March 23, 2021
In my first year out of high school, I experienced the most change, challenge, and growth of my entire life. Instead of taking the traditional college route, I started college online and moved to the Dominican Republic, with nine other fresh out of high school students, to intern with a mission organization for one year.
This is not something I ever imagined myself doing, especially not at 18 years old. I was not looking to satisfy some sort of wanderlust travel bug, and I was not looking for some grand experience. I was very content with where I was in life, but I felt the Lord calling me to go higher and deeper into His love. So, at 18 years old I moved to a Caribbean Island.
For a year I worked in Women’s Social Work running a daily girl’s club alongside a Dominican woman named Amalfi. Amalfi is kind and strong, and she has a passion for sharing the Gospel and building relationships. Every day, elementary and middle school girls would come to our site to have Bible lessons, prayer, and work on crafts or school projects. My mind and journal are filled with countless memories of the days I spent with those girls. If I close my eyes, I can very vividly remember the way the cool breeze felt coming through the windows as I awoke from a mid-day siesta to the sound of little girls who arrived to class early, whispering, “Sarita! Sarita!” (praise God for countries that value naps!) Hundreds of these memories are stored away in my heart like I can reach out and touch them. But most of all, I can still feel the tangible presence of Love.
My life in the Dominican Republic was simple, my days were filled with people and conversations. There were many days when all I did was just sit next to someone and talk. We spent hours in people’s homes, sitting on their porches drinking coffee, and hearing about their lives. By most people’s standards, this may seem unproductive, but my simple days of just being with people taught me so much about who Jesus is. He is Immanuel – God With Us. He is Love incarnate.
With all the power that God has and the many ways He could have saved us, He chose to do so by dwelling among us. He came in the flesh to have a relationship with us. I think that life is a lot simpler than we make it out to be. There are so many things that we want to do and accomplish, and we work towards these things by making ourselves busy with activity and often neglecting the people around us. We forget that the Lord accomplished His plan of salvation by sending His Son to be with us so that by His grace and His work on the cross we could be with Him for eternity.
To quote Bob Goff – “What better way to live than to just be.” We were created to be in relationship with God and relationship with each other. Dominicans excel at relationships. Being both a collective and relationship-oriented culture, relationships form the basis of all areas of life, from school to business to religion. Life is structured around relationships. I watched as people lived out the Gospel by just showing up and being present. Whether someone was experiencing joy or pain, the community came around them to share in their suffering or celebration. They shared what they had, their possessions, their knowledge, their time, but most of all they just shared themselves. Love shows up, even if it shows up empty-handed. Ultimately, love is not a physical possession to be given, Love is a person, and He dwelt among us.
Living in another country taught me a lot, but every single day, the memories of my time there remind me to love others by being present and showing up. I have not come anywhere close to perfecting this, and I learn more every day about loving others well from my friends and family who love me well. The Lord is so kind to remind me daily that, despite my failures, my flaws, and my inconsistencies, He keeps showing up. Because He is Immanuel – God With Us.
Written by: Sarah Day
Sarah is a junior majoring in Youth Ministry. Sarah enjoys writing for the blog because she loves exploring the ways that the simplest things in our lives impact us in the most meaningful ways. She is passionate about connecting with people, talking about what truly matters and baking.