My family and I started attending GREFC around Easter last year. We had been looking for a church home for some time and could not find the “right fit.” GREFC was the first place we had attended in a long time that made us feel welcome and fit with our values and beliefs.
Throughout the summer we listened to Doug, Sandy, and Greg speak about the past and upcoming trips. I have no idea why, but God started nudging me to go on the trip. I kept trying to put it out of my mind and came up with reasons why it was not a good idea…..I am not a builder, I am too busy, I don’t know anyone who is going, I would have to fly over the ocean, I would surely contract some horrible disease and not have access to medical care. You name it, I thought of it.
As much as I tried to justify not going, God would not let me forget about the opportunity and kept putting it right back in front of my face. I was having a conversation with my brother one day and mentioned that for some reason I could not stop thinking about this mission trip and God stepped in yet again. It turns out he had heard about the same trip and he was feeling the nudge as well.
I should probably put this in perspective and let you know that my brother and I were not close at the time and it was not common for us to talk, much less about a common interest. He reached out to Doug the next day and called to tell me we were in and signed up to go. Knowing my brother, this should not have surprised me, but I was a little taken aback at how quickly everything happened. I wasn’t sure I was ready to commit to going, just thought it might be nice to get more details.
When I was tucking in my eleven year old daughter a few nights later she looked at me and said “Mom I really think you should go on this trip. I am going to pray for you about it.” At this point I could no longer ignore the signs and committed to doing the trip.
As the months went on, life became so busy that I literally did not have time to get nervous (at least not as nervous as I normally would.) I truly think this was God’s way of making sure I would go.
When it came time to pack, I felt almost a surreal calmness about the whole thing. I am the type of person who overthinks almost everything in life and for some reason I was not thinking about this. It was almost like I was on autopilot (which doesn’t happen very often for me).
The day before we left my daughter looked at me and said “Mom I think this trip is going to be really good. I think it will help you connect with some people in the church and get more comfortable with them.” The things that come out of her mouth amaze me sometimes and as usual she was spot on.
Fast forward to the night we arrived in the Dominican. That first night when we got to the center, I questioned everything I was doing. I thought for sure I had made a huge mistake and was not cut out to do the work I knew was ahead of us. Then I recalled the words that Ken shared with us at our last team meeting prior to leaving…..”this trip is not about you.”
The next morning we headed out for our first day of work and it became so obvious why we were there. Seeing the conditions that people were living in and meeting the families that we were building for put it all into perspective. This trip was truly not about any of us.
The next five days were filled with hard work and many opportunities to serve and share God’s love (and a lot of keeping track of Doug’s water bottle….I swear that thing had legs). They were also filled with me trying to dust off my high school Spanish skills which proved to be not as easy as I thought. There were a few humbling moments, but in the end they were good for a laugh.
While we had the chance to interact with many people in the community and even get to know a little about them while we were there, I think for me the deepest connection came with the family that we were building for. I immediately connected with our homeowner (Iris) and her two daughters (Ericka and Karina). I found myself praying for them every day and wanting the best for them in the future. The day we finished the house Iris told us that her door will always be open to us and she will be waiting for us when we come back (and God willing, I will be back one day).
The last night of the trip I was sitting with Eric (Njimegni) at a table and someone asked him (I believe it was Pedro, our translator) if he would be back next year and he replied “I work for Jesus.” Pedro was a little confused and asked again, if that meant he would be back. He said “I work for Jesus and if he brings me back here then I will be back.” I think that statement pretty much sums up the experience.
We were all called to be there for different reasons and sometimes we need to let go of our own desire to control things in life and just let God lead. It turns out we can accomplish some amazing things when we let him use us in ways we never imagined.