It's very hard to summarize a missions trip in a blog....or two.
But I know that's not what you're expecting.
You want to know the answer to a very simple question: Why was it awesome?
You already know it was awesome...because they always are.
When you take risks for Jesus....your world is enlarged....and you begin to see a bigger Plan.
So here are 10 reasons we are so thankful for YOUR support
...as we led a team of college students to the Dominican Republic.
We served in three places: an elementary school, an orphanage, and a local church....all in the city of Monte Plata in the Dominican Republic. We worked with an organization named Kids Alive...an inspiring group of people who aim to provide Christian care to kids at risk.
Here is what we learned:
1. God's plan was that our kids had something to contribute to our team and were not just "tag-alongs."
We saw how they adapted...and joined what we were doing. We saw how they loved the team members and the people of the DR we were encountering.
THE LESSON: God calls families.
2. God's plan was that our hearts be enlarged for his world.
I've always felt like I've had a small heart --I feel my selfishness and self-centeredness. But I saw my heart enlarge for the kids of the DR, especially in the orphanage we were serving in.
THE LESSON: Small hearts aren't a problem for God. Let someone into your small heart and they'll make your heart bigger.
3. God's plan was that we meet people who inspire and challenge us
Like this man -- J.R. He is a firefighter in the poor village we were living in....but in his spare time he volunteers at a local elementary school (which we were staying at) serving kids who are very at risk. He spends his leisure time....serving.
THE LESSON: Followers of Jesus always have time to serve.
4. God's plan was that we experience community
Community -- what an overused word that has lost it's punch. Seems like any time people "hang out together" and "like each other" or have "common interests" are in community. Real community -- like the one we experienced at the orphanage 1. Depends entirely on Jesus 2. Depends entirely on one another 3. Has a mission beyond itself. The group of orphaned teen girls (all which we now know by name), under the leadership of a house mom...are in community.
THE LESSON: If we dared to live beyond self concern, people's indifference to Jesus would crumble.
5. God's plan was that we experience the DR eating experience.
Each night we ate together (amazing DR food!!) as a team, sometimes with guest speakers who shared their stories of God's provision and amazing ministries of service in the village we were staying in. Somehow food opens more than the mouth and stomach...but it opens the ears too. We were listening.
THE LESSON: Food and Fellowship belong together
6. God's plan was that our kids make intimate connections
We watched as our kids made friends, played, danced, smiled, and totally adapted to a new people and a new culture. One night Elizabeth said, "Mommy...I love my friends".
THE LESSON: Kids are an amazing avenue for relationships.
7. God's plan was that we meet Miguel.
He was a champion distance runner in the DR. He could have competed in the Olympics but to do so would cost to much...and have taken him away from helping his parents work their farm. Miguel is a better athlete than me, a deeply devout follower of Jesus, a visionary, and speaks 5 languages FLUENTLY. I have much to learn from Miguel.
THE LESSON: Never condescend, because the person you patronize may very well be your teacher.
8. God's plan was that we live and serve at an elementary school in the city of Monte Plata.
What an amazing school. Each year they accept something like 12 of most at-risk kids they can find. These kids come from all walks of life...most depend on the school to provide a couple meals a day, some live on the street, and many come from very challenging home situations. The teachers in this school teach with a sense of duty and "missio-Dei".
THE LESSON: Education happens best when Shalom is the agenda
9. God's plan was that we see a pure moment of trust as two cultures collided.
I can't explain the moment well enough in writing....so suffice it to say -- this picture captures an important lesson for us....
THE LESSON: Trust is a key foundation for racial reconciliation.
10. God's plan was that Joe preach in a local church
As we walked through the village on the way to church....I marvelled at how people from our church in Vancouver were some of the first to share Jesus' good news to people in Monte Plata....and from that have come a legacy of church plants all now led by Dominicans.
THE LESSON: Keep preaching the gospel....for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.
Thank you so much for your support of our family to lead this team. It means so much to know that you are behind us as we follow Jesus....wherever he leads us as a family.