A miraculous dance

When I come back from VisionTrust trips overseas, I frequently have to stop myself from taking random pictures of cute kids at the ice cream shop or the airport. There's just something in their faces—a sweet sense of joy that transcends their surroundings—that I can't help but want to capture.

None exemplify this more than Kate.*

I met her a year ago while leading a team to an HIV/AIDS Transitional Home VisionTrust partners with in the Dominican Republic. At four years old, her Spanish was unusually limited and she had never walked before. But still, she would constantly motion for more and more pictures to be taken as she posed in her purple casts. I was inspired by this four year old's resiliency after surgery on both of her legs didn't change her joyous demeanor. And  when I asked about her story I was humbled by the struggles she'd been through that I could never comprehend.

This year I travelled with a team back to the home and did a double take when little Kate came running into the room. She was just as bubbly as ever, now able to keep up with the other kids chasing balls, giving the team new hairdos and dancing. There are a few Dominican models that are coming to serve at the home soon, so Kate even practiced her cat walk for us (I wish I had caught it on video for you). The doctors are hopeful that if physical therapy keeps going well, she won't have to have surgery again.

I can't fully express the joy on her face and in my heart while watching this little miracle.

But, I also know that if this sweet girl still couldn't walk this year, her smile and excited demeanor would have been the same.

While having a Bible study with the older kids at the home, the team asked, "What are ways Jesus shows you He loves you?" A 9-year-old boy raised his hand and confidently said, "Through trials." These kids, almost all HIV+ who have lost their parents or been abandoned, know what it means to go through trials. When I see Kate I see the "pure joy" talked about in James 1-

"Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 

I see these kids live out these verses so clearly, and the depth of understanding they receive about the love of God in return.

I pray, as the Lord takes you and me through trials—both big and small—that He would give us eyes to see His love in the same way as these kids. I pray that our hearts would be softened to all He is doing when we can't possibly understand. And I pray that His constant faithfulness and miraculous healing would bring peace that keeps us dancing through it all.

*Her name has been changed for privacy and security reasons.

My Dominican twin

Sometimes when I go on trips, I like to keep some of the special stuff a secret; the moments that were so monumental to me that if others don't understand or if I can't communicate it correctly I might be disappointed.  But, sometimes these moments are too good, too hard, too simple and too beautiful all at the same time that no matter what someone else takes away from them, they need to be shared.

This moment was one of them.

The third day I was in the Dominican I met my "twin".

Her name is Jenny, she's 23-years-old and born in July, just one month after me.

We sat down to talk about some of the other children so I could share their stories with

VisionTrust

donors, but the conversation somehow turned to her own.

She was born in Haiti, taken over to the Dominican and placed in foster care.  A woman came and raised Jenny as her own when she was still young enough to forget about the foster home.  At first she treated her well because she was her only girl.  But, when two more sons came along, Jenny started asking questions about why she was darker than the others.  Her "mother" told her to stop asking, but as time went on grew frustrated with Jenny and began to abuse her.

[[I don't speak Spanish, but as I waited for everything to be translated I sat on the edge of my seat staring at Jenny, recognizing the emotions in her face and tone as she let me into her life.  Even though at this point I didn't verbally understand why she was crying, it didn't come as a surprise to see the tears.]]

One day as she was sitting on her porch a woman walked by and then slowly turned around to meet her gaze.  "You need to leave this house," she said.  Confused, Jenny asked her what she meant.  The woman responded, "I am a Christian woman and God is telling me that you cannot accomplish what you need to accomplish in this house."  The woman invited her to church and with permission, Jenny attended.  Over time she and this woman (a psychologist) became friends.

Concerned for Jenny and what she was seeing, the woman sat down with Jenny's mother.  But her mother, feeling threatened, forbid Jenny to ever see this woman again, securing this command by locking her in her aunt's house.  For months the only time Jenny's door was opened was for food.  One day it was accidentally left unlocked, so she snuck out and made it the psychologist's home.  Finding her missing, Jenny's mother called the cops and said the woman kidnapped her.  When Jenny straightened out the situation she was taken into protective custody to be placed in our partner orphanage a year later when she was 14.

There's no need for me to explain why her story impacted me so much.

...why the fact that without a birth certificate she can't attend college to become what she wants (a psychologist) makes me feel helpless and frustrated.

...why when I asked her if it was weird to feel like a mother to so many kids at the home and she said, "No, I'm used to it," made me feel so selfish.

...why when I asked her how she felt about God throughout all of this and she responded, 

"I know God has never forsaken me.  I know He has been with me since I was born.  If He wasn't with me I wouldn't be here today,"

it humbled me beyond words.

Jenny told me her story and is allowing it to be re-told because she believes the children she loves might be helped by those who hear it, and I pray they are.

"Livin' the dream" in the DR

It's easy to pinpoint the good when major parts of a trip were terrible or even just ho-hum. But, with my recent trip to the DR, it's so hard to pick just one "best part."

(If you don't know, here's the skinny...I work for VisionTrust International and sometimes have the privilege of going to see the sweet kids we work with in-person. This time I helped take a group of CRU students from all over the country to the Dominican Republic.)

If I have to pick I would say "the best" was getting to see the Kingdom of God show up every day. See how I did that? Picked a general best, so I could tell you all the best moments that took place within that umbrella. Tricky huh? Well, here it goes...

This picture was the first "Kingdom moment" that God brought to my attention. I took it on the first day we spent at the Transitional Home when I had the chance to sit down and just look out at this awesome team of people loving on kids in the heat of the day. I can't really describe it, but it was a moment of pure joy, a little glimpse of what's to come. The picture might not seem special, but the moment was beyond words. 

On our last day at the orphanage we got to spend time with some of the older girls. We played Soularium with them and heard their thoughts on life and God (I can't wait to write a whole blog on their wisdom). After Soularium the team and the DR girls discovered their shared love of Hillsong and broke out into praise worship in English and Spanish. Another sweet glimpse into the Kingdom.  

Our last full day in the DR was spent with some sweet girls from another one of VisionTrust's orphanages. These girls have had hard pasts, so we weren't sure what our pool day with them would look like. It was awesome. They were so excited to spend the day in the water, hanging onto our backs, teaching us Spanish, jumping off walls...it turns out you don't have to know a lot of Spanish to understand they want to be dunked after "uno, dos, tres!" 

These girls are an amazing testament of what God and the love of some good people can do to restore joy and trust.

They're a beautiful picture of the Kingdom.

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I think this picture describes my CRU team perfectly. In case you were wondering, this is them "riding a roller coaster." They were so fun! Whether it was creating a video based off of Call Me Maybe, playing signs, getting stoked about Latte Losers or talking about the Lord, there was never a dull moment. They were from all over the country, but bonded with each other so quickly. I was blessed to be a part of their team and to see the Kingdom of God at work through them.

Yolo!

Dominican musings: Day 1


These are my go-with-the-flow musings from my first day in the DR, right before we picked up the team. More specific posts about the trip itself are to come...

We're inching our way through a market right now, headed to get the team at the airport. Every second I'm convinced we're going to hit or get hit by a car or motorbike. There are tons of shoes for sale. Nice shoes sold in white, creased, falling apart boxes. I'm not convinced they have all have sides. They're boxes that would be thrown away in the US.

In the front of the bus Adam (my co-worker) and the bus driver are having a conversation in Spanish. All I've pulled from it is "chiquita," which instantly makes me think of the banana. I need to learn Spanish. I literally felt like Adam's little son Ben was Diego (the boy version of Dora the Explorer). He would speak to me in Spanish and then English so I could learn. Today I learned cake is "pastel" (can't wait for that one to come in handy). Now Adam and the bus driver are talking about Whitney Houston. Honestly I need to pay more attention to my Spanish podcasts.

The structures here are similar to the Philippines and Guatemala...concrete with bits of colors and tin corrugated roofs. It's so lush and green, but trash and pot holes liter the highway. Maybe it's not so much pot holes as this bumpy bus. But, the view, oh the view. The highway takes you right along the ocean. The horizon, which seems so clear everywhere else I've been, is foggy where the sky meets the water. An unclear horizon...a little life-like don't you think?

Oh the airport is calling! More stories to come.


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