We have now called the Dominican Republic our home for 2 and a half years. I often think about all the changes our family has experienced over the last few years, some are big and some are small. Some are funny, and some have been hard learned. I thought today I would stop for a second and share a few.
First, is the way we dress. When we came down here I had tried to by some nice clothes knowing that Dominicans tend to dress nicer than americans. What I quickly found was that my nicest clothes were basically rags. I had lots of pants and nice cotton shirts, and I lived in my rainbow flip flops. Normal clothes right? Not so much. I was consistently embarrassed by how casual I was compared to every one else. I have had to do a complete wardrobe overhaul and I am still working on it. Thankfully second hand stores are on every corner and I have found a love of digging through piles until I find the perfect item, and almost everything here costs 2.00. Now lets talk about high heels. I owned exactly ZERO high heels moving down here. I even returned a pair of heels to Nordstroms that I had worn once before we moved thinking I was never going to wear them. I now own 6! Who am I? I wear heals to church almost every Sunday, and even wear them for casual trips to the grocery store (What heals to the grocery store? Yes it is a thing). I also wear jewelry of all sorts, almost every time I leave the house. Before moving here I think I had worn earrings 10 times in about 15 years, and every time it had to with being in a wedding. This change of clothing doesn’t just apply to me. The more drastic change is Randy. Randy dresses really nice almost every time he leaves the house. He brings all his clothes to the tailor to get them tailored to his exact size (It costs $1 an item). He will even tell me that I should probably go change every time I try and wear my flip flops out of the house.
Second, I have become accustomed to bugs. I especially noticed this when I didn’t jump up and try and kill the cockroach that ran across the floor this morning as I was reading my bible. I know that there will always be ants in my house. There will always be at least one line of ants crawling and creeping up the wall. It is normal to pick ants off my skin during the course of the day. I did spray some ant killer last weekend when they were starting to take over the kitchen. The first night we arrived 2.5 I saw lizards, cockroaches, frogs, and ants in our house and I was pretty freaked out. Now, I see those things as fairly normal.
Third, I am used to being sweaty. Being a sweaty is a part of life. I wear long sleeves and jeans when it is hot out because that is way more acceptable here then shorts and a tank top.
One of my favorite changes is that it is totally okay to stop by someone’s house uninvited. I love that that social norm has been done away with. I love that sometimes we will be eating dinner and a friend will stop by just because. I love that if I am by a friend’s house I can stop in and chat for a bit. I love the casualness of the culture, and I love that we found this as normal.
Here is list of changes that take less explaining; Randy and I both workout almost every day, we eat our biggest meal at lunch (which all Dominicans do), crazy driving barely makes us bat an eye, we are used to everyone singing and loudly at church, rain has become a welcomed relief, plantains are a normal part of our diet, power outages are normal, beautiful tropical beaches are 2 hours away. I am sure there a lot more but you get the idea.
There has also been more profound changes. Things like our family dynamic. Before becoming missionaries Randy was at work during the day doing his thing, and the kids and I were at home doing our thing. Now we are all together all the time. Which means Randy is way more involved in parenting and we are more of a team. Randy and I have become closer because we are ministry partners. We work together, eat together, plan together, and sleep together. There are very few things that we ever do separate, we really are together all the time. I am so thankful for these things in that they bring a closeness to our family that is such an amazing blessings. This year we have also started homeschooling the kids again which has been such a blessing. I love having the kids with us and involved in our ministry.
Our support system has changed. It is amazing to see the people who reach out and encourage when you are far away, and the people who seek to know you. There is a group of people that have been so encouraging to us ever since we left. They have sought to know us and be there for us. I am so thankful for each of these people, but a lot of them are different then who I thought they would be when we left. We also have an amazing church body down here that has really embraced us and encouraged us in so many ways.
Our ideas of ministry have changed. We came down here with a certain idea of what we would do including Haitian schools and baseball. We have now decided that our ministry is our neighborhood and the people we live around. We play with kids and that includes baseball, invite people into our home, make cookies for birthdays, have started a program to helps kids with their homework, we sit on porches for hours, take people to the hospital when needed. The list goes on an on, but we have changed our perspective dramatically on what ministry looks like, and what it looks like to be intimately involved in the every day of the people’s lives around us. We are committed to be constantly looking for new ways to get to reach the people in our neighborhood for Christ.
One more is that I have become a lot more introverted. I used to be able to be with people non stop and feel completely filled when I came home. I have come to discover that I LOVE being at home. I still like to be around people, but I much more prefer the quietness of being at home. I am still trying to figure out now how to be an introvert next to a couple very extroverted children. “Mommy, will you take us to play?” is a question I am asked every day, even after working with kids all day long.
I was also impressed the other day in even how some things that used to be easy for us are now hard for us. For example, in the last month Randy has preached in Spanish twice. I was thinking about how for Randy teaching is one of the easiest things in this world. However, teaching in Spanish has made teaching super hard for him. Yikes!
Throughout the big changes and the small changes I am so thankful for the peace and security with have in the Lord. Sometimes it feels like the changes in our lives could be listed forever, but I am so thankful that we serve a God who endures forever.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalms 136:1
God has given us so much and throughout all the changes in our lives he continues to love us. Thank you Jesus!