This past holiday season, I went with my husband and six-year-old daughter on our first family mission trip to the Dominican Republic. The night before we left, my daughter, Greydi, was extremely excited and wanted to know every detail of the trip. She had been briefed and shown pictures of what to expect, who we would be serving, what the kids in the Dominican Republic would be like, etc., but now that we were packing she needed to know the LOGISTICS. I keep telling her to
just go with it, things will change, Mommy will tell her what she needs to know, but my very detail oriented child wanted to know the PLAN. More so than ANY team member I’ve ever encountered. Our alarms went off at 1:30 AM, locked and loaded by 2:30 AM with three frozen turkeys in tow to give the Dominican children for their Christmas parties, which is a long standing VisionTrust tradition started 15 years ago by our founder.
While in line at the baggage drop, Greydi strikes up a conversation with a man about where we are going. She tells him about our trip and he tells her about his yoga lessons. Time for lesson 1: Don’t tell everyone the details, what we are carrying, that Daddy usually carries a pocket knife and you’re not sure he doesn’t have it now and how long we will be gone. Strangers don’t have to know everything. Highlights are great, but let’s not talk about weapons in the airport. The high point of traveling with our 6 year old was when she wrote, “Thank you for the ride” on her coloring page and gave it to our pilot as we exited the first plane.
As you can imagine, seeing a mission trip through the eyes of a child was a funny, exhausting and heart touching experience. We had the opportunity to plant 20 family gardens in a community where VisionTrust hosts a Learning Center for 225 impoverished children. During these times, we had the privilege to visit and pray with families, teach them how to make compost and harvest seeds and see their homes. Greydi was astonished that the children didn’t have toys or many things, their walls were made of tin or cinder blocks and sheets were hung to separate bedrooms. She’d say, “Mom, they just don’t have anything, I’m so sad.” This was a great lesson time to talk about the importance of having a loving family, the love of God and the willingness to share with others no matter how many things you own. Also, she saw that owning things does not equal happiness. During craft and Bible story time, Greydi liked being a helper, but most of all she enjoyed simple play time with the Dominican children and making new friends with the other children on our mission team.
Like any child or team member, Greydi got tired in the hot weather and grew frustrated with the language barrier and cultural differences. She’d say, “Mom I just want them to speak my language to me.” However, she soon would be back asking how she could help. My husband was a joy to serve with, willing to serve, lead or improvise anytime. Our small team of 13 conducted crafts and Bible stories, planted gardens, hosted teen mentoring and men/women Bible studies every day. Three men from the community accepted Jesus the last night of the trip and were connected with the local pastor. The mission trip was completely amazing.
I would suggest, if you are able and when the time is right, to take a family mission trip. Practicing loving others as a family unit provides lifelong lessons in serving those within our own communities and around the world.