I met a beautiful family in the Dominican Republic. Their home was small but meticulously decorated and cared for. Everything had a place and the family was happy. Upon hearing their story I learned that their contentment and joy was not rooted in wealth or prosperity, but in the trust that comes when God provides enough for each day.
As I sat in a white plastic chair, a guest in their home, I had so many thoughts flood into my mind – one of which was, “Oh, this is the moment that my high school Spanish teachers were trying to prepare me for. I wish I would have taken that more seriously.” Because of my C-student status when it came to foreign languages, I relied on a translator to help build the communication bridge between us.
Through the translator I learned that two of the four children had been adopted. It wasn’t the adoption process I am used to where a family would tell social services or another organization that they would like help to find a child to adopt.
This kind of adoption came because of poverty. It came because of what happens when there is not enough.
Victor and Maria, were left behind in this village because their parents went off to make money. One of the children knew their parents would return to visit, the other did not. I could tell that these generous parents were also communicating that the mothers and fathers had made choices that led them to have to abandon their children.
I wondered at the longer story, the one I could see behind their eyes. Poverty isn’t kind. It destroys families, drives people into their darkest choices, and imprints a lie on the human soul that says, “No one cares. There isn’t enough. Things will never change.” I’m so grateful that we can partner together as the Church across the world to tell the truth of the gospel. A truth that says, “You are loved. There is enough for you. There is hope.”
I have spent my entire adult life working in family ministry. This meant that I have been the coordinator of Sunday School, I’ve spearheaded MOPS groups, VBS, and parent nights. I’m connected to all the resources out there to raise up and disciple the next generation to know Jesus Christ. It is my greatest joy and passion to create pathways for families to disciple their kids through meaningful relationships in the church and at home.
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After standing in the home of these friends in the Dominican Republic, I’ve come to realize that there is deep “family ministry” we can do by walking alongside of our brothers and sisters who find themselves living in extreme poverty. Families with wealth need impoverished families as much as impoverished families need them.
The church around the world needs each other in order to be the full body of Christ. By having relationships with those who trust God quite literally for their “daily bread” changes my perspective on what Jesus means by “your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”
As I described in the blog post “Can I Try on Your Shoes?”, there is an overwhelming amount of research that shows us that a primary focus for discipleship of the next generation must include cultivating gratitude and empathy. Helping our children grow in these ways will be a vital component of any thriving parenting journey, whether in the nuclear family or church family.
A resource that I was excited to find was Step Into My Shoes, created by Compassion and Fuller Youth Institute to ask the question “What is enough?” This is a great tool with hands-on activities and thought provoking questions that help families and churches step into the shoes of a Ugandan family who lives in extreme poverty. I’ve been able to witness the power of this resource and how experiencing someone’s story and understanding their circumstances and limitations has a lasting impact on families as they do this experience together.
Back in the Dominican Republic, my shoes were dusty as we walked through their small compound of buildings – one for cooking, another for sleeping. The chickens ran around wild and free. As the sun set, clouds rolled in with merciful rain to water the crops of this hard-working family. We hugged goodbye and I began my journey home, forever changed.
I felt a sense of God’s great joy for the unity that happened in the mountains of the Dominican Republic that day. As the song says, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…” Jesus loves the families, all the families of the world.