Our dirty clothes lay in piles on our back deck because they smell so bad from working in the hot and humid sun in the Dominican Republic. Stained with dirt, sweat and the salt of our bodies, these clothes remind me of what we left behind.
The dirt that a mother and her three children sleep on, without a roof to cover their head.
The salt of our tears.
The mess of poverty.
We gave our hearts, we gave our money, we gave our time and we gave our energy this week. But it never seems like enough.
My children were reminded again of what matters in this life.
“Mom, that was really hard.” Grace says to me as we walk away from a home visit in a Haitian Batay, after visiting a single mom raising six children.
The mother had told us about her son with a heart condition. “I either buy medicine or I buy food. Sometimes we just go hungry so my son can have his medicine.”
After I thanked her for letting us into her home she said, “Our home is small and humble but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is Christ in our hearts.”
Before this trip, Stephen and I spent months planning the perfect mission’s trip for our group. As we planned this trip, our plans fell apart. We had tried to plan various activities that would include lots of activities for the Compassion children, home visits, and a decent hotel. While some of the plans worked out, other plans fell apart…like the decent hotel. We ended up in a humble, 3rd world retreat center where the septic system backed up and the mosquitoes tried to eat our team alive. However, we saved so much money in our budget, we were able to build a new playground, add a basketball court, and add ventilation to a Compassion child development center. We also brought crafts, games and somehow ended with the ultimate dance-a-thon.
They showed us love. They made the food, they gave us gifts, they played music, and they taught us how to dance. I can’t think of any other time in my life where we have had so much fun. It was Heaven and Jesus met us there through these children.
The Shoe Drop
For the most part, the shoe drop was not what I expected. We had taken 500 shoes to fit the feet of children. I expected this orderly procedure of kids lining up and our team bringing kids into the church one by one to get their shoes. Instead of any sense of order, it was pure chaos. Desperate… is the only word I can describe.
Despite the chaos, Isabel simply did her job.
A mob formed outside the church and people began to pound on the windows. Possibly 1000 people surrounded the church. They wanted in! In my heart, I could hear them screaming. “Don’t forget about me!”
I felt so much pressure and stress. I could see the members of our team and their faces and how overwhelmed this experience was. The movie Schindler’s list came into my mind.
Just one more.
Just one more.
Finally, after the first 150 kids came through, I made a decision to shut it down, as it was growing dark outside. So the amazing and heroic Compassion project staff told the crowd to come another day for their shoes. We waited an hour for people to disperse, and then we all cried as we all said goodbye to the staff of DR 800.
Our sponsored child gave her life to Christ
Finally, on our last day in the Dominican Republic, came the climax of the week. We met Grace’s sponsored child of 10 years. Marielba was shy and beautiful. Grace cried for joy when she saw her. We spent the day learning about her life, hearing her story, hugging her and telling her how much we loved her. Stephen even told this fatherless child that he wanted her to be careful of boys and that he was a protective kind of father!
However, there seemed to be much more behind the beauty of this child and my gut told me that she had secrets.
Grace asked her, “Is your family Christian?”
“No,” she said.
“Are you a Christian?”
“No,” she said.
In the middle of the day, we decided to gather all the families, sponsors and children together. Our staff person, José, spoke a message to the Dominicans. He offered salvation. He offered Christ, and our Marielba walked forward and received Jesus as her Savior. I can’t even describe the emotion of seeing our sponsored child receive Christ.
Grace asked her, “How do you feel?”
“I feel free,” Marielba said, and I wanted to understand why.
At the end of the day, Marielba’s teacher (who I am forever bonded with), pulled us aside. She said, “This day is so important. Marielba doesn’t receive this kind of love at home. She doesn’t get affection. She lives in a dark home where her family practices dark rituals and voodoo. (I won’t go into detail because it was some weird stuff that involved chicken heads). She has so much potential but she lives in a dark world and you need to pray for her and encourage her. I can’t do this alone, I need you to encourage her. I can’t tell you how much this day means to me and Marielba.”
I broke all the way down. My heart didn’t want to let go of her.
Saying goodbye to Marielba was the ultimate blubber session. Grace was a mess and so was I.
I didn’t want to let this beautiful girl, who I was now completely in love with, go back to the dark. Go back to a life that was so foreign to my world. She clung to us and I knew she wanted more.
More of the love.
More of the light.
More of the family.
More of what was in us.
We prayed with her…and I am still praying.
The summary of my long post
We experienced uncomfortable living this week, with septic tanks overflowing and smells all night long…and I don’t even care. My kids are all journaling their emotions tonight because of they are overwhelmed with emotions, my husband is obsessed with pictures of the trip, my family are all writing their sponsored children. We were impacted with the stories that God wanted us to hear, possibly just so we can pray. Possibly just so we can give.
We freakin saw our sponsored child come to the Lord!
That is all I have tonight. So much more is in my heart, but I will need more time to process this trip. I will say it was the most impacting week for my family that we have had thus far. Wow! Christ is everything and I am slowly learning this lesson through the poor and through the least of these. Praise be to Jesus.
Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy
Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones
Dominican Republic Missions trip
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Wow! How absolutely beautiful and life-changing! I’ve enjoyed reading past posts on your blog, and as I read this post I am looking forward to what the Lord will teach us on our trip to the Dominican Republic in just a few short months.
Wow! What a beautiful God that we serve. I am so grateful to have read your story. It brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart. Beautiful.
Praise the Lord! To Him be the glory! So beautiful how you are all being the hands and feet of Christ. Praying for the Lord to continue to speak to you in comfort and wisdom.
oh, wow, i’m crying with the rest of you! What a life-changing experience! Praying Marielba’s light will shine brightly! Thank you for sharing!
Glad your all home and safe, wow 1000 people for shoes! Good job. Thanks for the post, but it made me cry. So powerful. Grateful that you do this work Patricia. Mary
What great experiences you had! I had the chance to go to the D.R. with Compassion in January and just loved it. Was the Jose that you mentioned in your post the same Jose that works for Compassion D.R.? He’s an awesome Christ follower . . . it’s neat to read about his part in your sponsored child receiving Christ (which I’m sure was a wonderful moment itself!). Thanks for sharing your story.
I have goosebumps, tears and joy while reading this…wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wow wow wow!!!!
love the jones5!!
Wow. Such rich experiences. I will be praying for Marielba’s family to be delivered as she has been set free. I enjoyed reading the over at Impact this week. Praise Him!
wow Awesome post and I LOVED the baby with the red cowboy boots on I could just take her home, and your sponsored girl is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.
I can’t take it. I LOVE this post. Crying here with you. God is so wonderful. I’m so, so happy you guys had this experience. Can’t wait for another one! H
wow… crying here too. what a life chnanging experience! thank you so much for sharing..
words can’t explain how touched I am.
praying for all of you
Wow! Just wow! How incredibly, overwhelmingly beautiful that God used you to lead your sponsored child to Christ. My daughters (13 and 14) served Haitian children in the Dominican Republic this summer and came back entirely different people. They immediately gave away more than half of what they have and are already saving everything they earn to go back again next summer. My 14 year old said the hardest part wasn’t working hard in rough conditions, but seeing kids with nothing. A small boy — about 2 — had no clothes and wanted to be held. Sarah said, “Mom, I took a deep breath, looked into his eyes and decided it just didn’t matter. He’s a child of God and right now, clothes or not, he needs me. After that, for the rest of the week, I just picked them all up whether or not they had any clothes, and didn’t even think about it.”
Bless you and your family for the lives you are touching with the grace and love of Jesus!
I am joining in the blubbering. How beautiful and touching, yet I can only imagine how hard it would be to let go and say goodbye. I will pray that Marielba will be a light that shines in the dark. That she will reflect the light and love of Jesus to those around her. Thank you for sharing this story!
Awesome, awesome story! Our family experienced the same as we traveled to the Philippines to meet our Compassion daughter and an LDP student this past 3 weeks. We just got home, are fighting jet-lag, and overwhelmed by God’s goodness. It will take many months to process and reconcile what God has allowed us to experience… it’s been awesome! Thanks for sharing.
I have tears rolling down my face. God is so good!