The Power of a Smile

06/07/13

"How will God change you as a result of this Venture Trip to the Dominican Republic?"  I wondered the same thing when I read that question on the preparation information I received before the trip.

 
I'd had lots of short-term mission experience over the years, both with my family in Africa and on senior high mission trips, and had also served on our church's missions committee. My husband and I had focused on the Congo as our place to give to help poor people, so in the back of my mind I didn't really want to get interested in another place with poor people, thinking I couldn't give to every need. But I couldn’t ignore the tug in my heart to go on this trip.
 
Sue felt a tug in her heart to go on a Venture Trip to the Dominican Republic
                                  Sue felt a tug in her heart to go on a Venture Trip to the Dominican Republic.
 
Before I left, Rachel Creager, a fellow church member who went on last year's trip, told me about a little boy she'd met, named Jesús, who hadn't smiled the whole week until the last day. On the last day, when his face finally broke into a smile, Rachel snapped a photo of the two of them together.  When she found out I was going this year, she gave me that photo to give to him.
 
Once we arrived, various members of our group were involved with construction projects, a Vacation Bible School, ladies Bible studies, and painting a new library at Children of the Nations' school in Los Robles.  I spent much of my time at the library, stenciling letters and painting bright flowers on the inside walls with a few other people.
 
One afternoon, after chatting a bit with some girls who'd come in to watch, I showed them a photo of my family, and then the one of Rachel and Jesús. I heard them say, "Jesús!" and realized that they knew the boy in the picture. They left, and a few minutes later, I noticed a little boy in the room. When I looked at his face,  I recognized him and said, "You're the boy!" 
 
Seeing the photo of himself and Rachel brought a huge smile to Jesús' face!
                                  Seeing the photo of himself and Rachel brought a huge smile to Jesús' face!
 
Jesús smiled a lot as he looked at the picture and heard me tell him that Rachel was my friend, had given me the photo, and that she remembered him and had been praying for him. A man from the school who could speak English "just happened" to be there then to interpret.  I gave Jesús the photo, which brought another big smile, and he was my little friend after that.  I think he might grow up to have a soft spot in his heart for short-haired Americanas who showed God's love by smiling at him.
 
Rachel had wondered if it's worth it to spend a lot of money to go on mission trips like this, or if it's better to just send the money, and I have wondered the same thing. I think both are needed, but from Jesús' reaction, I do believe his life has been enriched by Rachel's reaching out to him repeatedly during her week there last year, by her prayers, by the daily work of COTN and its volunteers, and then by the reminder of her that I brought this year. 
 
Sue and Jesús formed a bond when she gave him Rachel's photo
                                             Sue and Jesús formed a bond when she gave him Rachel's photo.
 
On another day, a young girl gave me the most beautiful smile, with eye contact that was longer than usual, the kind of smile where an amazing love and joy travels back and forth.  I will never forget her.
 
Sue was blessed by many smiles during her trip, particularly one from Rosi
                    Sue was blessed by many smiles during her trip, particularly one from a young girl named Rosi.
 
Through these and other powerful smiles, I realize more than ever before that these people are real, they are not just pictures and that God loves them, and is not limited, and I am not limited either in loving and giving!  
 
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