I recently had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic. Most people go to experience the luxuries of the beach and resort areas, but that’s not why I was there. I was there for a change in perspective. I was there to have my world rocked because I saw things I couldn’t unsee. I experienced life from a standpoint that I can’t ignore. I saw poverty on a whole new level.
It’s amazing the many things that we take for granted. Overstocked refrigerators, wait how about having a good refrigerator period. Running water, clean water, washers and dryers, television, hundreds of stations to dull our minds, toilets in our homes, shoes. I could go on and on, but some of the things that we have that we miss use, or even abuse or simply are not grateful for, others don’t have at all! We complain because we don’t have enough channels to watch when people I visited don’t have a tv at all. We throw away water because we’re done with it, while people struggle to find clean water and treasure every drop.
Clothes in our closets with tags on them, shoes still in the original boxes yet we are still buying and wanting more. We create the “Need” for a bigger house because we have to make room for the new things we so desperately want/need. And we even have the nerve to justify it by saying we “work too hard” so we keep the pattern going. Buying, barely using, throwing aside and getting more.
When I was a kid, I didn’t know we were poor. We lived paycheck to paycheck and it was by the grace of God that we made it at times. For the most part, my father worked while my mom was home raising and developing us (which I so greatly appreciate). My perspective was not one of being poor though. We just lived and made the most of what we had. Our situation pushed the creativity in us all. We made up games, played outside and had an amazing childhood, all things considered. I didn’t go to Disney until I was an adult. Vacations were to see relatives. We valued the time we spent and the experiences over material things. Some of my greatest memories are of my dad and I going fishing. It didn’t cost a lot, but the memories and conversations have lasted a lifetime.
So I’m there, looking at the conditions that human beings, just like me, live in. Chickens and goats walking beside me. Sick, hungry dogs walking the streets. The stench of odor from the lack of adequate toilet facilities. I see the lack. I see the need. I perceive desperation. But I look and I also see joy! JOY, wait what?! How is joy possible in the midst of THIS? How are these kids smiling when they don’t have? PERSPECTIVE. You see, joy is not based on things. Things come and go. They fade. Things change. But when you have hope and a promise of what can be it changes everything.
What are you giving your attention to? One of my prayers while I was there was Lord, don’t let me forget. It’s so easy to come back and get in a shower that I’m not closing my eyes and mouth tight in (just to make sure I don’t let any of the parasite-ridden water in), turn on my big screen tv and flip through hundreds of stations, and decide which of a ton of clothes and shoes I will wear. It’s easy to fall back into the comforts of home and forget what I experienced. That’s not what I desire. I want to make a difference. And I don’t have to be a millionaire to do that. Telling my story helps. Sponsoring a child or two helps. Writing letters filled with hope and love helps. Praying for those in need and for them to know Christ helps. I don’t want to forget every smell. Don’t want to forget the sadness I felt. I don’t want to forget.
My perspective drastically changed. The work that Compassion International is doing as they partner with the local church is nothing short of amazing. My perspective of the church shifted too because the local church is doing REAL work there. They are respected in the community. In fact, in a couple of the places we visited the ONLY reason we were safe is because we were with the local church. How powerful that the church, because of its actions, has allowed her to make such an incredible impact. It was amazing to see how the church was the focal point of the area. Kids running in and out. Laughing and singing songs. It gave me such hope to see the church still making a difference.
I wish I had a million answers and could provide a phenomenal solution that would end all of the pain, hunger, poverty, and crime everywhere but I have yet to find that silver bullet. In the meantime, I choose to help in the best way I know how. One is by telling the story of what I saw. Some don’t want to know what others on the “other side” live like, but I’m gonna tell it anyway.
Another thing I can do is to sponsor as many kids as I can and encourage you to do the same. I am so grateful for the work Compassion does with the church to provide hope for kids all over the world. I heard first hand from children who came up through the system and are now living a different life because of the opportunities that were provided to them. Another thing I can do is make sure I write to my sponsored child regularly. In fact, my entire family including my mom is writing. There will be no doubt in her mind that she is loved halfway across the world. Again, I heard from young adults who had every letter ever written to them from the age of 4. The impact is significant and to some of these children, we may be the only ones to convey Gods love to them. Now, there are a ton of projects out there, World Vision, Charity Water to name a few. Find a cause that you connect with and help. Can you live without one Starbucks visit a week? Can you spare missing one of your tv shows to volunteer time for an agency in need or to write a kind letter to someone who feels lonely and uncared for?
It’s as simple as a change in perspective. And for God’s sake let us please stop complaining about some of the things that we are faced with that are totally irrelevant. Just remember some of these images. Remember that someone somewhere doesn’t have shoes. Think about the fact that tonight someone doesn’t have a safe place to sleep. Someone doesn’t have safe drinking water and a nice comfy bathroom.
Thank you God for grace, mercy, and love. Thank you, God, for the change of perspective to what really matters.
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