Oh, Samaná. One of Mumsie’s favourite spots on earth, and with good reason, too. We tumbled into the big van at a decent time and began our hike cross-country to the beachy world of humpback whales (local and in season), fresh coconuts, early churches, and guanabana. After a car ride laden with excellent conversation, and some ‘60s kid music, we reached one of the earlier evangelical churches to be planted in the Dominican Republic. It was originally a community of slaves from the United States who had been released to help colonise the DR. When their pastor died they were left without spiritual guidance. Realising this (it would be nice if we had that same sense today), they sent letters to both England and America asking for help with their church plant. A Wesleyan church in England answered their call and sent a young couple to help establish this church. The wife died of malaria shortly after her arrival, but the work she helped her husband do planted a church that is still going today, 190 years later. That is the kind of woman I want to be, eh?
Hearing their story, and knowing that God can use young lives because it is God who is working in the first place, was a great boost to all of us rather tired and rather motivated young people. And then the acoustics in that church were amazing, so we sang a few Psalms until our skin was tingling with the beauty of it. Then we piled back in the van and headed to our final destination: the resort.
The resort. The resort was a totally unexpected gift for which we are truly thankful. I know, it sounds awful, a mission’s team finishing their last two days at a snazzy resort, but honest it was a gift from God, who can use riches as well as poverty to draw us closer to Himself. That is what He did on this trip. Both at the poverty in Villa and in the total chillness of this all-inclusive result, God was using our surroundings to pull us nearer into who He is.
See, we desperately needed an unwinding and debriefing period before returning Stateside. The changes going on inside of us and outside of us were very real and very huge. That was kind of the point of this trip in the first place, but I certainly did not expect it all to happen on so large a scale.
But it did. And not having to worry about food and schedules and car rides and bedrooms and cleaning up helped it happen easier. Not to mention the warm beach and treadmill. They helped, too. What can I say? We were very thankful for this outside-stress-free environment in order to solidify the already stabilised friendships for the months and years to come, and to look inside each of us and really ponder how we were by God’s grace going to embrace His grace and the changes that need to occur in light of that grace. Grace is scary, because Grace means freedom, and freedom means relationship. Not control. Not micromanaging. Not doing it my way, but loving to do it His way. It will take more than two days to sort all this out ~ it will, in fact, take a lifetime ~ but these past two days were certainly invaluable to the process, and I am very grateful to those who provided it.
So we spent time eating (I got to eat Not My Food!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and walking on the beach, and seeing the stars and sunrise, and writing, and asking a lot of questions. We had one more study on the heart, but the rest of our group time was spent parking on certain questions that had come up during the trip. Key. Vital. Necessary. Yay. I loved watching everybody, from 8 to 60, Dominican and United Statesian, interact in meaningful ways during these discussions. I think we have been able to internalise everything a bit better, so that then we might externalise them naturally throughout the rest of the year. Understand, my friend, that one of the things we learned was that most people do it backwards, working from the outside in rather than the inside out. But that leads bright on the outside and dark on the inside. We want the light of Christ shining in the darkness. Praise God that He knows our hearts and works with our souls and makes us new!
The last two days were excitingly hard and wonderful, culminating with the time to say goodbye. That we did, at the airport, surrounded by luggage, and Patrick and Emanuel left us in a Breaking of the Fellowship sort of sadness, except that we know the end; one way or another we will be seeing each other again. And, hey, there’s always Facebook and G+.
While we waited at the airport for a variety of things, each of us read each other’s notes from Emanuel. The kind soul had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning writing each one of the team members a personal note of appreciation. That floored all of us, and passing the notes around are what kept our spirits up as the prospect of total farewell loomed ever closer.
The plane to Miami was delayed, and it was a literal squeeze to make our connecting flight, but God knew what was needed and good, and we made it to Dulles safe and sound around midnight Friday morning.
We did, but not our luggage. Nope, a lot of Saturday was spent going back to the airport to pick up all those nineteen suitcases which did not have time to be scuttled onto our connecting flight the night before. But in that too God was working His good will because having to deal with 950 pounds of luggage late at night would have been slightly overwhelming. No, it was much better to handle those pounds the next day, after a good morning’s sleep and some food. Plus, it was an excuse to see everyone on the team one last time.
But now farewells are officially said, not forever, but for as long as God would have, and we all feel better equipped to live life as Christians made confident through faith and adoption, through God’s glorious might to be patient in all He would have us do and be and wait for. I love having these friends forever, just as I loved making them real friends over the past two weeks. The love of God is something that cannot be broken, and it was enriched in us throughout this trip. For that I am truly grateful.
As Jessica Grove said at the end of it all, Greater Things Are Yet to Come. Greater things are still to be done! So, let us move further up and further in to the love and truth of God by His grace!
Thanks for all your prayers as we travelled far away from home. I hope this smattering of delayed updates has provided you with a glimpse of not just the doings, but also the learnings and encouragements and growths we experienced in the DR. I am grateful for each one of you! Signing off.
Actually, I think there will be one final "Highlights and Appreciation" post, but this is mainly the end. Thanks for joining me!
(please excuse typos. this will be the last time I ask you this, really.)