I was recently in the Dominican Republic. It was not for a vacation at one of the resorts in Punta Cana. I was there for ministry and had the opportunity to visit both in a village and the city of Santo Domingo. What I witnessed was extreme poverty. And it didn’t matter whether it was the rural village or the inner city. There was great material need.
I was also fortunate enough to meet a 5-year-old boy named Sael. I call him by his middle name Daniel. He is the child my wife and I sponsor through the marvelous ministry of Compassion International. In fact, I was in the Dominican by their invitation.
I first met Daniel at the church where he goes to school. I had brought some presents for him. I gave him a battery-operated bubble blower. He just pulled the trigger and out came the bubbles. He smiled from ear to ear as he shot the bubbles into the air.
We played catch with one of those Velcro toss games. We each had a paddle and threw the ball back and forth. Even if you’re only five you can catch a ball that way. We had fun doing that for a while.
I had also brought Daniel a Children’s Bible. It was in Spanish and had pictures with some verses as well. This Bible had several of the most well-known stories in the Bible. He was very excited to get it.
When we were done with the gifts we headed out to visit his home. His mom and little sister were there. But before we left he said something. I asked the translator to tell what he had spoken. The translator told me he said, “I love you.” I was taken back, I hadn’t expected it. But it did make me feel good. And I told him “I loved him” too.
When we arrived at the home it was very modest. The house was about the size of the living room in my house. Their home consisted of a tiny kitchen, a small bedroom and a little family room. The kitchen had a stove and sink but no refrigerator.
It is heartbreaking to see such a situation. It can certainly leave you with gratitude for how God has blessed you. I visited a similar home in the countryside. It was about the same size though it didn’t even have walls just burlap hung to divide the rooms.
But there was one thing both homes had in common. Even though there were no decorations they both had pictures of the children. Even in extreme poverty these families found a way to get pictures of their kids. And they proudly displayed them.
Daniel told me he loved me because he knew about love. His mother could barely survive but she had a picture of her son. Whether you are rich, poor, black, brown or white. There is something people have in common - they love their family.
People with dream jobs leave them to spend more time with their family. They give up very important positions because they love their families. Republicans do it and so do Democrats. The coastal elites do it and middle Americans too. People in America and countries around the world all love their families.
When you take away material possessions what is left is love. That cannot be taken away. Daniel may lack in many material ways but he does not lack in love.
He wore a T-shirt that had the words, “Big Brother.” Even at five years old he understood that he was the oldest child in his family. And it was his role to love and protect his sister.
Daniel and his family taught me anew that it always comes down to love. Love is not just about feelings or words, love requires action too. I traveled thousands of miles to be reminded that when we love our families we are truly at our best.