by Morgan Smith
Looking in a mirror is something we can all say is pretty common. When you wake up in the mornings, when you brush your teeth or comb your hair, as we pass by the bathroom or stroll through department stores. Mirrors are everywhere. It’s not that we are self-consumed, but maybe just self-aware.
So not having access to mirrors for 10 days on my recent mission trip to the island of Dominica was more than complicated. It’s like I lost myself for a few days – only to find my heart was opened and my mind cleared for the work that God had called my group to do.
I went on the trip with a group of people from my childhood church, Summit Nazarene, in Ashland, Ky. My dad has been the pastor of that church for nearly 17 years, so it was exciting to reconnect with old friends again. Our group of 24, including my dad, brother and husband, were greeted in Dominica by Dan and Brenda Hopkins, missionaries who dropped their life in California six years ago after God called them into the mission field full time. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but once hitting the runway, we were pleased to find ourselves in paradise.
But that changed as we drove deep into the Third World country, where shacks built of plywood were called homes, and electricity and running water was far and few in between. God has a mission for Dominica, and it was clear it would be much greater than anything our group could do on our own.
We stayed at the Ocean View Nazarene Retreat Center that was recently built thanks to various Nazarene churches and districts from across the United States. There we helped prepare the grounds for summer camp, building games and activities for the kids.
But the greatest part of the trip, and by far the most meaningful, were the relationships and people we met. A lady from my church back home sent 100 teddy bears, all handmade and full of love, with our group to hand out to the kids. Angel, a 5-year-old Dominican girl, was shy and bashful, and at first would hardly look me in the eyes. But after the offering of a little purple teddy bear, I had won her heart. All Angel needed was love and a toy to call her own. Neighborhood kids who lived behind one of the local Nazarene churches flocked as our group handed out teddy bears, both boys and girls alike, from toddlers to young teenagers.
And Angel and I became instant friends, as she smiled for picture after picture, even asking to take a photo together. She was so excited to see her face on the camera – it was like she had never seen herself before. Maybe it was the lack of mirrors, but for me, scrolling through pictures of the two of us, I was seeing myself in a whole new light. For the first time on my trip, I again became self-aware, but more importantly, I became thankful – thankful for who I am and the many opportunities I’ve received and thankful for Angel, a sweet little girl who helped me appreciate God’s many blessings.