When I talk seek to serve, I usually apply it to business scenarios. It feels great to serve our clients, for their business goals and professional goals. But seek to serve can go deeper and be more meaningful to our lives overall. And at Mereo, all of our principals also seek to serve their families, their friends, their communities and our world.
I have had a fair number of mission trip experiences within the United States, but at the end of July, my family and I had the opportunity to venture to the Dominican Republic for the Edify Family Experience mission.
Edify is a nonprofit that helps support those who are providing affordable Christ-centered private education to children in poor countries. “Edupreneurs” currently offer robust educational opportunities for children in cities within Accra, Ghana, India, Lanzhou and more, to provide them hope and opportunity to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Yet all these schools face common challenges: few capital resources for expanding classrooms and facilities, a lack of academic and extracurricular resources to provide a strong Christ-centered education. That’s where Edify steps in, financially, educationally and spiritually.
My family landed in Punta Cana and made our way to La Romana. What ensued was eight days of service, fun, love, education and joy. You’ll see from the photos and short recaps just that.
I’m not sure who learned more: the local children, my family or myself.
Sunday | July 30, 2017
Traveled to the Dominican Republic. The villa is beautiful — not what I expected for a mission trip.
Monday | July 31, 2017
Toured three private schools run by women who have taken out multiple loans to upkeep and expand. These schools charge about $15 a month per student — very affordable from an American point-of-view, but a stretch for many families in the Dominican. Edify forecasts 98% payback on their loans in the next three years, having over $7 million in loans serviced the last half-decade.
Met Luis Sena, Edify’s VP of Latin America programs. After sharing dinner with Luis, I was anxious to listen to this wise, inspiring man again on Friday.
Tuesday | August 1, 2017
The first day of summer camp kickoff. The kids sang and danced to celebrate the kickoff. Our camp had a little more than 60 students from preschool-age to 16, with three teachers. The students take great pride in their schooling and value building a community, something our kids back at home miss out on all too often.
We split into four stations: technology, Bible, craft and recreation. My nephew Andrew and I led the technology station, with half-hour lessons exploring the use of battery-powered technology that uses a Tablet because the electricity is very unreliable.
Wednesday | August 2, 2017
Another day of back-to-school camp! The kids did their rotations through the four stations. Today included time spent picking up trash with the students in their neighborhood, which was a lesson for all of us on stewardship.
Met a 12-year-old girl named Penelope, who had a brother who was diagnosed with cancer at age 3 and underwent 25 chemo sessions and a kidney removal. He is now healed and back to normal, turning 5 in October. God is good.
Thursday | August 3, 2017
Students enjoy engaging with one another and making new friends. My wife and I were amazed as we watched our kids step up and make true connections and impacts.
Friday | August 4, 2017
Today we hosted Fiesta Day at the school with a jump house, popcorn and stations for bean bag toss, balloon pop, Plinko, ring toss, Nerf darts, and face and fingernail painting . The kids won tickets at each of the stations and could use the tickets for water balloon toss and whip cream pie in the face. My daughter Jenna received the most pies in the face, and all the kids were great sports.
Best part was hearing the students call our kids out (through a translator) for how much they appreciated and loved them.
Saturday and Sunday | August 5-6, 2017
Celebrated the great week by hanging out at the beach. Then we headed back to Texas on Sunday.
The Edify Family Experience in the Dominican Republic took me away from clients, from work, from business partners. I understand, in our society, that leaving these things behind for even a week can be difficult. But seeking to serve on a deeper level teaches us so much more than we can learn otherwise. It can give us insights, provide us perspective — even help us recharge — as we head back to our professional callings.
I encourage you and your families to find your Edify Family Experience mission. Go make a difference. Connect with others. Seek to serve, not to sell™.