Everything Changes

Going into highschool can be pretty nerve wracking to most eighth graders going into ninth grade. Now, take a moment to imagine what it would be like to start high school by moving to a foreign country where they did not speak your native language or have the same culture as you do. It was February 2014, I was 14 years old, and I had just gotten the news that my family and I would be moving to the Dominican Republic within the next year.  A rush of emotions came over me. I was angry at God for telling my parents to move there and at my parents because I did not want to move to a country that I hadn’t even ever been to, sad because I did not want to leave my friends, and nervous about it all in general. However, what I did not know was that God was using this opportunity to impact my life.

The first thing I did upon receiving the news was pray, and beg God not to make me move. I also told my parents that I would rather move in with my grandmother instead, and refused to speak to them for about two weeks. As the months went on, I was in Mississippi with my grandmother and aunt, both of whom I basically made walk eggshells around the topic of moving to the DR. One day, my grandmother was on the phone with one of her closest friends, Miss Dana Nelson, and was telling her about how sensitive I had become about having to move. Miss Dana then asked to speak to me.

“I realize that you don’t want to leave your whole life behind, but you have to realize that God is letting this happen for a reason. You are going to look back on this one day and laugh.” That was her nice way of saying, “stop acting so self-centered because you’re going, and there is nothing you can do to change that.” Me being the stubborn person that I am, decided not to listen to Miss Dana’s advice, but instead continue to feel sorry for myself. I told God everyday that I was not moving. As it turned out, you can not really tell God you won’t do something because a few weeks later I was resentfully boarding a plane to the DR.

The first week that my family and I moved to the DR was probably the most interesting week I have ever experienced. People that I had never met were trying to greet me by kissing me on the cheek while others were pressing their faces up against our car windows to tell us to buy things at the red lights. Everybody was talking too fast for me to even remotely comprehend, so I mostly just nodded and smiled when people would talk to me.

Then, the next Monday, I started school at Santiago Christian School, and as I spent more time there, I came to notice how close most of the people in my class were because they had been friends since elementary school. This caused me to be homesick for my friends and family in the states, but, at the same time, I was grateful to have one of my new friends, Mileini, in particular because she was always there to give me advice and listen to me talk about how much I missed home. If I hadn’t had her, my first year at SCS would have been pretty rough.

As the years went on, my parents left the original ministry they came to the DR to serve, and began to serve in Palo Alto. When my parents first started attending the church in the community, I would complain every Sunday because I didn’t like the car ride up there. One day, my dad pulled me aside after church. “You see that lady over there?” he said, pointing toward one of the church members, “She walks about four hours, roundtrip, to get to church every Sunday, without protection from the elements or anything, and here you are, trying to get out of going every Sunday when it takes you a quarter of the time to reach the top.” I went home that day thinking about these women of the church, who had so little, but were willing to give everything they possessed to God. Whereas I had so much, but I never gave anything to Him. God has opened my eyes to see that not everyone lives a comfortable life with a nice job or even has the opportunity to go to school everyday, but it took moving me to a foreign country and taking me out of every aspect of my comfort zone in order for that to happen.

Looking back on everything I have experienced over these past three years in the DR, I have been able to realize that it doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, how high you are on the social status, or where you come from because God calls all of us as His children to serve and love others. Pastor Amado Gracessqui and his wife, Ramona, from Palo Alto taught me this by giving their all to the people of their community even though they have very little for themselves. My parents taught me this while working to adopt Mia Gabriela, although we don’t always have a lot to spare. I think if God had not moved my family and I to the DR, I would never have learned to be thankful for everything I have nor be willing or confident enough to share His word with others.

–Makensie Hartsfield