In the first six years of our marriage, we moved six times between five states, with each of our four children born in a different state. When our youngest was almost three, some friends gave us the use of their timeshare for a vacation for just the two of us. We were so excited, yet anxious about being away from our children. We had several options to choose from and finally settled on a resort in the Dominican Republic. All the arrangements were made, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law came to stay with the kids. We were on our way.
The resort was beautiful. We slept in or got up early, whatever we wanted to do. Each day was a new adventure. One day was a bus ride to a private beach with pristine white sand and crystal blue/green water. Then we enjoyed a beautifully prepared lunch at a lovely hilltop restaurant. During the ride to the beach and back, our tour guide pointed out several large mansions owned by movie stars and other famous people, while just on the other side of the road we could see tiny little shack homes of the locals.
Another day was a horseback ride tour of the countryside. We rode our horses past fields of sugar cane patrolled by armed guards overseeing the workers in the fields. Upon reaching a small village, we stopped to get cold drinks from a shabby little shop and watched children playing in the dirt near our horses. This was such a stark contrast to the lush beauty of the resort and the private mansions we had seen the day before. This poverty was the real life of many who lived in this country. It touched our hearts and planted a dream that someday we would return on a short-term mission trip to interact with these people more closely and share the love of Jesus with them.
After returning home, life became busy. Rich’s job was demanding, but it allowed me to stay home and homeschool our children. Graduations, weddings, and grandchildren made the years fly by and our Dominican dream tucked itself away into the hidden pockets of our hearts and minds.
Thirty years later cancer invaded our life and in December 2016 Rich took his last breath here on earth and walked into his eternal life with Jesus.
Just a few months later, our church announced a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Suddenly, I remembered our dream. My head said I should go, but my shattered heart was angry that I would be going alone. Rich was supposed to be here to go with me. We were supposed to do this together. How could I manage without him by my side? My head and my heart argued all during the months of preparation, and two weeks before the trip, grief, fear, and anxiety almost kept me home. Determined not to give in, I packed my bags and leaned on Jesus to be my companion and strength. So, fourteen months after Rich died, I embarked on our dream trip along with eleven others from my church to the Dominican Republic.
I sponsored an adorable little girl named Cristeidy shortly before we left, and several others in the group also had sponsored children in the Dominican. Our group spent two days doing VBS with over one hundred fifty Compassion International kids at the host church, and Compassion arranged for us to spend an entire day with our sponsored kids and to visit their homes. Cristeidy lives with her grandparents in a small but tidy home with a dirt yard. We toured her four room home and sat in the back yard chatting through our interpreter and gnawing on raw sugar cane. We saw up close the poverty that Rich and I had only a glimpse of so many years earlier and learned so much about the work of Compassion International there.
I chose to sponsor Cristeidy because she is the same age as one of my granddaughters and has a smile that melts your heart. Meeting her in person was the highlight of the trip and I know Rich would have adored her. Through my monthly sponsorship, Compassion works with her local church to provide healthcare, education, love from caring teachers, and recreational activities. I love receiving letters from her and sending letters in return. I can encourage her and let her know that she is loved by me and by God. I pray for her and look forward to more trips to visit her to continue to fulfill our dream of so many years ago.
When you purchase your own custom bear, you become a part of fulfilling our dream. Each Love You Bear sold provides additional support for Cristeidy above and beyond my basic monthly contribution such as birthday and Christmas gifts and extra gifts for her family as well. As my business grows, I hope to sponsor more children as well as help with larger community projects such as clean drinking water, and of course, more visits. Love You Bears is my way of honoring my husband’s loving spirit and our dream, as well as the tender-hearted generosity of our grandson who shared his teddy bear with his sick grandpa. See Our Story page to read more about Rich and Sidney.