I am still not done thinking about and processing my latest trip to New Hope Girls in the Dominican Republic. It is my sincere hope that each person can find a way to serve abroad at some point in their lifetime because the perspective and opportunity it presents is unmatched. One of my recent “ah-ha” moments of reflection is simply (and yet profoundly!) this: Love always finds a way to express itself.
The love I have for the girls in the care of New Hope is significant. I think about them when I’m not with them, I pray for them often, I ask about them by name and I truly dream for them the same dreams I have for my daughter. But when I am with them, there is a major elephant in the room – my Spanish is basic and creates a significant language barrier.
When I knew I would be traveling back to the Dominican Republic I resolved to re-learn Spanish. Hopefully, I was making my highschool Spanish teacher proud (Hi, Ms. Showalter!) with all the conjugations and vocabulary I could bring to mind. However, knowing Spanish academically and being able to read it is a far cry from the rapidamente (FAST!) Spanish spoken conversationally in the Dominican Republic. I knew that I would not be able to converse fluently and at best I would be able to convey basic thoughts and needs.
That could cause some to wonder just how it is possible to love these girls and enjoy such special moments when we are together. Doesn’t the language barrier create an insurmountable obstacle that is mutually exclusive with a meaningful time? Shouldn’t it mean I am not well-suited to serve in this particular country because my words will not be enough?
Remember, love always finds a way to express itself.
I went armed with confidence that for everything my words lacked, my actions would more than make up for. My goal was to be present and intentional and I was resolved to be comfortable in the absence of the “right” words. This is a big deal for me because I am a writer, spokesperson, and communicator at my core. I went with the realization that my words would be inadequate but I was determined to not let that impact my ability to connect and love well.
I brought a bag full of fun and vibrant nail polish colors with me. You don’t need Spanish to show the options to a little friend and allow her to make a selection (or selections) and then guide the color scheme across her fingers. I loved watching each unique choice and knew enough adjectives to say “hermosa” or “me gusta” to her choices – all with a big grin across my face.
I love to swing! You don’t need Spanish to push a little friend on a swing and relish in her giggles while she goes higher and higher. You also don’t need to know the language to take your turn and enjoy the feeling of the wind in your hair, while you rhythmically move high and low alongside your friends.
Enjoying a meal requires no words. It is nice if you can say “muy bien” and “gracias” while you politely consume the comida muy deliciosa. Sit side-by-side and enjoy the company and mood of the moment – words aren’t needed.
Words aren’t needed when little friends want to play “salon” and put numerous braids in your hair. It doesn’t take a translator to patiently wait to see the masterpiece – a hair creation unlike anything you have sported before.
Dancing is a gift and the rhythm of the music omits the need for conversation. You can feel the energy, let yourself go, and move alongside those you love. Watch as they point, gesture, and guide you through the moves you have never learned before. Share the language of laughter over the steps missed and the rhythm lost. You can live in the music together.
And when there are tears, you don’t need Spanish either. Although it is beautiful if you know how to simply say, “estoy aquí” – I am here. That’s all they need. Show up, be present in the pain and the hard moments. It makes the laughter and joy sweeter.
Spanish isn’t necessary to pray over them. As an in-country missionary taught me – they know and they feel it. Pray out loud in English – or any language- and they will feel it and He will know.
You are created for impact!
This is a reminder that we should never let all that we are not define our ability for impact. In this brief blog post you have heard only a snippet of the moments that were so dear and meaningful on my recent visit. If I had listened to my insecurities and allowed them to dissuade me, my mission to go and love would have been thwarted.
Shelve your insecurities and shut down the negative voices trying to dull your shine. If your heart feels called and you desire to make an impact then trust that it will be possible regardless of what you do or do not have in your tool kit. Answer your calling and live with confidence that love will find a way.