Forty days ago, I was excitedly preparing for my fourth trip to the Dominican Republic. Each of the past three years, I have visited the country to attend CFC – an event celebrating the progress of the Cigarfamily Charitable Foundation (CFCF). We always have a chance to visit the Fuente cigar factory, Chateau de la Fuente, and the Foundation, which provides much needed education, medical care, nutrition, and other structure to an impoverished community in Bonao, Dominican Republic.
That’s just about where the similarity ends between this year’s trip and previous years.
Struggles and Answers
During a past visit, I met the founder of a Christian organization that aims to meet many of the same needs as CFCF – but in other areas of the country; specifically in and around Santiago. For the 2014 trip, we would also have the opportunity to visit Villa González to meet our sponsored children with this organization. Villa González is a small community about 15 minutes Northwest of Santiago proper. The people there have very little by anyone’s standard, and available jobs often do not even provide enough to put food on the table. Hunger, despair, domestic violence, and myriad other side effects of a fallen nature in a poverty-stricken land abound. There is little chance of overcoming this environment without outside help.
Five days a week, the project’s nutrition center provides a feeding program for about 100 children, and the organization is currently renovating two houses into a school to provide for educational needs. At the moment, there are no local schools. The few children able to attend at all must walk 30-40 minutes through muddy roads – and cross a major thoroughfare along the way. Without doubt, the need here is great.
We had a wonderful time, meeting and getting to know our children – and many others who found much amusement in our attempts at Spanish! We also visited children we’d sponsored in the past at La Yaguita de Pastore in Santiago. I took great joy in being able to meet these children face-to-face and begin to get to know them a little more…playing, learning a few bits of Spanish, and simply sharing some time with them. Kristi had prepared a Bible story to share with about 200 children in two locations, and we took on a few projects that needed doing around the school as well. But despite the fun we had and the excitement of making some new friends, the weight of the need we saw was – and still is – crushing. We subsequently attended CFC, and were witness to many of the same issues in Bonao. It’s heartbreaking. No amount of words from my keyboard can convey that. You must visit and see it yourself.
During our return travels, conversation between the four of us (we were traveling with our close friends Nick & Connie Hartsfield) arose that we should do something. Something more. Something useful. Something meaningful. I must confess that my first reaction was to tell the others they were under the influence of the emotion stemming from what we’d seen. I was resistant. I told them it would fade within weeks.
But I was wrong.
In the following days, as I contemplated the trip and conversation following, I felt a strong draw toward committing to just such a “something” that my family and I should do. On Valentine’s Day afternoon, after a strong argument with God, it was clear that we should go.
I knew there was no other option. I had complete peace with the decision, and sent a text message to Kristi, “We should go.” That sealed it. We were both of the same mind and calling, and have since been preparing for the move. Our plan is to sell our house and possessions, raise support from like-minded people out there, and go. I don’t have a firm date, of course. That will depend on the timing of all the things that have to align for the move and how quickly support is pledged. But, our direction and commitment are fixed.
Our Support Page is already active with instructions on how to help us minister to the people of the Dominican Republic. I will be posting further information in the coming days about ways you can help. Anything you might be able to give would be greatly appreciated, and it’s fully tax deductible (consult your tax advisor). Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to hearing from all of you.