200 Hugs a Day

So last friday I arrived at my new apartment. I was greeted by Dulce, the contact person I have been talking to this whole time. She works with Catholic Mission Trips (CMT – the organization that I worked with this past summer). She is an extremely kind woman who lives in the states with her husband and their children are fully grown. They own a couple of large homes here in the DR that they rent out to missionaries and close personal friends. A Little back story…originally, the plan was that I would be working with high school and college-aged teens a few weeks in April and May. About a week before I left for the Dominican I was told that both groups that were suppose to come were no longer available. Since I had already booked everything and still felt like God was calling me to go, I told Dulce that I was still coming and would help in any way possible. So on February 20th she and I met and discussed the different possibilities of things for me to do. I forgot the fact that I hadn’t told my parents that the groups had backed out and that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I had just figured that there was no use in worrying them; I knew God would take care of it, I just had to wait and see what his plan was. So when I was Skyping with them a week before I was starting school, I filled them in with this information. I have really awesome parents – who trust me, but more importantly, trust God.

Monday, the 2nd of March, was my first day of school. It’s a public school that is run by Catholic nuns. Initially, I was told that I would just be the English teacher’s assistant and that I would just help a small group of students that were having the most trouble learning English. When I arrived on my first day of class I met the English teacher, who is a very sweet Dominican woman who has a husband and two young children. She speaks English, but is definitely not fluent. After a quick introduction she brought me to our first class, which was fourth grade. I walk into the room and she says, “Ok, you can start whenever you are ready”. I just stare at her blankly and mutter a very confused, “What”? Then she says again, “You can start whenever you are ready. We are learning the parts of the body. Do you know any songs or sayings or anything like that?” I thought about how I was told I was only going to be helping…but I figured it was pretty pointless to bring that up to her right now. So I said a little prayer and thought of the “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song. And that is how the rest of the day went. The teacher would tell me what they were learning about and I would do my best to think of something to teach them. Also, in the afternoon I coach volleyball. To say I was exhausted after my first day was an understatement. So I took a long nap and then later that night I thought of new ways to teach and how I could help the most. So each day, Eva (the english teacher) and I got into more of a rhythm and things have been going a lot more smoothly since. Let me tell you something, the kids at this school are the sweetest kids you will ever meet. I get hugged at least 200 times a day. All the students are constantly saying hi and asking me how I am and that sort of thing. It’s great practice for my Spanish because their conversations are usually pretty simple and kind of the same every day. The love they give me fills me up and gives me more energy to continue. Let me also tell you…I feel so tired all the time. So if you could, I would love for you to pray for me to have energy and strength. This week I have organized my schedule so I am not doing quite so much every day. Because when I get done with school I still need to do other things, like clean the apartment, go grocery shopping, laundry, practice Spanish, think about tomorrow’s lessons, and 3-4 days a week I go on a run by the ocean…You know, all this grown up stuff that is brand new to me. But I love it, my days are so fulfilling. I get distracted so easily and it seems like every day is a battle to believe that I am good enough to help people, that I am the right person to be here; to do this. Constantly the devil is telling me that my Spanish is terrible, that I should know way more, that I am not working hard enough every day, and that I am not making a difference and am wasting everyone’s time. I have to keep reminding myself these things are lies. I also struggle every single day with trusting God with the plans for my life. Just the other day I was thinking, what am I going to do about a job? I left mine back in Georgia and don’t know if I have one to go back to. What am I going to do? Then fear and doubt creep into my mind. I didn’t raise any money for this trip because I have been working really hard for a long time and have saved up a bit of money so I knew I had enough to last me for a while. Plus, I didn’t know the plans of my trip and would hate to have people sponsoring me without even knowing what I am doing myself. So I just decided I would live off my savings and trust that this is what God wants me to do. Like I said, it’s a daily struggle. But get this…just yesterday I received an email from my coordinator from CMT saying they could afford to give me a stipend for my time in the DR, which is enough money to cover my housing and my plane ticket. God is so good! I don’t know why I won’t just let myself be in the hands of God; he has proven to me numerous times that his plans are ALWAYS better than mine. But, I am learning and every day I am saying little “yeses” here and there. I will admit, sometimes I feel God telling me to do something, like pray over someone, or go talk to a certain person, and I say no. I say I cannot do it, that I don’t think I am ready for that big of a challenge, or that I feel too busy, or it makes me too uncomfortable. I regret every single time I have said “no”. But the beautiful thing is that God has not given up on me. He says, “That’s ok, we will try again tomorrow.” So all of our days are filled with little and big chances to say “yes” and “no” to God. It’s crazy to me how many times I say “no”, even though I see how amazing it is when you say “yes”. But one of the biggest tricks the devil plays is making you think he does not exist; that he is not there whispering in your ear all your failures and shortcomings. Making you believe that you are not good enough or worthy enough to carry out God’s will. But this, of course, is a lie; because when you are doing anything in the name of Jesus, it is not you alone doing this work, but God working through you – and God never fails. You may not see the fruits of your labor, but working in the name of God is never a cropless harvest. So, my dear friends and family, I urge you to start saying “yes” to God. Allow yourselves to become vulnerable and you will witness just how protected you actually are. We have the creator of the universe wanting to show us the path to happiness and fulfillment, but we let our earthly desires and pride get in the way.
This next challenge is a big one. I believe you are ready, because if God brings you to it, he will most certainly help you through it. Say “yes” to that thing you keep saying “no” to…that thing that has always been on your heart, but you are to scared to discover what it will do to your life.

Jeremiah 29: 11-14. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Trust him. I promise, it will be more amazing than you could ever image, more challenging and meaningful and beautiful than you can every imagine. There is no better time than the present, that is why it is a gift 🙂

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