Ten Years Ago…

La Romana has been in my heart,a passion that ran through my veins, since I was 16 years old. So, I guess I’ll put it out there (haha), for the last 19 years I have had the opportunity to be blessed by this “experience”.

Ten years ago, my life was much different. In the past 10 years, my husband and I have bought a house, changed jobs, and had three *awesome* sons. Going to the DR was put on hold. My plate has been very full, along with my heart. I was content to pray for the mission in those years, happy to help when I could with different projects going on throughout the year for the trip, but it wasn’t my time to go. I had 3 little people that needed me day and night, and I was totally OK with that. Until this past year.

This year, the trip would be different. Bringing my 9 year old son, Noah was what I had dreamed about for years. I know I want to raise my sons to be compassionate and caring, putting others’ ahead of themselves. How better to teach compassion than being in the mission field, right? We had opportunities daily to help, play, pray, distribute food, smile, hug, build…the list goes on and on. So there was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be an EPIC experience for him to be taking. Little did I know, the trip would mean so much more to me also.

Watching Noah take in the sights of a batey, playing baseball with little children who will probably remember that day for years to come, seeing him work hard to pack boxes of food to be distributed to very hungry bellies…I mean, literally, I have no words. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it. It was everything I had hoped and dreamed for him, and he was soaking it up!

And then there’s me. I’m not sure if I had an expectation for MYSELF on the trip. I had spent so much time and energy fundraising, preparing, telling Noah about it. I’m not sure that I ever really thought too long about MY trip. On Wednesday, I had my big moment…I was working on the roof of The Joe Hartman School with my sister, Wilson, Noah and a few other Americans, along with a handful of workers that work there daily. Sandra was chatting with one and asked him what his name was. Clauvis. Did he have children? Yes, the oldes is Clauson. My heart did this wierd thing. It dropped, but not in a bad way. I knew the next word out of his mouth would be Yeulison, the boy our family has sponsored to attend school for the last 3 years. We have prayed for him nightly, we talked about him like we knew him, but we didn’t, really. I think I grabbed his arm and I think I said “I am his madrina.” He smiled so big, and within minutes, he left the worksite to go home and get him.

The next few minutes I’m not sure what I was doing…just waiting. He walked up the stairs to the roof where we were working and I hugged him so tightly. My sunglasses hid my leaking eyes, and I held myself together. He sorta hugged me back, but he was cautious. Over the next 3 hours we read books together, we played legos, farm animals, talked, and he played ball with Noah. “Yeulison, do you need anything?” “Comida” We gave him every Cliff Bar we had in our bags. He ate them quickly, didn’t savor them at all. He ate them like he was hungry. Very hungry.

His story isn’t an easy one. His dad does his best, working construction jobs, taking care of 5 sons alone, ranging in age from 3-11. The 3 oldest are enrolled at the school but they are not “easy” kids. They sometimes steal things (I don’t know, I might if I had no posessions to call my own too), they are hungry, they fall down and get hurt frequently (maybe I would also, if my belly were always empty). Their house is not in good condition at all, holes throughout their roof that let the rain in to soak their belongings.

By the end of the afternoon, he had hugged me a million times, all caution gone. He smiled. I had seen pictures of him for years, not once had I seen his smile. I. Was. In. Love. If someone had said “Oh, you can take him home with you”, I swear I would have. Aaron would *probably* forgiven me at some point. I mean, what’s another after you have 3 already, right? The following day, we spent the day together, along with his 4 brothers, just playing, reading, talking.

This family has my heart now. I have thought about them every day since I have returned. I’ve told everyone that’s asked how the trip was all about my little guy, Yeulison. I know I can’t change the world. I know I can’t end hunger. I know that I can’t love everyone…I’m only one person. I CAN change his world, though. I can eradicate hunger for his father and the 5 boys. I can pray for them, and I can tell everyone I know about how trips like this change lives. Short term mission trips may be short, but all you need is a moment, and in that one moment on a roof of a school, your life will change. Trips like this will change YOUR life, and you’ll never be the same.

~Danielle Barnhart

For more info on the DR Mission Team, please visit drmissionteam.org or search #DRMT15 on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Danielle with the Louidor boys!

Danielle with the Louidor boys!

Left to right: Noah(9), Yeulison(9), and Clauson(11)

Left to right: Noah(9), Yeulison(9), and Clauson(11)

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