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 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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Results Are In...

Maybe you are wondering what happened today with the house and negotiations??? Well... we got the house!!! And the "house keeper", at no expense to us, is going to completely clean out and sanitize the water cistern, replace the kitchen with new cabinets and cupboards, and pay for all new paint to repaint the house (we are going to be the painters). And he is going to move that huge, ugly antenna that is sitting in the front yard on the left of the house. YEAH!

We are SOOOO excited!!! We wont be able to move in until this next team has come and gone, but we are hoping to have the house ready to moved into by Saturday (which means all the cleaning and painting has to be done inside). Then, once this team heads back home on April 11, we can move in!

The yard needs some work, and the outside needs a good paint job, but we figured that could be worked on once we're in the place.

Anyhow... we just wanted to deliver that GREAT news.

Prayer Requests:
1. this next team is here during an important time for the Dominican people - semana Santa - "Holy week". It is a time where many people don't work, or only work through Wednesday. Many staff members are having a hard time with the fact that they have to work through Thursday, so attitudes are not at their best. Please pray that God will adjust attitudes and make this a POWERFUL time for this team. This group has never been here before and they are very excited. However they are coming at a time when the city is a very different place than it usually is - please pray also for safety, culture sensitivity, and God's hand to move.