Hi everyone! If you don’t know me I’m Sadie’s other grandma. The not-famous one. She and most of the kids in our area call me 2-mama. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you. I wanted to write a little about our recent mission trip. Well, actually, I don’t even like to use the phrase “mission trip” and here’s why:
Our church family discovered an orphanage in the little town of Neyba in the Dominican Republic around 10 years ago. I’ll never forget the first time I walked through that house. It was crowded, dark, and extremely hot. The tiny kitchen had a broken refrigerator and a stove with one working burner. The bathroom (it’s a stretch to call it that) was in the backyard with no plumbing attached (in other words, nothing ever flushed). Speaking of the backyard (again, a stretch), it was fenced-in with what looked like tall sticks wired together. The building sits right in middle of the town so it’s important to have some protection. Inside the house was three rooms. One for the boys, one for the girls and one for the house parents. The eighteen children who lived there were stacked three high in make-shift bunk beds and many of the mattresses were so old the imprint of the child who slept there never went away.
The faces of those sweet children reflected the despair of the conditions they were living in. We were shocked and saddened by what we saw, and we came home determined to make a difference. Over the years, our church family rallied together to see to it that our “Dominican Kids” would know what hope and love and grace and protection look like. We were able to remodel their kitchen, provide indoor plumbing and a better fence. We also replaced flattened mattresses with new ones. But God wasn’t done with this home.
“I always say if you don’t have a passport, get one. Then say, “Lord, send me.” Be ready for a big adventure to come your way.”
Two years ago we joined forces with an organization called Help One Now. They are dedicated to helping kids around the world find sponsors in America to help with the necessities of life—food, shelter, education, etc. With their help, a second story was added and now the boys and girls are on different floors and each have their own bathroom. One of the older boys told us last week that he never dreamed he would live in such a nice house.
When I was asked to be a part of the team going in 2008, I knew I wanted my grandchildren and other young people in our church family to be a part of this ministry. At 12 years old, John Luke was the first of my grands to go with me. The DR kids loved him so much and immediately attached themselves to him. I remember leaving the first VBS we put on in the town. We nearly had to get a police escort to get us out. The kids loved John Luke so much, they crowded around him, not wanting him to leave. I told him he was like a rock star. The next year Sadie went with me and I had two rock stars. The DR kids loved both of them. Keep in mind this was way before Duck Dynasty. John Luke and Sadie were just young kids willing to go on a mission trip. After that, more and more family went with me. This last trip ten of my family members went along with twelve others from our church. Now you understand why it’s more like a family reunion.
Over the years, some of our DR kids have gotten older and moved on. We continue to keep up with them and help in any way we can. We’re determined to pour into them as long as we can. My grandkids and other young people who go with us join our team in this effort. They lead singing, put on dramas, help with crafts and read scriptures. Mostly, and most importantly, they love them. They are their friends. We’ve always said, love has no language barrier and it’s true. I’m always amazed at how our “kids” from two different countries can communicate when they don’t speak the language. A hug in any language is still a hug. Right? Just like shooting a basketball works in any language and so does making a friendship bracelet.
As I was flying home, I sat next to a man from Canada. He wanted to know why I was in the DR. He was there for work. After I told him, he was quiet for a minute, then he said he often stays in the nicer hotels in Santo Domingo and he notices many groups who come on “mission trips” stay in a nice hotel. He said, “I have a problem with that.” I said “Why?” He said, “If you’re coming to help poor people, shouldn’t you live like they do?” I agreed that putting the whole 1st world and 3rd world thing in the proper perspective can be difficult. But, here’s how I look at it.
Each year, maybe two or three times a year, my family will go to a country to help people who will never see a cell phone or drive a car or wear new shoes or go to a mall. But, here’s the deal, the fact that I live in a nice house and drive a car and have a cell doesn’t keep anyone in a 3rd world country in poverty. My circumstances in America won’t change their conditions. But, my heart and what I do with the money I make in America can and does. The man stating his problem with those staying in a nice hotel probably does nothing himself to help the poor; yet he passes judgement on those who do.
After our first trip to the DR, one of the local workers from the area said to our group, “Please don’t go home and feel guilty for what you have. Go home and be grateful. Then, decide how you can give back.” Those were, and still are, very wise words. We are blessed in America. Even our poorest do not compare to the poverty in other countries. So, what do we do with that? We thank God for our blessings and give back to others. That’s what God calls us to do.
I always say if you don’t have a passport, get one. Then say, “Lord, send me.” Be ready for a big adventure to come your way.