2 Cor. 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
On American Airlines-International flights to the D.R...we have 2 bag limit...no more than 50 lbs each...NO MORE. These are not flights where they'll allow you to pay extra for the overage...they mean 50 lbs! The first couple of years much of those suitcases were devoted to my clothes, flip flops, things I 'might' need....etc. As the years have gone by, they have becomes less about my needs and more about what I can take to make our work there easier, more effecient, and of course the little 'love' gifts you take for the patients and children. It's different to do candy as we learned in the early years...it tends to cause a small riot within the villages as it's a rare comodity and is best given out in a controlled setting.
For some year, I've thought about my suitcase full of 'fun or practical' stuff...my love suitcase. It takes much thought and preparation as not to fill it with things that aren't practical and too much of one thing. We are constantly having people donate beanie babies, sheets, socks, underwear, ball caps, hair brushes/combs, pretty hair bows for the girls, and un-inflated balls for the boys. No...these things don't provide a lot of practical use for the medical portion of our purpose there but they do give a tangible something to show they are loved and thought of....as this coming week arrives/ends...my love suitcase which is quickly filling to capacity will be gone through and decisions made as to what to remove and put in a box for next years trip and what makes it. As the years have gone by this suitcase has become more important to me to stock than the one with my clothes in it...it has always been more important to me to give than to receive and this is no different...much of these things are given to me to take from people who can't go or don't wish to go...but yet, this is their way to vigariously live through me and my journey to belong to something bigger than ourselves. I take it with great honor and offer it with their blessings.
A few of the things this year in the love suitcase are 4 fleece prayer blankets...you know the ones, that have had the knots tied to keep them together. 2 were done at VBS this summer with Susan and I leading this...we explained a little about the children of the DR and asked them to help us with this and as they tied their knots they said a prayer for the child who would receive that blanket. The other 2 are also being made by the children in Children's Church and they are so exited to have been a part of this project. There are vitamins, and some over the counter meds for the patients. There are beanie babies from my sister, B.J. and a sweet friend in Washington State who mailed a box of them to me...they will be given to the surgical patients as they wait for their turn to go back...then something to remind them hopefully of the American's who made them feel better...a token, a sign, something tangible. I have little boy clothes, and undies to hopefully give to someone who needs them and there is no doubt, God will sweetly place someone in my path to do so...there are silly banz, which are all the craze here in the states...ball caps, which the boys will love, and VBS t-shirts left over from the summer that were donated from Cokesbury. Whether it all goes in or just a small portion of each...the love, thoughtfulness, and prayers that these things were given will travel to the Domincian.
Dream Ministries has already made a big shipment of medical supplies, some donated...some purchased and they will be there ready for us to unpack on Saturday after we arrive. Every year it becomes a little more and more chaotically organized....LOL!! There are seasoned members of the team, like myself...and then there are always new faces...who at first feel a little out of the loop, but quickly fit & jump right in to do what's needed. Each of those other team members....normally has a 'love suitcase' just as I do...and it's amazing as the week goes on to see what people have brought and amazingly watch as God uses those things as if pre-planned to touch someone's life. It is truly...what's needed for the people of Barahona in the Batey's vs. what we need....that's why that 2nd suitcase....well, it just has my clothes in it and any leftovers from the 'love suitcase'...it seems less and less important each year...as we all realize 'it's not about me.'