So we arrived in the Dominican Republic yesterday afternoon. We’re staying at the conference center for the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana, which is the sister congregation for the United Methodist Church in the Dominican Republic. It’s interesting because usually “evangelico” in Latin America implies a patriarchal socially conservative church, but the only two pastors we’ve met so far are both female pastoras with almost the same name — Carilina and Carolina — and very Spirit-filled, powerful personalities.
In any case, my meditation for the first day here has to do with a band of stray puppies that have been wandering around the conference center grounds. In the Dominican Republic, there are dogs everywhere but they don’t really belong to anyone. They think it’s really funny when the visiting gringos make a fuss over the dogs. So anyhow, somehow I ended up with a puppy snuggling me and Kim, one of the missionaries with us, was telling me that for $200 I could get shots for him and take him home to the States. I considered it for a few seconds. My sons would love it, but our house is not ready for a dog at this point. Mariah, one of our team members, also had a puppy. She started asking her husband Ballard if she could keep her puppy (they already have two pit bulls who would eat it for lunch). Ballard said absolutely not.
So Mariah and I had to go out into a field where they had found the puppies in the first place. The conference center is actually also a 70+ acre mango plantation so there’s a lot of land that goes back behind it. Mariah was having trouble leaving her puppy in the field (maybe I was too but I won’t admit to it here). So it hit me how even if these puppies don’t make it to be fully grown dogs, they will have experienced 30 minutes of being the object of somebody’s undivided affection. We shared God’s love with them. It doesn’t negate that fact that we can’t adopt them and take them home with us.
There’s a way in which this is a metaphor for what we inherently do on mission trips and in life in general. Some people we will be privileged enough to have lifelong relationships with, but many intimacies that we have in life only last a couple years, a few months, one intensive weekend retreat, a couple of hours, or maybe even a few minutes. So how do we treat people with whom we have only a fleeting encounter? We share God’s love with them, period. There was a woman on the plane with us from Miami down to Santa Domingo. She seemed very interested in chatting with me about Christianity so we talked. She said she didn’t have a religion because of all the hypocrisy she’s seen in religion. About two hours into the flight, I discovered that she was going to the Dominican Republic for a week to reboot because her marriage had just fallen apart. She wanted to know why all the Christians were talking about the end of the world and not doing anything to make the world a better place. I told her that I thought the point of Christianity is to establish God’s mercy and invite people into His kingdom of mercy. I pray that God will somehow use our conversation in her life. Maybe she’ll try out church someday in the future. I’m not going to see her again, but that doesn’t matter. God used that moment to share His love with me by allowing me to participate in the comfort He had to share with this woman.
There are many puppies in the wilderness. Some will make it; some will not. All we can do is share God’s love with whomever we meet, however trivial and anonymous our conversation is. God is weaving all of our conversations together in a strategy to advance His kingdom. He will take care of His puppies and His sheep and His people; His gift to us is to be a part of His process.