I’m home safe and sound from this amazing trip. Due to my family having the flu when I came home, I’ll be updating this post later in the week with photos and more stories of my experience.
If you’d like to read about my trip to Ecuador earlier this year with OCC, please click here.
I leave tomorrow afternoon for the Dominican Republic to visit kids there and hand out shoeboxes of gifts to each and every one. The weight of the experience ahead is just now sinking in as I feverishly work to prepare so that the week away is easier on my family.
At home, I’ve made oodles of food and packed the fridge. My husband and son love Pizza Rolls so I made a dozen yesterday – they immediately ate four between them and it was all I could do not to panic and go get the ingredients to replace those (I’m so silly sometimes). Then I got to thinking about my daughter’s love of banana bread so I made two loaves and twelve muffins of that for her. I’ve made dirty rice and pre browned the beef for spaghetti sauce. I’m about to make some Christmas brownies to leave with them as well (I’ll be posting that recipe tomorrow before I leave). I’ve also made dirty rice and I’m putting supper in the slow cooker before I leave.
I’m really having a hard time leaving my daughter (my youngest) and she is taking full advantage of that! She keeps pulling me away to play Candyland “just one more time..” and we spent yesterday making Christmas ornaments, decorating a Gingerbread house, and working on a Christmas light display together for the front yard. After church today I’m going to try my best to squeeze in time to make dough ornaments with her but I also have to get all of her clothes together for the week (you don’t want to see what happens when my husband picks out her clothes), clean the house a bit, pack, get two posts written for Southern Plate, spend some good time with my son, and schedule posts for facebook during my time away. Toss in cooking Sunday dinner there and a trip to Wally world to get a few things I need to take with me, too.
It is so hard to leave my family but I know this is of God and it is His will that I go and I’m looking forward to my one on one time with him. Outside of my family is often a desert for me, and God has always called me out into the desert to grow closer to Him. There will be lots of others around. Pictures will show me amidst many, but is really trip between the two of us. Along the way I’ll look where he points and notice the details he whispers about in my ear.
I won’t reach the Dominican Republic until Tuesday evening, with an overnight layover in Miami tomorrow night. I’ll be doing my usual when going to a brand new city (Miami) and heading straight from the airport to my hotel until it is time for me to leave. Adventurer? Nah. I’ve got all I need in Alabama and after traveling a good deal in the past few years I’ve learned that every city has wonderful people and neat things, but my hotel bed, a book, and embroidery suit me just fine while I’m away.
I’ll meet the rest of the team on this trip at the Miami Airport on Tuesday and hopefully get to introduce you to Kathy then. She’s the Southern Plate family member who was chosen to accompany me on this trip. I haven’t had a chance to talk with her so I’m really looking forward to meeting her and watching her story unfold on this trip.
Wednesday, we deliver the 100millionth shoebox. Can you imagine? 100 million shoeboxes have been packed and 100 million kids have received these. You just have no idea the impact they make until you see with your eyes the tears of joy both from these kids and their families. It’s hard to imagine how a shoebox, sometimes with gifts that don’t add up to be more than $15.00, can have an impact great enough to change a life forever. To offer a hope and joy and to fill in the space that some may not have evern known was empty. We have a lot of emptiness here at home, most likely more than anywhere else in the world, but we tend to feel it is the responsibility of others to fill it or worse yet, we don’t recognize our true need and instead try to fill it with things and titles, ending up with a bigger emptiness than ever before.
In the midst of all of this, it’s wonderful to know that there is hope for all of us.
You know the thing that strikes me the most about shoeboxes and any other time we step up and do something to help others? The thing is, while it helps them, the person it helps most is us. Things like this, they change us the most. They open our eyes and expand our world view. They help us to realize how very much we have. They give us things to be grateful for that we never thought to be grateful for before. Rest assured that if you packed a shoebox or if you volunteer or donate to an organization, it does help people and it does make a difference for them – but I think it makes the biggest difference for us. This is something I’ve really just come to understand in the past few years.
On another note, an awesome twist to life happened today: I ended up with more shoeboxes than I can take with me. My daughter’s 2nd grade class packed nine and I can fit all of those, but I won’t have room to take the ones I packed myself. Her class shoeboxes take precedence because I want to be able to show the kids when I come home photos of the children who received the shoeboxes and to tell them about their lives and what the shoeboxes meant.
In the wake of this though, I thought I might need to wait until next year to send mine.
However, today in church, they announced that our church is joining together to pack shoeboxes to go to the children affected by Hurricane Sandy for Christmas. With mine packed with toys, candy, personal toiletry items, school supplies, and warm scarves that my mother made, they’re a perfect fit for kids in the Northeast United States at Christmastime.
God just thinks of everything.
Oh, one more thing. I’ll be updating this post as best I can while traveling. Oftentimes it will be updated from my telephone so if the photo size is odd or you see more type-o’s than usual, I ask for your forgiveness in advance. We’re not after any journalism or blogger of the year awards here. It’s just me and you going on one amazing trip. Thanks for traveling with me.
Ooh! Test pic. Gotta see how this phone upload thing works…
Today was a blur of trying to get packed and trying to get SouthernPlate taken care of. I woke up around two but didn’t get to work til nearly four and finally threw in the towel around eleven to go pick up some token gifts at Lifeway (for translators and such on the trip) and then to check both kids out of school so they could go with me to the airport and say goodbye.
There weren’t any tears shed at the goodbye, thank goodness. I took a lot of measures or avoid that and made a lot of promises ;). Good promises though. Getting on first plane now. Already looking forward to the spaghetti supper the kids always make me whenever I come home from a trip. Love y’all.
Okay, have you ever bought cookies from the store that were stored in one of those plastic trays inside the package that kept them all upright and just slightly separated from one another? I felt like one of those cookies on that last airplane I was on. My knees were touching the back of the seat in front of me and I’m only 5″5′. When the lady in front of me reclined, I felt like I should massage her shoulders or something because she was pretty much in my lap. Lol.
I’m here at a hotel in Miami for the night. All of my flights went well and I leave for Santa Domingo tomorrow. I’m probably spelling that wrong… I was so glad I didn’t get any grief about my backpack being packed so tight because its mostly things for the kids and I was afraid one of the airlines would tell me it was too big. Y’all say a prayer that I can get it on all of my flights tomorrow!
Hoping to head to bed soon after a little reading. Thank you for being here.
TUESDAY JUST BEFORE BED
Day one was spent traveling and getting to know our team. People from all over the country are here for the 100 millionth shoebox, including reporters, videographers, photographers, and more. Lots of folks from KLove, and of course J.J. Jasper from American Family radio. I say “of course” because a lot of y’all are already familiar with him and have been telling me to look out for him because he is such a hoot. You were right. He’s a hoot and a half. When we were getting on our bus today, the door fell off. No, I’m not kidding. So JJ proceeded to help put it back on. Halfway here, it fell off again, while we were driving. He hopped up and stood there, holding it in place for the rest of our drive.
It was just me of those moments. As JJ was holding the door, a young man who lives here and was with us leaned on it to help hold it in place. Now keep in kind the bus is mooooving and these folks drive like they do in NYC and this young man is leaning on a door being held in place by JJ that is NO LONGER CONNECTED TO THE BUS. I looked at him and said “You need to get away from that door. Don’t do that, get away right now!” In my southern Mama voice. He might’ve thought I was crazy but he obeyed. It helps to remember that most men were raised by women and I don’t care how big the man is, if you pull out your mama voice when you need to, it usually works.
All of the people here are wonderful. It feels so good to be surrounded by people actively walking right in Jesus’ footsteps. I know this sounds crazy but it feels like I’m spending time with the original apostles. I know, I know, that sounds crazy but I’m just telling you how I feel. To be surrounded with people who are so actively walking in accordance to His will, to get to sit by people who so openly say “This is what God is doing in my life” with no Concern of playing it down or giving partial credit to coincidence or fate. It just feels so freeing.
Tonight, the head of OCC for the Dominican Republic spoke to us through a translator. He began by saying “I want you to know first and foremost that the Dominican Republic is a Christian country” being an American, I was surprised to hear that. So much of where we live consists of organizations and media stressing that we aren’t a Christian country. He went on to say that their national motto is “God, Fatherland, Liberty” and did you know that the Dominican Republic is the only country to feature the Holy Bible as part of their national flag? It’s right in the center, opened up to the book of John. Wow. Did you also know that they teach bible in all of their public schools here, are even required to? I was stunned.
Tomorrow is going to be monumental. The 100millionth shoebox and I get to witness it. Oh my. Seriously, God? Me? I’ll never understand why someone as lowly as me would be so blessed to know Him as I do. Why He not only puts up with me (a feat in itself) but uses me. I don’t understand it but I’m so very grateful for it.
A few people here are on their first mission trip. I gave them my advice gleaned from my first trip. “Cry in your hotel room every night and if you cry in the shower your eyes don’t swell.”
Think that sounds crazy? Just wait til I start sharing pictures tomorrow night.
I was hoping to share some videos with you but the Internet connection isn’t cooperating.
Maybe tomorrow. Good night. Love you. Thank you for being here
I’m typing this on my phone so please forgive the shortness. It was a long hot day filled with emotions. I got some good hugs in for all of you and ended up having a great conversation with a 15 year old girl who was using me to help improve her English. She asked if I had children and then was confused to learn I only had two. I asked how many folks usually had here and she said “at least five”. I had to shuffle for an answer and briefly touched on paying for college, car, etc. I was thinking of how expensive kids are but trying to come up with something that was different for us, because parents in the DR want their kids to go to college too but that doesn’t limit family size. Finally I remembered yesterday the speaker telling me that bible is required to be taught in schools here and this is a Christian country so I told her “We have to pay a lot if money for school for our children if we want them to be in a school where they can be taught about God”.
She answered “You don’t have public school?”
“We’ll yes we do, but they can’t teach about God in public school.”
She immediately said “Why?”
“We’ll, because some people will get offended.”
“Why?” She shot back.
Dang. This was hard. I was trying to come up with a kind way of saying it.
“Well, because some people feel it hurts their rights if we talk about God around them.”
Man, this was hard.
Then she added “Is America not a Chrustian nation?”
I winced. “Well, we were founded that way and there are a lot of Christians there but the government doesn’t want us to be considered a Christian nation.”
“Well, we have a lot of material things and money and people have turned to them for happiness instead of God.”
She shook her head in the same frustration I felt and I added “So you see, we have money in the states, but your country has real wealth.”
She smiled and headed out, without even asking for a shoebox, as she walked down the road with her friends
P. S. Mama always says that ladies don’t sweat, they glisten. Well, I glistened so much today that I had to hang my jeans and shirt over the shower rod to dry out. Can’t wait to tell you more about these gorgeous kids.
A lot of people have asked about who won the trip, which Southern Plate Reader got to go with me?
Well, here she is! Kathy is an amazing person (as are all of you!). She has personally started several OCC programs in churches she has been involved in and stayed on to oversee them. But when she asked about possibly going to deliver shoeboxes (her ultimate dream) she was disheartened to find that most spots were only available for college students as intern programs. This trip was a life changing event for her, and me, too!
I’m still hoping to add more to this post as time permits. It may be months, perhaps even years, but the story here isn’t finished.