For the past seven years, VisionTrust has been a big part of my life–and much of my work has focused on cultivating partnerships between stateside churches and VisionTrust programs in Guatemala. So when I was asked to lead a team of 15 college-aged girls to serve in the Dominican Republic, I jumped at the chance. We would visit two programs: one on the border of Haiti in a town called Comendador, the other, a school called San Miguel, which is the newest VisionTrust Dominicana program. I couldn’t wait to board the plane!
When we arrived in Comendador on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the local pastor, Samuel, led us on a tour through town. As I walked through the streets, I observed familiar scenes–humble homes, children playing happily, errant dogs. However, that afternoon I experienced something unfamiliar that caught me completely off-guard. After so many years of traveling to Guatemala, I suddenly realized I had inadvertently developed a fierce loyalty of heart to the children, families, and staff I have visited time and time again. While I had spent hours prepping and training the team members for their week of service, I had failed to set aside time to focus on developing a readiness to welcome new relationships into my life. As I came face-to-face with barriers to compassion I didn’t even know I had, it was clear that God had some major work to do.
We spent two wonderful days in Comendador, and it was so exciting to see the children open up to the team members as they learned and played together. As the team leader, I was grateful to see how selflessly the team served the children and how tender their hearts were towards each and every child. I faithfully completed all my tasks as team leader, yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that on a personal level, I was holding back.
On Wednesday morning, we arrived at San Miguel School. Despite the humid, Dominican heat, Francisca, the school principal, greeted us enthusiastically in a sharp-looking pantsuit. As the team crammed into the overcrowded main classroom, Francisca shared about the school: It started four years ago with a group of individuals from the community who had a vision to not only provide a better education for the neighborhood children, but to also help them develop values and good character through intentional discipleship. And then she said something that just keeps echoing in my mind. Francisca stated that if they are successful in reaching their school’s goals, they won’t only change their neighborhood, but they will transform their whole country. These could have been the words of the president of a major university, standing up in a state-of-the-art auditorium, addressing graduates who would go on to be doctors, lawyers, educators. But instead, they were the words of a passionate, visionary woman seated in a deteriorating building, addressing children sporting hair bows and cartoon character backpacks, many who come from broken homes with limited resources. Through that simple, yet powerful statement, God opened my heart a little wider that day.
Francisca and her colleagues have an incredible vision–and when they succeed (when, not if!), we will see the words of Psalm 149:4 come to life, “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”
Francisca, along with all the other amazing men and women who work for VisionTrust Dominicana, will continue to be in my heart and in my prayers as they humbly serve the children God has placed in their care. Victory is already coming to pass. Children are being blessed and lives are being transformed. And if we all—with a spirit of humility—open our hearts a little wider, there is no stopping what God can do in us and through us.