She graduated from high school in May and decided to take a year to do mission work instead of go to college. She worked in a Christian camp in California for the summer and then in early September left the comforts of her home in Woodstock to go to the Dominican Republic to work in an orphanage.
The children she serves are abandoned, disadvantaged, and hungry for love. So far she has survived two hurricanes, a rat-and-lice-infested orphanage frequented by tarantulas, and occasional stints of homesickness.
In spite of the challenges she is absolutely committed to her mission and has an incredible love for the Lord and the children under her charge.
I have had access to her journals and I want to share some of her comments. She writes, “I was asked to move out of the orphanage into the home of our mentor due to the unhealthy living conditions in the orphanage. If it were up to me I would have stayed in the orphanage. If rats in my bed serve as my alarm clock to wake me up to get a sweet 7-year-old boy off to school, I would choose that a million times over more comfortable surroundings.
“I am an ‘all-out’ kind of person, so if I have an opportunity to take a hot shower, I will choose to make it cold, because that is what all my little babies (orphans) have to do every day of their lives.
“My day starts at about 7 a.m. with Spanish class, followed by some time to plan my curriculum, then I teach a two-hour English class at the local school, then I ride the bus back to the orphanage and help out there until 6:30 p.m. After that I eat supper and then do homework or go to a Bible study. My days are jam packed and I have never had to be so dependent on Jesus for strength.”
The teenage missionary wrote about an encounter with Estephany and exclaimed, “Last week all the children in the orphanage were invited to a banquet. The girls spent hours getting ready and were so excited to have a dress of their own They could not stop looking at themselves in the mirror and were constantly asking me to take their pictures. I was thrilled for them to get out of the orphanage for an evening, because they are there 24/7.
“As we were gathering the children to get on the bus, I couldn’t find my sweet Estephany. She is a beautiful 10-year-old girl who has my whole heart wrapped around her little finger. I finally found her in the corner of an upstairs bedroom. She was sobbing. I raced over and cradled her in my arms. I asked her what was wrong and she said her dress didn’t fit, so I stood her up and did my best to assure her that her dress was absolutely flawless, even though it was definitely too big.
“She kept crying and mumbling through her tears, ‘I am so ugly.’ I grabbed her little face and said, ‘Estephany, you are beautiful. I wish I looked like you.” She grinned, but kept crying. I took off my necklace and hooked it around her neck. I slip off my bracelets and wrapped them around her fragile little wrist. She was elated, but still not confidence in her appearance.
“I took her hand and walked her to the bus. On our way, she grabbed my phone out of my pocket and went to my Spanish translation app, typed for a second, and showed me the translation. It said, ‘I am trash.’ Her evaluation of herself broke my heart. I grabbed her and squeezed her with everything I had in me. In that moment I felt the love of the Father embracing her through me. Jesus saw how Estephany was hurting and used me as a vessel to remind her of her worth. This is why I am here – to love on these kids like the Father would.”
This valiant little missionary from Woodstock testified, “This is the life God has called me to embrace and I would not trade it for the world. Yes, it is the hardest, most difficult thing I have ever done and I suppose I have had to give up even more that I had anticipated, but I know my life is not my own. When I gave my life to Christ, I surrendered all to Him and His will.
“I died to myself at age six when I surrendered my life to Jesus. When Jesus says, ‘Go right’ I go right in a heartbeat; and when He says, ‘Go left, I go left without hesitation. Sometimes it is difficult to say ‘yes,’ but that is when the Lord does a little extra lovin’ and assures you of His protection and guidance.
“If I had a thousand more lifetimes I would give up every single one of them for the cause of Christ. As a warrior for the Kingdom, it is my responsibility to passionately share His freedom, His grace, and His love. Whether that is across the world or across the street, we are called to proclaim His name.”
This teenage missionary has discovered that in spite of the heat, the storms, the rats, the lice, and the tarantulas that Jesus is enough. She declared, “There has never been a moment when Jesus left me alone. There has never been a moment when Jesus was not what He said He is. He is love. He is mercy. He is grace. He is strength. He is comfort; and He is so much more. Don’t wait to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and desperately! Run the race now that you will wish you had run at the end of your life!”
Those of us who have lived a long time sometimes think the younger generation has gone to the dogs. However, many of today’s youth have faith, values, dedication, and an indomitable spirit.
That is certainly the case with the teenager who has given me permission to share these excerpts from her journal.
And forgive me for being guilty of nepotism or partiality, but the 18-year-old mentioned above is my granddaughter, Brinley Harris.