Waiting until a couple days before we leave to blog means that I have more to say than I know how to express in the written word. But the place that I’m going to start holds a heavy weight in my heart. Often times we convince ourselves that there are things greater than love. Not just any love but the unfailing and unending love of our creator. That love he can share through our human hearts. Even as Christians, we convince ourselves in moments that mere “things” are greater: money, careers, popularity, alcohol, drugs, stereotypes. We push away the fullness that His love gives us because we see other things that we think could be better. Here I am, in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen or been to, where the only way to communicate is by loving on one another. I speak English and only basic Spanish, and I’m serving in a Spanish speaking country. Here I am, sharing the love of God and you don’t really need anything but a smile and hand for holding. Being here, receiving, sharing, and giving so much love makes me wonder how anyone, ANYONE, could ever put aside, doubt, disregard, or not choose love. LOVE, whether from The Lord or from an 8 year old Dominican girl living in a small impoverished town, is the best thing ever. It is the simplest and most fulfilling mode of communication here, and anywhere—with or without a verbal language barrier. I just want to grab anyone that I’ve ever seen overlook or push away love by the face, shake them, and ask, “HOW COULD YOU EVER NOT CHOOSE THIS?” With The Lord’s love and people of The Lord’s love being thrust at you all the time, you are filled and overflowing with a sense of overwhelming joy. The kind of joy that leaves you satisfied with everything you have and everything that you don’t have; knowing that you have everything that you need. These kids, here in the DR, thrive off of love. It’s all need they need so it’s all they have. I like to think of it like that instead of the other way around. I believe that it is truth. The Dominican culture is so giving. The love that these kids have for people just never stops being given. After a couple of days serving in Cuesta Arena, I found myself loving on and spending most of my time with two eight year old girls, Arialin and Angelica. Angelica never stops giving affection and attention when you’re with her. Her heart is pure and she loves to love others. I’m still overwhelmed by an experience I had with her. We were playing tag with Arialin and a few other kids and I got a bunch of mud on my shoes. I pointed to the mud on my shoes and she told me how to say it in Spanish, and then she said “Yo quiero limpiar.” That means I want to clean. I thought that was super sweet but I told her I could do it later. We walked over to the pavilion so Arialin could put her shoes on because the whole group was going on a walk through the town. [BEAUTIFUL] Angelica comes over to me with napkins in her hands, bends down to my feet and starts cleaning the mud off my shoes. First of all, I don’t even know if she had shoes on her own feet in the mud. But this little girl gave me something I felt so unworthy of. She dropped down and cleaned my feet. Not until later that day did I realize that, in that moment, God was revealing his love to me through this child whom I deserved nothing from. In John 13, Jesus washes his disciples feet. Simon Peter asks if Jesus will wash his feet as well. Jesus knew Simon Peter’s would betray him in the future. In verse 7 Jesus replies, “You do not realize now what I’m doing, but later you will understand.” [I am sitting here in my room reading this passage, and I’m becoming completely overwhelmed again realizing how much that moment with Angelica actually means.] The lesson Jesus was teaching his disciples was to follow his example; they should clean the feet of another. By God giving me that moment with Angelica, he revealed to me that I need to keep loving on her and Arialin and all the kids. Her love for me like Jesus’s has no end. At the beginning of this trip, I had been struggling with doubt of my purpose and belonging here. I was worrying about getting sick of being with kids or being hot or being homesick or being bored. Worldly thoughts were distracting me and God gave me Angelica to snap me back into focus. Those kids give so much love and I’m here to give them as much as I can. God didn’t let me slip too far away from that before he refocused and reaffirmed my purpose for being here. He knows I needed it too. I needed the simplicity of love with none of the distractions my normal life has. We are here to serve The Lord and help these kids out but they are serving and teaching us so much more. God works in such perfect ways. It really is the small things that we often overlook that mean so much. Even though I had that huge moment with Angelica, Arialin comes to the school more than Angelica does. I have had more time with her. One of our sweetest moments was at the beginning of this week. We were talking with Aubrey about how many siblings she has, one sister, and I asked, “Puedo ser tu hermana?” That means “Can I be your sister?” She said “Si.” I said “Por siempre?” which means forever. She said “Si.” It warmed my heart and lit up my day so much. Arialin, I will always remember mi Hermana en Christo. That little girl’s smile, laugh, intelligence, humility, generosity, and love are qualities that you can’t forget. I’ve learned so much about the quality of life with the Lord and what He gives you with everyone I’ve spent time with in these two weeks. I’m so thankful for the people God placed me here with. I love them all so much. I’m so blessed to have had this experience with them by my side. They are all so Godly. Each of them has such a strong and different relevance on this trip. I’d like to give a them a little shout-out. Thank you guys for being who you are. Thanks so much for being so supportive and loving. I appreciate you all. I can’t express that with the proper words, but I think you know. This mission trip was the best experience of my life and I thank God so much for sending me to serve and learn here. I don’t want to leave, but the trip’s importance doesn’t end here so I must. I’m at peace with that.
(Hi Mom, Dad, Sarah, Family, and Cydney. Love you guys)