Dominican Life Lessons
This island has taught me many things. Some are impractical bits of knowledge that lodge somewhere into the back of my brain (I mean, did I really need to learn the Spanish word for hopscotch?) and others have a lot more influence over the way I perceive and interact with the world around me. I’ll throw a few out there that seem significant to me.
Less is ok and sometimes better.
One word: Cornflakes. That is what Dominicans call all cereal. It does not matter if it is the actual Cornflakes from Kellogs, the Dominican knockoff brands, or any of the 5 other extra-sugary cereals that the San Juan supermarkets carry. It could be Cocoa Puffs or Fruit Loops, but they are all called cornflakes. Personally, I love it, and every time I hear the world cornflakes, I secretly smile inside. Over the past 2-months, I have been grocery-shopping in what feels like the mall. (think old-school malls- before the age of on-line shopping). The mall is just a large grocery chain in Pennsylvania named Weis, but to me, there are way too many choices in those aisles! I mean.. How many boxes of cornflakes do you need to choose from? I haven’t counted (maybe I should), but I feel like there are at least 200 different choices. And let’s not talk about the snack aisles. In the DR, cornflakes and snacks plus other things all fit in the same aisle. Not so in the mall. My brain goes into overload mode when I walk down the aisles in Weis. There are too many options. I crave the simplicity. I crave the: it is either this one or that one or sometimes none at all. When there are limited options, my expectations are lower, and I don’t end up feeling like I deserve all of the choices. I personally believe that when we begin to think and feel that we deserve options, we set ourselves up for failure-feeling angry or disappointed or much more when our expectations are not met. God has already given us the best option for our life: following Jesus- and we do not need 200 different types of cornflakes to nourish our bodies and to follow Him.
Plans change. God is constant.
DR life requires one to be flexible. There is a reason that we stress this word to teams during orientation at the guest house. It is just the way it is. There is some planning with a lot of improvising that goes on in DR culture. You could plan an event one way and then the power is out for the afternoon, so you have to switch things up. You could be thinking one way and then someone arrives and says that they want to do it another way. Things seems to break down more often, maybe because there are a lot of used vehicles and equipment. Flat tires are more prevalent. But through all the craziness, God is constant and in control. My flexible attitude (although not always easily achieved) allows Him to reign.
There is joy in the little things.
I have seen so many with so little, but yet they still find contentment. Kids make toys out of recycled item. Mothers scrape together food to feed her family. There is an attitude of gratitude and nothing is taken for granted. In the times that we are living, we need to be thankful for everything. Thankful for life. Thankful for our home. Thankful for food. Thankful for our jobs. Thankful for our family. Thankful for our brothers & sisters in Christ. Thankful for running water. Thankful for electricity. I mean… really, truly thankful. Many people in the DR and across the world go without one or several of these things.
Sometimes, we must let go & let God.
I have seen many difficult situations in the DR. I wanted to fix them all. I couldn’t. Not even with our whole ministry team could I fix all of the difficult situations. Sometimes, the people of the difficult situations just needed to see and feel love. They needed to know that God loves them and that His love flows through His believers. They needed to know that they are valued and that people care about them. And after that, I need to let go and let God complete His perfect work. When we can’t control the situation, our greatest weapon is prayer. I don’t mean the pleading prayer to God to change the situation (although that can be part of it), I am referring to the turning to God, relying on Him, and asking Him to show the way. He knows best. It’s true.
I am so glad that I have these life lessons and many more from the DR that flow through me during this surreal time that we are all experiencing. They help me not be anxious through all the unknowns. I want a plan. I want to know when my family will be able to be back on DR soil. I want to have less choices of cornflakes. But more than that.. I want God to have His perfect work in my life. I want to find joy in the little things and be content. I want to trust God, remind myself of His everlasting love, and submit myself to a vulnerable reliance on Him during this time.
Please pray for our Dominican brothers and sisters. In keeping in close contact with our friends and staff there, I know that food security and hunger is becoming more of an issue than it was before. COVID-19 cases continue to rise and the people, medical system, and government are doing the best that they can to combat it.
Please pray for our child nutrition program that continues to fight hunger and child malnutrition. They have been providing a few extra supplies like rice and beans to each family during this time Pray specifically for Dr. Jazmin and Samuel Sanchez, health promoter, as it is more difficult to obtain the food items for distributions. Pray for them to persevere and to not lose hope.
Please pray for my family as we keep busy with our schooling, gardening, SRI office work tasks, and finding ways to offer help and encouragement locally and to the DR from afar. Thank you for supporting and partnering with us. We appreciate you!