"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 5, 2017
Last week I laid the groundwork regarding the conditions in the Dominican Republic. Now I'm going to begin sharing some of the experiences of the mission trip.
On Sunday morning our group attended a church in Santiago. The pastor had a story similar to my sister, Janie. The pastor's husband died from cancer three years ago, and the church asked her to continue on as pastor; much like what happened five years ago with Janie. So they had a common bond and were able to talk for a few minutes and give one another a hug while we were there.
My brother-in-law, Darryl, preached at the church on Sunday morning, using an interpreter. The Dominican lady who was with us all week, interpreting Spanish to English or vice-versa depending on the situation, did an excellent job. This was her very first time of being involved with a missions group and interpreting. She is in her twenties, attends the Bible School in Santo Domingo, and is called to missions.
Collecting the offering at the church was very different. The church had approximately 100-150 people in attendance. The pews are set up in two rows, with a center aisle going down the middle. Two women stood at the front of the church, one in front of each section and each having large wooden chest set on a table. The ushers started at the back of the church and dismissed the people row by row. Each row would walk to the front of the church and drop their offering into the wooden chest in front of their section, then circle back around to go to sit down. If you didn't get up to put money in the offering, people in your pew would have to step over you to get in and out; and it would be very obvious when everyone else left your pew and you were left sitting. It was just their custom and how they did things.
The church has a school. School days in the Dominican Republic are only four hours in length; with half the students attending in the morning and half in the afternoon. Education levels are low and teachers have a difficult time knowing how to fill four hours of teaching per day.
Child Hope, the ministry that the missionary that we work with oversees, have christian school set up in various places in the D.R. They work to get sponsors for the kids in their schools, with the money going to pay for meals, uniforms, education, medical care, school supplies, and whatever else is needed. A study has been done with statistics showing that in the government schools only 1 out of 5 students will complete school. In the christian schools where the kids have a sponsor, 3 out of 4 kids will finish. Why? Because when a child is sponsored, they feel as if someone cares and that they have worth and someone believes in them.
Prior to going on this trip, the two churches in Arkansas and Missouri took up offerings and did some fundraisers. Our church in Tulsa participated in one of the fundraisers, buying pulled pork meals. When we arrived we were able to give the missionary, Chad, $1800 to give to this particular school.
On Sunday afternoon we took Pastor Lesbia, who is the children's pastor at the church we worked with and who also oversees the school, on a shopping spree. For a long time, the church has had a desire to be able to buy school supplies for 100 children, but had never been able to do so, until now.
We all went to a big store called The Mermaid, which is kind of like our version of a Walmart. Pastor Lesbia stood there in the aisles completely overwhelmed by having so much money to spend, and really had no idea where to even begin. We were able to help her count out supplies and get what she needed. She had never been able to shop like this for their school and was very touched by the generosity of the churches our team represented.
She ended up being able to buy backpacks, pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, scissors, notebooks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo..... enough for 100 kids! We had three cart loads of supplies from the first store, but they didn't have enough notebook paper so we went to another store later in the week and filled another couple carts with 500 notebooks of paper. Pastor Lesbia was so very, very grateful and overwhelmed. This will be a huge blessing to this school when the new school year begins!!
On Monday through Wednesday we worked with a group of kids from this church. They were absolutely amazing!! There were about a dozen kids between the ages of 13-16 that went with us to the six communities that we ministered in. It wasn't us mothering them and watching out for them. They taught us! They were skilled in going out into the communities and talking to people about God and praying for them. They were bold in their witness. They worked alongside us and did everything that we did. Most of them understood and spoke at least a little English, so we could communicate with them; some more than others. But regardless of the language barrier, working side by side with them helped us form a bond. It was an incredible experience. The pastors from the church had been praying for opportunities for these kids to be able to go out and put into practice what they had been taught. They weren't sure how they were going to go about doing this, then the missionary called and said that he had a team coming from the US and ask if they could use our help. They felt that us coming when we did was an answer to their prayers and they were very appreciative. It's very humbling to know that you are an answer to the prayers of people hundreds of miles away, whom you don't even know. It also makes you want to work harder and serve with all your heart.
Between the church service and going shopping for school supplies, we went to the Monument of Santiago, which is an eight-story structure. My brother-in-law, Janie, nor myself climbed up the many, many stairs to an observation deck where you can overlook Santiago (we stayed outside the monument and walked around), but the rest of the group did so. While up there, they prayed over the city of Santiago.
I grew up having missionaries visit our church from time to time, seeing their slides and hearing their stories. I've heard stories from family who have gone on mission trips. I found it all interesting; but there is something very different when you actually go yourself, because you then become personally invested. By investing my time and being involved in mission work for a week, it has changed my outlook and my life. Now it's not just a story that I've heard, but it's a story that I tell. It's not just someone's pictures that I look at, it's something that I actually saw. It's an experience that I lived.
While there, my sister and I were discussing the trip and what we had seen and experiences. I told her that I have very few regrets in my life, but one regret that I do have is not becoming involved in mission trips during all those years when I was single. For those 18 years that I lived on my own, why didn't I do more with my life? Why didn't I spend one week of my vacation time each year going on a mission trip? A couple of excuses is because I never felt like I had enough money, nor did I really know how to go about becoming involved. I never really got any encouragement to do so. But probably one of the main reasons is because I didn't really feel like I had anything to offer. What could I do? I can't teach or do sign language or speak another language or do medical work..... I didn't feel like there was anything I could do that would be beneficial. Now I know that the most important thing that I could have done is love and pray and make myself available. Had I been invited to go on just one mission trip during those years, it would have made a huge difference in my life and likely would have given me the boldness to continue doing so.
But honestly, I refuse to live in the land of regret. There's nothing I can do to go back and change the past. What I can do is make a difference from this point forward. If things work out, I plan on going back to the Dominican Republic next year. Who knows where I may end up going! I'm not too old to go and become involved in mission now.
I also want to make a bigger difference in my own community. Going on a mission trip not only changed my perspective regarding how others live and their struggles; but it made me aware that I need to make some changes in how I view my church, neighborhood, and my corner of the world. I can make a difference where I spend my daily life.
Proverbs 16:9 says, "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."
Psalm 37:12 says, "The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives."
What would happen if we all truly allowed the Lord to determine and direct our every step? I believe that we would be amazed at the opportunities that He would open up for us. Perhaps not everyone is called to go on a mission trip, but we can each follow the plan that God has ordained for us. We can make a difference wherever we go and wherever we are!
I'm spoiled. I know it, but don't really want to give it up, either. I have a good home, a good job, and many other blessings. Sometimes, I act like I deserve a good living because I work hard. I do work hard at a very stressful job, and have worked hard to get to this point, but I've also seen other people work hard without getting as much for it as I do. So yes, I'm spoiled.
I've considered (very briefly), "Because I'm so spoiled, should I give it all up?" I've decided not to. Mostly because I really haven't heard or felt any calling from God to. But also because I know that God wants to bless each of us greatly. I don't know why He doesn't bless all of us the same. And I don't think I will know while on Earth.
So, I give God thanks. I thank Him when I pray almost every night. I try to remember to give Him the thanks when someone sees how blessed I am. And I remember (at least often) that the pay I get isn't entirely because I work hard, but because God has made it possible.
There may come a day when I do have to give it all up. I pray that I'll have the strength and willpower to do it without hesitation, if that day comes. But I plan to enjoy it till then.
Aunt Ruth's Homemade Banana Ice Cream
(for 1 gallon container)
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 quart half-n-half
Pinch of salt
3-4 ripe bananas
Beat eggs, sugar, and salt well; add vanilla and half-n-half. Mash bananas and add; mix well. Pour into freezer bucket and add whole milk to fill line. Follow directions on ice cream freezer.
My 52nd birthday was this past Saturday on July 1st. I received many special messages on Facebook, cards, phone calls, and in-person birthday wishes. One of the funniest was a video that my niece sent me that morning from my great-niece, Jovie. While telling me Happy Birthday, Jovie was shaking her hiney and dancing around. I've watched it over and over again, laughing every time. Later, Janee' had her kids call me via Facetime so we could see one another. As soon as we connected, the kids began arguing and getting into it over who held the phone and all trying to fit onto the phone screen so I could see them and they see me. Their mama finally intervened (while brushing her teeth) and ended the call, after having them one by one tell me Happy Birthday. That also made me laugh. I received a very touching message from someone that made me feel very humbled and made me want to be a better person. Jon took me out for a special dinner and we spent a very relaxing day together. It was a good day.
I'm excited about this coming year and can't wait to see what my 52nd year of life holds in store for me!!
When you look to God and His purpose,
your limitations become opportunities to see Him do the impossible. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon