It’s been 2 weeks!!! 16 days to be exact. Enough time to change the world. A long time when you are talking about missing your husband and twin daughters.
Long ago when our children were small, Mike and I had been impressed by our friends’ tradition of taking their children on a medical mission trip when they were seniors in high school. We determined then to make this happen for our children.
Two years ago Isaac was entering his high school senior year. It was a miracle when Mike’s friends called and ask him to join them for Operation Walk in Africa. Someone had backed out of their trip and they needed another surgeon and the dates just happened to WORK! Mike and Isaac went together.
As Mike operated Isaac was able to watch a few surgeries and even to assist, somewhat! Isaac also organized some of the clinic and saw a c-section performed. He couldn’t get over seeing a live, beautiful baby and mom come out of all that blood! They took blankets, school supplies, and toys to an orphanage a couple hours away. Riding on the floor in the back of an off-road, speeding, Jeep, Mike was sure his tail-bone would be numb the rest of his life. They saw and cared for some people of the Masai tribes—known for the big holes created by heavy earrings and for drinking blood. They worried for their lives a couple times. Once, when a lady in their company showed some money, their safari Jeep was attacked by a group that looked like savage warriors. They were grateful for their young guide, though they don’t know what he was viciously yelling that scared the too-eager natives away! They also experienced the thrill of the immense wildlife of the area. They saw firsthand the crime of immorality as a stunning percentage of over 5% of the community has HIV/AIDS and much of the country’s people are orphans. Isaac came home a changed young man.
Now, in the dawn of a new day, it was Emily and Anna’s turn. Emily and Anna feel nauseous at the thought of someone being given a shot or even at a little baby gagging. A few weeks ago, at the Star-dust Cafe, Anna gave little Sarah some food. Sarah didn’t like it and gagged a little back up. Anna about threw up at the site! We knew a medical mission trip was not right for them!
What a wonderful miracle to become aware of the Humanitarian Experience for Youth (HEFY) program and get in! So Mike, Emily, and Anna ventured out to the Dominican Republic. Mike went as a parent-leader and doctor-on-hand for the team. Emily and Anna went as stellar, eager, hard workers. They worked their little hands right raw and their bodies to bone-tired building a clinic for the children in a very poor, overcrowded part of The Domincan Republic. But their spirits came home singing!!!!!
On the weekends of this trip they were able to swim in turquoise waters on the shores of an island with only 300 people, and catch star-fish by the handfuls just for fun, snorkel, kayak down and jump by rope into the jungle river where parts of Jurassic Park was filmed (and where they saw a little girl, about 10 years old, lead her donkey into the water to fill the buckets on his back for her family’s water), and some other neat things. BUT the greatest experiences they brought home were absolutely the LOVE they felt and shared with the people of The Dominican.
Emily wrote home “The Dominican Republic is BEAUTIFUL. The first day we went cruising through the perfect blue ocean with the white sands and palm trees, with our Dominican tour guides teaching us their music and dances, which is all just fun chill! …We stopped at an island where we saw how the people live, only abut 300 people live there. We went snorkeling and saw beautiful rainbow-colored fish and then found TONS of starfish in a white lagoon! Everything was so beautiful and I felt like it was a dream, like it couldn´t be real. Heavenly Father has created such an incredibly beautiful world, it´s amazing!! Everything is beautiful, but the most beautiful thing is the people here. They all line the streets as we walk by, smiling and welcoming us and coming to greet us.”
A man, a grandpas age, and just a little taller than our tiny Emily and Anna, worked with them on sight. He would sing out loudly the Spanish the names he had given them for the week! He would speak very fast Spanish exuberantly right up in their faces which they could not understand at all, and soooo cheerfully, playfully work the HARDEST of anyone on sight each day. (Mike said he and Emily and Anna had never worked harder in all their lives! THAT is hard to picture as I’ve seen all 3 of them work very, very hard!) Only Mike had come to discover how this man suffered when he showed him in private what a mortifying mess his leg was from a motorcycle accident – it seemed the worst Mike had ever seen. (Everyone rides motorcycles there with many people on them! More affordable transportation.) He had gone to get help for it but they had told him they would have to cut off his leg and he could not have that, he needed to work. Mike had ached to be able to fix it for him, to take him to surgery in a clean, equipped U.S.A. hospital right then and there. No one would have ever guessed because of his awesome attitude and work-ethic what this man had hidden beneath his pant leg other than the slight limp that accompanied it. When the work project had come to an end after 2 weeks and it was time to say goodbye this extraordinary man, embarrassed and hiding, cried and cried. All the youth could do was tackle him with a HUGE heart-connecting group HUG!!!
Many people would stare and follow the white people from the USA in fascination. There were these two particular little boys that would be waiting each morning and each evening to see the HEFY group go out and come in from the hostel. One evening Mike asked them, in Spanish, if they liked baseball. A very enthusiastic, positive response. He told them he would bring them a gift the next morning. He had come prepared and he brought the boys baseballs, bats and mitts. They were overjoyed of course!! Just as Mike went to walk away one little boy said ‘WAIT! I have a gift for you!’ He took the necklace off his neck and gave it to Mike. Mike felt as though he were giving him the widow’s mite. He looked down at the necklace in his hand. It was the symbol of the Gemini which is twins. What a remarkable gift of love from the hands of the Dominican Republic by which to remember this incredible trip with his twin girls. God’s love, beautiful grace, and tender mercies are revealed in the most remarkable ways.
Anna wrote this as the only little paragraph she got a chance to email over the two weeks “Last night I REALLY noticed the stars for the first time since we got here. We were mingling outside with the Branch we had just done the talent show with, and I saw Dominican children running around and in the arms of American girls, and Dominican youth talking to, learning from, and teaching other American youth. At the moment everything just felt so united. I realized that even though the language and food and houses and EVERYTHING is so different here, we are all in the same world, we are all people, we are all under the same stars, and most of all, we are all children of God.”
A pinch of Emily’s letter read: “One thing I love being here is that [while] I can´t understand Spanish, …there´s a language that everyone speaks and its the best language in the world, and that is a smile and the light of Christ in our eyes. Looking at the people here I just LOVE them and wish I could serve them forever!”
I’m grateful, with all my heart, that they could have this opportunity to serve their neighbors. My daughter Emily thanked me in her email for letting her have this opportunity. I was just as excited about it and grateful for it as she was, but in the end it did come at some sacrifice.
I missed Mike and Emily and Anna like crazy as I steered the ship back at home. As one week turned into two and with each passing day here, I was missing them more. I came to a painful recognition of something so hard to feel that I would rather push it away; the slightest increase in understanding and appreciation of what soooooooooo many have been, and are, painfully sacrificing for the good of our country and others throughout the world. Much, much, MUCH more than I have been asked to give IS, and HAS BEEN, given by noble men and women everywhere.
As the ache in me grew to be with my husband and see my daughters, as I felt concerned at their safety—especially with the yucky, new virus going on in the Dominican Republic, and two of their company sick already. As the load at home seemed a little heavier than usual, as my little ones started not listening quite as well to Mom with Dad gone (a pattern I’ve always noticed), and as I felt more worn-out and desperate for a little break, I started remembering better and grasping with greater imagination what the cost has been, to so many, for the good of others. There isn’t anyway to thank enough those who serve and say goodbye to those who serve our country. May each of us recognize their sacrifices with utmost reverence and deepest, lasting appreciation. May we SHOW our gratitude in taking full advantage and responsibility of the FREEDOM they gave us. Let us also be willing to sacrifice for the future and better-good of others. No ‘consuming it on our lusts’ here where we’ve been blessed with sooooo MUCH. Only serving ‘the true and living God’ and His children, our neighbors, our fellow-beings, blessing our children with a better future!!
As I chatted with my brother, Spencer, on the phone this week (one who served in Iraq twice and continues to serve as a chaplain), he cut to the heart of it with his statement that
all the good we have here in the USA is from the sacrifice of those who came before us, we owe the same to the future world, our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. We in the USA need to sacrifice our temporal lusts (stop going into debt or caring more about lavish material things than about PEOPLE), sacrifice our physical lusts (give up drugs that harm or immorality that deeply hurts), for a better future for us and our children, for our nation and our world. Our ancestors valued more highly our freedom and future than they did of their own safety and peace and luxuries. I especially love Abigail Adams story, just one of hundreds of thousands who sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy today. We MUST do the same. It is the only way for a people, a nation, a world to prosper!
Back now to the BEST part of their trip for me—their homecoming!!! 🙂 Adelynn and Sarah missed Daddy and their sisters. Every few days they would just say, “Anna?” Out of the blue (they alternate Emily and Anna’s names to refer to both their twin big sisters, ‘Emna, Anna, or Emala’ can all mean Emily or Anna). They were wondering where Emily and Anna were. I would explain with my hand being the airplane how they went up, up in the airplane, far away to the Dominican and that they would come back. I would catch the babies talking to each other, sitting in their high chairs looking at each other, saying “aipane” and doing the hand motion of a plane flying in the sky. Finally, the day before they returned I could answer their “Anna?” Question with: “Anna and Emily and Daddy are Going to get on the airplane and fly, fly, fly, FLY (hand going with it), HOOOMMME!!!” The Little Sisters know very well what home is and say it happily every time we arrive home after an outing in the car, “HOoOoMe!” They croon with a darling little “O” shaped mouth quickly followed by happy flailing, enormous smiles!
Homecoming was hours away for our Dominican travelers and as I laid the babies down for a nap I told them, in all my own excitement, “Daddy and Emily and Anna are on the airplane fly, fly, flying HOME!” My hand flew happily around and “Yay!”, my own little cheer was joyfully joined by the Babies. I kissed them and covered them with Grandma’s blankies, and off to sleep they went for a very, very long nap! When they woke it was already dusk and a little dim as I entered their room. But Sarah was standing in the closest corner of the crib she could get to me and leaning eagerly toward me even farther she said, “apaine??” She had not forgotten, she knew. Daddy and Emily and Anna were coming HOME!!!!
Oh, the feel of my lovers arms, and his kisses, being completely enfolded in the warmth and wonder of him again!!! I could still feel the Dominican sun on his skin, the hard work in his whiskers, the missing me too in the fervency of his embrace. Sooooooooooooooo glad to be back together again. Oh, the JOY of hearing sisters rejoined together, talking about the happenings of the past couple weeks in a way that showed how thirsty they were for the news from one another! Stories of the Dominican from Emily and Anna of course, but every bit of news around home deemed just as important by Emily and Anna: Mikela’s new braces, the girls haircuts, Clara’s loose tooth, Mikela’s Especialy for Youth experience while they were gone, Kate’s report of bandcamp including a show of some dances she does with her flag, their giggles and laughter late into the night sharing jokes and games and stories they had all learned in their separate adventures. Several times the Babies took Emily or Anna’s or Daddy’s face in their hands and looked right into their eyes saying so comfortingly, happily, assuredly, “HOOOMMME!”
Two weeks; 16 days to be exact. A changed world for us. And soooo glad to have Daddy, and Sisters Emily and Anna back home with us!!!