If you have been following the posts from my trip last week out of the country, then you know there was a missions trip thirty-eight years ago with a bunch of teens to the nation of Haiti. I didn't have children of my own at that time, and the love that I have for those kids from that first youth group is something very special.
About ten years later, one of those teens went back to Haiti with his wife and they have served there as missionaries for twenty-seven years. They raised their children there and have invested their lives in their love for the Lord and for the people unto whom they were sent.
Another of the teens from that youth group went off to Bible College and graduated with a business degree. She has remained faithful to the Lord and has served Him in the states. She never married, but she did adopt four awesome kids. She felt that it was time for those children to see the mission field that she so loved, and at the invitation of both Zelma and the Lanes, I was to accompany them on this trip.
My travel dates were modified to accommodate a couple of other engagements that I could not get out of, so I arrived several days after Zelma and her children. I did not get to spend a Sunday on the island, and so did not get to visit the Haitian church. I am looking forward to that next time.
I arrived at the airport in Santiago, Dominican Republic late morning on Monday. I was greeted by Wesley and Zelma. After getting loved on, Wes told me that his truck was in the parking lot and he asked if I could walk to it or should he go get it? It was obvious to me that he remembered me being more his senior than I am (I am six years older than he), and also that he did not read my blog (or he would have known about my bionic hip and that I walk/run several miles a day).
Then I noticed his gray head of hair and rethought my position. Perhaps we are both old. How did this happen? :)
We took off out of the airport parking lot. Let me tell you that all of the stories that you hear about the reckless abandonment with which foreigners drive are true. It was no different than I remembered. I once blogged of going around the mountains of Haiti in the back of a pickup truck, being scared not only for my own life, but for those of the kids in our charge. (You can read about it here.) That was a long time ago, but little has changed. Be prepared to be terrified on the roads if you ever get to Hispaniola.
Now, just before picking me up at the airport a rock had been projected from another vehicle into Wesley's brand-new used windshield. He was sad and I was feeling bad since it happened on his way to get me. Then I heard that he had run over the hood of someone's car that had flown off and into the path of his moving truck just the day before. Then that cracked windshield seemed a little more par-for-the-course and I got over my feelings of guilt. :)
We went straight to the Lane's home where I would be spending the week. I was greeted by his sweet wife, Melina, who by the way, hadn't aged a bit in the fifteen years since I last saw her. Zelma looked great, too. I guess it's just me and Wes getting old. Lol!
After a yummy lunch and meeting and/or getting reacquainted with all of the children and Bernadette, our adventures began.
Before the week was over we had climbed steep steps carved into the sides of mountains and crossed rickety swinging wooden bridges between those heights. We swam and played in several amazing waterfalls and rivers. We shopped and visited interesting local places, like the machete store. We went whitewater rafting down the longest river in the Caribbean, and then we spent a day on the beach with the Caribbean Sea as our playground. Those adventures are told in an album on my facebook wall. I've made them public so all can see, and the photos tell amazing stories.
You might say that you thought that a missions trip would be filled with labor for the Lord and hard work. :) They usually are, and to be honest that's more what I expected. But my hosts were gracious and sweet and we were treated like royalty. It was just what the doctor ordered, and the Lord knew.
But it was not the amazing sights nor the incredible things that I did that made this trip so special for me. It was not even the things of the ministry that moved me the most. I know now that for me, the reason God ordered my steps by way of Hispaniola was the healing salve that He had for my heart.
The Lord allowed me to spend time with dear people who I've known for forty years. Folks who know me, and with whom I did not need to guard my heart. God knew just what I needed. He knew even when I didn't have a clue. And just like always, He supplies my every need. He always knows. And He always provides.
There are more things to share, and I'm skipping them on purpose. There are amazing ministry things. There's the church and the campground and the building projects. There are precious people, both Dominican and Haitian. There are stories to be told and you know I will tell them, in time. :)
But I just want to share with you today how very loved I feel by my sweet Father, who takes care of me with His unseen hand. And how incredibly grateful I am. He sent me to Hispaniola to comfort and heal my heart.
God wrote some things to His beloved Israel. They failed Him often. But still He loved them faithfully, and said this to them in Isaiah 43:
"But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, and he that formed thee, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. For I am the Lord thy God. Thou wast precious in my sight. Fear not: for I am with thee."
I have shortened that portion of Scripture a bit without changing the context. I left out a few words, careful not to do an injustice to the Word of God. But those words are for me, spoken by a God who loves me with an incredible and overwhelming love. I haven't always been aware of that love like I am now. It is a wonderful thing.
He is my God. He created me and made me who I am. He redeemed me and saved me. He calls me by my name-- Barbara. It's a personal love, and is in spite of my failings. He says that I am precious to Him. He doesn't want me to be afraid, for He is with me and protects me. He is the Lord my God. And I am His! He sent me to Hispaniola to help with the healing of my heart. I love Him so much! And it is because He first loved me!
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