Coen, Weston and their parents visiting the Dominican Republic in October of 2018. (Photo Submitted)
It took our family six years, 10 months, and 20 days to get to the Dominican Republic. Considering modern air travel, that seems a bit extensive. But I’m speaking of our journey and not our travel time.
Our journey actually began in 2010, following our second miscarriage. After about a year, we departed the place of grieving and set out with bags packed full of gratitude for the two sons we already had, Coen and Weston. Our mission was to bless two boys because we were blessed with two boys.
In January 2012, with the help of Compassion International, we chose to sponsor two boys — the same ages of our sons — from the Dominican Republic. I was under the impression that we chose the Dominican Republic because it was close enough to feasibly visit once the boys were in high school. If you ask my husband, Reggie, he will tell you that he didn’t think we would ever go. The next six years were paved with letters and pictures to and from our Dominican boys, Elian and Yordy. We spoke of family, faith, sports, weather, and school. And we spoke of our new son Kairo, miraculously born a year after we first decided to sponsor Elian and Yordy.
Fast forward to February 2018. In the midst of wrestling over some big decisions, I prayed a prayer that got answered swiftly and in an unexpected way. Frustrated with feeling stuck, I asked God to give me a vision for our family that was bigger than what I was focusing on. Within 10 minutes, Reggie presented me with this out-of-the-blue opportunity tucked conveniently in his email that morning.
Compassion International was doing a sponsor tour to the Dominican Republic the exact dates of our boys’ school fall break.
On October 20, 2018, we flew to the Dominican Republic with Coen (13) and Weston (10). Kairo (5) stayed home with his grandparents because of the age restrictions for the tour.
With the aid of seven Dominican translators, who were a delight as well as a necessity, we visited Compassion centers, played with the children who received services at the centers, made home visits, and listened to the workers.
Best of all, we got to spend an entire day with Elian and Yordy. There is nothing like finally hugging the kid you’ve been watching grow up through letters and pictures for years. There is no adequate way to describe the about-to-burst feeling you get watching your own boys play with these friends, who seem both new and old at the same time, as if there were no language, cultural, or socio-economic differences.
Many people have asked me what our boys thought of the trip. I’m not going to wax poetic about how their lives were changed and they are more philanthropically-motivated kids. They’re kids. If you ask them what they remember from the Dominican Republic, they’ll likely tell you how the bathrooms were different or about the funny phrase our translators taught us in Spanish. If you catch them in a thoughtful moment, they might tell you about playing basketball with the kids, or how small the houses we visited were, or how cool it was to finally meet the boys we’ve been writing.
For kids, trips like these aren’t so much life-changing as they are view-shaping. They may never realize the subtle, but deep, way this informs how they see the world and their places in it. How will these experiences shape the hearts of Coen, my people-loving son, or Weston, my deep thinker? Their minds store up the people, stories, and feelings of this week to color more decisions in their future than we may ever know. The truth is, as long of a journey as it was to get to the Dominican Republic, the journey from there will be even longer. In fact, I don’t think that journey ever ends. All I know is that we all will be better for it.