“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
I admit that when I used to think of the Dominican Republic, I thought of the clear, blue Caribbean waters, sandy beaches and fabulous resorts with all of the amenities I could possibly enjoy. I’d never been to the Dominican before this summer but I’ve been to St. John many times and I envisioned it being very similar.
I think that’s what most people think of when they make their reservations for a resort in the Dominican too. And that’s definitely a part of that beautiful country. But outside of those resort walls, lies the reality of daily life there, a vast divide between those who have and those who have not.
My family had the privilege of taking a medical mission trip to Santo Domingo, and the village of La Victoria, this summer with Global Health Outreach, a ministry of the Christian Medical & Dental Association. We served with other medical & dental professionals from around the United States and provided medical and dental care for the “have-nots.” Our makeshift clinics were only able to serve a tiny fraction of the more than 10 million Dominicans, but through God’s grace and mercy, each person who received attention from a medical or dental professional also heard about the Great Physician… even if their dental chair was made from concrete blocks, a wooden pallet and a pool chair.
It was such an honor to serve and follow Christ’s command to clothe ourselves with His compassion to reach these beautiful people and to meet their physical and spiritual needs. We loved serving in the clinic but we also loved being able to visit in the homes of some of our patients who were unable to come to the clinic because of their physical limitations.
We were able to visit with Dolores in her home, fashioned from sheets of tin for the walls and dirt for a floor. Dolores only has the use of one of her 4 limbs due to complications from a surgery that was intended to help her. She isn’t able to use a wheel chair and spends most of her day in bed under the mosquito nets. Because Dolores is a believer, she still praises God every day despite her meager circumstances and has influenced the women from her church who care for her. They call her Esperanza, which means “hope” in Spanish.
During our home visits, we also gave fluoride treatments for the children in the neighborhoods. While I was tending to dental care, Erika and our interpreter talked with the children, and Michael and some other boys on our trip played some serious basketball and baseball games with the children. It reminded me that children there are much like children here. They so desperately need the attention of someone who cares about them! If you ever visit the Dominican, take a ball with you and you will have a swarm of children listening to your every word.
I personally had the chance to share my faith many times on our trip, but one opportunity stands out even now. Reiza, my assistant for the week, and I were telling a little girl about Jesus but she wasn’t ready to make a decision for Christ. We didn’t realize her younger brother was listening in on our conversation until he popped up and said “I want to!” What a joy to pray with that precious boy as he asked Jesus to be his Savior.
My family came home with so many new friends and so many stories. We were grateful that God would use us, average people who were just willing to go. Sometimes the Lord will take us out of our normal environments to stretch us and help us leave behind the things that weigh us down and usually prevent us from stopping to serve others. So let me encourage you, that when the opportunity comes for you to serve others, take it. The blessings of clothing ourselves in Christ’s compassion are meant for those we serve and also come to those who serve.