Monday, November 15, 2010

A Few Moments to Spare

The past few months have just flown by, but when I look back and try to remember everything that has happened I'm blown away! So I will break it down to bullets points.

The first week of October we hosted a team led by the future director of SIDR and his family. With them they brought a small team of doctors. I had the priviledge of driving them around to various locations where they ran clinics. One day Fernando (our SI doctor) told me that we'd be driving to a community really far away, and up a road that nobody else wants to drive. Well, me having a love for driving, welcomed the "road less traveled". Which I quickly discovered WHY it is the road NOBODY travels. We weren't exactly driving like this... (see below photo).



But we were driving like this... only up a mountain - through a dried up river bed... NOT to be confused with an actual road.




I had the time of my life... but I would be lying if I didn't tell you that there were one or two times where I thought... "there's just no way!"

The week following that team, we took our semester abroad students out for 1 week to Santo Domingo and the national park. This part of the program is to focus on history and culture. There are many highlights from this trip - basically the entire time! But possibly the scariest thing I have ever gone through in my entire life happened during this trip. One of the students participating in the program has a sever allergy to peanuts. She had been doing a great job with being careful but in a foreign country where packaged food doesn't necessarily give all the disclaimers can be dangerous... as we found out. One afternoon she had an allergic reaction to a cookie. We were 20 minutes outside the nearest town. She carries an epi-pen which buys her time to get to a hospital. We spent the following 2 hours rushing in and out of clinics (with medical personel attempting to help, but not with confidence) while trying to get back to the capitol where we could (should we still need it) receive better attention. Finally we were able to get the treatment we needed and she was in the clear. Meanwhile, while this was going on, we had another student who suddenly had food poisoning and was vomiting out the window all down the freeway! Crazy!


Shortly after we returned from that trip, my family arrived for some family-fun! My highlight from that trip was just sitting around playing games... "Catch Phrase" to be exact. We played boys vs. girls and the girls won almost every game!





Since my family has left we have been back to focusing just on the semester students. We have unfortunately had to cancel our trip to the Haitan border do to the cholera outreack and issues that have come about because of that - like the rioting, etc. But we're having an amazing time serving and ministering too the 15 students that are here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Changed

How has God used our time in the Dominican Republic to change us?

After stepping off the plane in 2007 into a hot, humid, new and different world, we have been forever changed.
(Santiago Airport)

(Vicki's perspective of Josh's changes)

Josh was changed within the first week of our first visit. The 200 mosquito bites (not repelled by the repellent) did not detur his interest and love for this country.



(Yes, this is really a picture of Josh's leg from the summer of 2007)

After we returned from that 2 week trip Josh told me about everyday for months that he wanted to sell everything and move back down to work in the D.R. After some "rational" thinking, we decided that the next best step would be to try out the internship.


(Our team of summer interns 2008)

A little history lesson on Joshua Andrew Mathews... when I first met him (and the man I married) he was very quiet, shy in groups, and NEVER spoke in front of groups of people. Well... after our first week of interning, he was talking with everyone, joking, initiating conversations, and once an outreach helped lead a small group through a poverty activity. He was changed. I remember asking him a few times, what's going on? You're different.

Since living here full time the love of God flows from within him touching hundreds of people every year. Now Josh is a "talker" and allows God to use him for whatever comes our way.


(Josh with the boys in Haiti)

Final thoughts - Other things that have changed... he likes driving, he loves reading the Bible, he has a huge heart for discipling, he's flexible when it comes to schedules


(Josh's perspective of me)

Josh said that I am more relaxed. I used to be obsessive about being punctual and would get very stressed in relationship to time. However now, I am much more relaxed about time... much of that is just related to the culture, people here run about 15 minutes later than the time given.

Another change that Josh has seen in me is my love for baking. Since being here I have taken an interest in celebrating people's birthdays with a fun new dessert. My grandma told me last year while standing in her kitchen that she wasn't going to repeat another recipe... that for the rest of her life she was going to try new things everyday. I have carrierd this into my baking. My friend Chastity and I used to bake every weekend and we would make something new every time. (I must admit that it surprised me a little when Josh mentioned this because he wouldn't eat like half of what I made... his excuse would be that it looked weird, that he was allergic, or "wasn't hungry". That said, I should add in that Josh has - lately - been trying new things... awesome right?)

The last change that Josh mentioned was my love for hosting. We host people all the time and it used to stress to me out with making sure that everything was perfect, but now it's such a joy. And I have my wonderful dogs to keep me company.



Final thoughts that Josh shared were how, especially over the past 3 months, that I have been loving my daily reading in the Bible. He also said that he never noticed before the passion I have when praying.


(My new kitchen where all critical food thinking takes place)


(This picture is really just here b/c I think Wally is so great! This was from our last house)

Well - there you have it... the D.R. has been a transformational time for both of us. God has been teaching us so much.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tornado

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17


“Tornado” is the term I would use to describe how our lives have been lately. I use this term not in the negative sense, but as a verb to capture the intensity and thrilling-ness of our lives; but in the eye of the tornado there is also a calm which, if even just for a moment, we have sacred moments of stillness where we can just exist in our world together.

Our lives have been consumed with our semester team. From simple tasks such as daily transportation and home visits to calls first thing in the morning with people who are sick and need transportation to the clinic, this is our journey for the rest of this 2010 year. Our favorite part of this particular program is our longer-term investment into the lives of the students. I personally get the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a particular female student each week and check in less frequently with another gal who is on an interesting and exciting journey with God right now. In addition to this we have been asked by others to simply hold them accountable. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and we know that God will continue to grow and teach us through this time.

Each Monday night Josh and I have two students over for dinner. It’s such a great time to get to know them better and just have a fun relaxing night away from everything else. Tuesday and Thursday evenings we host Bible study at our house. On Tuesday evenings I open with worship and Josh leads the Bible study. On Thursday evenings the student open with worship, then we share testimonies, and close with prayer groups. We absolutely love our time with the students; they are such a wonderful group of people.

Josh and I have really grown to love the ministry that has been placed in our lives. We get to invest in people for a short time during an experience, which for them, will remain in their minds and hearts for the rest of their lives. This experience can make or break their decision for a future in missions or even ministry. Additionally it shapes them for the rest of their lives. We enjoy the questions of what a life like this is like to the more deep questions about the purpose of life and “religion.”

The past year and a half has been such a remarkable journey. God has taken us and united us in more ways than we could have ever imaged. Before we moved here we were happily married and believed we were super close – but today is a different story. We are closer, stronger, and more united with God and each other than we have ever been. Our joy for live comes through amazing moments like playing with our dogs, going for walks, singing worship songs, and hanging out at the river or beach – but joy is also in the hard times – losing our first pet and second pet and being robbed. God means so much more to me now than ever in my life. I love having my “God Times” in the morning when I read through scripture and pray over the day. Jesus is now my source of peace, joy, patience, forgiveness, grace, and energy… I do not have to rely on myself anymore.

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalms 100:5

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blue Thunder

Today is a rainy day… a very welcomed rainy day. We haven’t seen the rain in some time now and it’s been very hot.

We are just a week into the semester program and we’re having a great time. There are 16 students (14 gals and 2 guys) from 4 different colleges. Since their arrival last Wednesday, Josh and I had all day orientation with them Thursday and Friday and then we moved them all into their host homes Saturday morning. Everything has been going so well, we’ve been really enjoying getting to know them. Monday evening we had 2 girls over for dinner and then last night (Tuesday) we had the whole group over for Bible study. We are using the gazebo that’s in our yard as the study area – it’s so fun and everyone loves it.

Tonight we have staff Bible study and right now we are going through a series called “The Truth Project”. It’s a really awesome study where for 12 weeks we develop a biblical Christian worldview. We watch a video for 50 minutes and then break up into small groups for further discussion. Josh leads one of the small groups – I’m so proud of him!

Friday night we are going out with the semester team for pizza after Spanish class as a way to celebrate “survival of the first week!” Then on Saturday we are taking them on an excursion where we will creek through the river to get to one of the communities we work in called Los Higos. A woman that we know from that community is going to cook a huge lunch for us at the river – it’s going to be GREAT!

So… a funny story:
Yesterday I was driving in “Blue Thunder” (my favorite base truck… I named her) to pick up our students for Spanish class. As I was headed up the hill (just around the corner from the base) the hood of the truck flew open! It was so crazy... I couldn’t see anything! The rearview mirror on the right wasn’t at a good angle for me to see, and the hood was in my face, and there was a guardrail on the right hand side. So I had to drive the truck a bit further to get beyond the guardrail so that I could pull off the road. Once I stopped I got out to close the hood, but the latch was bent about an inch from where it should have been, so no luck there. My precious Blue Thunder suffers from old age, so even when I closed the hood, it still sat about 2 inches from where it should have been, due to this problem, I couldn’t continue to drive it safely to pick up the students. So I very slowly made the trip back to base (about ¼ mile) staying in first gear the whole way… it was a very sad drive home.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vacation?

Vacation isn’t usually a term I would think about when I think about missionaries. I think about 24/7 work, jungles, and different languages. Well, Josh and I just officially had our first vacation and it was great! We had two different sets of visitors. Our first guests, Russell, Cindy, and Cole, were a family that I nannied for in college. The first few days were spent seeing our town, our home, local attractions like waterfalls, and a little of where we work and what we do. Following that they treated us to several days at the beach with them. During that time Russell taught Josh and I how to windsurf which was AWESOME!

Celebrating Cole's birthday (a month late, but who cares!) He decorated cookied that spelt out "Happy B-Day"


Cole was demonstrating his "Batman strength" by pushing Josh off his seat


Hanging out at one of the waterfalls


At the hotel where The Freeman's stayed during their time with us in our town


Our first night together eating dinner on the bank of the river and having a BLAST!


Russell spent two mornings teaching us to windsurf - Day #1

Day #1 - finding my sea legs - I did actually get sailing my first day... YEAH!

Day #2 - sailing together

Following their visit a friend that goes way back came to visit – Michael Martin! Michael stayed with us in our home and therefore got to experience a little Dominican living; meaning: times with no electricity (though we have a generator now), random people showing up the door, loud music through all hours of the night, roosters crowing at 11pm, among other things. We visited all 3 waterfalls, saw the coffee factory, visited the historical part of the capitol and stood in the tallest tower of the old fort contemplating if we could ride out any storm that came our way, went to the beach for 2 days/1 night and took on the waves in the very warm ocean playing all the silly games that Josh made up. But in all those things we talked… a lot. Catching up with a friend that shares so many fond and great memories can be one of the
best medicines to relaxing.

We spent this evening at a mountain-side restaurant in the hopes of watching the sunset... no such luck - rain and clouds

What now?
Tonight the semester abroad students fly in and thus begins our 4 month journey with a new batch of students.
What does this journey look like (from our side)?
• Hearing conversations about cultural differences (that remind Josh and I of how far we’ve come culturally - and how much we've forgotten)
• Learning about 16 new people and getting to invest in their lives emotionally and spiritually
• Regular conversations regarding “bathroom” talk
• Driving people around every day and having “car talks” with them; which mean very random and usually hilarious chats
• Seeing people change more into who God created them to be
• Watching their lives change as they re-evaluate what their future looks like
• Having the students over to our house 2-by-2 for dinner
• Leading the students through Bible study where they can express who they are
• Participating in small groups of 4 people and getting to pray for each other each week and see God move in each other’s lives

Interesting news about me: I just had my first dream in Spanish

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Since the Move...

I think I mentioned before that when it comes to moving Josh is not a patient person, in fact he is quite the opposite, doing his best to get it done as quickly as possible, even if that means we're walking zombies from being so tired. Well, Saturday morning after we took the 6:00am group down to the airport, Josh got started! Some friends and Josh moved our entire house in two hours while I stayed at the base all morning taking care of the remaining teams. After I sent the final group on their way at 1:15pm, I went to our new home where I began blazing trails through the boxes and piles trying to get things put in their proper place. Josh and I were running on nothing but fumes as we had just come through our final week getting little sleep each night and no rest throughout the days as we were full steam through that last outreach. While I was in my room assigning each item it's new location, I could hear my mind tempting me to curl up on my very cozy bed and just sleep... so I left my room. After about 4 hours of work and watching our dogs run around like crazy not fully understanding what was going on, we sat down. Not one minute had even gone by when we realized how hungry we were, we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast! We looked at each other and knew right away what this called for - sandwiches! Our fail safe food supply is a little place in town that makes these amazing chicken sandwiches. After our tummy's were satisfied we powered through till 10pm then turned in.

Since our move, Josh and I have traded on and off being sick. Thankfully, today, we're both feeling much better and ready to get out of the house and do something fun. AND we're eagerly awaiting the arrival of our friends on Monday! Lots to look forward too!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moving

The definition of moving = stress; exhaustion; assessing one's "stuff"; big piles of garbage; pizza; friends getting together to help; saying good-bye to a memory filled home; (and if you're moving with Joshua Andrew Mathews) it means doing it all in one day!

I'm guessing that you have determined from the above that a move is in our near future? Yes it is. For awhile now Josh has wanted to move closer to the base. After we were robbed, the "want" changed to "we ARE". We had been on the hunt for a while searching the communities that are near the base and finally found a place that met all OUR requirements like: big yard, near base (only 1 minute away), nice kitchen, neighbors (for the safety factor), and a house with no repairs to be done. We were a little concerned that it was going to be too expensive because of how nice it is, but the owner said that because we're missionaries they would knock the price down 1,500 pesos. Actually, getting this house was totally a God thing... here's the story.

We signed a 2 year contract for the house we're living in now and we've only lived here for 1 year 5 months. So once we found the house we really wanted we just prayed that our land lords would let us out of our lease without any penalties. But we also had to act fast and had to accomplish communication with a variety of people within 3 days. We got in contact with the go-between guy who said he would contact the owners but thought he would need a whole day. We asked if he could do it in 30 minutes. After a moment's pause, he said he would try. Thankfully it worked and he got ahold of them over the phone and they said, without much thought, they would let us out of the lease if there was no damage to the house. So our go-between guy came over right away looked over the house (for about 2 minutes) and called the owners back saying the house was fine. They approved our early dismissal but said we had to contact the lawyer for the final details. So we got ahold of him and he said that not only could we leave the lease early, but we would also get our deposit back! (We really need that deposit to put down on the next house, how perfect!)

So because Josh is the determined man he is, our goal is to move in on Sunday morning - the day after our teams leave. So, that's what we're aiming for! We are really excited and can't wait to be in the new house. Pictures will follow in the next months update!

Interesting fact about us: by this next Sunday we will have moved 7 times in 5 1/2 years of marriage.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Changes coming to SIDR

Transition and change, whether painful or wonderful, is a necessary part of life; it keeps things fresh and aids against complacency. Working on the mission field where people are coming are going all the time, transition and change has become normal. Year round we see around 500 short term missionaries here for 1-2 weeks; interns giving a summer of 10 weeks; semester students who live here for 4 months; and then our 2-year missionaries. Change is a normality that, like everything else, is something that we get used too; it’s a part of our life. There is a transition coming in the lives of everyone here at SIDR (Students International Dominican Republic) that was very unexpected, and while so amazing, it’s going to be very difficult. I have been saying good-bye’s a lot over the past 2 years – between school, family, friends, and now to all the teams – that this next good-bye will be the hardest since we moved here. We found out a little over a week ago that half of our leadership team – Lowell & Cheryl and Nate & Maggie – will be moving from SIDR to begin a new country with SI in Nicaragua. Lowell & Cheryl have been our biggest support network here, not to mention tremendous friends whom we consider family.


They will (thankfully) be making this transition over a period of 12-15 months so it’s not super sudden, but now begins the count-down of “lasts”. We are very excited for what’s in store for them in their new future of developing a new SI base, but we will miss them dearly. A bright spot in the midst of this shocking news is that the future directors of SIDR are Brian & Sissy who were our supervisors when we were interns here in 2008. Many people here know them well and are excited for their transition back to SIDR.


What else is happening?
~Our summer program ends in 3 weeks.
~We are excitedly waiting for our friends to come and visit – Cindy & Russell & Cole (a family I nannied for in college) are coming mid-August; and another great friend Michael Martin is coming in late August for a visit as well. These will be the first visitors ever to visit us in our own town since we have been here in the D.R.
~Sept 1 – Dec 16 is our semester abroad program – there are 15 students this year
~ Late Oct – early November my whole family is coming to visit! I am so excited to see them and for them to see where we live.
~Dec 16 we fly home for Christmas break!

Since the break-in

Since our home was broken into we have received enough extra donation money to each purchase new laptops and some friends bought us a new DVD player. Some other friends bought and sent down to us “mock security cameras” for our home, hopefully to scare potential burglars away. We are no longer hiding a spare key around the house, and we are no longer going to leave anything valuable looking within view of the front door, so if someone actually does walk up to our front door and looks in, they won’t see anything. We are also going to avoid at all cost leaving our laptops home while we’re not there, and if we have to leave them home, we’re going to hide them.

All the strange feelings that we had following our brake-in have, thankfully, gone. We pray daily for our safety and trust that God will protect us. We are however, looking to move. Even though we only live 5-7 minutes from the base, Josh really wants to live right next to the base. So we’re not in any rush, but he’s keeping an open eye for homes close by that are for rent.

Well, I think that just about sums up what’s happening here.



(This photo was taken by one of our interns at our beach trip with them)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Latest news... robbery

I have been thinking about writing a blog for some time now, wondering what to write, wondering what you want to read about. Writing this can be a challenge at times because writing about my life is not something I've ever done before, let alone journaling. So any tips or ideas would be great!

My topic for today I guess will be on the most recent activity in our lives... the robbery at our house. Two Saturday's ago now, Josh and I left our house at 8am and went to the base to say farewell to the teams that were leaving. Following that we went to play tennis with our friends. We arrived back at home around 12pm to find that our house wasn't locked and the door slightly ajar. As we walked into the house we noticed things had been moved around a bit and key items missing. My first thought was that someone was playing a prank on us, but as I walked into the bedroom and saw the contents of my purse everywhere I knew that it wasn't so simple.

As we surveyed the house we quickly realized that the person who had broken in was someone we knew as they had used our spare key that was hidden outside the house. They had kindly left it sitting right on our table. We felt lucky that the intruder had been kind to our dogs and house - the dogs were fine, and our house was not left in shambles. Things were a little messy, but easily re-organized.

Right off we noticed that my laptop, skype camera, $15.00, DVD player, Josh's deodrant and toothpaste had been taken. A few days later we realized that my ipod and Josh's electric razor had also been taken. We feel fortunate that everything is replaceable and that we are all safe. We have since changed all of our locks and have tried to mix up our schedule a little. Lowell told us that because we have a similar day-to-day schedule (easily learned from someone watching) that we need to try and mix it up. We don't hide a spare key outside the house anymore either.

Despite the fact that this is totally a bummer, we know that the events of the past month have prepared us for such a time as this. So instead of feeling horribly disappointed, we are happy to know that all that prayer for patience is working. We trust that God is looking out for us and it is encouraging to know that we are experiencing trials and trouble because Satan is trying to distract us and discourage us from the work we are doing here.

Since the break in we have already been given a new DVD player and money to purchase not only my stolen laptop but money to replace Josh's which broke down a few weeks ago. God is good, all the time. He is just waiting for us to lean on Him and to trust Him.

Other news...
I am heading up a new outreach - a music outreach. With each team we do an evening outreach specifically geared toward sharing the gospel message. We have a sports outreach, a kids club outreach, and now we're introducing the music outreach. So on Wednesday we're going to one of the communities that we work in and we're going to put on a praise and worship time in their park. We are going to conclude with two people sharing their testimonies. The local pastor has given us her consent and is really excited about it as well. I can't wait!!!


Thank you everyone for your prayer and support, as always, we REALLY appreciate it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tropical rain and electric fiasco

Today is another rainy day in Jarabacoa. Usually the rain is welcomed by all to cool us off and refresh the earth... however, it's been raining quite a bit lately so we'd really like to see it go. So here I am, sitting on my couch during lunch break listening to the sound of pounding rain on the tin roof and watching as it drenches the earth, leaving puddles all over our dirt driveway and watching the dogs perform "muddy-paw-print" art all over the white patio tile, and I thought that it would be a good day to write a blog.

It's been a peaceful few days, not to much out of the ordinary has happened, that is, aside from Sunday's 2:30am power transformer explosion. (Can you sense that a story is on the way?)

So there we were sleeping peacefully in the wee hours of Sunday morning when to our shock and surprise we heard a very strange and loud sound coming from outside. As we turned our heads toward the window we saw a brilliantly bright light, almost like fireworks. I opened the shutters and out by the street we could see sparks flying everywhere and a giant glowing yellow light. About 10 seconds later the light went out and so did our electricity. We laid in bed for like an hour afterward, just laying there. Neither of us could sleep after that, not to mention the room got a little stuffy without the fan on. About an hour later, much to our astonishment, the electricity came on, but only for about 2 hours, when it went away again. When we woke up later that morning, we were delighted to find that the electricity had restored itself once more. When we walked the dogs we stopped by our electric post to find the entire thing covered in black smoke and a rather important looking piece melted on the wet ground below. We were relieved to see that it hadn't been the fault of our neighbor trying to steal electricity again, but then we couldn't figure out what had happened. Later on that morning as we were preparing to get showered, we came to realize that, while we had electricity, something had happened to our water, as in, it wasn't working. So we quickly grabbed all of our clothes for church and shower supplies, and headed off to the base where we were able to grab a quick (but ice cold) shower just in time to get the group ready and off to church.

Now there are two things you should know about the DR: 1, customer service is not valued the same here as it is in the States; 2, Sunday's are a day when everything is closed, no one works. So, Josh and I thought we'd be without water until Monday when someone from the electric company could come out and fix the mess. However, Lowell, being the persuasive person that he is, got a crew to come out and take a look. It turned out they had to completely rebuild our electric circuit, it had been totally fried.

That was Sunday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Will Priase You in the Storm

Through the hoops and hurdles of life our character is refined and sharpened. We can use the challenges that come our way to grow and get stronger or fall into a pool of self pity and depression. Josh and I have been walking through a dark forest of despair, each day delivering to us a new mountain to climb. Every morning we walk the journey clinging to the hope that God will deliver us from what lays before us, praying that the uncertainty of the day will not bring anything more to push us down.

With each passing trial we can see God’s love, grace, faithfulness, and provision. God has been our joy, our energy, our strength, and our hope. Even though the world around us seems to be crashing in, God meets us each morning with the promise of His love for us. Each morning we are reassured of His goodness and glorious plan for us - one not to harm or hurt us, but a plan of hope and a future.


I have walked these past two/three weeks with so much joy and happiness that sometimes I forget what is and has been going on. While there have been some tears shed, we remind ourselves who is in control and who can use any and every situation for His grand purpose. We rejoice in our suffering, knowing that it is because Satan sees the work being done and wants to put an end to it.

Our affliction has been in all areas of life -
* in our minds through bad dreams giving us restless sleep
* in our bodies through sickness
* in our work place through conflict and discouragement
* in our finances through extra expenses (car repair, medical testing, both dogs sick)
* in our friendships through conflict (largely based simply in miscommunication)
* in our pets (sickness)
* in our relationship together (the stress of everything ripping apart our harmony)
Praise God that He deems us worthy enough to suffer for Him. Praise God that amist the storm we have been growing stronger. Praise God that we have been able to see His provision in a very real and dramatic way.

This blog is not an appeal for sympathy but to share about the Savior I daily follow and His provision and faithfulness to us during such trying times.

I want to brag a little about my God...

We just recently lost Josh's laptop and believed that we had lost mine as well (Ron was able to fix mine). The day after it happened I received an e-mail from the mom of a girl who is coming here on Monday and she asked me for any prayer requests. I had asked for prayer in health and for extra funding to come in for a new laptop. The next morning Josh and I spent some time in prayer together for everything that has been going on in our lives - including the laptop. Following that time of prayer I went to check my e-mail and saw that the mom had e-mailed me again. She had decided to send us $500 for a new laptop! Praise God!

Another huge blessing in our lives has been our 9 (soon to be 11) summer interns. So much of our ministry here is in short term relationships - every week or two saying good-bye. But we get to invest in, build, and grow in these 11 relationships for 8-10 weeks. Each and everyone of them is so unique, beautiful, and special. We get along with them so well and they're so great. We have already been blessed by them and I know that the remainder of the summer is going to be amazing!

As the past few days have come and gone, it seems that the hardships have been passing along with them. I think we have finally reached the the edge of the dark forest and see the light. I feel stronger, and more in love with God than ever before. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us recently, we have needed them.

Buenas Tarde - (good afternoon),
Vicki

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wally

Meet Wally!

Wally is the newest addition to our family. Josh and I had lately been thinking that it was time to get a new buddy for Lucy. Josh asked our friend Jose if he knew of anyone that was selling a pure Lab - Josh has wanted a pure Lab ever since we were married. Jose just happened to know of a man who had 2 labs, a girl and a boy. Last night Jose took me out to the man's house, Josh couldn't go but gave me full power to make the decision. After talking with the man who who was selling them I just knew that this was our dog.

Wally's Bio:

* Half black, half brown pure Labrador

* 7 months old

* Current on all vaccinations

* Very sweet and eager to learn

* He had not received a name, any training, nor much attention. As a result, he is quite timid and easily scared. He is however a very fast learner and loves his new home. He and Lucy had a great "get-to-know-each-other" session and are friends already.

* He learned his name in an hour and now responds when we call him.

* He plays fetch really well


We are so happy to have him. This morning I'll admit I was a little nervous and anxious about adding another member to our family, but today has been a great day. New beginnings are fun. It's been 4 hours since he hopped out of the back of the car into his new yard, and after playing and exploring all morning - and nearly breaking my camera - he and Lucy and Smokey Joe (the dog we've been dog sitting for the past 6 weeks) are quietly sleeping next to me in the living room.















Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Haiti Day 3

Baking, laughing, sharing and crying all add up to a great day!

The evening of "Day 2" right after we left the community that evening, we went for a drive through the capitol to see what had become of the city. It was incredible. Nowhere else did the construction compare to what we saw right in the heart of the city. The Presidential Palace still lies in ruins as its people look on each day wondering what is going to happen as their beacon of hope lays untouched and their President out of sight. The largest and most crucial financial building was completely destroyed and not even safe to enter as the roof mostly caved in and its walls barely standing. And the building of justice and all legal records for the entire country lay in a heap of rubble.

Josh, a few others, and myself went back to the community that evening after our tour to show a movie - "Something to Sing About" - a older Christian film. We quickly got it all set up as dark quickly approached. Once we had a gathering of viewers we played the movie. The response was amazing. As we sat there watching the movie play in French, we listened as the crowd engaged with the movie; cheering when someone got what they deserved, clapping to the music when there was singing, and laughing at the funny scenes. About 20 minutes to the end Francine called on us as she had prepared dinner for us. We were so hungry as it was 8:30pm and we hadn't eaten since lunch, so we went into the kitchen with eagerness. I was really excited to try real authentic Haitian food. It was absolutely delicious!!! She cooked some noodles (that tasted somewhat similar to chow mien noodles but not as greasy) chicken, some kind of sausage, salami, and a little salad (which was super hot due to some kind of sauce she put on it so I did not try any).
We had such a great time and even though we were completely exhausted from the heat and work day, we were so glad that we put on the movie for the group.

Okay, so moving on with day 3...

We arrived in our little caravan to another day of excited people. As we got out of our vehicles kids were running all over the place calling the names of the people they knew in our team. Once Maggie, Cheryl and I made it to baking corner, we started off the day with teaching our ladies how to make baguettes and cinnamon twists all with the dough and same recipe that we had used the day before. We all had a great time teasing each other, tasting one another's goodies, and talking more with each other that the time past so quickly we hardly knew it was lunch.

When we returned from lunch we made... PIZZA! And it was the most delicious pizza I can remember eating ever! The dough was the same recipe as the bread. And we provided chicken, pulled steak, and provolone cheese (all items not used in our lunches during our time there). The women provided the sauce (which turned out to be ketchup - but different from what is typical for Americans, it was sweeter), green bell peppers, and onion. They took the meat that we brought and stewed it in Haitian spices and sauces. The first group of 3 women all made more or less the same kind of pizza which as I told you before, was superb. The second group of women added something that surprised me a little, mustard. Every two inches or so was a dab of mustard. I thought it was strange until I tasted it, so yummy!

We concluded our time with them by distributing to each woman her own started kit made up of all the baking supplies she would need to make four recipes of the dough. Additionally each kit included all the supplies like a bowl, mixing spoon, measuring cups, baking sheet, etc. for putting it all together. We were honored to hear each woman share her appreciation with us as they bared their soul. It was a very special time.

As a team we meshed together and now stand stronger than we have before. Experiences like these don't just help those you set out to bless but they permanently impact the person or people who go out of their comfort zone trying to make a difference.
My life is being changed one day at a time, one experience at a time; there is no going back.





Pan de Agua - the bread that we had planned to bake the entire time


Maggie is wearing the purple shirt and Cheryl the green. We worked together in the bread ministry. In this photo we are waiting for the dough to raise.



We just finished laying out the baguette and the cinnamon twists.



The guy on the right was our translator - Woodsie.




The PIZZA!!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Haiti Part 2

Day 2~

Our second day was spent working in the tent community that we had connections with.

Some background on this community: There are about 150 families living in the community. They have an advantage that many do not; they are in a secure area with four walls and a gate. This provides them more security. In this camp is a building that had been a woman's home (her name is Francine and she is on the committee). She moved out of it even though it is safe because her husband died in it when a wall fell on him. She is only in her late 20's or early 30's. This community has its own "government" you might say. There is a commitee of five people and they make decisions and are the spokes people for the community. And I believe it is because of the committee that the community is doing so well.

The first morning we arrived we had a lot of unpacking to do. We had 7 different teams working with different ages and genders of people from kids to adults. Everyone was excited to see us and very eager to help us get everything set up. Inside of the building is where the dental team set up and worked and where my team, the bread making team, set up and worked. Outside under tarp-tents that we brought is where the kids age 4-6, 7-10, and girls 13-17 were. The boys 13-17 were out in the sun playing sports all day (with Josh), and our construction team brought and assembled 4 shower stalls.


Each team had a translator so that we could communicate. Haitian's speak two languages, Creole and French, and none of us spoke either. So with our translator's help we began! My team worked with 6 women to teach them how to bake a bread called "Pan de Agua" which is a typical Dominican bread that a Haitian friend of ours said that the Haitian's in Haiti would probably like. After we explained to the women what we were going to be doing they got really excited and couldn't wait to learn. For our morning session with them, we demonstrated how to make the bread as they watched and asked questions. After we finished preparing the dough and were waiting for it to raise (1 hour) the ladies asked if they could begin making their own, they wanted to start trying right away! Because of their eagerness we figured we could steer away from our plans and let it just happen naturally and see what happened. These women were so excited and loved doing it! They never once used their directions they had already memorized it from watching Maggie do it that one time! Because of space in the oven we had to do it in shifts, 3 women first and then the other 3 could follow 20 minutes behind them. So in the morning session 3 women got to make bread for the first time!


When we came back from lunch break we let the next 3 ladies make their bread. While we waited for the bread to rise we sat around the table just getting to know one another. I spent a little bit of time getting to know our translator, his name is Woodsie. He did a great job translating and was really fun to interact with. He is an intelligent guy with an opinion on many things.

When we returned from lunch break the second group of ladies began. When they finished - and we all sampled - they began asking what other things we were going to teach them. We were totally unprepared for their excitement and enthusiasm and so had only prepared to teach them how to make bread. Maggie did some quick thinking and came up with some other ideas of how to use the same dough to make other things. After we talked it over with the ladies and received some ideas from them, we came up with 3 other ways to use the dough.... and to find out you will have to read the "Day 3" blog!


Here are a few more short videos from our trip.

video

This video gives you an idea about street life. I explained in Part 1 that just about everything is sold on the street. In the beginning of video you can see two women preparing food to sell. The video then pans past what looks maybe a buisness where lotto tickets are sold. Then you can see another area where someone cooks things to sell. There is an upturned refridgerator where they probably keep the food in order to protect it from bugs.


video


This video shows the larget tent community that I saw. It went for what seemed like forever! These tents were really nice tents, we saw communities where the "tents" were made from sticks and sheets. Clearly these had been brought by other coutries in their aid packets. This tent community also had shower facitilies and toilets - you can see them, they are grey tall and skinny tent looking structures with the Red Cross sign on them.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Haiti - Part 1 (revised)

Hopelessness, Desperation, Powerlessness, Starvation

Can you imagine a country where this is the reality?

Day 1~ 12 hour car ride to Port-au-Prince

What I thought would have been one of the longest days of my life turned out to be so fun! I was in the van with Lowell, Cheryl, Josh, and Chastity. (The rest of the van was full of our luggage and our supplies.) We had SO much fun joking around and teasing each other that the time passed by quickly. Our fun and games came to a sudden halt when we reached the border and had to sit in the most chaotic mess I've ever seen in my entire life. It took us about 2 hours to get through because of the disorganization. This border crossing is nothing like one could imagine without experiencing it for themselves. When you arrive to the crossing you would never know that you had actually approached it because of the heap of semi trucks lining the road as they wait to cross over. The many people walking around and selling things in the mud and heat is also a distraction to what awaits. When we finally reached what could be mistaken as a traffic jam, turns out to be a building and a few security guards deciding who to let through without trouble and who to hassle - we were hasseled... I think I actually saw money signs in their eyes when they saw us. After about 3 different stops - all within 70 yards - we were finally through! Once we were in Haiti our van was silent as we watched. Every now and then someone would comment on similiarities or differences to the D.R. but we all just watched.

We made it into the city of Port-au-Prince about an hour before dark. At one time in my life I thought 5:00pm traffic in Kirkland was bad, but this was worse! Because the city is without power, everyone tries to get home before dark. We hardly moved, just inched our way through the streets trying to find our way with the written directions we had. Luckily we brought along a Haitian lady with us who was able to guide us to our destination for the night, but not before Nate tried to do it himself... we had to turn 3 vehicles around in the middle of the street where traffic wasn't moving, and our van was hauling a trailer! INSANE!!!

Once we made it to the hospitality house we all just crashed. It was 7:30pm and it was hot! We ate dinner, took showers (BTW 23 people, 2 single-person bathrooms), a few of us sang worship music and then tried to sleep in the heat with ridiculous humidity. The entire city is without electricity so after 11pm the generator was turned off which meant no fans... we were all sleeping and sweating... gross.




Poor photo quality, I know, but it was through the car window. I really wanted to show you this one because this happened to several buildings we saw... they completely crumbled, one floor on the next.




In this community you can see houses that stood and houses that fell. Lowell was telling us a lot of the buildings that crumbled did so because of poor construction or really old constuction. On the side of the street we could see people making the "block" that is used for the walls. Lowell said that they are not using the chemicles in them that make them strong and durable.




This is the same community, just a different view



Same community, different view





There were 2 men knocking down the walls in the upper level. You can see a pile of rubble in front of the house from what had been the roof, other walls, and balcony.




This photo was taken right in front of the Presidential Palace. A huge tent community living right on the street. There is a line of Honey Buckets out in front, which is a huge advantage, many communities have no place to go to the bathroom.




Presidential Palace - Left side. You can see a UN vehicle sitting on the lawn in front of the building. There were a few UN members standing at the entrances keeping guard.



Presidential Palace - Middle


Presidential Palace - Right Side
There were people sitting all around the palace just looking at it. It's a constant reminder of their failed government. No one knows what the President is doing besides sitting in his mountain home over looking the destruction from his air conditioned, comfortable, well stocked home.






This was the legal building holding all the records of the country and its people in it. Most of the legal records were destroyed in this building when it collapsed.


Another view of the legal buiding with documents all over the road.


Tent community in the middle of the city.

Driving through the city with difficulty as we had to watch for large pieces of rubble in the road.



We rarely saw restaurants or stores, everything was just sold on the street. Here this women is preparing her little road-side restaurant.




Another tent community





Another tent community


The UN kind of left a bad taste in mouths while we were there. We never, not once, saw them doing anything but driving around in their vehicles holding their guns. I'm sure their job is be a presence to keep some kind of order, but we never saw them helping out... that was dissappointing.

The streets were lined with people all the time. Everywhere we went looked like this, packed with people.

Below are some short videos I took from the van we were driving in, they will give you a little glimpse into what we saw.


video

This short video offers a breif look of the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Many people are walking, headed toward the city. The paintings on the walls are advertizements for local buisnesses or brands. You can see that people have set up things to sell on the street, this is their market. We rarely saw any shops, everything is sold on the street by vendors. Once we got into the city, the streets were just packed with people, there was little room to walk on the side walks because everyone is selling their goods there.


video

This video is just outside the heart of the capitol. (In the capitol the traffic is too crazy that I couldn't get a good video.) There is rubble all over the sides of all the streets. As we would drive around we would have to dodge huge piles of block and rebar. 13 seconds into the video you can see a truck with people on it pull out in front of us; this truck is called a tap-tap and it is a taxi. All the taxis look like that.


video

You can see in the beginning the market on the side of the road... this is what it looks like everywhere in the heart of town. On the right you can see a building that came down. As we went on our tour around the capitol we would see buildings that were completely unharmed by the earthquake standing next to buildings that were completely destroyed.

More to come tomorrow... thanks for being patient!