We spent the week before Christmas serving with One More Child in El Carrizal, Dominican Republic, an impoverished community with great need. I had discovered the ministry of One More Child through our home church, Chets Creek Nocatee, a supporter of their ministry. I immediately fell in love with the concept of One More Child and how a sponsor could help one more child at a time and make a long-standing change against poverty.
Through donations from churches and individuals around the world (including our church, Chets Creek Nocatee), One More Child was able to build ninety-four homes for needy families in this impoverished community. These families were given roofs over their heads and various ministries to support them. We loved the concept of the help that the ministry provided and how they supported families instead of enabling them. They provide love, support and Biblical encouragement, while encouraging families to make wise decisions for their families on their own.
We were so excited to be on this trip alongside our dear friends, the Wesley family, Brian, Megan and their daughters, Grace (11) and Marie (6). It touched our hearts to watch this family experience their first international mission trip and the trip was better with them in it. We grew closer than before the trip and will always cherish our inside jokes, moments of chaotic exhaustion and sharing the feeling that our hearts were so full of love that they would burst.
While so many aspects of our short-term vision trip with One More Child were impactful, I wanted to highlight some of our very favorite moments:
Simplicity yet Fulfillment
Every year when we take a mission trip, I walk away with a take away that I feel like God placed on my heart. In Guatemala, I clearly heard God instruct me to fill our guest bedroom, and from that point on we began hosting a girl from Kazakhstanevery summer through the Greatest Exchange. In Honduras, we had logistical nightmares with our luggage, and I ended up walking away with a need to let go of my own personal baggage, not the physical type.
And this year while in the Dominican Republic, my main takeaway was the following three words: Simplicity yet Fulfillment.
In so many ways, life at the One More Child facility in El Carrizal is simple. Their meals are just simple. The coloring sheets they are given are simple. The clothes they wear are simple. Everything is simple. One of the most eye-opening moments to me was in preparation for their annual Christmas party and a visiting holiday team was prepping decorations. They took simple items like construction paper, scissors and tapes to make Christmas shapes and they just cut, cut, cut for hours.
A bit later as we walked back into the facility for the Christmas party, it felt like we walked into a Winter Wonderland. The simplicity of the construction paper crafts ended in a jaw-dropping, beautiful Christmas setup. And I then began focusing on, and continue to think about, how there is so much fulfillment that comes with simplicity. When we focus on more, more, more (making more money, buying a better car, getting a bigger house, etc.), it never fully ends in fulfillment. We always want more. But when we focus on simplicity, we, just like the families at the One More Child facility in the Dominican, are fulfilled and content.
Children will be Children
It warms my heart thinking about the Wesley children and our boys interacting with all of the children at the ministry site. They had very little in common: they were from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they were different races, they spoke different languages. Yet all of our kiddos played for endless hours with the children of the One More Child facility and complained when it was time to say goodbye to them. Without a surplus of toys to play with, we watched our children play stick baseball with a rolled up piece of taped paper and giggle running the “bases” with the kids. We also watched as our children entertained themselves for hours in the craft closet without any technology and they would beam with excitement over every piece that they created. We learned through this trip that children are just children everywhere and how we long to look at others through their eyes.
It was such a joy to experience the Feeding Ministry run by One More Child staff each morning of our visit. This ministry, from local Dominican mothers both nursing, expecting and with children under age five, are welcome every other morning for a time of fellowship, Biblical instruction and breakfast. Interim Pastor Jose welcomes each child and mother with a coloring sheet, and mothers get a chance to sit back, relax and be served. When short-term vision teams visit like us, mothers’ babies are held so that they get a much deserved break.
In the afternoons, Pastor Jose leads Children’s Ministry, a chance for local kids to gather together and play with balls, jump ropes and run wild. After they get some energy out, the children are invited inside the chapel where they listen to the pastor’s devotional, sing catchy songs like Baby Shark and watch a short Veggie Tales segment. Our boys especially like sitting with their friends during Children’s Ministry and being able to lead the singing of Baby Shark.
One More Child Staff
We had some reservations about how our children would hold up on a short-term vision trip when we stripped them of comforts and challenged them immensely. The last two years, Logan and I decided to choose mission locations where our children would stay behind with our family. But this year, we were super excited to have our first-ever family trip focused on Jesus, love and service.
The One More Child staff could not have been better for our family with young children ages 7 and almost 5. While most short-term vision trips are best for children aged ten and up, the staff made an exception and allowed our children to attend. We are so grateful how they thought through every aspect of the trip, from arriving at the airport with Dominican ice cream for them to assigning two interpreters for us which dually served as their new best friends/play partners.
Cesar, who runs the Dominican chapter of One More Child, could not have been a better captain as he explained every detail of their culture, our trip and the events that were coming. He had the sweetest rapport with our kids and his jovial personality lightened the mood and put a huge smile on all of our faces. Obed and Jeivy, our Spanish to English interpreters, spent countless hours playing, crafting, entertaining and interacting with our children. We appreciated them for how they both helped us communicate with the locals and how they loved on our kids.
Pastor Jose and Karen, who have devoted their lives to the families of the One More Child homes in the Dominican, were inspiring and such a good fit there. Logan especially had so many deep conversations with Jose and they created a quick bond. I so enjoyed meeting Karen and seeing her love and passion for helping the local community of El Carrizal.
In addition to raising funds to bring LEGOS for each child, Brian Wesley heard of the great need for used sneakers at the One More Child facility and chose to take action. He organized a gently used sneaker drive and we were able to bring close to seventy pairs of sneakers to the children at the One More Child facility. One of the highlights of our trip was fitting children in new-to-them shoes, and it was so touching to see Landon and Griffin next to two children wearing their Nike sneakers from last year.
We learned that one of the best ways that the families of the One More Child program are supported is through sponsorships: families who commit to praying for, encouraging and financially supporting a child each month. And with that, every month that child’s family receives a sponsorship basket, a basket filled with food necessities such as rice, eggs, salami and cooking essentials along with toiletries. It was so wonderful to include our boys to be able to fill sponsorship baskets and to be able to see their smiling faces when they received them. We loved how Pastor Jose leads a devotional in conjunction with handing out the baskets.
Sponsoring a Child
With several children in the One More Child Dominican Republic program still needing a sponsor, we knew immediately that we wanted to sponsor a child monthly. And while many of the boys that our children played and connected with were already sponsored, we ended up meeting adorable little Brailin. One afternoon during Children’s Ministry, Pastor Jose brought Brailin over to sit with us to watch Veggie Tales and encouraged us to connect with him one-on-one. The Pastor continued to share that Brailin’s father lives in Spain and that he needed a God-centered father figure in his life.
We watched Brailin warm up to us and his frowns turned to smirks and into giggles and smiles. Logan loved playing with him and they became attached at the hip. Brailin would look for Logan, Landon, Griffin or I in a crowd and would always come over for a hug. It was such a wonderful Christmas gift for our whole family to commit to sponsoring Brailin and we can’t wait to receive updates on him and his family and encourage his family through prayer over the years.
There are still children in the Dominican Republic needing to be sponsored through One More Child. The program also sponsors children in local impoverished neighborhoods and has big goals to begin spreading parts of their program to surrounding communities. If you have an additional $35/month, please consider sponsoring a child through One More Child this Christmas. After experiencing it myself this past week, I can promise you that there is no better Christmas gift for yourself or others.
If you have interest in participating in a short-term vision trip with One More Child to the Dominican Republic or one of their other locations, please contact Deanna at Deanna.Berkes@onemorechild.org.