The thing about being a teacher is you have the whole summer off. And if you’re remotely introspective, that’s a lot time to think. It’s been a thought provoking first month, for sure.
I’ve shared before, that the second I got on the plane to come back from the D.R. last August, I knew I needed to go back. And the amazing thing about trusting God is that he totally made it happen and in less than a year. I thought that my motivation for going back was to continue relationships with friends and kids, I’d made on that first trip, which was a worthy motivation. So, I spent a good chunk of that 10 months learning more Spanish, praying a lot, and trying to allow that first trip to continue to impact my life.
It’s funny how we do these things with God’s plans. We try to make it all logical and box it up nice and pretty. Stick a bow on top and say, “Look what God did! Ta Da!!” The thing is, though, God isn’t ever done. That bow on top, it’s not going to get tied until He decides it. I can look back on this trip and then look back to 15 years ago and realize that if the thing that happened 15 years ago hadn’t happened, this part of my life could have looked completely different. So, God’s plan, His eternal plan, definitely includes these collective few weeks I’ve now spent in the D.R., but He’s not finished and these two trips, they are stepping stones in our eternal story.
I turned 36 a few days ago. And that’s weird. I’d swear I was just 25 last year. So according to the American Dream, I’m supposed to have the house, the car, the career, and a life of ease by now. And honestly, all the boxes are checked and have been for quite a while now. Can I just say that it’s a crummy place to be? So now I’m in some sort of holding pattern. I’m supposed to work for 30 more years so I can retire and buy one of those RV’s that used to be a bus. Um, no.
The Dominican Republic? I didn’t even know where it was. I had to look it up on a map. The first trip, I saw the poverty. Actually, I was overwhelmed by the poverty and at the same time, this light. Jesus. I think it’s easier to see a glimpse of light when physical darkness is so prevalent. It’s hard to convince Americans that we need Jesus. In the third world, Jesus is all they have. Looking back on that first trip, I feel like I mostly just floated through it, absorbing it with every sense, but not really acting on it. Not knowing how to react to it.
It wasn’t until this most recent trip that I realized that, though. My mind and heart were prepared to be overwhelmed again. And I was, but on a different scale. I was moved to act; moved to use the gifts I use here in a different context; moved to create more relationships, and deepen the ones that I already had. There was no hesitance to dive in and my heart was full! I can’t pinpoint one particular moment of this trip and say, “Look what God did!” If I could paint a picture of emotion, it would have an awful lot of joy in it.
It’s never easy to say goodbye, but there were no regrets, no feelings of sadness for not doing enough, or seeing enough, or being enough, or leaving things unsaid or undone. The poverty is still there. I’m still here. I’m still not sure what the proper response to knowing that kind of poverty exists is. But, my eyes are open; my heart is open, to the possibilities of playing a larger role in spreading the light of Jesus to people in poverty.
I have no idea how long my earthly story is going to be. It is forever changed by the dancing, singing, smiles, hugs, prayers, and genuine joy of the Dominican people. I do know that life is not a bunch of buildup that leads to a 30-year holding pattern. I’m in this for the long haul, however long that may be. I have no idea what that looks like. I don’t think it’s a neatly wrapped box with a bow, though. I’m praying for God to show me what is next. I’m so thankful to serve a God who is not a God of logic and checked boxes. I continue to be surprised at the things I get to do for HIM.