I’m Charissa and I just returned from a 9 day mission trip in the Dominican Republic. Three years ago I asked God to send me somewhere outside of my comfort zone. Three years and 4 trips later, I can’t stay away. Some of you have heard me speak about my trips before, but in case you have not, I want to give you a blurb about the where and why of it all.
Two weeks ago Eve and I, along with my youngest sister, joined Team Tampa Bay and Maranatha Missions to bring medical clinics to the villages in the sugar cane fields. The people we go to serve are mostly of Haitian descent and have been manipulated to leave their home country in pursuit of a better life, only to become trapped in poverty and denied access to school, medical care, and social services.
My team is one of many which go each year in order to provide a rotating clinic bringing doctors, nurses, a dentist, and medication. We also hand out clothing, toothbrushes, and hygiene supplies. We especially bring uniform clothing and shoes that grow because these enable the kids to go to school. We do five days of clinics, one village each day, where we set up in the morning and stay until everyone who wants to be seen has been through the clinic.
Over the years I have been able to see the effects that they have on the people we serve. We have seen kids who were born in the villages sponsored through school, sponsored through college, and now joining with us as local doctors and nurses to be a part of giving back to their people. We have seen that we are not just a bandaid on a bleeding wound, but a cog in the machine that is building up this community and improving the future for these people.
One statement stuck with me when talking to our in country teammates. My friend, and one of our translators in country, Estella said to me, “When you pull up in our big yellow bus, they see God”. They know us to be one of the ways that God is providing for and caring for them. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to know these people, and I look forward to seeing how God continues to work in their lives.
My name is Eve. I know many of you through your children. Through Breakout and through Sunday School. It’s funny how kids teach you just as much about God and about yourself as you teach them. This was especially true in the Dominican Republic. Because we were bringing with us things that I knew these children were in desperate need of, I expected that they would be thankful. I was surprised to find not only thankfulness, but a deep and heartfelt gratefulness not only for what we gave them, but also for what little they already had. While installing water filters we were able to walk into some homes and I was appalled to see that while these places may have been homes, they barely qualified as houses. I saw shacks with more holes overhead than roof and dirt floors hardly better than the ground outside. And yet, they swept their floors still and kept their few possessions spotless. The kids in the bateys struck me with their joy and their generosity as well. Despite the situations they were in, there was constantly laughter. One of the sweetest memories from our trip was gathering tightly together in a batey called Altagracia to listen to the kids playing percussion instruments for us from their church as they sang and danced. I watched as the older kids were careful to involve each and every one of us, holding our hands as we walked with them and communicating through smiles and hugs. These kids showed me a joy that was beyond this world and I am so grateful that I was able to experience it with them. Thank you.