Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Visiting Carolina in the DR - She's So Close!

Today was my last visit day on my Compassion trip. It wasn’t overly outstanding, exciting, action-packed or joyful. It was real life. There was awkwardness, there was silence, there was honesty, there were hard questions asked and answered.  

I went from thinking “I should have left after Ecuador” to saying, in all humility, “Thank you God for the way you are using me in other people’s lives”. Incredibly profound. I came straight from the airport to the Project, having been delayed by an hour and twenty minutes. I was tired and a little bit grumpy, after a 5.30am start and being fleeced by hustlers at the Haiti airport. The first thing I learned was that Carolina, who Compassion told me was 15, is actually 18, and a mistake with the birth certificate was the reason given.

It was evident right from the start that I should put this visit in the “I know she enjoyed it but she didn’t really show it” category. I could not get a peep out of her, and she stretched and exhausted my limited conversational skills. I’ll have to take their word for it, but the Compassion staff and her Mama said that she’s normally very chatty and outgoing, but not today. When she found out a couple of days ago that I was coming, she just went mute. Also, normally her Mama has to wake her up, but today, on the day of my visit, she was up without the wakeup call. So that was encouraging.

Carolina is the third of a tribe of nine kids, aged 9 to 23. It was sad to see her unable to answer questions about her dreams, or what she likes to do or is good at. She seemed to lack direction and purpose. She also mentioned at the start she is not a Christian, despite being in the Project since she was 4, and her family goes to the church attached to the Compassion Project. This stuck with me, and was the catalyst for our powerful farewell.

When we visited Carolina’s house, any delusions I had of being anyone of importance were thrown out the window when the siblings rushed past me out the door on their way to school. I found out that, similar to a couple of the other families I visited, they are about to be removed from their house that they are renting. Where to find a house suitable for 12?

I did my best to engage her by getting out the letters I had sent to her and going through some of the pictures. It was good to see the letters were incredibly well looked after and valued. After more awkward silence, a tour of their very crowded house and a blackout that left us in near darkness, I gave out some gifts. I once again found myself apologising at the smallness of the gifts when compared to the family’s needs.

We went for ice-cream, and I stupidly bought a cone, while the others went for a cup. Predictably, it got messy, and Carolina saved me from a nasty double-scoop spill by catching it in her hand! What a girl! :) During this time we had a conversation, where Carolina opened up a bit more. I learned that a major problem in DR is teen pregnancy. Many of Carolina’s friends have gone down that path, but I’m so thankful she hasn’t. God has given her wisdom, and I’m so proud that she has made wise decisions.

Pretty soon it was time for me to leave, but there was one more conversation I wanted to have. I asked her “What is the one thing stopping you from fully giving your life to God?” She couldn’t really answer. She’s so close, but there’s just this barrier in the way. I shared with her my experience. When I left school I was not a Christian and I had no idea what to do with my life – I lacked direction and purpose. As soon as I made the commitment at age 21, God started giving me opportunities and showing me what I should do with my life. That led to Compassion, teaching, music and basketball coaching.

I assured her that God loves her so much, and His plan for her does not involve working for 40 years at a job she absolutely hates. That only happens when people choose to go their own way and make certain decisions in running their own life. I assured her that this decision to invite God in was completely up to her, and as soon as she made it, He would start working in her life.

I then prayed for Carolina, in the name of Jesus. I thanked Him for creating her and for His love for her. I thanked Him for giving her wisdom and asked him to remove that final barrier that is preventing her from committing her life fully to Him. I thanked Him for the future He had for her, and for allowing me to play a part in her life. This was such a powerful time, and was a privilege. I could feel God stirring in her heart, inviting her to come to Him. Carolina was reduced to tears, and I was pretty close.

I was overwhelmed by God’s love for this young woman, and for the fact that He used my visit to encourage her, to speak words of life to her in person, rather than on a page, and this may even be the thing that “pushes her over the edge” and helps her make the final step of faith to once and for all ask Jesus to be the Lord of her life. I can’t wait to see what happens.