The sight of palm trees and coconuts, the sound of car horns, the smell of salty ocean air, the taste of ripe, juicy fruits and the feeling of purpose and hopelessness. All of our senses are engaged again in a 3rd world country.
It is hard to describe the love/hate feeling I have each time we travel. There is a sincere love of the people, a sense of adventure of the unknown and a purpose in seeking solutions to poverty through The Yada Project. There is also a dread of the known…bugs, trash laden streets, the uneasiness of feeling unsafe, and just missing the comfortable life at home.
The past few days have been spent visiting villages/communities that Hands of Hope works in. The communities are located around Santo Domingo and made up of about 1000 families and are mostly Haitian refugees coming to the Dominican Republic for hopes of a better life. Due to a variety of factors (being undocumented in the DR for work, lack of education, limited transportation, etc) the chance at a better life is only a hope.
The walk through each community is not a new sight…the look of poverty is often the same regardless of the location in the world. Trash littering the streets, rickety shacks, stray dogs, little storefronts selling essentials…to the naked eye it looks the same in Asia, South America or the DR. The issues are the same too…men who have given up hope and turned to drinking, gambling and deserting their families. Women and girls who have been told their only worth is in selling their body. Overall the first glance leaves you feeling hopeless.
But then you visit a small church in the community and you see a glimmer of hope. The people greet one another with big hugs and warm handshakes; they sing with all their heart in their worship; and they pray like it is a lifeline. We spent a few hours in their church on Sunday morning and then spent the remainder of the day walking through the village visiting those in the community that couldn’t get to church.
First, we visited a widow who has no family so the church brings a bag of food each week. We went on to visit a man who was in a motorcycle accident and fractured his femur, so the church raised enough money to pay for a surgery and medical care; a man who is blind from an explosion at work; a woman whose husband has deserted their family and the list goes on… There is no government programs to be sure that there is enough food, no national healthcare, no daycare so parents can work. The church is the “program” and it is reaching out and making a difference!
My first few steps into the community were dread…here we go into another impoverished community. It is filthy, it smells bad, and I’ve seen it all before. But I walked out with a renewed sense of wonder at what God is doing here in the DR. These small villages have people caring more about their neighbor than themselves, they are sacrificing what little they have to live out 2Timothy (caring for widows), Acts (the church caring for its own and bringing the Gospel to those around them). Their Bible is not being read, it is being lived out.
We spent the next few days visiting similar villages and seeing how Hands of Hope is helping provide education, restoration to homes, building bathrooms and getting involved in the community.
We meet today with leaders in those communities to talk about some product ideas for economical independence in some of these communities and how The Yada Project can partner with the efforts already in motion.
As we continue to process our interactions and perceptions, we pray that our family will bring hope and not hope of a better life on this earth, but show the true hope we can only find in Jesus.
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