At the end of July, a team of eight from Lifeline Church headed down to Santiago, Dominican Republic, for a week-long mission trip with G.O. Ministries. Over the next several posts, I’ll be sharing some thoughts from my journal.
Pastor Niko is a good man, a bit thin and short; shorter than me anyway. He was always smiling. No matter how hot it was or how wet and muddy it got when the tropical storm came through, or how slow progress seemed when digging the hole for the cistern, Niko always offered comfort with something as simple as a smile.
He told us his story about the new church next door. He wanted so much to build a new church for the folks of Los Perez, but hadn’t the resources, except for vacant land. He had started construction on the foundation anyway and put down a concrete slab. The plan was to use that slab for a basketball court while he worked out how to build a new church. Niko reached out to all sorts of Christian organizations, but none offered help. As a last resort, he reached out to the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, and his prayer was finally answered.
She approved his request for help, and a government crew arrived to build a nice new church next to the basketball court. So Niko not only got his new church, but the kids got to keep their basketball court. The amazing thing about his story is that the Dominican Republic has a State Religion—Catholicism—and Niko’s church is Evangelical Christian. Getting this sort of help is quite rare, and from the First Lady is kind of astounding.
Niko is convinced that God was at work, and though I may have my doubts, I don’t see why not.
Now, as inspiring as Niko’s story is, it was another story that really grabbed my imagination. One of the longer-term missionaries shared it with us on a crowded and bumpy van ride back to the dorm. Several years ago, Niko had a baby boy that had died. While at the hospital, he and his wife met another couple that also lost their baby boy. This other couple didn’t have enough money to have a proper burial for their son. They likely were going to do little more than dig a hole and bury him.
Niko reached out to them.
He invited them to bury their son alongside his own, in the same casket. “They will be brothers in Heaven,” he suggested. This level of generosity astounds me. If I were in the same position, I can’t imagine even being cognizant enough to consider extending this small sense of comfort to the other couple. And if I was cognizant enough, would I have guts enough to simply reach out? I honestly don’t know.
But Niko was and did, and so, the boys were buried this way. Some time later, Niko and his wife were blessed with twins.
Again, a story was told, praises all around given to God, and my doubtful mind stopped itself at Why not?
And though it hardly seems like a miracle in itself, I’m calling it progress. My brain can’t help but wonder if maybe the First Lady was simply feeling generous on her own accord. But I also appreciate the irony of Niko finding no help from all the obvious places, only to find his prayer answered in the most unlikely source. So, why couldn’t God have had a hand in it? Would it make the First Lady’s generosity any less generous? Any less awesome? And if God did have a hand in it, what was the purpose of Niko’s story coming together in this manner?
My imagination spins.
My doubtful mind also asks questions about the “brothers in Heaven.” What happened to the other couple? Were they later blessed with twins as well? If not, would they find comfort in Niko’s story? Are the twins the same souls that had been buried together? Or, if the twins were an answer to Niko's prayer, could it be God at work, assuring Niko that he’s paying attention?
Why not God? I shrug.
Fact is, I’ve met so many folks here who feel so connected to God, who are so sure in what God wants them to do in their lives, and I’ve heard so many stories where all sorts of coincidences add up to assure them that they’re on the right path.
When God does speak, maybe it is in those coincidences where he speaks loudest.
My doubts usually want to let coincidences alone, but my heart is asking Why not? In any case, I'm learning from Niko that I need to smile a lot more. If not for myself, then for those random people I meet who might simply need a comforting smile.