It was a sunny October morning in Santo Domingo. Our small group of child advocates from different places, literally all over the globe, was heading toward our school bus, some staff and translators accompanying us. We were told, “Now, where we are going is the most dangerous part of the city. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can decline the visit to this project.” That was the last thing any of us wanted to do. We had come to experience Compassion, to meet the children, to see God’s hand at work in their beautiful lives.
On the bus they passed around a few packets from project 521. Her face touched me. Those big beautiful eyes and braids. “Lord, are you speaking to me?” I couldn’t get her photo out of my mind. I carried her packet with me and searched and searched for her at the project. All those bright Dominican faces, beaming with hope. Pastor Rodriquez exuded joy and it was clear from the very moment he began to talk, through the translator, that he was a visionary for this church, for this child development project, and for God’s Kingdom. “Jesus Christ is King and Lord of Gualey,” he exclaimed, without doubt or hesitation. In a place of violence, drug smuggling, and other atrocities that are so often knitted into the fabric of a community caught in such poverty, it was clear this man was anchored in hope and held onto a sure and steadfast promise from His Savior. This was no melancholy minister- this was a man passionate about bringing redemption and rescue to people caught in a world of pain and bondage- a man on fire for God, living to set the captives free and protecting his sheep- especially the children.
I told a staff member with Compassion that I wanted to sponsor her- yes I carried her packet close to my heart and said she was mine. The program director brought her to me, and in that instant we embraced, and it all was so fast, I don’t remember if tears fell or if they just welled in my eyes. I don’t remember what I said. I remember Joshua was there, our amazing translator. He explained everything to Wanda, and she felt like a sister to me in that instant- yes a little sister who I loved so dearly. How could I feel this way about a child when waking up that morning I did not even know she existed? I wasn’t planning on sponsoring another child! What in the world was going on? This was a holy moment, where God stepped in and brought us together as sisters united in His love.
My friend Keith sponsored another little girl, too, and we were given permission to stay longer at the project so we could really get to know them. It was an incredible morning! The children had breakfast- cereal in bowls. They drew pictures for us and Wanda’s friend Susan cried, because her sponsor never wrote. She asked me if I knew him, and I didn’t…oh how could I respond to this precious child who was just longing to know her sponsor loved her? I assured her that he cared and he was proud of her… I had the opportunity to go through Wanda’s files with her and that’s when I found out she loved dancing and other wonderful things about her. And then I found out some sad things…her mother had died. She was young. It was the greatest loss in her life. And then her first sponsor left her. Oh the abandonment and loss of this little girl! It broke my heart. I just held her and tried to comfort her and show her Jesus’ love in that moment. Her smile was still so bright and full of hope, sneaking through the despair and loss that threatened to steal her joy.
We played spontaneous group games, sang worship songs that we knew- the children in Spanish, and we in English. We blew bubbles and laughed. We took photos and I gave her a photo of my family. It felt like time froze, but then it burst and it was time to go…she had to leave also. I just wanted to go with her and meet her family. I wanted to protect her on the dangerous roads and not let anything harm her. But I had to leave her in the care of the angels and to know God had this church there as a hedge of protection around her- a safe haven of hope.That was a day I will never, ever forget. A day that changed me forever. Since then I’ve met four other sponsor children and every experience has been just as miraculous and holy and beautiful, but that first one I remember in such a special way…just like the other visits, it was one of the most spectacular moments in my life. So simple, yet so profound and filled with a hint of eternity at every turn. From the first hug to our goodbye, I knew this little girl was now someone so incredible in my life. She now was a part of my life, a part of my family, with a deep place in my heart that would only grow over time through prayers and correspondence and love.
It was late at night in our hotel room. My roommate and new friend, Denise, was reading her devotions and simply asked, “Caitlin, I’m reading in Zephaniah and I just wonder- what does it really mean for God, the One on the throne, to ‘Sing over us’?” I pondered on that and walked out onto our city-view balcony. I heard rain drops hitting roofs. I heard sirens on the streets. And I closed my eyes, seeing the children dancing at project 521. I heard them singing and saw Wanda’s face. I thought of all the pain in her life, the loss, the fear, the threats of poverty and drugs and gangs and violence and lack, all looming around her. But in the midst of all that I could hear the voice of God singing over her with incredible delight, passion, dreams, vision, hope, and most of all, His great LOVE. And I grabbed my little mp3 recorder and journal and began vigorously writing a song…
And that is the story of “Sing Over Us.” It’s where earth’s poverty and Kingdom riches meet. It’s where a child’s loss and despair find hope and gain. It’s where God takes the broken pieces and sings His mysterious healing over them, re-building a masterpiece of beauty. It’s where a little girl from Santo Domingo and an older girl from Delaware meet and hug and become sisters forever. It’s where the raindrops turn into God’s tears, weeping over His children. It’s where the lights of eternity glowing in the hearts of every believer around the globe brightly shine the love of the Savior, the King and Lord, who reaches even into the darkest places of the ghettos of Gualey.