This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to serve on a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic, working alongside five friends from my church. The purpose of our trip was to experience and see the work and vision of the Children of the Nations (COTN). Children of the Nations’ mission is to “provide holistic, Christ-centered care for orphaned and destitute children, enabling them to create positive and lasting change in their nations.”
I will never forget one afternoon our group returned to the village we had visited the day before. As our van pulled into the village about one hundred children came running up shouting in excitement, “Americana’s!”. A little girl
named Rosalie, who I played with the day before found me through the crowd, grabbed my hand and pulled me to the table where we spent the afternoon coloring and learning about each other. Because I speak very little Spanish, I learned how effective nonverbal language and actions can build such a deep loving connection. Rosalie finished her picture and gave it to me as a gift. I wanted to tell her how grateful I was for her love and passion for life. I gestured that I will keep her in my heart and I will always remember her when I look at her drawing. Rosalie’s eyes sparkled with happiness as she embraced her arms around me. I was truly touched by Rosalie and many of her friends that day. They live boldly, with an open heart ready to receive and give love endlessly and without judgment. Truly a lesson learned.
Spending a week in a very spiritually-filled, relationship centered culture has opened my eyes to how Blessed I am. These children go without food, clean water and often shoes on their feet. Despite having very little, the children are full of deep belly laughs, unconditional love and joyful spirits. They may physically be hungry but spiritually they are overflowing. What touched me deeply is how generous, hopeful and strong each child is to persevere and shine. I have been truly blessed by each child I carried, played cards with, blew bubbles with, cried and laughed with, and held hands with. Their eyes were full of life and light.
As I emerged back into the fast-paced task oriented western culture, I have come face-to-face with many distractions. These distractions take me away from the process of reflection. Busyness, obsession with planning and organizing, food, music and exercise all have de-sensitized my emotions from what I felt out on the mission field in the Dominican Republic.
So here I am, my journey begins now–to share my story and heart for the children in Dominican Republic. I believe it is my calling and mission to continue serving through yoga, youth empowerment programs and powerful conversations. It would be easy to boil down my spiritually-charged adventure with a short blog post and a few touching stories in savasana, but it is my responsibility to empower and enable other’s to make positive and lasting change in their faith, health personal life and community.
God has continued to weave lessons from this trip into my everyday life and I am excited to see what possibilities open up as I stay present. The eyes of the homeless and broken are the same in every country, every yoga class and every home. This is where I can serve and this is where you can serve too. Although it can be a powerful experience, you don’t need a weeklong trip to a 3rd world country to see the brokenness and blessings around you. I encourage you to
cultivate a place for stillness to identify and remove your distractions to really see what the opportunities and lessons around you. How can you can be of service in your life right here, right now? Can you love endlessly with no judgment like Rosalie and the children of the Dominica Republic?
From the words of Mother Theresa, “Peace begins with a smile.”