Rico's Story

Meet Rico Calles

Year: Junior
Majors: Spanish, Spanish Education, and Latin American Studies
School: Miami University

"I used to think you had to be someone special for God to use you, now I know all you have to do is say 'yes!'"


I can’t think back to the amazing 9-day adventure that we had in the Dominican Republic, without thinking of Matthew* (*name changed for privacy). I found out that Matthew had much more to teach me than I had to give him. Sometimes all that God asks us to do is to show up and He’ll do the rest. I for sure wasn’t ready to see all the things that God would teach me about His heart through this little boy, Matthew. I can’t tell you exactly how we met at the “Tiempo de Familia” camp that was happening that week.  All I know is before I knew it, he was asking where I was going to be in the morning so that he could look for me during breakfast. This was the beginning of a great friendship that God used in some cool ways with Matthew, but also used in my own life as well.

Before I went on the trip I was nervous about the trip due to the fact that sports are not what I am gifted in. “Am I really going to be able to play soccer all day with kids?”, “I literally have nothing to give these kids” were some of the lies that I was believing in my head. Yet, when I stepped into the Dominican Republic and saw the real issues of poverty that I had heard about, I knew that I didn’t have all the answers to all the problems but I did have with me the most precious and important thing that I can give someone anywhere… God’s love. The funny thing is God thought I needed it too because he used Matthew to show me how much He truly loves me and all of us.

Matthew reminded me a lot of myself. He wasn’t much of a soccer fan and he often just liked to chill there dreaming about things, I could tell that by the pictures he would frequently draw on my journal as the rest of our friends were playing soccer. Him and I would often sit back and just talk about life. He would tell me about his toys and his friends at school. It’s funny how God was immediately saying: “You don’t need those soccer skills! Here is a friend!” One day he was very upset because he had been grounded and was not allowed to go in the pool. Later that day, I ran into him… he was in the pool. I told him “I thought you were grounded!” and he looked back at me and said “I was forgiven!” This is one of the most precious lessons I have learned from Matthew… How often do I rejoice in the fact that I am forgiven? That Christ died on the Cross so that I could be forgiven? I would say we don’t do that often.

Matthew and I developed a very special connection through us sitting on the sidelines. Often times I would find him looking around, looking around for someone…. He was looking around for me. Sometimes he would be playing with his friends and he would simply keep looking and keep looking until he saw me… which then he would get the biggest smile on his face and I would smile back at him and he would just continue whatever he was doing. As, I write this I’m a bit choked up due to the fact that there is a God who loves us unconditionally that leaps with a smile watching over us just waiting for us to turn to Him and as we turn to Him we hear the tender whisper of His tender love whisper into our hearts…. “I love you! I am proud of you and with you I am well pleased!” How often does the world tell us otherwise? Jesus never called us to lose the child that is alive in us all. In fact, he says: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Why? I think because He wants to be a Father to us all… a Father that loves us and rejoices over us. When I saw Matthew, I would see someone whom I loved… whom I cared for and someone who I wanted to be with… God looks at us in the same exact way and this was only the beginning of what He had for us.

Our team came together very closely. We all understood we were there for a greater purpose and that God was going to reveal some amazing things. I have never seen such a diverse group of people come together so closely, laugh, rejoice and just live life together like our team did.  We got to help in the building of a school in Santo Domingo… we got to help build the future walls of a school that will change kids lives who will then impact their families, who will then impact others. I think this is what Jesus meant with the great commission when He tells us to simply go! We wrote prayers on those walls… prayers that will resonate in all of our hears and will resonate in the hearts of those working at that school one day.

The people on the trip were impacted greatly as a result of the poverty we saw, as a result of the kids and as a result of their desire to know Christ whether they knew it or not. It is amazing how often when we go on these trips we expect ourselves to be a blessing when really in our case the children were the ones who truly impacted and changed our lives because of the joy and the love that they live their lives with having so little. People met Christ as a result of this joy and happiness they saw in the kids that we got to work with. There is nothing more beautiful than this.

All that God asks us to do is to say “yes!”. We don’t have to be something or someone special. In reality we don’t have anything to bring to the table… God wants our hearts and He wants to transform our hearts just as much as He wants to transform a whole nation: The Dominican Republic. All you have to do say yes and let God just amaze you and show you how much He truly loves and delights in His children.... one of them being you.

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