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Life Without Borders pt. 2 - A Letter To My Past Self

Life Without Borders pt. 2 - A Letter To My Past Self

Praying Pelican Staff | Jun 1, 2018

My first summer serving with Praying Pelican Missions in the Dominican Republic was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I wanted to share my story with you in the hopes that it would inspire you to step out in faith too. So I wrote a letter...to myself...recounting those first days. The opportunity to learn to trust the Lord through my fear truly showed me what it means to live a Life Without Borders! I hope you enjoy.

Dear Past Self,

Do you remember arriving in the Dominican Republic that first day? Man, you were so terrified. Let’s be honest, that airport isn’t set-up well for those traveling alone. I’ll never get used to that experience - going through customs only to walk out of those sliding glass doors like a deer in the headlights. Do you remember how suddenly you were overtaken by a wave of families and friends chattering and expectantly waiting for their loved ones to return from their journeys. You’re wobbling your way down that ramp, scanning wildly for your friend who isn’t tall or loud, so he isn’t easy to spot right away. Then, amidst the crowd, you see him, standing there smiling, waiting for you. And you were off - you were spending the next six weeks in the Caribbean, and you were terrified. Do you remember? Your heart beating so fast you SWORE people around you could hear it. How were you going to communicate with the pastors? You took four years of Spanish in high school, but you KNEW that wasn’t going to cut it, that had been years ago! You never truly believed you’d use that knowledge, otherwise, you would have paid a lot more attention in class, that’s for sure. What if people didn’t like you? What if you didn’t know what to do? What if the kids didn’t listen during VBS? What if you didn’t know what to say to someone after they told you their life story? The first few days were a blur. Traveling across the countryside to meet with the pastors you’d be partnering with for the summer, falling asleep on Pastora’s couch one afternoon (Remember? You could hardly keep your eyes open during the meeting and she kept laughing! I’ll never get over the hospitality of our Dominican friends), drinking lots and LOTS of strong Dominican coffee and getting to know your staff better during the in-between times. Before you knew it, your first team was walking down that same ramp you’d descended just days before. That’s when you had a choice - were you going to try to muscle your way through the summer on your own strength or surrender yourself to God? You weren’t always good at answering that question, and there were far too many days you tried to wrestle control back from the Lord, thinking you could do it on your own. After all, it was safer that way, but you knew you’d miss out on opportunities that could be life-changing simply because of your pride and inability to let God take over. Do you remember that first Sunday? You really hated public speaking. I mean, REALLY hated it.  I mean, let’s be honest - it’s still not your favorite thing, but you’re handling it. SO, going up and introducing the group to the church was terrifying. What if you said something that didn’t translate well? What if you said the church name wrong? After service was over and you’d eaten lunch, you lead the team on a prayer walk in the community. You’ll never forget that day, your heart beating out of your chest, legs like jelly, and limbs trembling. Those were moments when you started to let God take over. You knew, KNEW, that you couldn’t do it. As the trip leader, you didn’t have the option to sit back and not participate, you had to lead your team well. There were so many beautiful, terrifying moments. And you were so afraid. So, so afraid. That’s when you would say a little prayer in your head and sing that old song from church “Lord, I need you, oh, I need you, every hour I need You, my one defense, my righteousness, oh God, how I need you.” That song sort of became your heart’s prayer when you didn’t have the words to say. This moment, in the summer of 2015, was the first time you fully had to rely on the Lord. And I mean, truly rely on Him for the strength to take away your fear and give you the courage to lead well and ask the hard questions. I’ll never forget a few specific moments shared in the homes of that community. I remember clearly the faces of a mother with four, small children and a few chickens running around the yard. Her husband had left her for another woman in the community, so there she was - washing laundry, trying to make ends meet. That was the first time I wept, openly with someone. Sharing in their grief. That’s when God started to show me, that even through my fear, He would give me the words to say, and sometimes there just weren’t words to say. You learned that sometimes, all you can do is cry with someone in solidarity. A few houses down was an older woman and her husband. She’d been hit by a bus a few years ago, so she hobbled around their dirt-floor home on crutches. She spent her days taking care of her older husband who had been paralyzed by a stroke a year ago. He was unable to bathe, eat, or use the bathroom on his own. That’s when you saw the way that God could give hope even in dire circumstances. That woman oozed with joy despite her everyday routine. I’ll never forget her giant smile when we came and stood around her home, spending time to pray for her and her husband. Remember pastor’s daughter? The one who started to fall in love with a boy from their church that week. They got married a few months ago! Or what about the woman down the road who invited us over for coffee each afternoon? Those were really cool moments just spending time with her, sitting on her front porch, sipping a small cup of really strong coffee. You know, the Dominican way where it’s half sugar. Those moments will forever be cherished in your mind. Your first few days set you up for your summer. You were still terrified. As the words washed through your soul, you were able to walk into homes and interact with people on the street without that nervousness. In those moments, things seemed so overwhelming - not speaking the same language, not knowing what to say, what if it was awkward? But, those were the moments that God used to shape you and teach you. That’s when you started this journey of learning, slowly, day by day, to surrender to the Lord. To ask him, each day, “what are your plans for this time?” Instead of telling him YOUR plans to sort of “check it by him.”

Final Thoughts

I’ll leave you with a verse that, looking back, really embodied those afternoons under the hot, Dominican sun. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) That truly was what God taught me that summer, to push through my fear so I don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience and trust God in a powerful way.

--Aunica Sherwood, Graphic Designer and Trip Leader for Praying Pelican Missions


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