I was recently fortunate to travel to the Dominican Republic on a marketing missions trip. It was a truly organic trip– just my dad and me, going to support New Hope Girls, a ministry organization I came in contact with a year prior.
On this trip I sat down with women and girls from the barrio who have been affected by the prolific sex trafficking and abuse that plagues the Dominican Republic. Although the darkness was a part of our conversation I was amazed at how quickly they left the darkness to talk about the light.
These women and girls have experienced radical transformation because of redemption through Jesus. He is their everything. Their identity is rooted in Him.
I learned so many deep and impactful spiritual lessons while with these women. One of the most profound takeaways how real their faith is. Their faith and walk with Jesus is more real than the barbed wire lining their fences, the trash littering the alleyways, the dusty streets and crumbling buildings. Their faith sustains them and Jesus is their everything.
Take Up Your Cross
As I was marveling at the way their faith leads them moment by moment I realized that I was watching Luke 9:23 come alive before my very eyes. Referring to Jesus this verse says,
“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’”
This is the type of faith I witnessed– I would add though, that these women and girls aren’t taking up their cross daily– they are taking it up hourly and sometimes moment by moment.
In the barrio there is no “buying in bulk”– you can buy a teaspoon of sugar or a tablespoon of tomato sauce. While that might sound like a random fact, think about it. In our modern society we stock our freezers, fridges and pantries and trick ourselves into thinking we are in control. We let the physical world before our eyes, and our ability to control logistics, trick us into thinking we are the master of our destiny.
Privilege and affluence makes us forget that we must pick up our cross daily. Our comforts of modern society make us overlook our need to turn to Him for every need, answer, and next step. The reality in the barrio reminds these women of faith they aren’t in control– thank goodness– but rather He is.
Each is One
As I was interviewing two key leaders of New Hope Girls one of them made the statement, “Each girl is one.” Wow–so simple and so profound. Each girl is one; deserving of love and joy. This made me instantly think of The Parable of the Lost Sheep found in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7. The girls of New Hope bring this scripture to life in their very existence. They show the depths that God will go to bring about redemption and healing when one of His is lost. His love is relentless and He pursues. These girls are each one– a daughter of The Most High.
Luz y Esperanza (Light and Hope)
Finally, the scripture that I couldn’t shake from my brain was Psalm 30:1-5
I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depth and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
The darkness and brokenness of the barrio consumed these women and girls at one time. But not anymore. They laugh, rejoice, and live as a testimony to God’s goodness. They are a living miracle. Yes, there is still grief and mourning over what was lost when they were in the mire but because of the eternal hope in Jesus they rejoice.
Their ability to praise God regardless of circumstances will forever stay with me. They are His light and living hope, their lives tell the story of His love. As I return and reflect I’m praising God for how He let me experience His Hand at work in the lives of the women and girls in La Vega.