When I go on a short term missions trip, I have always been able to sum it up by saying it is refreshing to the soul. I get the chance to pour into children lives and love on them, which is bringing them joy, showing them there is hope and that they are valued. The parents, are beyond thankful that you even took the time to come and spend time with the kids. They are grateful for the blessing that happens during it.
Project Smiles focuses on children who may not get gifts for Kings day. If you do not know Kings Day, is kind of like Christmas, it is when the kids get gifts in the Dominican Republic. The reason it is called Kings Day is that it is when the three Kings present the prophetic gifts to Jesus. Every year for Project Smiles we go to two low-income communities. Some of the families are sustained by men day by day by selling fruit, candy on the street. The ladies, most of them work on family houses in Santo Domingo. In some families, the woman only gets to come home on the weekends, leaving the kids staying with the dad, grandma, or the oldest sibling all week. We had the most beautiful opportunity to go to these communities and bring smiles on their faces. But it was not all about the gifts; it was much more. We spent time with them! We painted their cute little faces, played games, and danced around. Everyone had a smile on their face and a genuine one. We even had the opportunities to share Christ with them. But what was unique about this, we have plans to go back and disciple the children, rather than doing a one day Jesus event. We get to watch them flourish and help them build a relationship with Christ in the coming future.
The kids were so excited when they got word that we are coming. As we pulled up to the communities, the kids ran towards the area we had the program at. Some ran to get their friends and family. In one of the communities, as one of the leaders shows up, the children ran home to take a bath and change into the nicest pair of clothing that they had, which was the cutest. And I know in my heart that that will be an unforgettable moment for them. That day brought them hope, joy, and love to them but it also brought me hope, joy, and love.
Seeing the smiles on those faces not only refreshed their souls, but it restored my soul. Before I came on this trip, I was not in the best spot. I was exhausted and depressed to the point of not wanting to do anything; I felt lifeless. On the outside, you would have seen things to be great in my life, but my soul was tired and weary. Being part of Project Smiles restored my soul; seeing those children smile big as I would hug them tightly. The presence of God was there because it was all about love and showing love, and God is love. It was during this day that for once in a very long time, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.
Jeremiah 31:25 says, "For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” This specific verse sticks out to me for this particular outreach. He restored life in me in a time that I felt lifeless. He restored hope in families in a time when they were not sure if they were going to have the money to present gifts to their kids. It brought hope when they saw we had piles and piles of clothing to give away. I cannot help but think the parents went home and watch their kids play with the toys. They watched their children with a sigh of relief. What is more important that I know they did, is that they went in thankfulness for God for all that he has provided.
God restored many souls that day, making it an unforgettable experience