I started writing this blog post two weeks ago on a plane, but there's so much to cover here that I needed time to process. I guess I was not as punctual as Laura said in her last post.
Laura and I recently took a trip to the Dominican Republic to celebrate (early) our 5 year anniversary and my graduating from grad school. It was our last hoorah before some little ones come into our home.
As a teacher who is also in grad school and about to become a parent, it was incredibly nice to have a few days to lay in a beach and not think about anything. I didn't bring any work with me. I just relaxed with Laura, drank (a few too many) piña coladas, read books (for pleasure!), and took a lot of naps. We needed that time before we start this new season.
The highlight of the trip though, was getting to meet Mariela, the child we have sponsored through Compassion International for the last five years. Though our resort was 2 hours away from Santo Domingo where she lives, Compassion made it super easy for the meeting to take place. If you sponsor a child and will be anywhere remotely close to where they live, I recommend contacting Compassion to see if you can visit.
When we arrived in Santo Domingo, we were taken to Compassion's project in Mariela's area of town. There we met Mariela, her brother Michael, and their mother. We were shown Mariela's file which included letters we had sent her along with health and school information, and the sweet people at the project made us some amazing coffee before giving us a tour. We saw the classrooms where the children receive supplemental instruction to their (often quite poor) public education, played basketball and on the swings.
It was so encouraging to see all of the wonderful things Compassion is doing, and how far our (relatively small) donation goes there. This organization is making a real difference in the lives of so many children and families.
After our tour of Compassion’s project, we were asked a question I wasn't prepared for: "Would you like to go see Mariela's house?"
I wasn't aware this would be a part of our day, and was honestly nervous about it.
But it was wonderful.
We drove a rocky, dirt road as far as our minivan could handle, then got out and walked over some more rocks to a little cement house probably the size of our living room. When we stepped in, we were immediately invited to have a seat in the couple of chairs stationed around the room.
They wanted us to feel at home.
Surveying the small space where Mariela lived, I realized it was honestly one of the better homes we had seen. The cinder block walls weren't crumbling, and there was a roof over their heads. I was amazed to be grateful Mariela had a home that would possibly be condemned in America.
Laura, in her kindness, had brought presents for Mariela and her family including bubbles and a nerf football. We spent the next several minutes outside playing with "burbujas y pelotas."
Speaking of Spanish, Laura was amazing. I took plenty of Spanish classes in High School and college, and have used my Spanish on mission trips and the like to where I can survive, but Laura has been intentional and taken lessons over the last year because she loves Spanish. I feel like we were able to build a relationship with Mariela much faster because Laura was able to speak so well to her without a translator. It was fun to watch Mariela grab Laura's hand as we walked.
Once we had finished with the bubbles, we took her family to Burger King where we continued to laugh, and Laura taught everyone how to play “Go Fish.”
As I ate, Michael kept handing me french fries. I had plenty of my own french fries, so I thanked him, but encouraged him to enjoy them himself. He kept saying “compartir”, which mean, to share. At that point, I of course obliged him.
As our day concluded, we asked Mariela and Michael what their favorite part of the day was. Michael said “Sharing my food with you.” How beautiful that we were there as part of a program that helps their family, and all he wanted to do was share with me.
As we left, we were asked several times when we would return. Though we don’t know the answer to that, I hope it is soon. It’s amazing that through God’s sovereignty and an amazing organization, we met such an incredible, loving family in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Before this trip, my relationship with Compassion and even Mariela was honestly passive. I would respond to her letters with Laura, but I didn’t think much about what the organization was doing. Having experienced both this meeting and what Compassion is doing for her, I want to be more involved with Mariela and Compassion.
So with that in mind, I want to challenge everyone to consider sponsoring a child. It is only $38 a month, and really does make a difference in the life a specific child in the world.
Thank you Compassion for the work you do. Thanks for making it easy to meet our amazing sponsor child. Thanks to Leandra and Jonathan, our translator and host, for your help, patience, and kindness to us. We will remember that day forever.