Something completely magical happens when you get a group of inspired, like-minded individuals together on a mission to do good in this world. 11 people gathered together in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic this past week to do just that! Only two of those people had a connection to each traveler, Dominique and Coty Sensabaugh. The Sensabaugh’s inspired each of us travelers enough to halt our own lives and jump on board their Missionmoon to help them give back and spread love through an organization called Soles4Souls, which provides shoes for those who can’t afford them. Now each of us is tied to each other in such a unique and special way that will last our entire life!
What is a Missionmoon?! It is a Honeymoon dedicated to Mission work! The selfless Sensabaugh’s created this trip to not only celebrate their love in union, but also to spread their love to those less fortunate. Dominique and Coty are spectacular individuals with generous spirits and humble hearts. The two combined make for one dynamic duo! I know they wouldn’t want me to make this post about them, but I can’t create this post without mentioning the inspiration they exude. God has BIG things in store for this couple and I am just thankful I get to play a small part in their impactful story!
Over the course of two days and four separate distributions, our group outfitted over 500 adults and children with new shoes! A Soles4Souls shoe distribution is made up of 4 integral roles.
- Sizer – First to make contact with the children. Sizes the feet with the help of a footprint mat then writes the size needed on the child’s hand.
- Washer – Washes and dries the feet of those receiving shoes, then puts the shoes upon the freshly cleaned feet.
- Runner – Finds the size shoes needed and provides them for the washer.
- Decorator – Helps the children to decorate their new shoes with metallic markers and sparkly stickers!
It is a total team effort at a shoe distribution, and no role is more important than the next!
Our first distribution was at an outdoor school program. The conditions were less than desirable to play in, let alone to play in with shoes that are broken or too small.
My role at this distribution spot was to wash the feet of the children. The water and towels turned brown quick which made the reality of this mission so real. Some children’s feet were so thickly covered in mud that it was a struggle to get all of the dirt off of them, but we did the best we could.
One of my favorite moments from this spot was washing the feet of a little girl who FINALLY had ticklish feet! Her laugh and smile was infectious and filled me with joy! You see, I tried to tickle a lot of those little feet, but most of the kids didn’t laugh. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because their feet were so calloused and broken that they had lost that sensitivity?
My low from this spot was washing the feet of a little boy who had sores all over his heels and toes. I wasn’t able to see that he had them until after his feet were washed because the sores were concealed under the dirt that covered his feet. Fear immediately filled my brain, but faith overpowered my heart. I knew God would keep me safe as I washed the feet of His children – sores and all.
After this shoe distribution, we played with the kids, and it was absolutely amazing to see the gratitude of a simple gift like a balloon or bubbles!
These shoes were left behind and I thought they made the most beautiful picture! I distinctly remember the boy wearing them. His heels were hanging out about 2-3 inches. I hadn’t realized the backs were flattened down until I saw them like this. How uncomfortable that must have been for him…clearly he was glad to get new shoes by leaving these old ones behind!
Our second shoe distribution was at a Haitian school. I was a sizer at this spot, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! As a mom, I know just how quickly a child’s foot can grow, but I am also sensitive to the importance of having shoes that fit. I became a little Mama Bear to these kids, making sure that they were going to get shoes that they could both grow into and play in at the same time!
I learned how to speak a little bit of Creole (the native tongue of Haiti) while at this station, asking the kids “ban m ‘men ou’” meaning “give me your hand” 🙂
We learned that the teacher of this school is so hands on with the kids that she makes each little green and pink school uniform! She inspired me in such a huge way! We can always be doing more to help – always!
Haiti neighbors the Dominican Republic, but I learned the two have some discontentment. A girl from the school drove with us to our nightly activity and shared with us the challenges of being a Haitian in the Dominican Republic. She is one of many Haitians who was born in the Dominican Republic…paperless because the two governments can’t agree upon nationality. This leaves her and many others to face restrictions in health care, education and employment. Restrictions aside, she is a victim of prejudice. Her darker skin is a tell-tail sign that she is Haitian, and she voiced that she is often told she is ugly, stupid and unimportant. As the members of our van told her differently she stood in agreement stating “I know I am beautiful, smart and powerful!” Her confidence was so admirable!
As we entered her neighborhood, pride exuded from her! She was so proud of the place she calls home! Kids and teens were playing soccer and dominos in a large field. The men on the trip stayed in this area to interact with the guys, while the women all headed up to a schoolroom for a Zumba and Yoga class!
The women were so much fun! They loved to dance, and there were some amazing dancers in the group!
Behind us, a group of little girls struggled to keep up with the dance moves, so I went back with them and directed them with simpler moves. The joy in just skipping around in a circle with these girls…I can’t even explain it!
Before we got there, I was TIRED, I was HOT, and I had a STOMACH ACHE! The excitement and energy of these women and children was contagious! Those struggles faded away fast as laughter and joy and bubbles filled the room 🙂
Our first day was simply put, amazing!
Day Two started bright and early as we headed out to another school for our third distribution. At this location I was a decorator 🙂 It was so much fun to craft with the kids! Together we chose stickers to go on their shoes, and drew things like hearts, flowers, stars and smiley faces on them 🙂
At this location I had an amazing conversation with our point of contact in the Dominican. His name is Brad, and he is an American who heads an organization called Until They Know. Brad is one spectacular example of faith in the Lord! The things he and his family have endured and continue to endure are out of this world amazing. I have some strong faith, but I think if I had been faced with some of the things he has seen, I’d have selfishly said “No, Lord” and went on home to my life of comfort and content.
As we were about to leave this location, the teacher showed us this pair of shoes that was left behind by one of the students outfitted with new ones.
The side was tied together with pieces of an old t-shirt. Myself and probably everyone I know would have just pitched these broken shoes in the trash, but this child didn’t have that luxury. How happy it made our group to see these left behind!
Our fourth and final shoe distribution was at a church. Immediately, little girls surrounded me with hugs and held both my hands! It was hard to let them go, but I knew there were feet that needed to be washed! When an older boy sat down at my wash station, I was filled with so much excitement to fit him with new shoes! Y’all, he was wearing FLOWERED sandals! They were so broken down in the back that the heal made an inward “C” shape.
As I waited for his new shoes to be delivered, I asked to take a photo of him holding his old shoes.
Pain, guilt and desperation set in when I was told there were no more shoes in his size. Dominique gave me two right feet stating that they would probably be more comfortable than what he had – which was probably true – but they were one size too big for him. I promised this boy we would find him a pair of shoes as he put on his old shoes. He sadly sat in the window of the church watching the other kids get fitted with shoes and I absolutely could not take it! I was about to break down in tears! As soon as there was a break in the line, I got up to search for shoes myself, praying so hard for the Lord to provide as he had provided so many other times during this trip!
As I frantically searched for shoes, something really beautiful happened…another little boy who had just been fit with shoes sat down in my seat and proceeded to wash the feet of another child. Talk about a purpose being attained! Through service, we set an example to these people in hopes that this service will be a trickle down effect. Though I missed this beautiful moment in my desperation to find shoes for the other boy, it was thankfully caught in a photo. How beautiful is this act of service?!
I truly believe everything happens for a reason! God orchestrated the lack of shoes and the pull of my heart to provide an empty chair for this to happen! I’m sure of it!
My prayer for provision was answered when Dominique’s mom, Sandra, took off her shoes and gave them to the boy we had none for! He was so happy and grateful! I was overjoyed that my prayer had been answered! I’ll never forget that moment for all my life!
Sandra told me that she was so happy to get the chance to give her shoes to the boy, because she had once heard a story of her new son-in-law, Coty, giving his shoes away. When she mentioned this in front of Coty, he shared that before he gave his shoes away, he had seen someone he had always admired give his shoes away, and had always hoped he’d get the chance to do the same. What a beautiful chain of love! Who would have known that a new prayer for me would be to get the opportunity to add another link in this chain?!
Inspiring stories aside, Mission Trips are tough, and they aren’t all filled with positive feelings. There are a plethora of emotions experienced. You’ll find yourself sad at the living conditions of these families, but then see the pride on the face of a child who boasts “that’s my house!” and feel happy that they can prevail. One minute you’ll see a child showing greed towards the generosity you’ve shown – but then you’ll turn around and see another kid sharing the toy you just gifted them with another child. You’ll experience the frustration from parents when you can’t provide them with more, yet their children will give you continuous love through hugs. Going on a Mission Trip, especially a short term one, isn’t going to fix the big picture in a country, however, it is a piece of the puzzle, and no puzzle is complete without all the pieces! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a piece of the puzzle in the Dominican Republic! I am forever touched and changed by all I experienced there, and I pray the Dominican Republic is forever touched and changed by the little piece of the puzzle I was able to provide 🙂
If you are interested in getting involved with Soles4Souls, please reach out to me and I will be sure to connect you! Working with them was an experience I will never forget! I look forward to working with them again in the future!
Be Blessed + Be A Blessing