't understand it."
Mission members stayed at the Highlands Complex, a ministry of the Rawlings Foundation and Fellowship of Christian Athletes Baseball.
The facility consists of three baseball fields, a soccer field, swimming pools and dormitories that can house up to 900 people.
The complex is also the Dominican Republic training academy for the San Francisco Giants.
Directing the long term FCA mission is Mike Shaheen, a former high school baseball coach in Atlanta and the man who first approached Massey with the idea of a mission trip.
"It was different from anything I had experienced before," junior Eli Ussery said. "It was the first time I had not spent Easter with my family. It was a different experience."
On Easter, the group attended services at a small church.
The sermon and singing was in Spanish and the boys said they were glad they remembered some of the language from classes.
"You really had to pay attention. You couldn't fall asleep during the service like here," Drew said, laughing.
"God speaks a lot of languages," Chance remarked.
After the service, they played baseball with the local youth.
Baseball games and clinics were part of the daily routine.
The Brookstone folks put in plenty of hard labor building houses as they worked with mission members, for whom it is a yearround job. The temperature was in the 90s.
"We were not ready for that heat and humidity," Ussery said.
The group helped finish one house that was started by another mission group. Then they built another.
The Brookstone group also spent time spreading its faith.
Mission members would go on a prayer walk.
"We met one man who said he was a Christian but was afraid he would not go to heaven because of his drinking. We prayed for him," Chance said.
One woman they talked with, Wagner said, "accepted Christ on the spot."
"That was awesome," Eli added.
Drew said people in the Dominican Republic are much more outward about their faith than people here.
"If you can share that feeling, you might save someone. It made me really appreciate what I have," Drew said.
In the evening, the group had devotionals and wrote in journals.
Drew said that much of what he saw was depressing, but the people always seemed content and positive.
"People who had nothing were still smiling," Drew said.
Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, http://ledger-enquirer.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.