Most of the kids ran shoeless through the streets. Many wore little more than a tattered T-shirt left by past missionaries who happened to stumble through a week of serving outside of their comfort-zones. Consuelto, Dominican Republic by name, this was the very tiny, incredibly poor village in which I spent last week trying to build relationships through language-less interactions. I don’t speak Spanish, other than the obligatory “Gracias,” “Hola” and “Donde es Banios?” However, one doesn’t need to be a linguist to learn some deep life lessons from this village that isn’t even on Google Maps:
- People are people, no matter where you are in the world. Part of my week involved hosting a kids club in which our team played games with the local children, taught them a story via use of a translator and did a craft. The boys were squirrely, the girls fought for attention and they all smiled – a lot! On other days, I climbed up on top of the little church that we were helping and worked with the locals to build and install a new roof. They, like us, were telling jokes and goofing around among the hard work. I couldn’t understand it all, but some of the jokes were, shall we say, earthy. I laughed, figured out how I could add to the clean conversations and had an incredible experience!
- Money isn’t everything. What if you lived in a culture where there simply wasn’t money, or at the very least, very little of it? Eventually, you realize that there are other aspects of life that add value in a deeper way than merely the monetary. I noticed that generally many of the people in the village were happier than many people I know in the States. Even though what I earn in one day equates to their yearly salary, they often found life more enriching through other venues of fulfillment. Which brings me to the next life lesson.
- Being in meaningful relationships brings life to life. Some of us need many many friends. Others of us need only a few. All of us, no matter where we are in the world, were made to intersect with other people. The conversations our team had via our interpreters highlighted this fact. People talked about their love and concern for others and their desire to know more and more people. In essence, people are designed to do life with other people.
- Knowing you are loved, changes everything. When people found out that our team paid to visit and work with them, they were utterly amazed. They felt loved and it changed they way they viewed ‘Americanos’. When we know we are loved, we are empowered to make positive life changes and then return that love back into the world. We did a lot of hugging, laughing, and talking about Hope. It communicated that our team loves this village, which we do. My heart is still full thinking about the exchange of love.
- To grow, you need to do things in your gifted-zone but push outside your comfort-zone. Your Creator has designed you in a certain and beautiful way. You may be handy with a hammer but not so much with a conversation. You may be great at leading people up front but not so great at lending a hand behind the scenes. You need to find out your wiring! That is your gifted zone. But to feel fulfilled, you need to contribute based on those gifts but push outside what makes you comfortable. For me, that was an integral life lesson that I’m bringing back to my ‘normal’ life. (I have an inventory that helps people discover their style. If you’re interested, click here)
If you’re interested in being involved in changing the world and being changed in the process, there are many organizations through which to do so. The trip our team went on was through World Servants. You can check out their opportunities by going to www.WorldServants.org.