I had finally said yes to something that had pulled at my heart for years. I chose to get out of my comfort zone and take my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic. As we traveled, I grew wearier from lack of sleep, and I began to question the value of such a trip.
Questions jumped out at me, “What did I have to offer?” “Would communication be impossible?” As I looked around at my team of 34, the accountant in me started adding up the chunk of money each of us had expended. The logical side of me thought,
“Maybe we should have stayed home and sent our money instead?”
As we landed and traveled to our destination for the night, my heart was filled with such sadness. As I looked around, the startling fact was I had so much, and they had so little. I kept thinking “How could my team or little ole me make much of a difference in this country when the needs are so great?” “Wouldn’t my money go further instead of me being here?”
We pulled into our compound for the night where people were crowding around. The gate shut behind us, and as I looked back, I saw the sad faces and arms reaching in begging for something.
As we settled into our room, I quietly sat and listened intently to those that had come here before. They would well up with excitement and burst out with memories. One young lady got everyone roaring when she reminisced about the tarantula in the shower. I did not see the humor in that. I thought to myself; “I hate camping so why on earth did I think a trip like this would be fun?”
As we settled into the steel bunks that swayed as you breathe, I was sure I had a made a mistake. This trip was not for me; I should have sent money. Yes, my heart felt sad for the people with less but to be honest, at this moment, I was missing the conveniences of home. I wanted my air conditioning, my lovely clean bed, and a warm shower – tarantula-free.
Surely I must have heard God incorrectly.
I lay awake all night staring at the opening on the wall, which was a window with no glass. I wondered and imagined the creatures that were making their way into our beds.
We awakened in the morning, and I just could not understand this excitement that permeated the room from those that had been here before. I just wanted to go home. I looked at my 14-year-old daughter and thought to myself “What have I gotten us into?” She had that look of – how could her mother have thought this was a good idea?
I whispered quietly so no one would hear, “Do you think Dad would fly us home?”
I struggled through breakfast, exhausted and dirty. I was still curious though about the excitement of those that had been here before.
I reminded myself, I am not a quitter. So, I set out for the day to embrace it and give it my all. I didn’t share with a sole what was going on inside my mind, as I wasn’t proud of my self-focused thoughts.
After all, look around – they have so little, and I have so much.
It was time – the big gate drew to the side and let us out into their world. I stepped out into the world that was foreign to me. I felt so inadequate to help and couldn’t understand how I would be able to communicate with my limited knowledge of the Spanish language.
As we walked down their streets, they pulled us into their homes. The families would scurry about borrowing chairs from their neighbors so we would all have a seat. They had little to offer but what was theirs was ours.
The families would cut fruit from their trees and share what they had. They showed no embarrassment about what they had or didn’t have. They were genuine people ready to love and be loved.
It was hospitality; I had never experienced before.
These were God’s people. The people I wanted standing with me in heaven.
Looking into those faces, holding their babies, and loving the people, God’s people – were all that mattered. It didn’t matter if they were dirty, poor, or different.
The thoughts of flying home were erased all at once, and I was all in. The conveniences of home lost all their appeal. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
My life was forever changed on that first day. I learned that entering into someone else’s world was a mighty privilege. A privilege to be honored and cherished. I discovered language was not a barrier to loving God’s people. The universal language of a smile and a hug speaks volumes. Hugs and smiles penetrated into the crevices of our hearts more than words ever could.
Little did I know these were lessons that would serve me well later in life. God was preparing me for what was ahead. But for now, I was learning to love and be loved by people that were not exactly like me.
I went on a mission trip to give, but an unexpected thing happened that day. I received more than I ever gave. To think that had I never stepped out of my comfort zone – I would have missed those wonderful lessons that God had for me on that special day.
With a heart full of love I laid my head down for the night excited for what was ahead. I could hardly wait to find out if our team of 34 could build a church that was better than sending money.
If you would like to hear part two of this story click here: Is Sending Money Worth More Than Going?