Dominican Republic 2011
Waterproof mascara will be on the top of my personal packing list for any future mission trip! I was not prepared, even with waterproof mascara, for the raw emotion of this trip. And, I didn’t bring enough shoes!
Processing this trip to Los Alcarrizos in the Dominican Republic is, well, a process. Unto Inc. the organization leading the mission trip for Riverside Church is headed by Greg Henslee. He helped our group with an evening debriefing after each day.
Let me say that I don’t like meetings, at all. I’m a small group at best – ‘Just Do It’ – give me a list – type of girl. However, these evening debriefings were so necessary (great job Greg)! Hearing God moving through the hearts of my fellow ‘missionaries’ was and is restoring and renewing me. And totally undoing me, even my waterproof mascara!
Love as a Verb
- Being present with a group of people from my community, church and state.
- Working along side them for the greater good of a people, a very poor people, a world away from the USA.
- Experiencing this group loving people in a sacrificial way, with joy! With smiles! With tears of gratitude for being able to serve!
For me this was love in action. Love as a verb. Love like Jesus. This is the gospel.
Compassion. Community. Culture
One evening at our debriefing, Greg suggested that:
Our compassion could change a community and could thus change a culture.
I was humbled. I think he had it backward. Maybe it happens both ways.
Los Alcarrizos Impact
Greg was talking about our affect on Los Alcarrizos. I’d like to address the impact Los Alcarrizos had on us.
The people of this community have nothing. They have no ‘stuff’. The concept of keeping up with the Jones’s would be ludicrous here. The Dominican’s in this community do depend on God, they have no choice. There is no plan B here. They also possess a contentment that I am hard pressed to find in myself, my friends, or my fellow Americans. They have community. Their children run amongst one another, house to house. They are safe, loved and accepted. The women work together. The men work hard.The children smile, laugh and play together – outside. These people are not depressed, stressed or overweight. When I could step out from behind the lens of my ‘American Filter’ I had an interesting thought: Maybe these people have everything. Everything we don’t.
Unto Inc.’s impact is evident in the neighborhoods they are present in. Lighthouse School plus two satellite locations serve over a thousand children. There are over 600 children on a waiting list to attend. Healthy, clean water is made available. Over 25,000 gallons of drinking water is produced daily at the water purification system. Dear God, how we take drinking water for granted! Good stewardship is also taught through the ministry of Unto. Food for the hungry, homes for faithful families, education and the love of Christ are provided. Hope is brought, taught and captured.
Back to: Compassion. Community. Culture
What if, as a group, we experienced a new level of compassion. How could we not? Compassion is defined by Webster’s dictionary as sympathetic consciousness of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it. We lived a new level of compassion. We were hands, feet, hearts and heads moving as one to tangibly complete a project that would provide hope. We witnessed the compassion of the Dominican people as they served us – sharing their meager treasures, alleviating our discomfort any way they could, making us smile (and through their generous, giving spirits totally doing my mascara in).
Did compassion change community? Without a shadow of a doubt. In the area Unto was building new homes the community was changed! It was cleaner, there was some pride of ownership happening. Residents walked a little taller and smiled a little wider. The community seemed a little tighter. Did sharing compassion change our group’s community? Yes, yes and yes! We became a family, united. We shared a new bond. We worked harder together and with more joy than we ever worked alone. We shared parts of ourselves that would never have been uncovered if not for the mutual role of compassion we were fulfilling and witnessing. Yes. Compassion changes community.
What if compassion (bubbling up, filling our hearts, moving our hands and feet), what if that kind of compassion changed our community? What if we brought our serving experience home to our daily lives? What would that look like? Can we change our communities? Our culture?
Indulge me for a moment.
What if one percent of the population of the United States of America, roughly 3.5 million people, gave sacrificially? What if that one percent generated the cost of our trip ($1500) and the cost to sponsor one child ($35 per month or $420 annually) each year to benefit the Kingdom of God? That would be $1,920 multiplied by 3.5 million. I had to check my calculator twice because there were so many zeros when I first did the math! The amount is $6,720,000,000. That’s right! Six Billion, Seven Hundred and Twenty Million dollars!
About 40 people in Michigan came up with that kind of money (approximately $1,920). Whether through donation, fundraising, saving or simply choosing to spend their money that way.
Michigan has the worst unemployment rate in our country.
What if one percent of the population of the United States of America, roughly 3.5 million people gave one hour of their week to volunteer, to serve in a sacrificial way? The people that came on our trip already gave way more than that! That would be 52 hours annually multiplied by 3.5 million people. 182 million hours of hands, feet, hearts united for Christ – united for widows, orphans, homeless, hurting or hungry people!
Yes, I think that one percent could start to change our culture and other cultures! A spirit of giving and of serving, a community bent on compassion and outreach could mean a culture experiencing love in a tangible way.
One percent of the American population could make a six billion dollar and 182 million hour culture change. Wow!
- Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where to give, how much, where to spend your time.
- Give. Give where the Holy Spirit leads you to give.This could be at church (above your tithe), go on a mission trip, sponsor a child, financially support a ministry that has changed your life, give to a homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen. Be the One Percent doing something!
- Volunteer Your Time. Anywhere! Just do it! This does not have to be in a Christian organization. Go be Christ to the world!
- Thank God you have the resources of time and money to give!
YOU Matter. YOU make a difference!
My husband, Jeff, questioned whether it mattered if he, personally, came on the mission trip. Wouldn’t it have been just as effective for him to write a check?
First, it mattered to God that Jeff was there – because Jeff matters to God. God meets us wherever we are. Sometimes, it is easier to see God when we are out of our comfort zone or normal circumstances.
Second, Jeff’s physical presence on the mission trip mattered to me! I felt safe, protected and validated in my need to serve. Two of our sons accompanied us on this trip. Our sons were able to watch their dad not only put his money where his mouth is, but also his heart, hands, feet and sweat! That is something they (and we as a family) will always have. As parents we can talk all we want, but the best lessons are always caught not taught. You know, actions speaking louder….
I know Jeff mattered to the men and women he worked next to each day. Jeff is an incredible, capable, hard worker. He has a huge heart for people and gives generously of his time, help, wisdom and resources. It will matter to the people he tells about this trip that he was there!
Finally, I know Jeff’s actual presence mattered to the kids, adults and elderly he gave treats to. The surprised pleasure on an adult’s face – to be handed a treat by my husband – still brings tears to my eyes. It probably happened, but I wasn’t witness to anyone else in our group sharing treats with the adults. My husband always notices need and tries to meet it, that is just how he is.The children that rode on his shoulders and in the wheelbarrow he was pushing certainly cared that Jeff was there, live and in person! YES, Jeff personally being there mattered. EVERYONE personally present and accounted for on this mission trip mattered!
Don’t not send a check. Yes, I am aware that is a double negative. God may nudge you to financially give or support something by writing a check. God softens our hearts through tugging on our checkbooks. Really, isn’t it all His anyway? Jesus is after our hearts. Sometimes letting go of our ownership of currency is a first step toward God.
God isn’t asking us to give up, give away, everything. Take note of the many ways God blesses his people in the Bible. He blesses with love, salvation, relationship, provision, healing, children, abundant life, victory, riches, harvest, freedom, kingdoms and on and on!
Even the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-30) wasn’t asked to give everything to the poor. Jesus asked him to simply give to the poor. I believe, like me, the rich young ruler needed to learn how to do life with open hands. Hands both free to give (resources, time, help) and hands open to receive all God has for us (restoration, redemption, healing, freedom, love, joy, peace etc…).
Beyond writing a check, or even before writing a check, consider giving of yourself. First give yourself over to God, surrender to Him and His Lordship of your life. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second it like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Loving God first is the single most important thing you will ever do with your life. Jesus changes everything!
I have often wondered about the second greatest commandment. Who, exactly, is my neighbor? Is Jesus referring to the people that live next door to me? Or is this one of those ‘think deeper’ statements that could include all of humanity? There was a time I didn’t love myself, could I still love my neighbor? What if I don’t like my neighbor? Present neighborhood obviously excluded here!
I am constantly more challenged in giving myself away than my ‘stuff’ or money. Maybe money or stuff is the more difficult challenge for you? I still have fear (pride, anxiety…) rise up from time to time. What if I’m not enough? What if I don’t measure up? What if I can’t fix it? What if I’m not appreciated? What if they don’t deserve it? What if I’m rejected? What if I am not capable? What if I just don’t have anything left to give? What if?
Today, before a full blown self annihilation, I usually seek God. Way sooner than I used to!
“Jesus, what do you say about this? What do you say about me?”
His peace drenches me.
Because: It’s just not about me.
It’s all about HIM!
I didn’t bring enough shoes
His Grace is sufficient for me because HIS power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I have been stepping out, offering more of me. It’s a process, a journey. This walk can still be scary (hard, uncomfortable – you fill in the blank for yourself: _____________________________ ).
When we went to Los Alcarrizos I brought about 25 pair of Old Navy flip flops. I wish I’d brought the whole store plus a grocery store full of daily necessities.
My heart was wrecked over a little boy with wore out rubber shoes. I gave up on my waterproof mascara after day two because it just wasn’t waterproof enough.
I sat at the feet of Jesus. He was there.