Dominican Republic: The honeymoon I never had! Stage 6, Day 6 Family ties

Stage 6:  Here I am Lord! Make us all one family! 

Day 6: Friday, March 25, 2011

Yvonne started our day with a commanding look at right attitudes about the things that we treasure. From Matthew 6:20-21 she read: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  We were encouraged to think about where we store our treasures, and to store them in heaven and not on earth.  We should enjoy the blessings that God is giving us. Our treasures are tools to use for His glory and we should pick them up and use them for His Kingdom work. She said we shouldn’t chase our money around, worrying about coming up short, but we should get our heart in the right place, repent for wrong thinking and action, and then move into doing things right.  Wow.  I had just seen this come to be with my cable and phone bills!  Now it is time to go
about our day and consider what our treasures are and whether we are storing them up for ourselves or using them for His glory.

Friday is a day that we have all been anticipating. It is the day that we will have a party for the kids in the Palmera ADP.  For some on the trip, it will be a second chance to see their sponsored children. But first we have the opportunity to go out into the field and visit the
homes of some women who have started their own hair styling businesses.  The first home we visit is Zuleika. She has a diversified business of hair styling and jewelry making. She received her Cosmetology certificate in 2002. Her husband is a taxi driver, and she has a son in the university, so this business helps to supplement her income and cover the expenses for her son.  Her youngest son is a sponsored child and she has been able to buy food, medicine etc. because of the sponsorship.  She is an example of someone who didn’t have a credit history so she wasn’t able to borrow money.  World Vision allows her to build micro credit so that she can establish a history. When she buys supplies, she buys half outright and half on credit and when she can, she pays it off. This has helped her to establish a baseline of credit.  She told us there are definite economic benefits to this, but for her, working with her hands in styling hair is also therapeutic.  I hear ya sister! I bought my daughter a bracelet from her and will think of her each time I see it.

We visited the home of another hairstylist and then Dolores Isabelle, mom of 2 sponsored children and home based business owner for 3 years.  Her husband also works, but having this business has supplemented their income to the point that they have been able to build onto their house. It was in progress as we were there.  I liked her because she has dreams. They used to live in a wooden house, which is not very safe. If someone wants in they just remove a plank. But now, due to the success of the business, they have built a brick home. She dreams of someday having her home on the ground floor and her parlor upstairs. She has received and paid off 2 micro loans. The first was about $300. She bought a mirror, a blow dryer and a chair. World vision has helped her to get more advanced training in hair styling techniques and this gives her encouragement. She needs about 25 people a week in order to succeed and she’s doing it! I wish I knew who sponsors her two kids, because I’d write them and tell them what a great mom their kids have.

In between beauty business we stopped by an early stimulation center and a model healthy school. The rehab of this building was done by world vision.  In this school they teach kids ages 5-14 or preschool to 7th grade. There were 4 classrooms so they split the day up into shifts. I liked that they are getting parents involved in the classroom. 2 parents are selected for each day of the week to come in and volunteer. There were about 127 children in the afternoon, 80 boys/47 girls. This school happens to be one of the schools I mentioned earlier that is one of the top 5 sponsored kid schools. Thus, they were benefitting from additional support and training. That additional training is paid for by sponsorship dollars!!!! Yay Sponsors!

Here is a thought about the cost of things in the DR.  It costs about $15 to buy a school uniform which is khaki pants and a light blue polo.   A gallon of gas costs between $7-8.
If you wanted to buy a cart with sides on it, like a little truck with rails on the back to haul your goods around, it would cost you about $25,000.  Things are not cheap and if you
are poor already it is really a tough place to be.

Escolarte is the music and art school. Being an artist I was hoping to visit the Art side of the school but it didn’t work out that way. That was a little disappointing. But we were able to visit the music school.  What an encouraging place.  The main purpose of this school is to have qualified musicians to play in churches! Escolarte is an example of how WV is making cultural contributions to the community.  They have about 200 students who study bass guitar, piano, violin, guitar, vocal and recorder.  They perform at concerts, festivals  and competitions between the different schools. The fee is a nominal fee, $10/12 per month.  50% of the cost of running the school is covered by sponsorship dollars!  The teachers are all trained musicians and the quality of the training has resulted in 6 students being accepted into the DR’s National Music Academy. This is unheard of as the academy has traditionally been only for the wealthy and elite.

John Robert Ramirez is a student who had always wanted to learn guitar, but knew he could never afford a lesson, or a guitar. One day he sees a guy walking down the street with a guitar and found out he was going to the World Vision music school. He followed him.  He said this happened in his life just at the point he had lost all hope. He signs up at the school, then becomes a sponsored child. His sponsor is named Anita. He begins lessons because his costs are now covered and the rest of the story is fantastic. Because they play praise and worship music in the school, he plays and sings these songs about Jesus over and over and they begin to fill a void in his life. He told us that “it’s not just great to have the music, but the greatest thing in my life is to have Jesus as my Savior”. None of that would have been possible without World Vision.  He played and sang a song for us. John Robert is now a youth leader in his church and in charge of music.  We went downstairs and heard some of the other students play some selections on the piano.

The school is about 50/50 girls and boys. There are four different bands and they are hoping by years end to have pre band with flute and violin. The director dreams of a baby grand piano to enable them to better prepare students for the National Music academy.  This neighborhood,  where the school and the ADP office are located, is not an easy place to work. There are many, many bad influences. They covet our prayers.

We headed back to the main office for the party with all of the sponsored kids from the Palmera  ADP.  I had noticed on a list that this is the ADP where the little girl Steisi that I loved so much and considered for sponsoring lives. My friend Lori had sponsored her and had sent me a backpack to give her at the party, if I saw her. If I didn’t see her, I would have just left it there and the staff would have made sure she received it.  It is an experience to meet your own sponsored child, but it can be really moving to see someone you know with your child too. I had that experience last year when my friend Tiffany who works for WV was travelling to Bolivia. She happened to be visiting the ADP where my child lived and it turned out that her school was right next to the ADP office. Tiffany took pictures of Leticia for me and took her some gifts. When I saw those pictures of Tiffany and Leticia together I cried for hours. Again, it just made her more real.

When we arrived back at the office, Claudia told me that Steisi and her mom were there and had arrived early! Wait, for real? I’m about to meet Steisi!  I got very excited. Even though I knew there was a possibility, the reality was much better.  I gathered the backpack and went into the office and there she was! How adorable is she! She couldn’t stop smiling and was very smart and attentive and full of life. With Erin by my side I found out that they live a near the ADP office but had taken a taxi to get there. Her mother
works in a house as a maid, I’m so proud of her for working. Steisi has one sister that is 12 years old and her favorite color is yellow. She loves to color. Lori had packed a little doll in the backpack and Steisi loved it and we asked her what she was going to name it and without blinking an eye she said, “Lola!”  She is in preschool and loves school.
Then she did something that amazed us all, she counted to 10 in English!  Her mom gave me a picture of Steisi to give to Lori, which is a very big deal because they don’t have many pictures of themselves. What a treasure.

I had seen this in some of the other visits, but I was reminded of it during this meeting when I watched the pride in the mother’s face as her child interacted with us. You can tell they love them so much and are so happy to see their child happy and outgoing, and it seems they find their hope in their children. I know that feeling too. It touches somewhere deep inside my heart to be bound with common love for a child. It is that same experience of value. That someone would value your child, is very humbling and a true blessing.   We took lots of pictures of me and Steisi and her mom and I hope to bless Lori with them as I have been blessed myself.

While in the office after our visit, I look over to the place where the annual reports are stacked and there is a little girl and her mom who have just received their first letter from their sponsor. This was truly a sight to behold. They received the letter and wrote one back immediately. It was a chance again to see it come full circle. To see their faces at the joy of
receiving a letter with a picture of the sponsor enclosed moved me to tears. We took a picture of them holding the picture! Again, I wish I knew who the sponsor in that picture was so she could know about this event.

Wow. It’s just one fun thing after another at this point. But now its time to get ready for the party and we’re hauling things in and setting up and the children are arriving. I think I needed to sit for a second and talk to my new best friend Coca Cola, so I did. My heart is so full with all that I have seen and experienced and adrenaline and caffeine are a really good mix right now. I grabbed the list of children that I was going to try to find and stuck it in my pocket.  I went inside the room where the children were gathering and it was filled with balloons and music. Kids were jumping and laughing and genuinely enjoying themselves. I see Steisi and her mom and Howard’s little boy, Tom’s young man who will someday be president and then I see someone I was not expecting to see.

Across the room in my favorite color blue, is Edwin, the other child I loved. I know it is him. I look at him and I walked up to him, and asked him what his name was. He said Eduardo.  I second guessed myself because I hadn’t seen Edwins name on the list. But I would know this boy anywhere because I have stared and him and prayed for him for months.  I wanted to tell him, Eduardo’s not your name, your name is Edwin. Sometimes things get a little lost in translation on the profile cards so I trusted that he knew his own name and rolled with it.  He was quiet and gentle and looked exactly like his picture and he still didn’t look like he felt very good. We played with a balloon, hitting it back and forth and his mother sat silently by and watched me. Then she asked me, “ What is your name?” And I told her Deana. Her name was Cruz Maria. A staff member who spoke a little English was there by me and heard this conversation beginning. The mom told her some things to tell me. She said, “you know he’s not well, don’t you”. And I said, “yes, I know. But I love him a lot”. I told her that “I was not his sponsor, but I was the one who received his picture and helped to find him a sponsor. I wanted to sponsor him, but God had someone else in mind. “  I said how much he has been on my heart and she looked at me and she said, “you know he loves you too”.  And I said, “yes. I can feel it”. So she told me what his condition was and that the medicine is very expensive. But now, since he is sponsored, he will be getting the medications he needs.  Marleena, you have changed this child’s life. And whatever it was that moved you to say yes will resonate throughout all of eternity.

It’s pretty hard to get past this at this point. I have to escape and process what has just happened. In the course of 4 days I have met and interacted with all three children that I wanted to sponsor. I didn’t just visit one child, I visited 3 children that I loved from the moment I first saw their pictures. What I experienced in this moment was the overwhelming sensation that I am no longer a World Vision Child Ambassador.  I am simply a Child’s Ambassador. The importance of changing one child’s life is just as monumental as changing 15 or 50 or 500. The child and their family are first. World Vision is second and quietly supporting without glorifying itself. I think that is what Bob Pierce intended.

The party’s over. We turned out the lights and got back on the bus and headed back home. We had a nice dinner and I felt close to everyone and more and more in love with Jesus.

Today I found out where my treasures lie.

Numbers 33 Journal Entry: We are still in Santo Domingo

To be continued…

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