Leah K., team member extraordinaire from University of Minnesota, travelled with us for the second year in a row on a CRU summer project to the Dominican Republic.
I’ll admit it…returning to the Dominican Republic this year came with expectations. Although I tried to fight them, the memories and comparisons to this trip last year were hard to ignore. As I got off the airplane in Santo Domingo after meeting new teammates and being reunited with old ones, I was ready to experience what the week would bring. All I could think about was seeing those familiar faces of the VisionTrust Dominicana staff and all of the sweet kids. However, although some of the people and parts of the country weren’t brand new to me anymore, God still used the trip to teach me new lessons.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things for me was working alongside some of the same staff and meeting with some of the same kids from last year. The innocent joy and genuine love of the kids we met in Comendador and in Santo Domingo floored me once again and I was overwhelmed by how much they, as well as the staff, cared for us. Not only did they recognize those of us who returned again this summer, but they remembered us too. They remembered us by name, bits and pieces of our lives that we had shared with them, and in some cases, whether or not we had gotten our hair cut!
Through these interactions—reunions and new relationships alike—God taught me that big love doesn’t necessarily need to be shown in big, extravagant ways. As simple as it may sound, we can make an impact in a short amount of time by just being completely present—by being a hand to hold, offering a smile or a piggy-back ride, or dancing together during VBS. We can really listen and take a genuine interest in those we interact with. We can even attempt to ask questions in Spanish. While the majority of kids played, laughed, and yelled, there was always one or two that could be seen holding onto one of our pant legs or leaning against us as we colored. What a beautiful example of how simple showing love can be!
But this kind of big love can be shown anywhere, not just on mission trips. What would happen if we all made a conscious effort to really get to know one another? What if we put the phone down, looked each other in the eyes, didn’t interrupt, and really listened when others shared their lives with us? What if we shared our lives with them? What if we dug deeper and went beyond all of those typical, surface-y questions? It may sound a bit scary for some, but think of how much more we would all gain from relationships and how much more of God’s joy we would encounter if we took off the blinders that focus on “me” and got to see the whole panorama of “us”.
One of my favorite books is Love Does by Bob Goff. Each chapter highlights an idea encompassing what he used to think and what God has taught him. At one point he says, “I used to think being loved was the greatest thing to think about, but now I know love is never satisfied just thinking about it.”
God didn’t just think of loving us when He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. He doesn’t just recognize us as someone bumbling around in the whole of His creation—He remembers us and knows more about us than we could ever fathom. We were created by the Lord of Love, with the capacity to work to love others like He loves us. So, don’t just think about loving others well, go do it! Be present and love big wherever you are.