It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. Sometimes, life gets crazy and all you want to do is sit and write – well that day is finally here.
I want to give you guys a little recap on what my week in the Dominican was like this summer. Two months ago this week.
It was hot. Very hot. I would say we know what it’s like to be hot from the heat we’ve had this summer in North Carolina but in reality…this type of hot was different. You see, in Santo Domingo – you don’t have the luxury of being able to walk into your home or a coffee shop or restaurant and experience the AC. No, the heat followed you everywhere. Literally, to inside your home, to your bedroom, to your inside your classroom, to even when you are taking a COLD shower.
This trip was also hard, from the get-go. We experienced a 2 hour flight delay right off the bat at RDU. Not really how you want to start a trip. But, although typically one would freak out over a two hour delay – this two hour delay gave our team a chance to get to know one another and get a little background. It was an entire day of traveling, exhausting to say the least but filled with anxious hearts ready to get to the Dominican.
We arrived to darkness. Literally, it was around 10pm when we got there (and no time difference from home – Hallelujah no jet lag!). It’s funny how – before even realizing it (and it’s taken me until now to realize this) – that God was preparing us for what He had in store since that night. See, I would say that the “theme” of the week was John 1:1-5 [The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.] The darkness we arrived to was just a little preview of what God was going to be showing us and doing in our hearts.
The week consisted of a lot of manual labor at the Escuela Tia Tatiana. A little background on Escuela Tia Tatiana – it is a “private” Christian school in the heart of the slums of Herrera, Santo Domingo. This school started out as just one base floor and over the years has developed to a six story building, providing food for the students (a lot of those students – school is the only place they receive food all day), the school also provides clean/purified water for the community, they provide an education for grades pre-K all the way to seniors in high school but most importantly – they provide the students with gospel teaching as well. Since the school has been there, the community of Herrera has seen prostitution, drug abuse, gangs – all diminish to nothing. The school – through God’s sweet provision – has been a tremendous light in the community of Herrera. As we walked on the first day through out the community in what to our standards, we would consider poverty – I couldn’t help but see just joy and contentment in the faces of everyone in this community. They had the light of Jesus on their lives and that was all they needed. They weren’t too concerned with whether they had AC or the kids if they had the latest trendiest toy.
Back to the manual labor – we were able to provide a bit of remodeling to the classrooms of Escuela Tia Tatiana. From scrubbing off desks, scraping ceilings of dried up/deteriorated paint, applying fresh coats of paint to the gym walls, providing murals with scripture for the classrooms and hallways – in the midst of the heat, we were exhausted by the end of every single day. That whole week, in my head I kept hearing “All work is good work”. We were reminded a few times through scripture and encouragement from team leaders that although it may “seem” like we are only “working” with no immediate result – to keep in mind that while this work may seem very minimal and not hands on with sharing the gospel, what we were doing was and is impacting more than we could imagine. Not only were the teachers, the principle, and the pastor very grateful for what we were doing – but the adults of the community of Herrera were grateful as well. Word spread quickly that we were there in the community apparently, and they found out what we were doing and they were amazed at the fact that we were willing to do manual labor for their kids. But more than that, we were also reminded that what we were doing was not only helping the school and teachers but also the kids of the school! We were bringing the light of God through serving. I was reminded of what we often hear at Mercy Hill, we serve because He first served us. He served us with no reward in sight, but death at the cross. Out of that we are called to serve our neighbor, our friend, our city, our nation. And here we were, to serve in this specific community, in this specific school.
But manual labor was not all we did! We were also able to play and interact with the sweet children of Herrera. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon we interacted with the children through games of kickball/jump rope/tag/dominos and crafting prayer bracelets and playing with clay. What an overwhelming feeling of joy it was to be able to have these kids those afternoons and be able to let go of everything going on in our lives and just love well on them and play with them. Although, it was a bit scary haha – we had about 60-80 kids between all three days vs 11 adults – let that sink in. WOW! I mean, when the VisionTrust leaders told us to expect a lot, I had imagined maybe about 40-50, but 60-80 every day – just WOW. These kids were FILLED with joy – overflowing of joy. They weren’t there because of what we had brought material wise or what we were doing in the school – they were there to be loved on. You could see the light that the school and teachers were in their lives – overflowing and contagious to us.
The joy and contentment of the teachers and kids I think is what impacted us the most. Seeing their living conditions not only in Herrera but throughout Santo Domingo and not once hearing any of them complaining. Hearing the sacrifice that the teachers of Escuela Tia Tatiana make – their time and money to serve these kids. Hearing the sacrifice the parents make to pay to send their child to this private school because they can see the light of God at this school.
I mentioned earlier that I felt like John 1:1-5 [The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.] was our theme for the week. I say that because we were able to see and hear first hand how the Holy Spirit removed the darkness in Herrera. We were able to see and hear from students who had grown up attending Escuela Tia Tatiana and were now serving alongside VisionTrust, because they had been served to. But more than anything, these people had faith in Jesus through it all. Nelson, the executive director of VisionTrust Dominicana grew up in Herrera and saw his community firsthand go from a community of prostitution and gangs to a community filled with God’s light. His faith in Jesus was not a leap in the dark. “The Holy Spirit removes the dark and gives us real reasons to believe.”
In light of this trip, of what God made known to us – what do we do? What do we do now that we come back to our “normal lives”? What do we do when we start to take everything for granted once again and start to forget what we saw and what we experienced? We pray.
We pray that the Lord would continue to be a light not only in Herrera but in this world. That His name would be made known in every corner of the nations. We pray that He would change our heart posture to reflect praise for Him and for the resources HE has provided us with. We pray that He would open our hands and we pray that we would let go of everything we are holding onto. He has placed you exactly where you are at and given you everything that is in your life to use for HIS glory.
Whether you are a high school student with no income – he has blessed you with the ability to be able to attend school with AC and clean clothes and endless meals, praise Him for that and pray for the work you are doing at school, pray that He would use you to be a light at your school, on your team or in your club.
Whether you are a college student – praise Him for the opportunity to be a college student! Pray that He would equip you for your next step in life and be a light at your campus!
Whether you are a full-time young professional – praise Him for blessing you with a job (whatever job that may be, coffee shop barista or CEO of a multi-million dollar company), a job that provides you with income, food, and shelter. Pray that you would use this job He has blessed you with to be a light in your coworkers life and that you would give back to His kingdom – through charity donations or using your vacation time for missions or giving so that others may go on missions.
Or whether you are a parent – praise Him for this sweet gift He has given you of being a parent! Pray that His light would reflect through you everyday to your children so that they may grow up to be warriors of God – finding satisfaction in Him solely.
We have a Father that loves us endlessly and that is wanting to use us to be His light. Don’t deny Him the opportunity to use you wherever you are in life. I pray that for you my friend, and I pray that for myself. His kingdom is much greater and sweeter than anything we will EVER experience or have here on this earth.
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