Five years ago yesterday I moved to the Dominican Republic. It was four days after ending my first summer with YouthWorks. Wendy and Jenn – women that at the time I had never met but who have become extremely important to me over the past five years – picked me and my two suitcases (just two!) up from the airport. It’s been quite the ride ever since!
This summer I got the privilege to work for YouthWorks as an Area Director, a full summer commitment. I spent nearly three whole months traveling around the United States and Canada. It was the longest I had been out of the DR since moving here five years ago. Throughout the summer I had some time to think about what it meant to come back to the DR for round 6. I’m going back to teaching, albeit at a new school, after taking a year off. I’m two months into year 2 of living in Jarabacoa. I have a plethora of job opportunities and options (praise God). I’m still freaking single.
As the summer and my time with YouthWorks drew to a close less than a week ago, I half-heartedly attempted to process my feelings. What I came up with was that I was ready to be back in Jarabacoa, but I wasn’t ready to be done with YouthWorks. What quickly followed was a truth I have known and learned very well over the past five years: Saying “yes” to something inevitably means saying “no” to many other somethings. Thinking about it now, about how I didn’t want to be done with YouthWorks, I’m shrugging at myself and telling myself, “Too bad.” Seasons end. It’s just the reality of life.
Saying “yes” to living in Jarabacoa means saying “no” to living in Michigan or Toronto or Spain or Paraguay or anywhere and everywhere that isn’t Jarabacoa. Saying “yes” to teaching first grade means saying “no” to managing a hostel. Saying “yes” to both of those things means saying “no” to working full time for YouthWorks. It just does. I want to say yes to everything. I want to figure out a way to make it all work. I want to fully commit to Jarabacoa and Westland. I want to be able to see my Dominican friends every day and also see my future nieces and nephews every day. I want to manage a hostel and manage a classroom. But, too bad.
Life doesn’t work that way. So I have to choose. You have to choose. We have to choose. What are we going to commit ourselves to? Where are we going to put down roots?
I’m here in Jarabacoa until God makes it very clear that He would prefer me to live somewhere else. While I’m here I want to invest my whole self into the Kingdom work that is happening here. I want to choose how I spend my time wisely and intentionally. I want to love the people right here in front of me and I also want to invest time and energy into relationships with people in the States… and Canada and South Korea and Bangladesh and wherever else God sends my people.
So much has happened in the past five years. So many wonderful, beautiful, really hard, life-giving, draining things. And they all happened because five years ago I said “yes” to moving to a place I had never been to live with people I had never met. That “yes” meant saying “no” to lots of other things, but because I said “yes” at the prompting of the Spirit and with a peace in my gut that only comes from His confirmation, it’s a decision I have never regretted. Not once. I continue to move forward confidently, saying “yes” to whatever God has for me this year.
Year six, let’s do this.