As a third-culture parent, I acknowledge the rich cultural gains that our kids inherently receive living a life outside the borders of America, but I also recognize their needs as small human beings to feel accepted and normal. Their daddy is a sports guy. He can relate to any other person on this Earth within five minutes of meeting them, if, they too, share the same affinity for sports. Second after college football, is his love for baseball. So it works out great for us that baseball is the sport of choice in the DR. Our firstborn, Luke, joined little league baseball at a local field just down the street from our house. And, boy, was he ever excited. I’m talking, “HOT DOG!” excited. Since we found out about the league at the last minute, his dad scooped him up from school and surprised him with the news and took him straight to his first practice. Upon arrival, Trevor and the coach, whose name happens to be Bienvenido (Welcome), exchanged cell phone numbers and he tells him what time to return.
The field is right on the main road near our house, and there is only one field, not like the multi-field complexes I have seen in the states. Our family had actually been there to spectate a few night games last fall for the local minor-league. The field is torn up, the bases are made of burlap, and the chain link fence behind home plate is mangled and has holes. There are not actual bleachers, but old and dilapidated concrete steps for sitting. At street level, is an open-air bar where old and young meet and drink Presidentes out of 7 oz plastic cups. When we pulled up to pick up Luke after practice, we couldn’t contain our smiles to see the sight of our little Lukie engaged in a game of Dominoes (very popular here) with a group of other kids and his coach– at the bar! (No Presidentes were involved, for all of you who were wondering!) Thank goodness we had just played as a family last week so he knew the rules! They were just finishing up the game, and they all gave high fives. It was one for the memory books, for sure. When we asked him how it was, he exclaimed, “It was great! I love baseball. But for next time, I need a hat and pants and shoes!” Of. Course. He. Did. I know it was a last minute plan, but how could we have thought that he would ever feel like he belongs without the uniform? It is inevitable he is always going to be “gringo” or “Americano” or “rubio (blondie),” but if he’s going to be a part of something and truly feels like he belongs, he needs to have the uniform! He’s always going to look different and talk different, but when he can put on that hat and those funny little pants, he has instant comrades. On his second day of practice, his teammates shouted his name when he arrived, and one put an arm around his shoulders to lead him to the team. Talk about melt-a-mother’s-heart.
In this country, there are many reasons why the education system is ranked 2nd to last in the world, but one problem is that they require every child wear a uniform and they cost money. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between lack of education and human trafficking, so as a ministry we emphasize the importance of all of our kids getting their cute little behinds in school. One family with four kids from ages 7-19 have not been in school for a couple of years, and the youngest has never started. Yesterday we got the privilege to bless them with uniform shopping and new backpacks. The excitement was contagious as they tried on their new blue button-up shirts and khaki pants. I thought about the fact that the education they were to receive is going to be crappy and lacking in a lot ways. I can’t fix that. But standing there in their little outfits I realized that Little Mama, all of seven-years-old, was no longer going to be waiting on the street corner all day long with that dazed expression like we’ve seen her so many times. She’s a part of something now.
I think that’s how we are created, to have an innate desire to belong or to be a part of something. I think God wired us that way so that we want to keep searching for something to belong. The Bible says that with Jesus, we can all have a citizenship in heaven. In fact, it says that as followers, we are royal heirs. I think sometimes when we’ve made so many mistakes or been told by someone enough, we start to believe we aren’t good enough to be a part of something that fantastic. But I remember one time when I was feeling this way, someone told me the part of Ephesians in the Bible that says we have been raised up and seated in the (trumpets, please) heavenly realms with Christ. Not a few levels below Him, but seated “with” Him, as in the air-conditioned (hallelujah!) Club Level where the VIPs get the special wrist band and the all-you-can-eat buffet and drinks. And that’s a pretty fantastic and important club to be a part of. My prayer for my own kiddos is that when the day comes and they don’t make the team or just don’t seem to fit in because their skin is too light or their parents sound funny when they talk, that they are comfortable enough in their God-given identities that it just doesn’t affect them.
Trevor and Kathy are independent missionaries in the Dominican Republic, and raise their own financial support for their family. If you’d like to be a part of the Plankenhorn family support team, click here to see where they are, and how you can help.