Hola amigos! I am home, and happy to report that my eight weeks in the Dominican Republic were full of God’s power and provisions. Sincere thanks to those who prayed. What an encouragement it was for me to know that many of you were on your knees this summer. Let us rejoice… for God answered your prayers and did marvelous things in and around me.
Now, I wish that I could sit down with each of you and tell you all about how God was working this summer, however since that isn’t exactly possible, we will just have to pretend… won’t we? So, imagine this… you and I are sitting on a couch together, cups of tea in hand (or coffee if you prefer), and this conversation unfolding…
You ask, “What memories from your trip will you take home with you?” :::: Well, it has been almost two months now since I met that beautiful island. And now as I’m home, it is funny to reflect back to my first impressions of the Dominican Republic. I remember the initial embrace being hot humidity. That to say, it was a warm welcome indeed. From the moment our plane touched down, sweating became as natural as blinking and swallowing. By the end of the eight weeks, I barely even noticed that we are all pretty wet, all of the time. :::: Another initial memory of this island was beholding Dominican transportation for the first time. I vividly remember feeling simultaneously shocked and impressed when I crammed into my very first gua gua (small bus), and when I say cram, I mean cram. Let me tell you… all space is utilized, including the floor. Every nook and cranny is occupied with someone or something. A space that would usually seat one, seats two, or maybe even three. In other words, you know that whole American concept of one’s personal space… well it doesn’t exist here. The more the merrier, they say. But that’s not all! Lest you think that a gua gua just for human transportation, I report that I sat beside a man and his chicken, and another man and his parrot. By the end of the trip however, I was no longer shocked when we would pull to the side of the road to squeeze in one more person and their basket of bananas, but I admit to still being very impressed. How the four tires survive the weight, remains a great mystery to me. :::: On a more serious note though, I came to enjoy and appreciate the country very much, its little quirks are all. I found the slow pace of life wonderful, the fruit delicious, the nature diverse, the community strong, and the people friendly. I enjoyed many beautiful skies, painted the colours of sunset. The heavens certainly do declare the glory of God there! And I saw a few powerful tropical storms, with more rain at once than I ever thought possible. Most of all though, I fell in love with the simplicity of life in that place, where people genuinely enjoy each other and appreciate a good meal of rice, beans, and chicken. On a number of occasions, I was the recipient of kind hospitality from strangers, for which I am grateful. I left the Dominican Republic with new friends and sweet memories. :::: Best of all though, I left the Dominican Republic with a bigger view of God and His family. Amidst the difficult poverty of the country, He showed Himself to be the true treasure… which is precisely why the ministry of Makarios http://makariosinternational.org/ is so exciting! It was an absolute pleasure and privilege serving in the school, seeking to provide an education for children who would otherwise not to be educated, and in so doing sharing the Gospel in word and deed. Honestly, I cannot even begin to recount the lessons I collected working alongside the staff there. Some of these lessons include: the priority of love, the sufficiency of God, the motivation and implications of the Gospel, and viewing discipline and structure as a way of loving the students. In sum, sharing Life (pun intended – physically and spiritually, He is life!) was what He had called us to do there with those people. And now that I’m home, His call remains the same. I am to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength here, and my neighbours in the States as myself. ::::
You ask, “What are you glad that you didn’t know before you went?” :::: They say ignorance is bliss, and in some regards, it is. Thinking back to some specific instances in which ignorance was indeed bliss… well, it is probably a good thing I was unaware of the many insect species I would come in contact with on the island. Actually, it is definitely a good thing that I didn’t know about cohabitating with cockroaches and banana spiders, or else I might have allowed my bug phobia to deter my going. Thankfully, my fear was overcome by an intense desire to see the bugs dead. My friends joked with me that I turned into another person, a crazy, bloodthirsty killer to be exact, from the moment I spotted the unwanted guest until it was smashed dead by my trusty shoe. Who knew that I had the exterminator gene in me? I certainly didn’t. I suppose it took living in the D.R. to find out that fear in the face of the enemy serves as adrenaline to fight… to fight to the death. Let’s just say that eight weeks on an island forces one to overcome big silly fears of small silly things. ::::
You ask, “What did a normal day look like?” :::: In one word – busy! It would look like waking up very early to the ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ of the neighbourhoods’ roosters. (They are very persistent alarm-clocks! might I add.) Then after a quick breakfast and group prayer time, it was off to the Makarios school. The morning routine entailed singing and praying with the students and feeding them breakfast. After everybody was well fed, let the learning begin! For the next few hours, I helped the teachers teach math skills, reading skills, science lessons, art projects, and Bible stories. And FYI, this was all done without air-conditioning, technology, and electricity. The rest of the day entailed serving lunch and helping with soccer camps and VBS activities. Around six-o-clock I would head back to where I lived, help cook dinner with my team from The Master’s College and the other dozen missionaries, and then gladly sit down for a wonderful community-style meal. After some great food and fellowship, we would spend the remaining few hours of light visiting with each other and our neighbours. Before we would know it, it was time to hit the sack and recharge for the next full day.
You ask, “What Scripture passages became significant to you while you were there?” :::: It is funny how the Lord works sometimes. Allow me to explain one such instance, which caused me to chuckle at His delightful sovereignty. The first two weeks of my trip, I remember feeling a mixture of strong emotions. I was overwhelmed at the poverty and confused as what to do, and where even to start. In the midst of dire conditions and desperate people, my heart responded in fear and despair. Little did I know that the Lord had the perfect verse in store for me at the perfect time. I was visiting a missionary friend's house, only to discover exactly what I needed to read scribbled on a piece of paper on her wall. It read, "We do not know what to do but our eyes are on You." That is verse twelve from 2 Chronicles twenty. God was reminding me to look to Him. He caught me distracted by all the issues around me, and lifted my eyes away from it all to Him. That verse became the cry of my heart, and later on, the entire chapter became a precious passage to me, for it speaks of the power of God in contrast to our weakness. It reminds me to be courageous in the face of challenges, because God is with me (verse seventeen), and to be grateful in all circumstances because His love endures forever (verse twenty-one). I can exclaim, ‘Hallelujah!’ with Jehoshaphat’s army, because the same good God of their day in Israel reigns today in the Dominican Republic and the United States (and worldwide)! :::: Another verse that God highlighted for me was Matthew 18:3, when Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Holy Spirit had me think through… what can I learn from children about how I am to be, according to Christ? Well, children are curious, easily- molded, teachable, excitable, completely dependent, forgiving, vulnerable, eager, and trusting. Am I that those things before God? I better be, because Jesus requires such childlike faith. Let’s just say, as a teacher, I was learning a lot from my students in regards to this topic! ::::
You ask, “What impact will this trip have on your choices for life back in the States?” :::: I remember a conversation between one of the missionaries there and myself. She was telling me that oftentimes when Dominicans find out that she is a full time teacher in a small Christian school, receiving no paycheck, and working overtime, they are stunned. They just cannot believe that she would leave the luxuries of America to live amidst their poverty in order to teach a couple of poor, crazy kids. They think that she is crazy! That is because they do not know the Gospel. What is far more ‘crazy’ is the Gospel! This conversation caused me to consider the wonderful absurdity of Jesus’ incarnational ministry, that He would leave His throne in heaven to come to this sin-stained world, to love a group of rebel orphans is beyond my comprehension. His incarnation is a completely humbling thought that should leave us awestruck and speechless. We, children of God, should be stunned to an even greater degree, than Dominicans are stunned at Americans coming to their country. David Livingston says it best... "People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa... I have never made a sacrifice. We ought not to talk of 'sacrifice' when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us!" All that to say, this trip has got me to thinking about some sort of ‘incarnational ministry’ for my future, whether that be abroad or down the street in the inner city. I can think of no more exciting way to live out the Gospel. We shall see where God will lead. ::::
Well, thanks for taking the time to chat! That was a lovely cup of tea… wasn’t it? … and there is nothing better than talking about the great things that the Lord has done. Psalm 126:3
I hope that each of you had a great summer as well. How about another cuppa and we talk about what the Lord did in your life this summer?