Saturday, July 28, 2012

DR Day 7- Final Thoughts for the Flight Home

Most of all I just feel so incredibly blessed to have gone on this trip.  The fact that many people from my hometown saw my heart for missions and encouraged me financially and in prayer is truly incredible.  Their sacrifices for me show just how amazing the body of Christ is.

The Lord really protected my heart this week.  I think He knew if He let me, I would have given it away and never come back to the states.  The thought scares me just a bit, but I know it holds a lot of truth as well.  I’m so thankful that the Lord has given me patience and endurance until I can finally fulfill my calling.  More than that though, I am really excited to get back to the states and really be bold for Christ daily.  What happens in the DR shouldn’t stay in the DR.  If I can’t fulfill my role as a daily follower of Christ now and in the place I’m in, why should he ever send me somewhere later where it will be ten times harder? So I will follow him this minute, this hour, this day until he leads me somewhere else.

I’ve been made aware of many things on this trip, but one big thing is my sinfulness.  I like to think sometimes that I’ve got it all together and have no reason to ask for forgiveness.  After visiting the DR, I have discovered that the sole fact that I’m an American should bring me to my knees in repentance.  We are constantly disobeying God’s word in the way we live our lives. The way we spend our money, use our time, and love other people.  I can assure you that the Dominicans have more of a knowledge of these three factors than I ever will.  However, seeing their faith will forever make me think twice about mine. Not question my faith, because thankfully it’s dependent on the always constant solid rock, but it will make me think about the way I live it out.  I know I will never be the same after visiting the DR, and I hope and pray that what I’ve learned reaches out to each and every one of you too.  I can’t wait to reinforce this life change on other mission trips until I am able to be more Christian than I am American, and until I can truly love people and their lives more than I love myself. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

DR Day 6

Today we went to an orphanage in La Romana that was very well off.  The girls were in school, church, and had the opportunity to practice sports and other hobbies.  Marc Anthony and some other famous people donated money to help the orphanage out, and you could definitely tell. Even though the situation of the girls was the same, they all had hope through the Lord and this orphanage.  As soon as we walked through the gate, a girl named Madeline grabbed my hand.  She was 15 and knew some English, so we clicked immediately.  A few girls performed for us in the church, and then we went out to the courtyard to play volleyball with the kids.  Several of the members on our team had children at the orphanage that they loved with all their hearts and helped sponsor them.  It was really hard to see them say goodbye to their “kids”, but I’m thankful for their ministry and love that knows no cultural boundaries. 

We tried dulce de leche de coconut and empanadas today, which were both AMAZING! I could really get used to this Dominican food-except for the cake of course!

Later, we went to the baseball game to watch our boys play, but unfortunately it got rained out.  However, the rain stopped just long enough for Dustin to share the Gospel with the other team before it started pouring again.  Then, that night we went around and collected all of our team’s thoughts and lessons learned from the trip, so here is a quick recap:

-Value people over self.  Tell others how you can live with so much joy and what gets you through each day. 
-Prayer and reading the Bible really does work.  Focus on them without distractions.
-Help others win in this life. It’s not just about us winning.
-Live in the now. It’s the only time frame that matters.
-Give, give, give.
-Be thankful for what you have.
-Don’t question God. He has you where you are for a reason.
-Be strong and courageous.
-You can’t make excuses.
-God’s creation extends and continues everywhere.
-Sometimes just being there for someone is enough.
-Love transcends all languages.
-Don’t limit God’s power and what he can do. 
-Remember what broke your heart and go home and change something.
-Use each other for accountability.
-Even if you have to sacrifice material things, live in peace.

DR Day 5

Sorry! I fell asleep watching a movie last night, so here's Day 5...

Today was just a day full of laughter.  I have made so many wonderful friends, and I really don’t want to go back to America next week.  Two girls I got especially close to, Lori and Lauren, and I basically laughed the entire day, whether on the bus, in the SCORE lobby, or in our room.  They’re like sisters now, and that just reaffirms my belief that the body and family of Christ can be just as strong, if not stronger than blood relatives. 

We went to a village called Quisqueya and visited what I believe is one of the most well-established day care centers in the DR, Emmanuel House.  They have such nice facilities, and direct their own child sponsorship program.  Since Compassion International is so close to my heart, I really connected with this program as well.  In the afternoon we went out into the village and got to see the poorest village in Quisqueya.  It was around 3 pm, and we met a family who had 5 kids and they hadn’t eaten a single thing that day.  Our hearts broke for this family, and our small group of 8 decided to buy them food. We headed out to the local grocery store which only took pesos.  God had provided me with around 1500 pesos from my college minister, Brian Fulton, so we got to use that, plus some money from three others in our group to buy not one, but three families food that would last them probably a month.  It was a relief situation, they needed food, and God provided.  I hope that one day one of those babies will be able to group up and say that even when there was no hope, Jehovah Jireh was still good and true to provide.

God answered a HUGE prayer and concern of mine today. I was anxious about how to get into a Gospel conversation with a Dominican.  I was using the language barrier as an excuse, and really just didn’t apply myself to learn the Gospel in Spanish.  However, after Wednesday night, I decided to learn the Evangecube in Spanish and was able to share it with several kids today. Also, we were at the baseball game, and for some reason, I felt like I needed to walk to the side of the dugout to chat with some teenagers standing over there.  I met a girl named Joanna who knew English! So we talked for a couple minutes about why we were in the DR, and this man standing nearby who knew English too said, “This is very important.  You and I are Christians, but Joanna is not.  You need to tell her about Jesus.” Today has been the epitome of “making the most of every opportunity” and God has definitely blessed it.

Oh! One quick note, Dominican cake is no bueno.  I didn’t think it was possible for me not to like sweets, but let me tell you, it is.

Also, I saw many examples of people suffering for Christ today.  For example, our translator, Augusto, who was sharing at the baseball game, had to yell and strain his voice to translate for the men in our group preaching the Gospel.  And then when we were out in the village helping the family out, another translator, Daphna, didn’t want to go back into the village to give them their food, because she was so torn up about the conditions, but she went anyway for the sake of the Gospel.  While we were in the village, I taught the kids the Spanish version of our local VBS song, “Fly” where it says “Anything is possible with God”, and they absolutely LOVED it and sang along.  “Anything” means anything.  Achievements, help, overcoming obstacles, and even suffering is possible with God.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DR Day 4

Today was the turning point for me. Convictions came flooding and there is no way I can return unchanged. 

Our first stop was an orphanage called Jackie’s House. This is a place where prostitutes drop their children off, because they can’t (or don’t want to) take care of them. The minute we entered the gate, the children came running and screaming and jumping into our arms. Praise God for moments like that when you feel so utterly loved.  All the girls had to use the restroom, and it was terrible. No gas station restroom I’ve ever used can even compare. Ugh…I still get chills thinking about it. We did our village ministry session, teaching the kids about the Armor of God and the Evangecube.  One little nine year-old boy on our trip, Jackson, was a rockstar at the cube. He LOVED sharing it with the kids, and he always talked about how exciting it was to think about sharing it again.  “Let the little children come to me.” Christ says this three times in the New Testament. Isn’t that what we’re called to do? Have the faith of a child? I wish I had the faith of this little boy. He knew that the children’s greatest need wasn’t toys or games or food, but the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you better believe he told them. At the end, all the kids prayed for us, our families, and our safety in the DR.  They prayed that we would have the armor of God as were serve this week.  One said the prayer and they all repeated it afterward, which sounded like a small choir of voices being raised to the Father.

We stopped at a little creek area for lunch, where the Dominicans were swimming and jumping off the bridge.  If I was a Dominican I think I would be there often, seeing as it reminded me of a place we go back home with friends and family. Except that the Dominicans swim in their underwear. I’m not quite sure how acceptable that would be in good ole Birmingham, AL.

The next place we visited was my biggest worry of the trip.  A village called Ducasa is located right outside the dump.  Every day, people from the town go up on the mounds of trash and collect recycled products that they then sale to the recycling companies each afternoon.  Thankfully, we didn’t get to go to the top, but we heard many things about it from our trip leader, Dustin.  Apparently the smell could cause you to vomit any second, you walk through a million flies when you walk 10 feet, and there are even people living up on top.  The children were unruly as we tried to teach them the bible lessons.  There were probably 100 of them in the small church.  One girl gave me some of her limoncios, which were absolutely delicious! I broke when I saw one boy with a very infected broken fingernail who was lethargic and looked like he hadn’t eaten for days. 

One the way home I had some real sugar cane, which did not taste like sugar at all. I mean, I liked it, but it wasn’t my fave. 

That night during worship, we were encouraged to take this song and create our own version, inserting things that really applied to our lives. Many of you may know it, and I encourage you to write your own.  It gave me focus and direction the rest of the week.

Lord you are more precious than safety.
Lord you are more costly than order.
Lord you are more beautiful than laughter.
And nothing I desire compares with you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DR Day 3

Today we went to a village called Monte Cristy to do medical missions again.  We saw around 160 patients today, and even though that was a good bit less than yesterday, I think we were able to diagnose and treat with better quality.  Many children had scabies and chicken pox, while many adults had reflux or high blood pressure.  The worst incident today was a lady whose blood pressure was over 400.  She also said she couldn’t sleep and was so anxious. We asked her why, and she told us that she didn’t have a job and couldn’t provide for her son.  A summer-long theme for me has been “Anything is possible with God,” so I encouraged our translator, Lucio, (aka the man!) to share the Gospel with her and discuss our “anything is possible with God” attitude. She just began to weep. We made sure she attended the evangelism part of our care, and I really hope she found the strength in Christ that she needed.

By this time, I absolutely love every person on our team, and am beginning to make really good friends with many of them.  I know these friendships will be lasting, and I look forward to the encouragement and accountability I will receive from them to make sure I don’t forget what God did in the DR. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

DR Day 2

Today we went to a village called Aleman where we joined with another group to do medical missions.  We saw 230 patients in all, and most of the things we diagnosed were fixable sicknesses.  Most of the things we saw were worms, muscular pains, reflux, and feminine problems. That’s one thing that gets me- the fact that if I have heartburn or a strained muscle, I can just take a small pill that I have plenty of in my drawer, and by morning I should be fine.  These people don’t have that luxury.  Also, many things that kill them come from their contaminated water.  We use water to shower, water our plants, play in during the summer when it’s hot, and wash our car if we want to. The Dominicans don’t even have clean water to drink. Just imagine being so thirsty and not having clean water to drink. Man, I was shocked.  On a lighter note, I had a connection with a sweet boy, Johon and his two sisters, Alicia and Yurines. I taught them the slap game, head, shoulders, knees, and toes in Spanish, and we danced around for a good bit.  Our group was using the Evangecube, so one of the translators helped me teach Johon that, and he shared it with his sister and her friend. I don’t even know if he was a believer, and yet he was sharing the Gospel with them.

One thing I noticed today is that there are many interstates in the DR, and even though there are too many poor people to count, you will never see someone living under the interstates.  The Hispanic culture is so close, that they will always take in a family member if they are in need.  I think this really exemplifies what the body of Christ is supposed to be like.  Maybe if we worried less about how it would affect our family dynamics or comfortable lifestyle and more about the well-being of others, we would be more hospitable and really care for the orphans and widows and the least of these in need. 

I don’t mean to sound so cynical about the American lifestyle, and please don’t think that I hate my life or anything, but these are things that really struck me this week. I absolutely think that they have the weight to at least be considered, and for me, to be implemented in my daily lifestyle.  I believe there were several definite purposes of me going to the Dominican last week, and it would just be purely wasteful of me to ignore anything I noticed or learned simply because I’m proud to be an American. I thank God for the blessing of being born in this country, because it could have been me starving in an 8x8 hut in the DR, but as a believer we are called to daily challenge the way we live. We have to try as hard as we can to be in this world, but not of this world, and I know this trip was definitely a stepping stone in my process. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

DR Day 1

Since I wasn’t able to blog while in the Dominican Republic, I wrote in my journal, and I’m going to take this next week to reflect daily on each day of my trip. I’m hoping it will help me remember everything I learned while out of the country and make it stick. Plus, you will all get to see what was going on inside my heart as well.

Day 1
Yesterday was my first day to fly on an airplane, and believe it or not, I was completely without any fears. Even days before leaving several people asked me if I was scared, and I really wasn’t at all. I know the Lord had given me a peace that passed all understanding. We arrived in the DR very late last night so I barely got any sleep.

We got up this morning and went to church in a village called Honduras-not the country, just the village. The older brother of two wonderful people that were on the trip, Steven Melin and Kristin Melin Link, had started a church there several years before. The sermon was done in Spanish and translated in English, so it was kind of hard to follow, but the passion for Christ in the room was undeniable.  The people lived in small huts, didn’t have much clean water, and were probably wearing the same clothes they had worn the day before, and yet they were so joyful. They praised God with all they had-literally.  I also was asked to sing and help lead worship throughout the week, so that was a neat surprise. We then went to a baseball game where the team from Honduras was playing. I met a little boy who was so proud to be learning English, so I helped him study. He was being a great little student.  As we were leaving we waved bye to everyone we passed in our big bus, and one man gave me a thumbs up, so that was exciting. GV3!

I found out that I would be working with the medical team for the next two days, and I started to feel a sense of worry for my own health. I had no idea what kinds of diseases these people had, but all I knew was that they lived extremely dirty lifestyles. Thankfully, a girl named Lori, who became one of my really good friends on the trip, showed me that on our prayer calendar for the day we were to read Psalm 91 and this is what it says:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter(A) of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow(
B) of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge(
C) and my fortress,(D)
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare(
    and from the deadly pestilence.(
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;(
    his faithfulness will be your shield(
H) and rampart.
You will not fear(I) the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.(J)
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm(
K) will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels(
L) concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;(
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.(
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.(
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.(
16 With long life(
Q) I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.(

Praise God.

The questions for today are:
Who are you? And what are you here for?
I look forward to discovering my answer to these now, as well as asking myself these every single day of my life.