Each day of our mission trip, we girls would get up, after a long, restful night’s sleep, for breakfast at 8am. Then by 9am, we would disperse, heading off to various jobs, ready to put in a hard day’s work around the compound at NPH.
|some of the NPH kids|
My group was spending the week with Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (or NPH), an amazing organization with locations throughout South and Central America that provides homes for underprivileged children. Most kids who are taken in by NPH have lost one or both of their parents, and come from hard financial situations. At NPH, children are raised in a solid, wholesome, loving environment: they live in houses, go to school, do chores, attend Mass, and play outside. They have live-in “tias” in each house who serve as the mother of the house. Many long-term volunteers, who stay for 1-2 years, and short-term volunteers like my group come to play with and serve them. NPH kids really are well taken care of, and my group was so pleased to work with such a wonderful organization.
Our work around the compound each day usually consisted of odd jobs that the NPH workers needed help with, such as organizing the storage area, sorting beans in the kitchen, and painting garbage cans. I, along with several others in my group, spent my work days helping on the farm. We would work hard from 9am until noon, then have a couple hours to eat lunch and rest, and then head back out for another couple hours of work.
Our various farm jobs included planting rows of vegetables, weeding the gardens (which resulted in several fire ant bites for many of us…darn things), scrubbing the greenhouse, and picking up trash scattered around the fields. One day we moved a large pile of compost about 10 feet over from its original spot (in order to keep the compost moving) ~ all that shoveling and wheelbarrow-pushing definitely had us all sore the next day!
|the silhouette of NPH’s chapel at sunset|
By the end of each work day, which usually came around 3 or 4pm, we were always sweaty, caked in dirt, and pretty well exhausted. The farm work was physically taxing, what with all the shoveling, squatting, bending, and pushing of wheelbarrows piled high with compost. Not to mention the sunny, 80-some degree conditions we were working in.
There were times during the work day when, as I heaved one wheelbarrow-full of dirt after another, I feared I had no strength or energy left. I was hot. I was sore. My arms were giving out. I just wanted to be done, to go take a shower, to lay down and cool off.
But in the middle of one of those work days, a thought struck me: no one said mission trips are supposed to be fun.
There I was, sulking inside, wishing I could stop doing all this tedious, tiring work and just go relax. But that wasn’t the point of my being there, was it?
The point of my being there was to work. To give of myself, my time, my energy, my heart. The point was for me to serve those at NPH, not for them to serve me. I wasn’t on vacation. I was on a mission trip. And again, no one said mission trips are supposed to be “fun.”
But that doesn’t mean mission trips aren’t fulfilling. In fact, mission work is extraordinarily satisfying, but in a different way ~ a deeper, less fleeting way. It fulfills and satisfies you deep in your soul, in a way that only self-sacrifice can.
So while the hard work may have robbed me of all my energy, and while I may not have felt like doing it, I had to keep in mind the purpose of my trip. I had to push past my discomforts and remember that I was there doing this work for the children, for the organization, for God.
Forgetting yourself and working solely for the good of others, hard as it is to do, is the beautiful, sacrificial purpose of mission work.
And that is what makes it worthwhile.
To be continued in Dominican Republic Mission Trip, Part 3 //
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