So, I have to admit that I was somewhat trying to keep our trip to the DR for our 10th anniversary a secret....not really because I didn't want anyone else knowing our business, but mainly because I felt guilty. We don't really take a lot of non-business or non-going-to-see-family trips, so it seemed so extravagent for us to do something like this, especially since we are doing our best to cut down living expenses and wasteful things in our home in order to give to others. I just felt guilty that we were spending money on ourselves and didn't want others to think we were hypocrites for saying we want to live with less in order to give to thers, then we head out on this trip. But, three wise friends reminded me that, as parents and marriage partners, we must also put time and effort into building our marriage, or the family will fall apart. It's good for us to get out once in awhile and spend time just us. Those words were very calming to me.
So, last Thursday we boarded a plan headed to the DR...of course...it wasn't quite that easy, but we have seen God's hand every step of the way and I want to share the praise of His mighty hand with you:
-When we finally decided where we wanted to go (which was after about a month of Kevin working with a travel agent to look up the best deals, etc), I called the travel agent back and got everything set up. One of the things I purchased, that Kevin would not have, was the full trip insurance. When Kevin got home we talked about it and he decided to call her back and tell her to take off the insurance. Well, she didn't answer and the next day she purchased the trip without ever calling us back. So, the insurance was on the trip. I felt releived, Kevin felt frustrated! Turns out, that was God's hand of provision because the Friday before we were supposed to leave my grandmother passed away. The visitation was set for the day we were supposed to leave. But, because we had the insurance, we were able to call the travel agent and move the trip back a week with no problems! God is so good!
-Don't get me wrong, we miss our kids. Everywhere we look and everything we do we keep saying, "Man, Sophie would love this!" or "Ethan would get such a kick out of this!" But, having a whole week just the two of us has been so good! It's been relaxing and enjoyable and fun and just good for us!
-The first excursion we took was probably my favorite. We got to head out into the countryside and see more of the "real" DR. Now, we were never more than an hour from Punta Cana, so it wasn't as country as most of the island, but it was still really neat. It was sad to see the children along the street who just follow the buses yelling, "Give me money! Give me money!" because they genuinely just need the money. There are no refrigerators in their homes because the electricity is so unreliable. They have to go to the store everyday to get what they need for that day because there is no way to keep food cold. The water does not run all day, either (though it's so dirty they can't drink it anyway), so each house has a huge black container on the roof to catch the rainwater so they can have water as a back up. We were able to see a school (though it was a Sat. so we didn't get to see the students) that the money from the trip we took goes to help fund. It was such a small building and we saw so many children in that area, I can't even imagine how large the classes must be! We also then got to tour a sugar cane "factory" (it was very small, run probably by just one famiy and mainly for tourists). It's sad to note that the two things they are famous for are rum (vitamin R as they call it) and cigars, two things that destroy lives and families. My favorite part of the tour was visiting Maria's house. She has opened her country home for tours like this to come see how they truly live. This house was so small...and at one time she had 6 or 7 children living there! The living room was about the size of our bathroom (which we think is just too tiny!) and there were two small bedrooms and a tiny kitchen. Maria also showed us how she harvests and makes coffee and cocoa. Isn't it amazing that, though this country is so poor, God has given them a means, in their own backyard, to provide food and an income? We were able to buy some of her coffee and cocoa and sugar...can't wait to get home and have a nice cup of DR hot chocolate with the kiddos!
-This is one beautiful country! Not sure why, but it seems that the poorest of countries is usually the most beautiful. The ocean is magnificent and the mountains are unbelievable! Everywhere you look there are traces of God's amazing, creative hand. The peacocks wandering the resort are so full of color. The people are just as diverse looking and sounding as anywhere else I have been. The weather is amazing! God has even provided them with a tree (I can't remember the name) that they are able to use as fencing. You just break off a branch, plant it along your fenceline, it needs little to no water, and the branch will continue to grow taller and to grow leaves. So, they have their area fenced off and when the rainy season is over, their livestock still have leaves to eat off of those branches that need so little water to survive. How good is God that He looks after us, even in such small ways!
-Something I am amazed and mystified by is that all of the Dominicans I have met are genuinly happy, jovial people. I mean, I know most of them are working for the resort or trying to get our money in some way, but those smiles aren't plastered on or fake, like you would see in America. They are always laughing and joking and smiling. I think I would always be crying! Most of the people who work for the hotel work 12-14 hour days, work either 22 days on and 6 off or 12 days on and 3 off, live so far from the hotel that they have to stay in rooms provided here and not see their families for the whole time they are working (and some live far enough away that there is not time to go see their families even on their days off), and the most they make is $200-$400 a month. And gas is $6.00/gallon (US)! So it's not cheap to live here! Yet, they seem so happy. Not sure if it's all the rum, or just perhaps learning to be content knowing that the land is able to provide much of what they need. Not sure where most of the stand, spiritually, but I pray they will see that it is God's hand providing all they need!
-Lord, open my heart to these people and this country. Show me how to be Your hands and feet, even after we return to our comfortable home. Lord, open doors for us to come back as a family and minister to these people. Show us how we can be sharing Your love and Truth all around the world, as individuals, and as a family. Give our family a love for You and a love for Your people. Fill Kevin and I with the desire to share You at all costs, and let that be evident to our children!