The day before I boarded the plane for the Dominican, I wandered around Target gathering a few last minute things–bug spray (Malaria!), Hand sanitizer, baby wipes, a few boxes of snacks for the trip. I purchased stickers and crayons for the kids at the Compassion center. I bought dish towels and a small set of frying pans to present to the women during the home visits.
I left the store with my hands full. Prepared.
At home, I added my purchases to the already mostly-full suitcase holding baby clothes, and construction paper, sticker books, and other recommended items. I planned to check the bag that would carry my gifts, and carry my clothes with me on the plane. The risk of losing my luggage has been a major source of anxiety for me when I travel.
The next morning at the airport, I checked my giant gift bag and made my way to my gate. Weighing in at 47lbs, just below the limit for the higher bag fee, I smiled proudly at the baggage checker.
This first leg of my trip is when I heard God so specifically reminding me to open my eyes–to be open to this experience. No longer worrying about my suitcase, my thoughts shifted to what God wanted to show me on this trip.
I knew without a doubt that God himself had swung this door open for me. I never questioned this invitation to travel with my favorite ministry. Though I was slow coming around to Compassion, once I signed on 4 years ago as both a sponsor and an advocate, I knew this was the place for me.
God had every thread and detail of this trip in His loving hands. I knew it on the plane when he spoke to me at sunrise, and I would need to remember that when I landed in the Dominican without my bag of gifts.
Somehow, instead of coming with us to Santo Domingo, my bag stayed behind in Miami.
My worst travel anxiety realized. It’s interesting to me that my personal fear when traveling is not that I will die, but that I will not have my things at the other end–
I think this is precisely part of the reason I ended up on the trip, without my things.
I made the necessary calls, filled the claims, and asked (repeatedly) for my bag to be forwarded on to the Dominican. For 4 days, my bag remained in Miami, for inexplicable reasons. When it becomes clear that my bag would not make it to me in the DR, I advised the airline to keep the bag, I would simply pick it up on my way home.
Every time we met with the children and their families at the Compassion center, gifts were presented.
I had nothing to give.
I was constantly reminded of how even as I had prepared and planned and spent, still, I arrived empty handed. The members of our team were generous givers. Multiple times people opened their own gift bags and offered me something to share with the children and their families. I gave out of what others had, rather than out of my own personal wealth. And it was humbling.
My struggle with pride is well documented. For me, giving is always easier than receiving. I am uncomfortable with empty hands. For 3 days, I received hospitality from people who had very little, knowing that comparatively, I had so much–but not really, because as I was there with them, I had in my possession 4 outfits. That’s it. In some ways, I feel like God leveled the playing field temporarily. I know that financially, and physically, I live with more than many of my Dominican Brothers and sisters. I know that I can’t even begin to compare my 3 days without luggage to their lifetime without basic provision, like steady food, clean water and safe shelter. I know that and so I don’t pretend the say that our poverty is the same. But I came with the intent of blessing others with things, and God allowed that opportunity to pass without my ability to rectify it in time.
I came empty handed to the Dominican, but left with a heart aching with the most unexpected and fullest measure of joy.
The people I shared time with on this trip continually gave to me. Right up until the last minute of our airport goodbye’s I was still in the position of receiving, as a new friend bought my lunch in between flights.
I am sure for all of my initial unpacking of this particular piece of my trip, I haven’t even begun to understand all that God is doing in this. The unbridled generosity of not only my trip mates, but the Compassion staff and community in the Dominican is only a foretaste of the generosity of God towards His children.
It is only when our hands are empty that He can fill them. Whatever our plans are, His ways are even better.
I’m home now with my missing suitcase–it didn’t show up until 2 days after I got home from the Dominican. Slowly I’m unwrapping the gifts I received during my week traveling with Compassion. In time, I will share more stories with you. But for now, maybe it’s time you started your own journey by sponsoring a child through Compassion International.
Open your hands, friends. Offer them for God’s kingdom. Let Him use you in the life of another in need.
It’s not about what you have to offer. Just be open–available, willing.