I returned Saturday evening after eight days in the Dominican Republic working with Servant’s Heart Ministries. I led a team of six others from our church. It was an amazing week of ministry, of relationship-building, of warmth! (literally since it is snowy here and sunny there).
I love to travel, to immerse myself in other cultures, to meet the large family of God. I find joy in bringing a team along – especially newbies who remind me of the first-time awe and joy of a mission trip.
I’m grateful for the physical reminders of what daily life is like for the majority of the world. Did you know that if you make $35,000/year, you are in the top 5% of the wealthiest individuals in the world? Rich is relative. Riches are relative. I’ve met more joyous and grateful individuals in my travels around the world then I do in my community here. I’m not romanticizing third-world nations or pretending that everyone in these communities are just simply happy folks and pure of heart. They are human and there are individuals in every community that are negative, opportunistic, greedy, and self-centered. Every community has them.
But there are so many who demonstrate joy, hope, and peace regardless of their wealth or possessions (or lack thereof.)
One of the things that continually impressed us during our week of service were the volunteers. They came from the community (not all from the church) and they gave their time and their strength to the construction project. We were amazed at their hard work. We were humbled by the shoes they wore that were literally held together by threads. We were challenged by their since of community – sharing what little they had with one another. If someone brought a bowl of rice and beans for lunch, one would take a bite then pass the bowl to the next person. No one took more than their share. The same with water and with tasks on the site.
In our culture of individualism and self-reliance, we have much to learn from those cultures, who often out of necessity, developed a value for community and continue to protect and nurture that value. Working together, we accomplished an amazing week of work. Working independently, we would have nothing to show for it.