now with thanksgiving behind us and christmas around the corner, our home is taking on a festive glow. a glow which isn't easily reconciled with where she's just come home from.
i can see the tree lights behind her as she sets down her water glass.
the malaria pills must be continued for a few weeks after returning to the states. we've set alerts on our phone and reminders on the fridge door. we can't forget.
no, we simply can't forget.
and that's it -- she can't forget either.
she's not so worried about her malaria pill, but what she can't forget is her time spent in the dominican republic.
i can see it in her eyes. she arrived home from her week in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language, living a foreign life. she arrived home and jumped feet first into the holiday hustle. home just in time to plop herself down at the bountiful thanksgiving table. just in time to count blessings and friends and the incredible number of side dishes.
thanksgiving morning she sat at our kitchen counter as i worked on a couple of casseroles and she talked on and on and on about her week in the "DR." when i had completed the strawberry jello salad, i sat with her and we scrolled through her 1500+ pictures. one image of need and brokenness after another spilling out from her computer screen. i'll be honest, it was hard to see. i was so glad she was home and wanted to hear all about her trip, but thanksgiving morning or any morning, it can be hard to take it all in.
she told how on the first day her group went to a big supermarket warehouse and purchased many bags of groceries. they filled their carts with staples and basics and then loaded these bags into their bus heading for a small village on the outskirts of town. a village literally in the middle of the jungle.
and then just a week later, thanksgiving morning, and she was home, sitting in my kitchen telling stories of her first day in this impoverished community. i mixed the wild rice and sauted onion and listened as she talked on and on. one story of impact leading to another. there weren't enough minutes in our thanksgiving morning to hear everything.
how did my daughter leave that scene and then come home to sit at a beautifully appointed thanksgiving table a couple of days later watching us all eat until we could eat no more. how does this happen? how does a 17 year old girl transition between these two worlds? how can any of us easily reconcile the bounty and the burden?
these issues involve a deep wrestling in the spirit. until we go and see and experience life in villages like this, it is easy to forget about our need wrestle.
and then i watch her this afternoon swallow her malaria pill and think about how she must be processing all of this. she was only just last week passing out food to unclothed children and burdened mamas and tired men. just last week she walked the halls of a leprosy center, fed lunch to disabled children at an orphanage, and bartered in the streets of santo domingo.
|emily's good friend, kevin, awesome smile, awesome shirt, awesome kid!|
she won't easily forget what she left behind in the dominican republic.
she doesn't need a malaria pill every tuesday to remind her of what she experienced, what she saw. she doesn't need these photos to help her remember. she came home with a heart impacted and eyes opened wider. she came home with a better understanding of need and brokenness and struggle.
in a time when we want to lose ourselves in the glow of the beautiful season, we must remember our blessings. not take any of it for granted. not spend too much time worrying over the casserole or the color of our lights or the gift items on our list.
i know it's just easier to look away from the struggle. it's just easier to focus on the beautiful. i know for my girl, it would be easier to just forget what she saw.
but just like that malaria pill -- she knows she can't forget. her experience is seared deeply in her heart and it will go with her. it will change her. it will prepare her for another opportunity to go or serve or bless again.
it is probably harder this week for emily to make her list of christmas wants when she has only just come back from a place of such great need. but i would challenge us all to consider that christmas does need to be about the want of others. not just what is on our list ... but what we can do to bless others: how we can come alongside them? where can we meet a need? how can we bless? where shall we serve? what can we do?
maybe the next few weeks don't allow you the opportunity to walk through an impoverished village in a foreign country. but friend, i'd encourage you to look around. chances are you'll find someone pretty impoverished right here where you are.
don't just look, but ask yourself, "what can i do?"
emily went to the dominican to serve. if you think about it, she really wasn't able to "do" a whole lot. she was a 17 year old girl in a group of 60 some students. they were only there for a quick seven days. yes, they built a swing set, played with children, put on skits, shared their testimonies, prayed over people. yes! but considering the great need, someone might argue they didn't make a huge dent in the needs of this third world country. but here's the deal: they did what they could. they did what we are called to do. and maybe the dent they were supposed to make wasn't just in that country, but in their own hearts. maybe we serve and we go and we bless, so that we experience the impact and dent in our own lives. and when we're dented we are also softened and made more aware of what God wants us to do with our time here on earth.
yes, we go on mission's trips to serve others, but we also go to get dented. changed. maybe even wrecked a little bit for the normal things of our comfortable lives.
and then we go again. we serve again. we bless others again. maybe it's not about just doing this one thing ... maybe it's about how doing one thing changes us in multiple things. in multiple ways. for multiple purposes.
this morning i attended a chapel at the school where the seniors shared their experience with parents and the other students. it was amazing to hear student after student tell stories of their week. this morning one of emily's friends, luke, was sharing about the time they spent with people at the leprosy center. luke said this, "it was so incredible to see the joy of these people. even though they had suffered so much, even lost limbs and been rejected by people ... even though they didn't have the
|another "new swing" smile!|
another senior girl, elisa, shared her experience when she was feeding a frail woman at the leprosy center. the woman barely had enough strength to swallow her food, but elisa started singing "open the eyes of my heart Lord" and in this morning's chapel, she told us, "the more i sung, the more it was like i was praying a prayer over her and i couldn't help but think of that verse where Jesus said, 'whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"
luke and elisa and emily and the rest of this senior class won't forget these experiences. these teens have come home with more than stories and pictures and incredible moments, these kids have come home with a few dents in them. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful dents.
they have a couple more weeks of malaria pills ... but they have a life time to remember the impact from their week in the dominican republic.
|this is a home which was built in that jungle village. |
this family once lived in one of those ramshackle structures pictured above. such hope!
|emily said as they left the village these children chased their bus waving good-bye.|
"truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
~ matthew 25
|emily's good friend, lauren, loving on one of the kids.|
|emily told me this girl is 17 like her...|
|the students got to play baseball with a group of kids and talk with them|
|the seniors did a drama for students at a public school - love the drama!|
|emily had a chance to share her testimony with the school kids|
|cow wandering the roadside eating a little garbage -- oh my!|
* for more, check out the slide show emily and her friends put together: you tube video of DR trip