Saturday, December 19, 2009

Slaughtered Pig Anyone? story by Vicki

So yesterday I went over to a friend's house, her name is Yajaira, because she wanted to give me a pedicure... I know, I know, life is rough sometimes. So we're sitting out on her patio talking, and the next thing I know I hear a pig squealing really loud... and then not squealing... (I know you're wondering what happened right?) About 30 minutes go by and I had completely forgotten about the pig. Then I saw Yajaira's husband, Daniel, throwing a rope over the branch of a tree and then hoisting up what had been the squealing pig. It was HUGE! Daniel looked ever so proud as did the many helpers that he had, children and adults alike. They all stood back and looked at the pig in awe. After they cleaned the outside and inside of the body with water they all headed back to where they had been hiding. About 5 minutes after they left the dangling hog, I heard another squeal... this time I knew... bye-bye pig! Another 30 minutes went by and there, slung over the same branch next to the other hog, was pig number 2. Bad day for pigs! As I learned yesterday, eating pig for Christmas is very traditional here in the D.R.

Shortly after asking Yajaira how many pigs there would be for the feast (held at our church) one of the boys that had been helping Daniel, walked over with a fairly large bucket. He set it down right next to me... and low-and-behold, contained inside this bucket were all the innards from the 2 pigs. Amaody was very happy to show me that he knew what everything was. After the display of pig guts, he took the bucket into the kitchen and left it there. Curiously I asked Yajaira if she would be cooking the bucket full of "goodies". She looked at me and laughed... then responded, no, that she would only be boiling them, (as if that is common knowledge). I must admit, I am grateful to have missed the skinning of pigs.

Up-date on us:
The semester students flew out on Thursday morning and since then we have been on vacation. It feels so weird to have nothing planned that we have to do. We fly back for Christmas holiday on Monday 21st. and stay until Jan. 3rd.

We are getting very excited for another year. We have successfully made it through our first year of work and now have experienced all the aspects that our jobs demands. Now having experienced it all, we feel very prepared, excited, and ready for another full year.

Prayer Requests:
For wisdom as we approach a new year
Health - I am sick right now and therefore dreading the flights back to WA
That our love for God would continue to grow and that our knowledge of Him expand
For patience


Josh and I cannot thank you all enough for your continued support and partnership. We would not be here if it wasn't for you. Thank you for helping in God's plan of making a difference in the lives of people both American and Dominican. You are growing the numbers in the Kingdom of God.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Visit to the Border... - By Josh

Last weekend we took the students on a weekend excursion to a town called Dajabon. It is right on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We went to mainly check out the big market that they have every Friday and Monday. My understanding of what happens is that items get donated to Haiti and then the Haitians bring it over to the DR side and sell the items at a low cost. It was a lot of fun to see but it felt so chaotic and crazy for us Americans who are not used to it.

We almost crossed over into Haiti but the guards wanted some money from us in order to enter. A river is what separates the two countries and so we did get to stand on the bridge and see into Haiti. It was very different then the DR side. It appeared more desert like and looked like a garbage dump in some places.

Some other interesting things we saw were people buying big blocks of ice and carting them back over into Haiti on their wheelbarrow. We saw one lady carrying a bunch of paper or styrofoam type products on her head. I have no idea how heavy it was but it was stacked at least 10 feet high. We saw guys pushing 500 lbs of rice in their wheelbarrow. It was 10 bags of rice that weighed 50lbs each and they would load it all in their little wheelbarrow.


(This huge load is on a woman's head!)


(above picture are the ice blocks)

All in all it was a very good experience and we were able to learn what life can be be like for Haitians.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Tribute to my Parents - by Vicki

Before Josh and I embarked on this amazing journey we went to Colorado as many of you might remember. We had a 3-week intensive training for missions where much of the content from the classes was self-discovery. That discovery however was mainly concentrated in conflict and stress awareness and management. Since our time here, a whole new type of discovery has been taking place... complete self-discovery. I've been learning so much about me, my family, and my home culture.

What has been catching my attention mostly these past few weeks has been my parents. I have been learning and understanding what amazing, outstanding, and wonderful parents I have. While I have always believed my parents to be great and loving, this new level of realization has taken place through a better understanding of myself. As I learn more about me (which has been a lot this past 10 months); and as others recognize things about me, it has been coming more and more clear that this stems from the great upbringing I had. Just yesterday Dave, the president of SI, said to me, "you must have a great dad." So often I forget how lucky I am and was growing up. So I really want to say - Thanks mom and dad!

To all you parents who are reading this, please let this be an encouragement to never cease loving your children with everything you have. It will make all the difference in the world when they grow up and live in the world without you there 24/7 and also when they are confronted with tough situations - they will want to make you proud.

I want you to know that I have been praying for you. You help Josh and I out so much by your faithfulness to us through prayer and finances, please know that we pray for you and thank God for you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thought for the day - by Vicki

ARE YOU READY???

I am reading through the book "Crazy Love" again, which I totally recommend to anyone who hasn't read it yet, and there was a short section of the book (literally one page) and it was titled, Are you ready? The question is directed at death; are you ready for death? The story in there is very touching but aside from that it made me wonder if I am truly ready to stand before the God of this universe... the creator of me. Have I lived for Him in a way that he would be proud of? Have I really done my best in this life? When I stand before God will He be proud of me?

My challenge is that you would think about your life and where you are at... are you proud with how you've been/or not been living for God? Are you ready to stand before God as He either welcomes you home or says to you that he never knew you and sends you away?

Matthew 10:32-33 says: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before me Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before me, I will also disown before my Father in heaven."

Today I am going to be praying for all of you, that as you read this God will speak to you, direct you, convict you, and /or challenge you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning to be a Good Samaritan - by Josh

This is Josh and I know it has been a while since I have written anything but I will try to do better. As I was trying to think of something to share I just remembered a conversation I had with a guy tonight during dinner about the friendliness of Dominicans.

Currently, we are having a men's outreach and so he is apart of that. Today was his first day working in the community and something had happened to where he had ripped a hole in his pants. A lady from the community saw the hole and told him to come to her house and she would fix his pants. And so she patched up the hole during their lunch hour. (This may not sound like a big deal but this was not where you would want a hole in your pants for the rest of the day).

I was just thinking about it and trying to learn something from his experience and I can remember how in my time here there have been many times where a complete stranger has helped me out of a difficult situation. For example, I have had a lot of flat tires on my moto and some have been a long way outside of town and would have been a long walk, but before I had even walked 1/4 mile someone (or many people) were calling me over to their house to try and patch up my bike.


One thing I am learning from the Dominican culture is how to be a Good Samaritan. When I see someone in need of help that I should try to help them to the best of my ability.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Very overdue blog

A hope of mine is that the people around me get to know "the real me." I feel that I am a transparent person, (hopefully I don't overdue it), and even though I am away, I desire that you would still feel like you know me. So, I am going to share briefly the highlights and downers of late.

Highlights:
  • Josh and I have been learning and growing a lot in our relationship together. We have a whole new appreciation and understanding of each other since being here and working together - it's been really great.
  • I have had a chance to bake and cook a lot! Which I love to do.
  • We have become great friends with many of the other missionaries on SI staff and have some good friends outside of SI, and in the communities where we work as well.
  • We've been blessed by all of our financial supports, everyone has been so awesome in remembering us here.
  • We absolutely love our two dogs - Snickers (doberman) and Lucy (mutt) - and they provide a lot of entertainment
  • We really enjoy our "job" here. We love that it changes from season to season and that we get to implement our own ideas and talents into it.
  • I love that every morning I get to watch the sunrise and daily see the beauty of this place... it's another daily reminder of how gorgeous God is.
  • Our residency process is finally started!

Downers:

  • I've been really tired lately, not just in the morning but throughout the entire day
  • Josh and I have been experiencing spiritual warfare - which is a mixed feeling really. When we go through warfare it's really hard and exhausting but a blessing at the same time to know that we are fighting for God's kingdom.
  • By now we had hoped to be further along in Spanish... we have learned quite a bit which is good, but it's still frustrating to not be where we thought we'd be.

Prayer Requests:

  • Language learning
  • That God would continue to show us how best to invest in the semester student's lives
  • For energy
  • For strength to fight in the spiritual battle
  • For God to fill us each day with an abundance of joy and love so that we can give that to those around us

Final thought: I have been thinking a lot of past missionaries... in Biblical times and recent history, and have been learning/remembering how God used not people who were perfect, but people who were willing. I have been learning about how "un-perfect" I am. And sometimes I am so certain that I am messing up God's plan. The great encouragement to me has been remembering that I don't change peoples hearts, but God does... all He askes of me is that I am available to Him.

On that note, I am going to go... but I wanted to let you know that Josh's and my new goal is EACH try blogging once a week... so if you check back in soon, Josh should have one posted too.

Thank you all for your love and support, both in prayer and in finances. We love and appreciate you all so much.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How does one take care of the homeless?

How does one describe the pain of injustice to another when they have not seen the faces or shared in the stories of the ones who daily live under the night sky and rely on kind strangers to provide their daily food?

During my short stay here in Santo Domingo I have had the privilege of meeting a homeless woman named Esperanza (which means hope). She is the sweetest lady I have met and so sincere. She is an old woman who lost her home in the hurricane that passed through Santo Domingo 10 years ago. Every morning she crawls out from under a cardboard box and takes her post at a little nook on the main drag in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. Daily she is passed by hundreds of strangers consisting of tourists and locals alike. Not many people take an interest in her, as she sits in old clothing with a washed out leopard print scarf wrapped around her head.
Should one sit down and share a conversation with her, they would learn that she has the joy of the Lord in her heart and that she loves to laugh. She is expressive and shares her whole self with you. She will protect you from those whom she knows to be bad, and tell you that you are her daughter/son. She loves to hold the hands of those that she loves.

I have had the honor of holding her hand and hearing her story. I have heard her call me her daughter and watch her threaten bad men off with her stick. I have seen her eyes light up when we bring her boxes of food that she can eat and share with her friends on the street. I have heard her pray a blessing over us. I have watched her brighten with uncertainty as she clings to the promise that we will return to visit her the next day. I have watched her head and eyes turn from side to side as she is constantly aware of what is going on around her. I have watched her eyes sink and heart melt when she learned that me and the others girls did not live locally and would be leaving shortly. I have heard her say, “Please leave me something to remember you by, I never want to forget the names of the people who the Lord brought to provide for me”.

Now I ask you, what is my role… what is your role? It is written in the Bible that we are to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the homeless. What do I do? What does God ask of me? How do I continue to help Esperanza? Or do I? Will God lead another to help her? Will he lead me to someone in my town that is homeless? If he does, how do I help them?

My heart has been aching been for Esperanza since I met her. I feel uneasy… materialistic… selfish… unworthy… wanting… ungrateful… deserving (when in reality I don’t deserve anything)… rich… sad…

Lord teach me your ways, guide me in your plans, let me not get distracted from what you want of me.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

birthday video

To all of you at North Kitsap Baptist Church who helped to make my birthday video, I want to thank you so much. It was very neat to see that after two days of very tiring and intensive Spanish classes. It meant a lot to us.

See you at Christmas!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sometimes I miss home...

Sometimes I really hate looking at facebook; it makes me so sad to see all the moments from people's lives that I am missing... all the traditional trips with friends and family that I am no longer a part of. But my comfort lies in the truth of why I am here and how much I love the D.R. and the people. God is so faithful to provide things that are so dear to our hearts. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I miss you all SO much!

Alright... I am going to take a 180 degree turn now and share about our weekend. On Friday night we all went out to a pizza place after language class and had yummy American food to give the students a break from Dominican food. It was also someones birthday so we surprised her with a cake afterward. Then Saturday we took them all down to Santiago where we did activities that were school related like visiting a museum and The Monument (pictured below). Following these sites we took them to a store called La Sirena; it's equivalent would be something like a Target. We don't have anything like this in our small town, so it was chance to get needed items that are off/on available to us up in Jarabacoa. This small tour took nearly all day... we left just after 9am and didn't get back until 5:30pm.

Now I sit and ponder... do I procrastinate? Work on Spanish homework? Or come up with my Bible study for the ladies? My deadline for homework and Bible study prep is tomorrow... so I should probably get working on that, eh?



This photo was taken at the top of The Monument



Our 15 college students from Bethel College in Indiana



The middle flag is the Dominican Republic flag




The Monument


Before I do that I have a final thought to leave you with... "Don't scare a man carrying a machete from behind". I did that accidentally yesterday on my run and that machete went flying. If my heart wasn't beating fast before that it was after that!

Prayer requests:
Ability to pick up language quickly and correctly
Energy for all the things we have going on right now
Patience with both our language teacher and the students
Wisdom in Bible study preparation

Thank you everyone for you love and support!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Did you miss me in this long absense?

Life is passing by and my blog page has gone untouched for like a month now… sorry!

Our brief visit to the states was good – here is the breakdown: when we landed in Seattle we were both sick, we were freezing most of the time, Melody and Adam were married on Sat 22th - which Melody and the wedding were beautiful, we got to visit our family and see a few friends, overall it was really great.

Since we have been back – the adjustment, to be perfectly honest was really hard. When we first walked into our home my first thought was… “This is our home? It doesn’t feel like home.” After we started unpacking our things and getting everything back in order, the feeling of “hominess” began to reappear. But it took a few days for totally recooperation to happen. Once it did, I felt right at home. And now, to be transparent with you, I am dreading going back for Christmas because I hated the feeling when we returned. I’m just praying that it doesn’t happen again… that it was just that first time.

On September 6th the semester team arrived and since then we have been busy. The first 2 days were orientation days and then they moved into their host family’s homes. That same day we all began Spanish class. It is 3 hours a day, Monday thru Friday. My mind is so tired... between language learning, working, keeping up things at our house, aka: Snickers and Lucy, and SI requirements… I am exhausted. Last night I went to bed at 9:15… which is REALLY early for me... that's how tired I was!

Language learning has been an interesting beginning… the first 3 days of classes the lady that heads up the program couldn’t be there because her daughter had an emergency in Miami and she had n .,to be there. So Josh, myself and Lowell knew, but somehow she failed to mention this to the other teachers. So the other ladies show up and asked us where Aurelis was. We told them that she wouldn’t be there until Monday and they freaked out. Not only did they not know this, Aurelis had not given them our curriculum or any direction. The first 3 days were horrible – and that’s being nice. However since Aurelis has been here, the class has picked up significantly… she is an amazing teacher and she knows Spanish inside and out (not to mention backwards and forwards)!

Story of interest…
When Josh and I moved into this house in April, the landlord had gone and paid all the bills for the house so everything was up-to-date. Since we have lived here, our phone bill has come, but we had never received an electric bill. So we figured since 3 ½ months had gone by (and still had electricity thankfully) we should go down and try and figure out what was going on. So we get to the electric bill pay store and ask about it. We told them about everything and the lady looked it up in her computer and said that everything was fine. We asked her to print us a bill of whatever needed to be paid up to that day and when she handed it to us it read 15 pesos –which is like 50 cents. So we paid it and went on our way. Well just a few days ago we received our first bill at our house and when we looked at our balance to be paid it read 30 pesos! A dollar! Can you believe it? So we asked Lowell and Cheryl about it and they said that whoever lived in this house before us may have paid off someone at the electric place and now our bill is NOTHING! So we’ll see how long this lasts… they said that once they figure out that Americans live in our house, they’ll put us in the highest paying bracket, so I guess we had better enjoy this while it lasts.

Well, I’m off to relax! So in the words of Aurelis - Chao Chao

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Me... a blogger? I don't think so!

I've decided that "updating" my friends and family via blogspot is not "my cup of tea" as Russell and Cindy might say :) I have a hard time taking my life and experiences and putting it to words on this page; however I am determined to be decent at this one day... so here I am, continuing to try this "blogging" thing, and probably to no success, but onward I go.

These past few days have been crazy, therefore leaving me incredibly tired and grasping at any pillow I find... even if for only 10 minutes. Since I dropped our car off on Monday to the mechanic, we have been relying on our trustee moto to get us around. Which is usually fine, until it rains... like it did all night the other night. When we arrived home, Josh was completely soaked from neck to toe (he wears a helmet) and my legs and arms were unmistakably drenched. The other issue I am faced with, is in the morning. I can either be ready to leave by 6:25am with Josh on the moto, or I can run to the base. Usually this question is a no brainer... I would run to the base (as I have been the past few weeks), however, as sleepiness seems to have taken over my body, running has not been my first choice. So this morning I crawled onto the back of the moto and came to base where I found comfort on a little cot in one of the back rooms. I slept very happily there until I heard a rooster, pig, goat, and cow making obnoxious noises at me... as I searched around the room, my eyes stopped at my cell phone... it was my phone alarm going off. Why am I so cruel to myself! Why would I ever set my own personal alarm to such ruckus first thing in the morning!? I think it goes without saying that I will be changing that tonight.

I think I got a little side-tracked there... back to my crazy days. Besides the usual meetings, planning, and prep we have each day, we are down to just one base vehicle right now which happens to be a manual (Josh hasn't learned how to drive a manual yet) which means I get the privilege of driving everyone around who needs transportation during the day. Usually this task isn't one of inconvenience... until now... of course :) So I have been driving around a lot lately in a truck that doesn't have AC and has leather seats. No one should ever have a vehicle with leather seats when the weather is usually scalding hot and humid. So showering more than once a day has become a necessity.

Other bits of craziness... as you may know, I am participating in the semester abroad program that we host here. So not only are Josh and I working very hard to plan and prepare for the program, but I am still working on getting myself registered for the program! It starts in like a month and I'm not quite in yet... ahhh!!!!

A very weird experience was taking our summer interns through the debriefing process who leave Saturday. It was strange realizing (again... it happens from time to time) that we aren't going home... for good anyway. We will go home for Mel's wedding but then we'll be right back here 2 weeks later. Strange feeling

A routine part of our day... especially in this blissful heat, is ice cream. The soft-serve place is our afternoon hang out. This is our happy place. Another happy place is watching Lucy... she is so entertaining! The stunts she pulls... no wonder she had a broken leg when we first got her!



Despite her general energetic mood and love for attacking Snickers she took about 3 minutes to sit peacefully with me. To mark this unusual event, we took a picture. She is getting so big, and therefore more mischievous, but all the more fun.

Little random notes:
~ we just watched the 2nd James Bond with the blond guy... Daniel Craig (I think)... I think it's called Quantum Solace... anyway... I was totally disappointed! What a bummer sequel to the Casino one which I thought was great!
~ Mairyn leaves in 15 days for the states, so it will be back to just Raul and us 2
~ notice how in the above picture I'm not tan... it's because I'm not, I don't tan. So when I come home, don't ask me why I'm not tan (*wink*)

Lots of love from Josh and I to all you who read this blog... thanks for your support!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Recap

The summer is almost finished! We are so happy with how this summer turned out and glad that we can say we have made it through one summer... YEAH! We are older and wiser now... or something like that :) We have a long list of what to change, add, or keep and are excited to implement that into the spring program.

My summer recap:
  • saw several teens make the decision that Jesus was going to be their God - AMEN!
  • adopted Lucy
  • saw my first serious accident... still praying for you Pat
  • witnessed about 150 teens and adults alike take the "servant challenge" (servant challenge= tying a rag around one's wrist committing to seeking out ways to serve others even when it's not convenient, pleasant, normal, or comfortable)
  • was in my first car accident (3 days ago... don't worry, I'm okay and it wasn't my fault)
  • learned a lot about myself, Josh, and our working styles

I wish I could say that I did something really crazy or ate something disgusting... but really I just leave that up to my dogs :) Lucy eats nasty bugs all the time.

All in all, this has been a great experience, and I know that so much more lies ahead of us. We are so excited for what the future holds.

What's next for us?

After this group leaves Saturday all the staff have the week off for rest. Then on Friday we all go to the beach for a staff retreat... it is mandatory that we have fun :) On Monday 17th we fly home to WA for Melody's wedding!!! We will leave August 28th and return to finish final preparations for the semester team that arrives September 6th. They will be with us until Dec. 17th. We follow shortly after, returning for Christmas break on Dec. 21.

Highlight of my day?

Watching Lucy jump from the second stair and fly through the air right into Snickers head... it was hysterical!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Excursion Improvised

Yesterday was excursion day for our teams. We send them out white water rafting or hiking to a waterfall. However for this outreach we have a man in a wheel chair, which makes these activities a little more difficult. Josh and I had been brainstorming some fun ideas and thought of taking Brian and his wife Barbi to Jamaca De Dios. The pictures will help to describe the beauty of the place. It's the top of a mountain that overlooks our valley... our town, Jarabacoa. The top of this place happens to be the top of a very expensive and new housing development, which means not just anyone is welcome to this view. We made reservations at the restaurant up there, which gave us passage to the top.




We spent a little time at the very top and then went down a little to the restaurant - which sits right on the side of the mountain... so we received an amazing view from there as well. The chef at the restaurant is a retired chef from the states, and actually cooked/baked at some of the nations finest restaurants including (I can't remember the name) the bakery/pastry shop at the top of the World Trade Tower. He is a really neat guy and treated us very well.


Josh and I with Brian and Barbi. They are from Bakersfield, CA. They brought a team from the their church. So while their team was out hiking through the forest to a waterfall, we enjoyed amazing food, company, and a gorgeous view! I ordered the prime rib with mashed potatoes. It was amazing!!!





This was Josh's desert, chocolate mousse... it was fabulous!


This was my desert... chocolate ravioli (the name on the menu sounds more amazing than what I wrote... but who cares... it was SO good!!!)
We had an amazing time... and the food made me feel like I was in the states for brief moment. It was a great time and if you ever come to visit us we will take you to this restaurant!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What I miss...

So Josh and I were calculating yesterday and realized that we have been here for just over 5 months now. It's gone by so fast in some respects... and others, it's gone by so slow. Since our trip back home for Melody's wedding is drawing nearer, I can't help but think of the things that I am most excited to taste and see.

Taste:
Guacamole (and lots of it)
Mexican food
Maple boy (from Sluys bakery in Poulsbo)
Kettle Chips - black pepper flavor
Milk
Cheese - Tillamock cheddar, medium and sharp :)
Raspberries
Dreyers Ice Cream - cookies & cream, choco-chip cookie dough, mint chocolate chip, etc...

See
Family - especially Melody and Adam's wedding
Friends
NKBC - our supporting church and family
Seattle
Beautiful Poulsbo - it's gorgeous this time of year!

So a note for those of you I am going to get the chance to see and visit with... most likely I will require that part of our "together time" include one of the mentioned "tastes"; I don't have very long before I go another long period of absence with said items :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Much needed joy

Quick update... on Friday Pat had been safely transferred to a Miami hospital where he was waiting for an MRI and another CAT scan. He was very comfortable and much more happy with the familiarity of American doctors, and pain medication :) I am hoping to post a web site soon where anyone who would like to keep up-to-date with Pat can log into to view his own posts :) When it's available to me, I'll post it here.

What's up with Josh and I?

This past week was very crazy with running teams and driving back and forth to the hospital to see Pat. We were so happy that we could be there for Pat, we wouldn't trade that for anything. Through the exhaustion God showed me glimmers of joy and happiness that glowed with his love; for example - on Friday morning Josh and I drove out to one of our pre-schools and picked up 11 little kids between the ages of 3-5. We piled them into the van and drove them into town for a special ice cream treat. As they got into the van I could hear precious giggles and jokes being shared by the kids. As we drove down the mountain to the ice cream store, the kids would shout "adios" at everyone we passed... literally everyone. After they exclaimed their farewells laughter would fill the van again - beautiful, pure, innocent excitement. It was so precious... and brought me so much joy... truly this was the bright spot of my whole week.



(This photo is of the class we took to get ice cream, and their teacher, Johanna)

He also taught me where I really find my strength... definitely not in me. Sometimes we were getting back as late as mid-night from the hospital and waking up at 6am to get ready for the day. With this happening day after day, I was wearing out for sure. One morning I just didn't know how I was going to make it through the day. Josh and I were 3 days behind in our paperwork/admin stuff. That morning Josh said he would go to the hospital and I stayed behind to catch up. I knew for sure I would fall asleep on my desk... but God not only gave me the energy to make it through (without a nap), I was so happy, bubbly, and full of life! Honestly, I was shocked! I know God can do anything that we ask of Him, but I didn't expect to be blessed even more than what I had prayed for... AMEN!

Yesterday we said good-bye to our 4th outreach groups and arrived at home by lunch. We rolled our t.v. into our room, brought in our lunch, and watched movies almost all day. It was just what we needed... rest and escape from thinking. Today we are wrapping up work from this last team and preparing for the next team.

For those of you interested in challenging yourselves... read these lyrics - World Apart - by Jars of Clay... if you really do pray them, I know that God will begin to challenge you.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart


Amen

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update on Pat Lynn

Hello Friends and Family, and others who are following Pat's condition...
Sorry I haven't been updating here... it's just been so crazy with leading teams, taking care of Lourdes and Pat's team, and driving back and forth to the hospital, I haven't even had time to sleep.

After two very long days of Brian (Pat's friend who flew in on Tuesday night) making calls and arrangements, we believe that Pat will be flying out of here (hopefully) some time this morning. They will first send him to a Miami hospital that has an MRI machine ready for Pat. He has not yet received an MRI because the equipment here is not appropriate for him. Once he receives an MRI and they can tell what the extent of the damage is (or hopefully NO damage!) they can better assess what hospital to send him too from there. Ideally his friends and family would like him in Seattle, but depending on his condition he may stay in FL. for a while.

As of yesterday evening Pat...
~ is still immobilized on an air mattress like hospital bed
~ has complete feeling in his body
~ he can move his legs up/down/and around, but cannot wiggle his toes
~ he can flex his biceps and butt
~ he can move his left arm from side to side, but he cannot lift it off the bed
~ he can speak normally, but he's been having a little trouble with breathing and therefore cannot finish a sentence in one breath
~ he still has his sense of humor... but he's ready to go home

Please pray that he will have a speedy recovery, that the insurance will cover all of the expenses, that he will be taken to Seattle soon, for his family but more importantly his Mom who hasn't yet been able to be with him, for the doctors and nurses who are treating him here and the ones who will see him in Miami.

I truly believe in the power of prayer and believe that God will answer specific prayers. Please be praying specifically for the prayers above... I know that God can answer them and will according to His perfect plan. God has done miraculous things in Pat's body already and I believe He will continue to do so, but please partner with me in praying for him.

Pat is a tremendous guy, I feel so honored to have met him and so blessed to have been given this opportunity to be by his side during this time. Thank you everyone for your prayers and I will let you know when he is in a plane bound for Florida.

Blessings

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Accident...

This is just a quick blog to update you on Josh and my past 24+ hours.
Yesterday morning a student (girl) began having seizures and tremors (not uncommon for her) but we had a lot of prep to do before we could send her down to the hospital with our doctor, Fernando. Shortly after Josh and I finally arrived home from that incident, we received a call notifying us that one of the leaders from a team here, and someone we know, Pat Lynn (Justin Lynn's older brother) dove into a river and hit his head on a rock, causing a serious head injury. We rushed to the hospital in Jarabacoa where he was being stabilized. They had stitched up his head and had him firmly secured to a gurney with a neck brace. Once we learned which hospital he was going to be transferred too, we got a few people together and sent them after the ambulance.

Josh and I had to stay behind but were receiving updates as soon as our people in the hospital could provide us with some. We were so thankful that Fernando was at the same hospital that Pat was being sent to, so he was able to assist in the process. Things looked very grim when we saw him off at the first hospital. Once we returned to the base, we assembled everyone, relayed the info that we knew and began praying. His mom had already been notified by Josh and she was calling people she knew to pray as well.

As the day progressed, little pieces of info would come in... but nothing concrete that could really tell us of his situation.

This morning I went to the hospital with Nate and the other leader from his team to visit and PRAISE GOD, he was able to move his legs, flex his biceps, and he speech has improved greatly from yesterday. He is in ICU so we can only visit for 5 minutes only 3x per day. I go back in 4 hours and will have more info then... but PLEASE PLEASE be praying for Pat. He is very strong and pushing through, but he is in a lot of pain. We are unsure of his spinal situation, they told him it looks okay, just very swollen... but please please pray for healing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

...a bit of randomness...

Have I mentioned recently how much I love the Caribbean?! Are you jealous now? Well, everything is going just fine here. We returned from the beach on Monday afternoon and had about 15 minutes to breathe before the first group arrived. Our time at the beach was very relaxing, and we got some much needed rest. I left with only a few little sun burned places on me where my swim suit had rubbed off the sun screen. I did however get one comment on looking tan... but my tan looks like most people's natural skin color. And of course when I stand next to Josh people wonder if I ever go out in the sun.

While we were at the beach we learned that there was a girl who attended the outreach and not only had she come to accept the Lord as her personal Saviour, but she was also baptized by her site leader! PRAISE GOD!!! It's so amazing to watch all these students and adults alike come here thinking that they are going to influence and bless the locals when in fact, most of them leave even more impacted or changed.

Josh and I are feeling quite settled into our roles and now we're starting to dream! We are coming up with new ideas for how this program can be run... what is a definite keeper, what needs to be changed, and what just needs a little more sparkle? We are really excited about tweaking the normal and making a program that looks a little different from the past few years.

Prayer Requests:
As we develop new ideas for the program that they will be from God
Wisdom
Energy
Patience

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Happenings

Our third team is coming quickly to a close and we are getting excited for our weekend beach excursion with our summer interns. Summer has kicked in with a bang of heat and shortage of loud wet storms these past few days.

Lucy Update…
The vet removed her cast on Tuesdays (about 5 days earlier than he originally told us) which was good because the cast had been rubbing on her leg and developing some really nasty sores. At times however I think it may have been a little early because she is such a high energy puppy who isn’t the smartest at times and has pulled some silly stunts which have resulted in hurting her leg a little. The bone is completely healed, praise God, but her leg seems to still be a bit tender.

Besides Lucy…
This past week I personally felt a little worn out, partly because of Lucy, and partly because we’re halfway through the summer. The task of befriending a new group of people every two weeks is wearing. I knew to expect it because it’s what we did last summer, however, it’s one thing to know it and another to experience it… again.

The group we are wrapping up has been largely a group of high schoolers and I always find that high schoolers change the dynamic greatly. They ask a completely different set of questions, many times I find that they “know it all” (which I find hysterical), and they love to hear themselves talk, which is great because I only have to ask one question and they carry the conversation for the rest of time.

Tomorrow we leave for a weekend at the beach with our summer interns. We are very excited. We went to this same resort last summer and LOVED it. It’s an all inclusive hotel with a private beach. We can’t wait for the rest, relaxation and total pampering that we will get there. We are going to Puerta Plata and staying at the Lifestyles Hacienda resort for 2 days and 2 nights. YEAH!!!

Prayer Request:
Josh and I have been praying, and ask your aid in this prayer as well, that we would have guidance in whether or not to ask Raul and Mairyn to move once their baby comes. Mairyn just went to the doctor a few days ago and found that she is 15 ½ weeks along with a baby boy. She is due to deliver in mid-December. She however will go back to the states in late August where she will wait to have the baby, and then return in January sometime.

We want to follow God’s direction in this process… so please be praying for wisdom. Raul has a long way to go on his house before it is finished. So unless we ask them to move, they could be with us the lifetime of our lease… 2 years.

(The photo below is of Josh with the interns on a weekend excursion he did with them 2 weeks ago)





Friday, June 12, 2009

God speaks

I have desired to share this with you all but haven’t had the time to put onto paper… so here it is now. (Better late than never, right?)

We received Lucy on Monday morning, only to find she had a limp in her front left leg. Tuesday morning we took her to into the vet to find out she had a broken leg… like, the bone was completely broken in half. He took her for the morning and put her bones back in place and put on a cast which we were told had to stay on for 20-25 days. We brought her back to the base with us and she was just whimpering and crying all afternoon… she was in such agony and completely frustrated that she couldn’t walk… she kept falling over. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed that this could potentially be what the next 3 weeks would look like. We had to help support her to walk, eat, drink, and get situated to sleep.

That night I was leading the “Foot-washing” activity that we have here (based off of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet in John 13:1-17). The night is an evening of praise and worship through singing, followed by a significant time of prayer (with music playing in the background) and then each person gets together with a partner and they wash each other’s feet. It is an amazing night. So leading up to this event I was a mess, I was so frustrated over Lucy’s situation, and felt so unprepared, and fake… my heart was not into singing praises to God when I was so sad over Lucy. I also didn’t want to leave her, I felt like I needed to be there for her.

During the prayer time I just cried out to God. I said to him that I wished we would have just put her down from the beginning, and how I still wanted to do it because it would be easier. I felt like I was going to be looking after a handicapped child for 3 weeks and didn’t think that I could, or wanted, to do it. I said to God that it hurt me so bad to see her in so much pain, and it made me want to cry every time I had to help her walk around because she would just cry the whole time.

After sharing my frustrations and pain with God I waited in silence for him. He told me a little while later, “Vicki, there are so many times when you are just like Lucy; pathetic, hurting, in pain, and in need of constant help, but I never think of “putting you down”. And though it hurts me to watch you walk through the painful situations and see you struggle and cry, I know that when you come out on the other side, you are going to be so much stronger, better, and you are going to know me better.”

I was in awe. To hear God so clearly, and have him use Lucy’s situation as the example to show me what I am sometimes… or most of the time… it was so powerful. God has been teaching me so much, but it is a completely different experience when God speaks to me. It was an amazing night. And not only that, the time that I had spent doing the activity with the team, Josh had been watching Lucy, and she began walking on her own! It was such a great night. After Josh told me that about Lucy, I felt like God has given me a little gift… a little something to say, “Don’t worry, you’re going to make it! I love you!”


God is amazing... and I just wanted to encourage you all through this... God knows what He's doing even though we can't see it the majority of the time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lucy's Cast




Here she is!!! Our precious little hopping puppy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lucy

Lucy is our latest concern and takes up A LOT of time... particularly at night :)
When we received Lucy, she had been found by a friend who discovered her on the side of the road. We adopted her not knowing she had a really bad limp in her front left leg. We took her to the vet and he examined it looking to see if it was just out of place. Lucy had a lot pain when he was "feeling around" her leg, so he suggested we get an x-ray. The x-ray showed that her leg, closer up toward her shoulder, was completely broken in half. She he took her and performed "minor" surgery on her. He knew she couldn't survive a surgery where they opened her up and inserted a pin into her leg, so he knocked her out and put the bones into place by feeling around. He then wrapped her leg up in a cast, which also wraps around her chest for support. Yesterday she was in a lot of pain, and didn't know how to walk with the heaviness of the cast... she just kept falling over. However today she is much better. She is walking around and learning how to get comfortable when she sits and lays down. The cast prevents her front leg from bending, so it is extended all the time, which really presents a disadvantage when she wants to sit or curl into a cute little ball.

The vet has been really helpful and didn't even charge us for our visit today. He said that he wanted to help people, "us", who are helping a puppy who should be dead now.

It's been a whole new kind of culture shock as we went about this business trying to help this little puppy. We had to help take the x-ray, which was taken at a "human" clinic; then we had to drive the x-ray back to the vet who examined it and then said, "okay, I'll take her now and fix her up". I have to say I wasn't prepared to leave her... it was really strange, I didn't even really know Lucy yet. We had only had her for 24 hours! We went back at 2pm and picked her up. Josh and I were discussing how fast and different the process was here and how something like this would take forever to get done in the States (mostly to liability issues we think). Anyway, it was a shocking experience.

A huge blessing is that she really prefers to go potty outside. So she'll whimper when she needs to go, or we'll notice her heading to the corner which means potty time! The only downside to this is that at night, she cries when she needs to go, which means I have to get up, get her, and take her out. This might not sound like a big deal, but when I'm exhausted, getting her and having to unlock a million locks to get out, it's a big deal! But I know in a month or so when she can hold it through the night, I will be SO grateful.

I have a picture of Lucy in her cast, but I forgot to bring my camera, so I'll post it tomorrow.
Good Night!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Addition to our family

Hello fans! Sorry we have had such a huge gap between our last post and now. Having summer teams has really occupied our time. Everything is going very well. We are halfway through our 2nd team of the summer and we have been enjoying every minute of what we do.

I had a revelation the other day (a couple weeks ago) when I was talking with my mom. She was asking me some questions about what we do and if it was what we expected or not. As I was talking (and processing out loud) I realized that we are basically doing youth and college ministry abroad. I was an interesting revelation because when I was 16 years old I told my dad that I wanted to be a youth pastor. I had been enjoying everything that I had been doing with Rick and the youth group that I was certain being a youth pastor was my calling. That desire slowly faded away and new ideas filled my head. But during that time I had been learning so much about what youth ministry was about. Now, here we are, doing ministry with Dominican natives and Americans; bringing them together for the kingdom of God. It's amazing how God works!

Last night Arlene, one of the staff here, found a box on the side of the road with 3 puppies in it. She brought them to the base to show Josh because he had expressed interest in taking one. One look at them sealed the deal for Josh. So now we are the proud parents of two dogs. Both are very different in size, shape, color, and hair type. Snickers, also known as "Snicky", "Sneaky", and "Bubba", is very big, short haired, and brown. Lucy, our new addition, is teeny-tiny, black, has a little longer hair, but it's still a little too early to tell what she will look like for sure. We don't think she is even 2 months old yet. So we are learning how to take care of a prematurely separated puppy. She is so sweet. Snickers doesn't really know what to think about her yet. He ignores her for the most part and doesn't really like to be too close to her. But we're hoping in a few months that they will be BEST friends!





Monday, May 18, 2009

Another new beginning

Today we welcomed our first summer team. So here forth begins 12 weeks of non-stop teams and team activities. Josh and I are very excited... as this has been what we were brought here for. Unfortunately today I woke up at about 2am to find that I am sick. Bhooo! So today I stayed home almost all day and just laid in bed, and eventually moved to the couch. During this time a very thing happened :) A thunder storm loomed about for about an hour or so today and Snickers is terrified of thunder. So as I was laying in bed he came over and put his head right next to me and I pet him to try and calm him while the storm persisted. But it kept getting louder and louder and suddenly there was a huge KA-BOOM! With that huge ka-boom, Snickers jumped right on the bed with me! NEVER before has he ever been allowed on the bed because he is so big! So when he jumped on there, he dropped on all fours and gave me this look like, "is this okay? what are you going to do?" I pondered for a moment what I wanted to do about this situation and decided that for the present this was okay. However, when I decided that it was time for him to return to his own bed on the floor, he flat out refused to get off. It was actually quite humorous... but I have learned my lesson that if he's allowed on once, he thinks it's his territory now.

This weekend we have been busy with our new summer interns who arrived here on Thursday. We did orientation type activities with them Friday and Saturday and a little on Sunday. They are a great group with lots of energy. They were a huge help to Josh today in my absence.

Other news...

We have been loving our new lives here. Each day gets easier as we get more involved in our hobbies, work, and making new friends. I had been telling Josh about 2-3 weeks ago that for about a week straight I thought about Poulsbo constantly: the downtown area, the cafes, the water front, family, games, etc. I was beginning to really feel home sick and long for the things that we can't get here. A great idea happened upon me one day as I was working, and that was that I needed to get into my hobbies more. So I told Josh that I really wanted to get into cooking, piano playing, and exercising regularly. He happily agreed that that was a good idea, so we took a trip down to Santiago to do a little grocery shopping where I found many needed and hard to get items. Since then I have hosted 3 parties (and made food and or desert for all of them), played the piano nearly everyday (I brought the base's keyboard home), and I have exercised very consistently. It's amazing how just doing those few things have really made me feel at home here.

There are still many days when I wake up and look outside, and say to God, "I can't believe you called us here". We are so happy with our co-workers, with our jobs, with how our lives are adapting, that it still shocks me when I think this is where I call home now.

Prayer requests:
  • for energy for the summer
  • for wisdom
  • for guidance
  • for flexibility
  • for health - more immediately, that I would get better. If I still have Diarrhea tomorrow then I have to go to the doctor so they can find out what I have and treat it. But if I have something, then that means it could still be a few days until I am better.
  • Raul's wife moves back to the D.R. on Wednesday and moves in with us on Thursday. Please pray that this living arrangement will continue to be a blessing to all 4 of us, and that as little kinks come up that we will be able to handle everything with peace and grace.

Praises:

  • That in my absence today, Josh and the interns were able to get all of the last minute prep done and still get to their own tasks
  • Our safety
  • that we are working with a great team who loves God
  • that one of our summer volunteers was able to fix a broken button on my laptop!!! Praise God because otherwise I would have had to mail it into dell and paid probably a lot of money
  • that (for the most part) we have been very healthy
  • Lastly - for all of the continued prays and financial support from all of you! Thank you all for being so faithful!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Finished Kitchen

I posted pictures some time ago of the new house we moved into. The kitchen was very unimpressive but the land lord said she would fix it up with no cost to us!!! So here are the before and after pictures.

Before...



After...






We are so happy with the new kitchen... it is so beautiful!

More of life

─░Hola familia y amigos! (Hello family and friends!)

I type to you today from my laptop which happens to be crawling with teeny-tiny ants and spiders. I guess they thought it was a great place to lay eggs… and now call their home as thousands (I’m not even exaggerating) have recently hatched. It’s quite gross really and I’m using it now because I think I killed about a couple thousand of them… finally. So as I sit here and type, every minute or so I grab the napkin sitting next to me and squish a few more ants or spiders that spastically crawl about.

So far in our time here “routine” has not been a word we could use to describe our lives. Developing a schedule is pointless as we rarely ever accomplish even half of what we were expecting to get finished. If someone planned to live here my word of advice would be “flexibility”. If you can’t be flexible you would never survive. We thought we were flexible until we moved here, only to find we still have a lot to learn. The culture is so laid back. The Dominican number one priority are relationships. When I drop off a vehicle at the mechanics, I don’t just explain the problem, hand the guy the keys and walk off. I sit down, chat for about 30-45minutes (usually this time is me getting a language lesson).

Another change for us is that we must always have cash on hand. We never know what the day-to-day is going to bring and we must have cash. Debit card, credit card… yeah right! No one has the machine to run cards.

Last Thursday Josh and I needed some groceries and needed to pay rent but someone was at the house working on it. So I offered to go so Josh could stay home with the worker. It was the first time it really struck me that one-stop-shopping is not available to us up here in Jarabacoa. So, I first had to go to one supermarket which didn’t have what I needed. So I walked around the corner to the other supermarket where I did find my needed items. Then I walked the few blocks to go to the fruit market. From there I made my final stop at the meat market to buy the meat I needed for the next few days. Another reality I have learned (thanks to disgusting smells) is that food does not last long here… even in the fridge. So frequent shopping has also become a regular part of our lives.

We just wrapped up several weeks of Spanish lessons, and now have to rely on our own determination and motivation to continue learning. We do really enjoy the language and like learning about it however, so that is a great start. We just recently purchased a bi-lingual Bible, and a children’s Bible… which had been suggested as a great way to learn Spanish. I have been reading it, and really enjoying it to!

Okay, well off to work again… this is just the beginning of several more longish blogs to come!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quick update

We are so sorry that it has been a while since our last blog posting. We have been so busy!


On April 17th we did an outreach for the "bomberos" (firemen) here. In the Dominican Republic, firemen are not respected. The whole idea came about because one day Nate was talking with a fireman who said he wished he could move to the United States to be a fireman, because he knew that there firemen get respect and are appreciated; where here, no one respects them or appreciates them. So Nate thought it would be a great idea to have a evening for the bomberos. We put on a beautiful dinner for them (at our base), and then showed them the movie "Fireproof" (if you haven't seen it yet, you should, it was really good). After the movie Raul gave a little message and then he handed them certificates of appreciate. Raul is in the military (not on active duty) and he wore his uniform for the evening which made it more special for the firemen. The evening was really fun and a great way to show the firemen that we care about them and respect them.





From April 21-23 we went on a staff retreat that was geared toward spiritual growth and edification. The guest speaker was amazing. He lives in the US and has for the last 10 years (I think), but he is originally from Colombia. He has the gift of prophecy and prophesied over many people, Josh and I included. It was an amazing experience. We have never seen people prophesied over let alone had it done over us. It was incredible.





The following day, April 24, my grandparents came to Samana (on the eastern side of the D.R.) by cruise boat. We drove over there to meet them and spent the day with them. It was so fun and we got to see a beautiful waterfall called "Salto El Limon". Here is a picture.


Yesterday we worked all day on our house. I painted for awhile... the inside is nearly finished! And Josh worked a lot on the outside of the house. And when Raul got home from work he helped chop down a lot of branches that were threatening our power lines. Once he did that Josh and Raul chopped up the branches. I worked in our 3 flower beds and cleaned them up a bit.

Today we are working at the base, getting some more planning done, and checking our e-mails and typing some much needed blogging!

So I suppose I should get back to work, but hopefully this will satisfy you blogger hungry readers for a short time until I can write some more.

Monday, April 13, 2009

We made the move

Josh mentioned in his last note that our final spring team is gone. We are now in a transition stage from one season to another. The spring and summer schedules are quite different from each other, the summer is more routine, but longer and more tiring. We are excited for our break to rest and prepare.

So you may know that Josh and I have moved. It is interesting what we have noticed in this new house as a comparison to our old house... here are a few observations.
~ We don't have to lean against the wall in the shower to catch the few drops that leak from the shower head, we have full water pressure now!
~ There aren't swarms of bugs flying around at all hours of the day and night
~ There isn't dirt, leaves, dead bugs/lizards, other misc items falling from the ceiling panels
~ Once I sweep the floor, it stays clean for the day instead of 30 minutes... maybe
~ When we turn the lights on, they light up the room
~ When someone flushes the toilet or turns the faucet on while someone is in the shower, the water continues to flow into the shower while accommodating the other action that has taken place

We are grateful that we had the experience in the other house because we are now thankful for these things in our new house.

Other noteworthy items:
For my devotional times in the morning I have been reading from the book of Ezekiel. I am not very far along yet, but it has been an interesting read. Reading about Ezekiel's obedience to God when God instructs him to lay in the fetal position for 390 days in public! CRAZY! I really don't think I would have said "yes" to God if He asked me to do that.

Easter was an interesting experience here. It's not celebrated at all like we celebrate it in the States. Good Friday is a big deal here. Large groups of people gather together and walk long distances while carrying life sized crosses. While they do this, they are reading through the events in the Bible up to Jesus' Crucifixion. When they walk they sing, pray, or recite phrases. It's quite interesting to see. Saturday then is a day of fiestas and parties. Family and friends get together and BBQ and have games. Almost every business in town is closed for the whole weekend. There are town festivities too like races for people, bikers, and horses. On Easter Sunday, our big day in the States, nothing special happens. No more events, no more celebrating, in fact, in church, most pastors do not even talk about Jesus' crucifixion or resurrection. It is so interesting to me how all cultures have their own unique and different way of recognizing (or not) different events.

My final note.... some of you may know that Josh and I had been praying for a way to use our house for some kind of ministry. We asked others for advice and prayer and received all kinds of suggestions and words of wisdom. One day Josh came home and said to me, I think we should ask Raul, the guy who runs the sport ministry site, if he would be interested in living with us. Raul has begun to build a home up here in Jarabacoa, but right now he commutes on his moto from another town further down the mountain, and it takes him about 40 minutes to get here. We thought if we could offer him a place to stay, free of rent, he would maybe be able to save up the money from no rent and less gas to finish his home by the end of the summer.

We prayed about this idea and asked for some advice from others here, and it was received very warmly as a great idea. We prayed about it some more and felt like God was leading us to ask Raul if he would be interested. It just so happened that he was very interested and was planning on moving to another apartment the same day we were moving in. So he moved in the same day we did. He helped a lot with lifting heavy furniture items, and cleaning up the yard which needed a lot of help. He is so grateful and doesn't take anything for granted. He offers to pay for his own food or to pay me for cooking for him. He takes Snickers on walks, and offers to help us with our Spanish, as we help him with his English. So far (all 2 days) everything is working out very well. We are really excited about this opportunity to help him in this way.

Raul is lately married and his wife just found out that she is pregnant. The down side to this story is that she made a commitment to her parents that she would finish studying in the states. So, on Friday she flew back to New Jersey to finish studying. Raul says it is likely he wont see her until after she has the baby, which will be born in the states.

During this time of change, transition, and new a house mate, Josh and I would like to add this to our growing list of prayer requests. We don't foresee any problems, but I'm sure some will arise as our "home-sharing" days continue. Please pray that God's hand will be upon this partnership and that the three of us will only grow more in our knowledge and understanding of God and in our language.

God Bless You and thank you for being a part of our lives!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Preparation for Summer

We have a month before our next outreach which then follows 12 weeks of back-to-back outreaches. You may ask what we do now? Well, for the next couple of days we are hopefully going to be doing nothing and trying to take it easy and get rejuvenated. When teams are here we pour a lot of energy into the outreach, so now we need the rest. But after a few days of restoration we have to start planning for the summer. Summer is our busiest season and we need to get everything planned out so when people start arriving we are ready for them.

This "in-between-time" is where we prepare for the next year. We get a whole new schedule planned with the Bible studies, praise and worship, evening activities we want to do, and where we are going to take people to church. Now is the time that we have to do a lot of coordinating with staff and with the different communities we hope to be working in. Additionally we are taking Spanish lessons just about everyday M-F from 2-4pm. To really practice what we are learning we hope to spend time in the community (Josh at Sports, Vicki at Social Work) to practice our Spanish as well. So, our next month is going to be busy, but well worth the effort we put into our Spanish and preparing for the summer outreaches.

This is off topic...but I wanted to encourage those who read this that we appreciate any comments that you would like to make. I know some of you do already and we appreciate hearing from you! For those that don't and are not sure how, just click on the comments link at the bottom of the current posting and then you just type a message and put in your name and then submit the comment. We are always checking for new comments and will always read them! Again we thank you all for reading our blog and supporting us in this way by being interested in what we are doing.

Another team gone...and God teaching me a lesson about who He is!

The last spring team left yesterday. During this outreach we saw a lot of spiritual growth in the team. There were 38 participants from a church in California and most of them were in high school. They arrived last Saturday and the leaders mentioned to us that a goal was to get their students to sing during worship time. From Monday night until they left, they were up every night, at least until 11pm, doing praise and worship, and many of the students sang. With every outreach we schedule the teams to go to bed at 10pm because they have to wake up early to get the day started at 6:50am. This group however never wanted to go to bed and they just wanted to be outside singing. One night they were even singing in the rain!

There were many students that re-committed there lives to Christ and there was even one student who came to know Jesus. One of the leaders was talking with Vicki and said that usually on mission trips the last night of the outreach is when they students really seem to connect with God. That's when they open up to the group and share their hearts. However this happened on the second day of the team arriving! It was truly amazing and very cool to hear.

This last outreach taught me a very valuable lesson about who God is. Let me explain...as you know it is Easter today and here in the DR the week before Easter is called Holy Week (Semana Santa) and things are completely different. In the D.R., Semana Santa is a vacation time. Schools are closed, some businesses close and most people take the week off. Because of the Holy Week traditions, we knew that our ministry sites would not look the same primarily because many people take the week for vacation. For example, at the Special Education site and Developmental Therapy site there were only 8 kids and usually there are at least 30 kids.

The reason that this church team was here was because they were supposed to go to Mexico but the trip got canceled because of the events happening there. So, 3 weeks ago we were asked if we could host them. We said we could but we were not sure how things were going to go.

This is where God started working because as Vicki and I made the schedule I was thinking to myself that the outreach is too short, I mean they are only going to have 4 work days at their ministry sites. And with their ministry sites having less people to work with I did not think they would be impacted and I felt that the students might have a negative experience. But was I ever wrong. I was completely limiting God and His awesome power. God was teaching me and re-emphasizing to me that it is not I that changes people but God. I really learned that Vicki and I are just here to help create the best atmosphere we can for people to encounter Christ and serve others but that God is what changes people, God is who saves people; Vicki and I are servants trying to do our best to serve God and His purposes. Sometimes we do well at our service, other times we learn through our failures and we continue to serve God.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sample notes

¡Hola amigos! Este es Vicki. (Translation: Hello friends! This is Vicki)

So I find that my typical blogging style is to note current events in our lives and cultural observations. I believe this style of blogging comes with the nature of my studies in college and my natural curiosity… which I believe comes from my dad. This blog however is going to veer from its normal course and take on a different form.

Since our arrival here in this gorgeous country, I see God differently. I account for this change in that our surroundings have changed… people, scenery, occupation, relationships, daily living, etc. We live in a country where “religion” is the center. Whether people really believe in God or not, Catholicism intertwined in this country and its inhabitants. People greet others by saying, “Dios le bendiga” = “God bless you”. Being surrounded by a people group who use God in their everyday speech and live a life with less material things than we are used too, is another reason for this change. I see God’s beauty, love and mystery more clearly here than I think I have before. I am learning to sense his promptings and hear his voice. Life here is at a different pace, which has opened more time and desire in me to search God out and find him.

A common question that Christians and non-Christians alike ask is, “If God is a loving and compassionate God, why does he allow people to live in conditions such as these?” The best answer I have come up with is that our idea of love and compassion is so polluted from God’s idea of love. God never said in the Bible that his way of showing love was giving us material things. Because we as Americans are blessed with much, we see that as God’s way of showing love, and that those with less are clearly suffering and being treated cruely by God. (Sorry if I offend you here) That way of thinking could not be any more wrong. The people here are blessed in a completely different way, and are richer if you ask me. Riches in the form of “things” easily deceive and distract. Richness in faith is what you will find here. This is a richness that is hard to find in the U.S. The wealth of faith and reliance on God found among the people here is amazing (to say the least). It puts me to shame… but pushes me in my own relationship with God.

Do you remember that saying in the Bible, (paraphrased here) “it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven”? Now that we are living here and experiencing more of this culture, I can see this phrase in its fullness. In the U.S. people rely on themselves for everything because they have the means to do so. It’s so easy to push God aside and just say, “I can do it”. People here long for a creator God, someone who will take care of them amidst the hardships and trials. They are looking for a God who will love them in the good times and when they fail. When Dominicans pray “The Lord’s Prayer” – “give us this day, our daily bread”, they are really praying this prayer. When you do not have the resources to provide your every meal, that prayer really comes to mean something. In America we have been blessed with opportunities to provide not just our meals for the day, but to have cupboards, drawers, and pantry’s full of food. It’s not common to have a fridge or shelves in the kitchens here because the food they do have gets cooked and eaten when they have some.

I am not writing these thoughts to make anyone feel guilty, because that is not my intentions, nor does God ask those with abundance to feel guilty. I am writing these thoughts so you can read how I am growing and learning in this amazing culture.

Through these and many other deep-thoughts, I am learning more about God and love. I am praying differently, my world view is changing, and my love for life, people, and God have changed in a great way. This short blog is merely a sample of the wonders God is teaching me.