After my experience travelling to Bolivia with Compassion in March 2013 where God did a tremendous work in my life, I wasn’t sure how my heart would handle going on another sponsor trip so soon, as I had left my heart and soul in Bolivia. God then opened the doors for me to join a Compassion U.S. sponsor tour in April 2014, this time to the Dominican Republic (DR). If I could choose one word to describe my experience in the DR, it would be “indescribable”. God has an incredible way of stretching your heart beyond anything you could humanly believe possible. How was it that my heart was still in Bolivia and now also in the DR??!! Indescribable!!
To prepare my heart for the DR, I was thrilled to have the honor of visiting Compassion’s Latin America & Caribbean field office located in Deerfield Beach, Florida (near Boca Raton) one day before I was to meet my DR trip teammates at the Miami airport on April 4th. The wonderful staff at the Compassion Florida office virtually rolled out the red carpet for me and I was privileged to share my sponsorship journey with them, as well as have one-on-one reports from a few of the servant leader specialists on staff.
Our first full day in the DR (April 5th) had us visiting project DR436 in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in inner-city Santo Domingo. But you wouldn’t know it by walking inside the church building and feeling and seeing the joy through the hugs we received from so many precious children and to see the joy of Jesus Christ radiating out of the smiles on their faces – you guessed right, it was indescribable! I then had the honor and privilege of meeting Wander, the sponsored child of dear friends Dan & Brittney, and to give him a few gifts on their behalf. He was such a joyful and happy child, and we got to hang out the whole afternoon doing various activities together. It was such a special time, that it almost felt like I was visiting my own sponsored child!
There was also a special girl Dahiana who stuck to me like glue during the day along with her older sister Daniela. Such precious memories that will stay with me my whole life! We also were incredibly inspired by our home visit with a young 20 year old mother who, although living in very difficult and seemingly hopeless circumstances, had a radiant hope and faith in Jesus Christ and a determination that her children would break the cycle of poverty in their family, in Jesus’ name!
During our time at DR436, I had the honor and privilege of finally meeting an incredible servant leader who I had heard so much about from fellow sponsors and advocates. Jonathan Almonte, a recent graduate from Compassion’s Leadership Development Program (LDP), deeply impacted my life through the heart-to-heart conversations we were able to share that day. If the future of the DR is left in the hands of young people such as himself, I have no doubt that the DR will be a model for other countries to follow.
Sunday, April 6th was the BIG DAY!!! Child Fun Day with our sponsored children!!! The emotions flowing through my heart were – you guessed it – indescribable!! We arrived at Compassion’s office in Santo Domingo to await the arrival of our children. One-by-one the children were brought in to meet their sponsors. And I had to wait to the very end, as I was meeting the largest group of children – 8 in all. I was overwhelmed and thrilled to meet them all (my “Team Canada” kids – Carolina, Dalvin, José, Jesús, Diana, Isaías & precious Ruth Esther (who stole EVERYONE’s heart), plus John Carlos who is sponsored by my church’s youth group).
I was then almost as excited to meet Querubín, my Compassion host for the day! Another incredible servant leader who graduated from the LDP along with Jonathan, and who has now graduated from university as a medical doctor! What an honor it was to have him act as a mentor and inspiration to my kids throughout our day together! Both Jonathan and Querubín have unofficially joined my new “Dominican family” and I will be upholding them in prayer along with my own sponsored DR kids.
What a privilege and honour it was to be the hands and feet of Jesus, giving hope to the beautiful Dominican people, in Jesus’ name. A few special moments from Child Fun Day – Jesús holding my hand as we walked towards the bus at the zoo, my birthday twin Dalvin giving me a model house he had made for me and telling me the Bible I had given him was his favorite gift, the wide smile on Diana’s face as she hugged the stuffed teddy bear I had given her, Carolina’s reaction to seeing the psychology book I had brought for her, and the pure joy on the face of Jesús as he tried out the baseball glove I had given him. The appreciative look in his eyes was worth a million dollars; it was as if he had forgotten about his difficult circumstances for a few moments and was able to dream of a better future!!
April 7th saw us begin our day being inspired by the testimonies of some current and recently-graduated LDP students. What great hands the future of the DR is in!! Such wonderful and inspirational servant leaders. Our afternoon was then spent visiting project DR002 in Batey Alemán, a Haitian resettlement town a couple hours’ journey to the east of Santo Domingo. I had the honor of meeting young Stuard on behalf of his sponsors, and to give him a few gifts from them along with taking a few special photos to pass on to them. We saw so much joy and hope in the faces of the children and families who were part of the Compassion project there. We also had the privilege of praying for healing for the pastor’s wife, who is suffering from cancer.
In Luke 12:48, Jesus stated, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”. As God’s agents, His hands and feet in this hurting world, it is our mandate to remove the “cement blocks” that suffocate children: poverty, abuse, neglect, and injustice of all kinds. We need an entire army of us who will commit ourselves, as it says in Proverbs 31:8, to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute”.
I highly recommend Compassion if you are looking to make a difference in a child’s life. I have definitely been changed. As Mother Teresa liked to say, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”