This blog is written by Tammy Breeser. Tammy has served on our leadership team for several years. This is her third time traveling to the DR.
One of our values at Project I See You is “Poverty and Extravagance Dance Together”. Our January trip got to truly live that out. This was a mother/child trip (plus 3 wonderful “Tias”). Our time there was to be spent building the relationships with the community of La Canita and cleaning up the land that was just purchased. We were able to see some of this done through the beautiful eyes of 9 and 10 year olds. My daughter Elli was on this trip with me.
Elli noticed the poverty and she did not. She noticed the extravagance and she did not. Both were present. She did notice the hurt and starving dogs everywhere. That broke her compassionate heart. However, she did not notice that all the people we are interacting with have few possessions. She did notice their huge smile, playfulness, and gigantic hugs. She did not notice the dirty kids in the Campo. She did notice that she can play games with other kids even if she does not speak the same language or look alike. She did notice that our dear friend, Alicia, who has stayed with us at our home, has a small home. Although, I know she is not focused on that. She is focused on how great it is to know Alicia. She may have noticed that the bathroom at Biemba’s house is different with no running water. But my guess is she noticed Biemba more (and her great food).
Elli wrote in her journal “when we think we do not have things…we do!” As a mom, I was happy to see that. I want her to be aware and be thankful. But I also love that she did not notice much. She lives in the moment. She loves whatever God puts in front of her. She is so present. I have much to learn from her.
The next leg of our journey took us to the beach. Two nights were already planned at a resort near the airport. Halfway into our stay, we found out our flight was cancelled out of New York due to the blizzard. A quick call to the airlines found us stranded for 3 extra days. After some shock and discussion, we were able to change our flights to fly out of the Punta Cana airport. Shortly after that we were on a bus to the resort area of the Dominican Republic with reservations at a fancy all inclusive hotel.
Now I am smacked hard with the reality of extravagance and poverty dancing together. At first, I thought, “this is how life can go. I am thankful we are not stuck in the New York airport for 3 days”. I had trouble seeing it as a gift, not just circumstance. I felt guilty spending money on something I did not save for, nor plan. God worked on me to receive this gift and rest in this blessing. He wants to meet me where I am, in poverty or extravagance. Poverty and extravagance are not merely monetary. I can easily live in poverty because I am not willing to be present with the extravagance in front of me.
My favorite was the kids. They had no idea the extravagance of what we were given with this “forced vacation” in the Caribbean. They were just present. They loved the sand, ocean, pool, food and swim up bar full of fruity drinks. They did not pine over what they were missing back home, they just played on the beach and played with their moms and “Tias”. Us moms got to be present. What a gift!
Even though our journey led us to a beautiful Caribbean beach, I have to say that was not my favorite part. My favorite part of the trip is all the beautiful relationships we have there. It is my broken Spanish letting these women of La Canita know they are valued and loved. It is seeing their smiles that we came back, that they matter. While there is poverty all around, I also see the extravagance of these beautiful relationships that only God could have put together.
Whatever our circumstances are right now, extravagance or poverty, God is present. I am sure all of us have both in many areas of our lives. Where is God in your poverty? Where is God in your extravagance? How do you live in the moment like a 10 year old? How do you stay present with what is front of you right now and enter into that rolling ocean with squeals of delight?