I’m one of those people, shamefully I admit it, who had a hard time supporting so many ministries and mission trips outside of the United States. I am proud to live in the country where I live: “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” Somehow in my mind, I felt like America needed to take care of its own before we worried about others, as if somehow living in the United States made me more important than people in poorer countries in the world. To just be real with you, I can remember saying to my family, “America has plenty of lost people. We need to take more mission trips in our own country to witness to our own people before we focus on other places.”…. Thankfully, my children did not inherit my ignorance nor prideful attitude in this area.
Friday night Dave and Hunter left for the Orlando airport along with the rest of their FCA mission team. They landed safely in the Dominican Republic Saturday afternoon. Feeling tired from the drive and the long airport layover in Miami, they are now ready to see how God can use the platform of football in the DR to reach people for Christ. Back home in Blackshear, I wait excitedly to hear all about it. You see, God has brought me a long way in the past five years. My life and my attitude towards missions has taken a 180 degree turn.
Looking back to the first mission trip that Holt went on to the Middle East for three weeks, I am so glad that he had that experience. I am grateful to Ashley Lewis who took the time to get to know Holt when he was his youth pastor. Ashley then encouraged Holt to be part of mission work that allowed him see firsthand that freedom of religion is a gift that we often take for granted. How being taken to a Christian church every Sunday as a child is considered “normal behavior” in many households in our part of the country yet in other parts of the world, it would be the cause of imprisonment or even death. How readily accessible the gospel is in the United States while it is illegal to talk about Jesus Christ in many other parts of the world.
Even though my attitude was not changing, I could tell that my just turned fifteen-year-old son was somewhat different when we picked him up from the airport after that trip. He had matured spiritually throughout those three weeks as he did recreation with children during an English camp. He spent time loving on the kids, making them smile, just being the big goofy kid with the funny name. Emails Holt sent to us during this trip confirmed that realized how thankful he was for his family and his upbringing.
By the time Holt took his second mission trip, my heart was softening some… or maybe I was just getting smarter. My mentality of feeling that in some crazy way America was part of “God’s chosen people” was sadly still lingering even as I packed for Holt and got him ready to go on an FCA trip to the Dominican Republic. Flying to the DR for a week seemed like such an easy mission trip for him compared to the summer before. And with baseball as the platform to share Jesus openly, we knew Holt would be right at home.
Prior to the boys flying out for the baseball trip that year, a group of softball girls flew out to begin their mission work in the Dominican. (To be honest, if I had to locate the Dominican Republic on a map at that time, I would have been pretty embarrassed. That’s how little I knew about the country.) When the girls began their trip, the weather on the island was pretty good, that meant internet access would also be good, so each day a blog about the trip was posted on the FCA website. One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to read that blog. As the softball trip got underway, the leader wrote of their experiences in and out of the villages. Stories of how the poor Dominican children would cling to the American girls for attention and love. Particularly, I remember reading the post written after the girls visited an orphanage for special needs children, many with profound handicaps. The softball girls, at first hesitant, were afraid to interact with the children and understandably so. Many of the children were bed-ridden with bodies twisted and deformed. I can remember looking at the pictures posted on the blog and feeling so sad for those children who were not only handicapped but also abandoned by their parents. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for those softball girls to feel the same way I was feeling because in no time the blog explained that although they were hesitant at first, the girls soon learned that what those children needed most was to feel love. Through soft strokes on backs, a gentle pat here and there, then within minutes, many girls had picked up what children they physically could into their arms, holding them for a long while. No words, no worries about the communication gap, just arms and hands showing that someone loved and cared about them.
For me, those pictures I saw of the children in that orphanage broke my prideful spirit. I sat in front of my computer weeping with God impressing on my heart that He loved and cared about each child in that hot, poor orphanage in the Dominican Republic just as much as he cared about me in my cool, air conditioned house in wealthy America. He had no less desire to see His glory expressed through their lives as He did mine. Their salvation is just as important to Him as mine because He loved them with the exact same love He has for me. I am telling you, it was a wake-up call for this selfish heart of mine. The Lord helped me demolish my “chosen people” attitude about mission work, and I received an “I’m no better than anybody” attitude about international missions. One that I desperately needed and one that hopefully I will not ever forget.
By the time the FCA baseball trip began for the boys, the rain set in on the island. Not as much baseball got played as planned. I remember asking Holt when he got back about how many games they were able to play throughout the week. I remember him telling me, “We only played three games, but we were glad it rained. We got to visit more villages and orphanages because we couldn’t play ball.” That sealed the deal that my kid got the point of mission work long before I did. It’s not about the sport you are there to play, it’s about being the hands that show the love of Jesus to people who desperately need AND deserve it.
As my two missionaries are there this week, I want to take the time to say “THANK YOU!” again to everybody who so kindly had a gracious attitude about helping with the trip. We were able to fund Dave and Hunter’s trip and purchase eight new Wilson footballs, 64 flags for flag football, and other equipment that they will use throughout the trip. They will use all those football items as a way to share the gospel as they engage boys in the villages in games, then when they take a break at half-time, they tell a Bible story and share the gospel. We were able to fill a large suitcase with the football equipment, and every bit of it will stay in the DR with coaches who will continue to use the platform of football after this mission trip ends. You helped make sharing the gospel in this way possible, and we sincerely appreciate your support.
What the future holds for our foundation and international missions, only God knows. As I am reminded of the Bible story I wrote about in my last post, if God can take a field of dry dust and make it into an army of living, breathing soldiers, there is no telling what he has in store for us! Whether our mission field is in the Dominican Republic or closer to home, “The Holt Rowland Foundation” will be obedient to His call because there is one thing this girl now knows for certain, God’s love shows absolutely no favoritism so neither should we.