I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this trip. To be honest, had I been in charge, we would’ve scrapped the whole thing pretty early on. This had mostly to do with how much I hate sweating. Alas, my wife (and I’m pretty sure God) dragged my sorry, damp, swampy, dadbod to this ISLAND PARADISE OF WONDER. I’m not kidding. The place looks like The Wizard of Oz if Oz was some gorgeous island in the Caribbean… uh…
We were there as participants with Students International. A missions organization dedicated to bringing young Americans to some of the poorest areas in the world in order to introduce them to to the work of missions and perhaps inspire some of them to become long term missionaries. Old fogies like the ones that made up our group (save one lil’ blonde whirlwind) had to get used to the finely structured schedule and dorm living. But this reacquired discipline helped bring about a clear focus.
You see, the Dominican Republic (the DR to the initiated) really does emanate a meditative tranquility. The people are kind beyond most anything I’ve encountered stateside. And the poverty itself, though a true problem that must be addressed, is simply a fact of life that does not hinder.
“The people are content here” said one of the missionaries who is herself a Dominican native. The people have what they need, they know nothing else and are content with what they have.
For many visitors, the lesson ends there. But this missionary had one more thing to say.
“The greatest poverty is to not come near to God.”
Not gonna lie. We have video of her saying that and I watched it about twelve times. I teared up every time. Some of it has to do with how easy it is to make me cry. I cry watching Folgers commercials. But it also has to do with how elegantly she summed up all of missions. We did not go there to teach preschoolers how to read, though that was something we did. We did not go there to help a medical team take stock of the general health of the people in the area, though that was something we did. We did not go there to document and film what the participants and missionaries are doing at each site, though that is something we did.
We went there to carry the Gospel to a people who need it.
People can be poor, people can be rich. Cars and swimming pools, or tin cans and burning garbage, its the same poverty, if the Gospel is missing. Which means that coming back doesn’t mean we have left the mission field.
In some ways, our country is becoming more and more poor. I’m not talking about the Income gap. The Gospel, the true Gospel, the one that proclaims that Christ has purchased for Himself a people by way of sacrifice. The Gospel that saves because of God’s unmerited favor towards His own, the one that demands nothing and gives everything. This rare Gospel which has become one of the most offensive ideas to modern western society, is the one which is being quickly run out of the idea marketplace.
God’s people carry the most precious treasure on Earth. A message from the Creator that brings depth and significance to all things. It redeems a people who have been enslaved by sin. No one is exempt, Everyone was born unable to please God, able only to produce a stinking offense to the King of the Universe. But Jesus was a worthy sacrifice. His life and death procured at the highest price, eternal life for His people.
I’m glad I went on this trip because I met a group of missionaries who know that this is the true gift they bear. We also got to know the Dominicans themselves, who are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Now we’re back, and we are more rich for having gone.
Did I mention the food? Oh man. I need to go back there and eat my weight in Mofongo and Pica Pollo.