It’s been days since I’ve been able to sit down and write. Christmas, Christmas birthdays, Christmas cards, Lydia’s birthday and more took over my downtime and my to-write list is getting longer by the day! Today, I finally sat down to write an important post about my trip to the Dominican with Operation Christmas Child. I needed to get it out of my heart before too much time went on.
As I sat down to write (after finally prying Asa off my lap and getting him set up with pirate playmobils), I wrote an entirely different post than I thought I was going to write. It was more. And deeper. And more raw than the one I had planned.
And then my blog lost it all.
Now Asa has used up all his happily-play-alone minutes and here I am still trying to get a post out for you. For me.
Something broke me in the Dominican Republic. It wasn’t just the place. I’d been there before. I’ve seen that kind of poverty before. We weren’t in the worst places in the world—there were cell phones and cars and restaurants and nice hotels. We weren’t delivering boxes to kids on garbage dumps or to a anti-Christian country.
But something about the hope of the shoebox got to me.
When I got home from my trip, my family had cleaned the whole house top to bottom. The house smelled wonderful, was literally shining and it felt big and spacious and bright. I sat on the rug with my battered suitcase and opened it to deliver gifts and show pictures. And when I opened it, I could smell it. The Dominican. The hotel, the dirt, the schools, the people, the boxes, the bus.
That night when I changed my clothes, I held them to my nose and breathed them in. I wanted that smell to be inside me. It had permeated my clothes, my suitcase and my hair. But I wanted it to be ingrained in every fiber of my being. I didn’t want to forget the people or the experience.
Just a few hours after I arrived, my family and I went to a special event at church. It was a fun family time with marshmallows roasted outside, music, games and a fun lesson inside. I still wore my clothes I’d worn in the Dominican, muddy shoes and sweaty jeans.
We joined the rest of the families on blankets on the floor of the wide auditorium filled with bright lights and glittery decorations. There were two men leading fun Christmas songs and telling jokes. There were kids in winter coats, families with strollers, kids with stuffed animals and lots of fun and smiles.
But it was too much.
Too much of clean. Too much of full. Too much of rich.
Too much contrast.
I had been surrounded by people who had no hope. No hope of making it out of their village, their small school or their basic survival mode.
Then suddenly, I was surrounded by people who didn’t even need hope! Who hopes for their next meal when they have full pantries, freezers and 20 restaurants within a five mile radius?
I saw children dancing and singing in the Dominican Republic because some rich Americans had packed a shoebox full of dollar store items.
Then I was part of a group of kids dancing and singing because they were so wealthy they could pretend a magical jolly man in a red suit was bringing them additional presents outside the multitude they’d receive from their family and friends.
It’s hopeless, right?
How can hope come to a dark country where the 3rd largest export is people?!
How can there be hope in a country so full of stuff they don’t need God?
It begins with one thing: giving. When the rich give, it inexplicably brings clarity into their dependence on and hope in God. When the gifts are given in Jesus’ name, there is hope for the recipient. A flicker of light. A stream in the desert.
We ended the family night by singing Feliz Navidad. I cried as I heard the familiar words I had shyly uttered when delivering shoeboxes just hours before. Comfortable words that speak hope and life:
Feliz Navidad. Happy Birth of Christ.
Receive the mejor regalo, the best gift.
Know the hope found in Jesus Christ!
I pray you will know God’s hope for you. His mejor regalo. And that you will be able to deliver it to others.