Ola! I just returned from a great week in the Dominican Republic. No it wasn’t a holiday…although I think I could use one just about now. I participated in a short term mission’s trip with seven other Newfoundlanders exploring one aspect of international missions: child sponsorship. Like most of you, I like to know where our monies are being invested and if the directed funds are truly directed to the recipients that we intend. We’ve all seen too many misuses of funds in the past whether in the spending scandals in our own government or in the boardrooms of corporate America. These unfortunate events naturally raise our skeptiscm antennas. I’ve seen child sponsorship in action in the past both here and abroad and so this trip wasn’t an eye-opener as much as a reassurance. The bottom line for me: child sponsorship works. It changes lives. God is uses sponsors and sponsoring agencies to change the world one child at a time. The best way, though, to describe my impressions would be through one amazing incident that capped off my week in the Caribbean. On a Thursday morning we took the familiar and semi-comfortable small 20 seat tour bus to yet another ministry location known as a “project”. Once we arrived were warmly greeted by the leaders and pastor in their native espanol. These warm introductions were followed by some sincere but feeble attempts to reply our new found language. Soon the joyful sounds of children with their singing, recitations and laughter, filled the air. After a brief time our tour began with a class of children singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” in Spanish followed by our own Canadian quartet’s English version of the same song (interestingly enough, this quartet quickly turned into a trio when one of our songsters bailed to “take photos”…I’m not bitter). We represented Canada well! Ok, we represented. On to more classrooms and visits with dozens of children studying, coloring, and singing. But then our role turned into waiters and waitresses as we had the immense privilege of serving these little Dominican children a simple but significant luch.
We were told that this particular project had an unusually high number of Canadian sponsors so when the opportunity was afforded I scanned the record book that included pages and pages of sponsor names, numbers, and country information. Around page 3 I started to weary of the repetitive data when out of nowhere a name leaped off the page…a name that I knew but surely was a name that belonged to someone else in the great white north. So that curiosity didn’t kill the cat (namely me), I decided to send a text message back home in order to “rule out” this possibility. The response to my text however, verified my assumptions were anything but correct. This was indeed the sponsor child of a friend from my home city. What an amazing coincidence right! We just happened to be in this little girl’s project, on this day particular day. I just happened to come across a familiar name in a very big record book. I just happened to be able to verify her Canadian sponsor in a matter of minutes. Over 40 000 Dominican children are sponsored though this missions agency and I happened to come across the one girl that was connected to a friend in my home city. Amazing coincidence right! Hardly! In these moments God quickly but clearly reminded me that he is concerned about EVERY person on this planet. No one is too small or too great, too young or too old, too poor or too rich…He loves us all. Through the generosity of my friend’s family back home we were able to purchase a care package of groceries and goodies and present this little girl with a small token of some Canadian love before we travelled back home. Hopefully our words of encouragement and this little gift left a lasting reminder to her family that there is a God that loves and cares for them in ways beyond our level of human comprehension. He’d even send some Newfoundlanders into a little local church to stumble upon a name and into a series of events to do so. Sponsorship works. There are real children and families that need our support and love. On this trip we observed church after church reaching child after child with the reality of the Gospel. I have seen few greater missions’ investments that yield any greater spiritual returns in a life, a home and a community. For God so loved the world…now that’s no coincidence! Dios de bendiga!