asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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PRAISE REPORT!

Hey everyone!  I know that it has been a minute since I have posted.  I have so much that I want to share, and, eventually, will get all of that into words and onto the web.  For now, I have some AMAZING news to share!beadsAs most of you know, the Hermanas en Cristo program is very close to my heart.  Many of you, though, may not understand how the program works.  I would like to share that with you.

All of the ladies in the group are considered business owners.  The purpose in that is to create ownership in the group.  When they feel ownership, it also empowers them and helps build their self-worth.  In order to stop the cycle of poverty, HEC’s vision/purpose has been to empower and educate the women in our group, as we, FIRST, grow their faith!

That being said, the women receive 100% of the sales.  However, 100% does not go into their pocket because THEY ARE BUSINESS OWNERS.  By creating the system this way, they understand that running a business costs money.  There are 4 ways that they split their money: 30% for cost of doing business (supplies, shipping supplies, additional costs, etc), 10% for their employee, Rosa’s, salary, 10% for our university scholarship fund, and the remaining 50% to support their family.  I have numerous stories that I would love to share about the changes that have occurred in the women.  I have seen true transformations in the self-esteem of the women as they have grown their relationship with God and seen that they have worth as His child…and, also, as they have been able to support their families as business owners.

Now, with that being said, we have 2 women and 1 young adult in the group that are currently attending university. Whoop!  Whoop!

What many of you do not know is that my family has been supplementing the bottomline of the group for the past two years as we have been getting “up and running”.  Prior to moving back to the states, our sales only consisted of mission teams coming down 6 times a year and various sales that I was able to have online or when I came to the US for visits.

So….here is where the praise report comes in:  Due to sales from August, September, and October, HERMANAS EN CRISTO IS NOW FULLY SUPPORTING THEMSELVES!!!  Not only are they fully self-supporting now, THEY WILL SOON BE ABLE TO OFFER ANOTHER SCHOLARSHIP! This is absolutely God’s hand at work!  Can I just get a group “amen” on that one?!

As always, if you would ever like to partner with these ladies to provide additional scholarships, let us know!  The more women and young girls that are educated and empowered, the more change that they can make in their own community.  (It typically costs between $50-$75 a month for university tuition.)

MOST IMPORTANTLY, please continue to pray for the ladies in the group.  Specific prayers are:

  • More “non-believers” continue to join our group (We have 37 total women in the group at this time.  About 1/3 of the group are still non-believers AND they are spending time weekly and daily in the Word.  Praises!)
  • Our sales continue to rise to provide additional scholarships
  • Our Holiday sales just blow us away!!! (We are continually looking for more craft fairs to sell our jewelry.  We have also been blessed to get discounted or free booth rental space to reduce outgoing costs.  Please pray that we continue to receive that grace!)
  • We will be scheduling Home Parties soon.  Please pray that more and more ladies in the US will be willing to open their homes for these parties to help support these ladies.
  • We have several boutiques that will possibly begin selling our jewelry soon!  Please continue to pray that we are able to work that out in a way that is financially beneficial to all parties involved.
  • Hermanas en Cristo TRULY believes in ‘women supporting women”. That being said, we will also begin selling jewelry from another program in the DR that helps rehab and support women that have escaped the sex trade industry.  Pray that both groups are blessed in amazingly abundant ways as we support one another.
  • Pray for each and every woman in this group that they continue to fall deeper in love with Christ.  Pray that all of their marriages continue to strengthen so their family unit as a whole will continue to blossom.  Pray for each woman that their own hurts are healed and prayers are answered.
  • We are also currently working towards getting an intern that will help with marketing and social media information.  Pray that God sends exactly who we need for this.
  • Pray for Rosa as she continues to fight for and work hard for this group.  Pray that she is blessed in numerous ways!

 

 


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my hero

Hola All! It’s Mo…

It has been a long long time since I shared a blog with you all. I am not the best at expressing myself with the written word. Here it goes anyway. Tomorrow my bride and youngest daughter leave our home of 4 1/2 years . We are closing a season of our lives to begin the next season that God has in store for us. We moved to the Dominican Republic with no clear cut plan and no real guidance on what to do. Our family moved because the Lord called us to do so…..specifically me. We had a fairly comfortable life back in Murfreesboro, TN. Moving and leaving that life was questioned by many, but not by my wife. She said, “If you feel that you are being called by God to serve, then let’s go serve.” (I think most of you know it wasn’t THAT easy……but pretty close). Now, mind you, we were moving to a different country with a different language and a different culture with no plan. If you know my bride, then you would know that she does not roll that way. Normally, we have a plan and possibly another plan. But, with this move….we had no plan!

So, we move, and the adventure begins. Nothing went how we imagined it, and we were immediately challenged with a bunch of stuff that we “North Americans” are not accustomed to. (All of that for another day!) Through all of those initial challenges, my bride was actually our rock. I crashed and burned daily with our challenges here. (Also, another story for another day.) We pushed through and with God’s help, after we let him, each found our gift to give the community. We, in return, received our greatest gift, the people here in our ” barrio”. Once again, there are many, many stories to tell, and Tamara will probably be telling them for us because she is better at it.

Let’s get to why I am posting this blog.

tamara with broom

My wife is my hero. She has supported me, our family and this community with not a lot of fan fare. As a matter of fact, while our interns and I were getting all of the accolades, Tamara just quietly served.  She served our family, and she served everyone around her. The legacy that she will leave with the women here is hard to describe. She has helped our ladies here know their self-worth. She has taught them that studying and learning about God is beautiful and fun. She has had my blind side and helped me with all that I do. Our primary job here was to manage logistics for short term mission teams. Not an easy task to insure a safe and event filled trip with little to no problems, but we did. Tamara helped serve close to 30 mission teams with joy in her heart. Now, if you know me, then you know that I am a hard worker but not always the most organized. Our mission team trips were organized ( do you get the picture ) ?

Hermanas en Cristo was started to give the ladies here an opportunity to meet and learn about the Bible. It has become so much more. At the risk of offending some people, here goes a layman’s explanation of the culture here. Women are treated like 2nd class citizens, but are given the challenge of raising their families for the most part. This takes a toll on them physically and mentally.  Tamara saw this and created a safe environment for them to come. With her, they were able to share with each other their challenges. They were able to pray for one another. They created a way to supplement their income by making jewelry that Tamara helped design. By the way, did I mention that she got no financial help from anyone for any of this? She managed it, and then she taught the women to manage it. If you all could see what all of this has done for the self-esteem of the women, it is beautiful! All of this because she wanted an environment conducive to learning about God.

My bride is leaving a few days before me, and I tear up every time I think about it. I am proud to call her my bride. She gave her yes to come here with no pretext other than to be obedient to God and whatever plan he had. Her life here has been like the avocado tree that she planted from a single seed and is now bearing fruit. I guess, if we have to leave, its when the seed, that you planted, starts to bear fruit, which in turn creates other seeds.

Honestly, I have some fear in moving back to the US, and all that it entails, but I know that, with God and his plan, we will be OK . I say OK. I think it will be great, and I am excited to see what kind of seed my bride will have bearing fruit. Thank you, Tamara, for being a great example of a servant of God. The service that you have given to me, our daughters and this community is way beyond attaching a dollar value. Muchisimo gracias!!!

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Meet Rosa

IMG_0024This lady is amazing.  There is no way that words can explain all that encompasses what makes her HER. For that reason, I want to share two stories that she often shares.  To me, both show how God has worked in her life to form that blessing that she is.

Rosa was raised by Christian parents. When Rosa was a little girl, there was a time that her father was out of work and having great difficulty finding a job to provide for his family.  It was almost Christmas.  During this time, their main concern was simply having food to feed their large family.  Christmas gifts were not even a thought. Her aunt heard about their struggles and asked Rosa’s dad to come to her house around 10:00 on December 24th.  She remembers that he was gone for over 3 hours.  It took so long because her aunt and her aunt’s friends were busy cooking for Rosa’s family.  When he returned home, he had more food than she had ever seen.  Not only did he return with this delicious Christmas feast, he also had gifts for all of the kids.  She received a dress, shoes, and a baby doll.

She said this was the first time that she truly saw God’s work in action.  She decided from that point forward, she would follow Him and allow Him to be the guide in her life.

Fast forward many years…now she is married and has children.  Her husband had begun drinking a lot.  He was rarely home, and she spent many holidays and family functions without him because he was out in the streets drinking.  Christmas had always been her favorite time of year to share with family and friends.  Suddenly, she dreaded it and felt very lonely.  She would talk to her husband over and over and over without success.  He was not willing to hear her and change his ways.  She stayed with him but was often heartbroken.  One day, she decided that she would no longer nag her husband, and would fully hand him over to God. She began praying for him and asking God to make him stop drinking.  Almost immediately, he began having major problems and pains in his stomach when he would drink.  It got so bad that he finally had no choice but to quit drinking.  She gives all of the glory to God for hearing her pleas.

Although her marriage is not perfect and there are still struggles, she is committed to the promise that she made.

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She finds joy where many would find sorrow.  She finds beauty in most all things. She is steadfast in her love of the Lord.  She is honest and trustworthy.  Whenever I have been sad or struggling with anything in my life, she listens and shows compassion.  She will often leave my house, pray, and return with scripture that God has given her.

She has told me numerous times that I have taught her so much about the Bible.  This puzzles me because I cannot see how I had anything to offer her that she did not already have.  Seriously, she is one of the most solid person that I have ever had the blessing to know.

When I first announced to Hermanas en Cristo that we were leaving, I asked who would like to take over as the leader.  Everyone immediately pointed to Rosa, because we all knew that she was the most likely choice. They also voted to pay her an additional 10% on top of the sales of her own jewelry, as a salary.  That meant they all believed in her enough to reduce their own pay by 10%.  THAT is nothing more that God’s hand at work!

IMG_0025As I have been preparing to leave, we have been training for her to take over Hermanas en Cristo.  She is a natural leader and never knew it.  She didn’t seem to realize her awesomeness and capabilities.  It has been such a blessing to see her confidence grow.  It has been such a blessing to watch her nurture the spiritual growth of some of our newest Christians in the group.

She is also one of our scholarship recipients. She is studying English at the university.  Learning English has always been a dream of hers.  She wants to learn English so that she can become a translator.  Her goal right now is to visit the United States.  She wants to come meet so many of the people that have bought jewelry and supported the ladies of Hermanas en Cristo.  She is using the money from her jewelry sales to pay for her “papers” so that she can get a passport, then a visa.  She wants to hold a jewelry party in the states and practice speaking English with all of you!

Pray for her as she continues to lead Hermanas en Cristo.

Pray that she can get her “papers”, passport, and Visa!

Wouldn’t it be great if she could come to the states during Christmastime?  That time of year seems to have had so much significance in her life.  It would be great to help add one more wonderful memory for her to see how God works in such wonderful ways to “give us the desires of our heart!”


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Cops, Sweat, and Tears

IMG_5499I have mentioned numerous times how interesting it is driving here, especially stopping at red lights.  Another “fun fact” about driving in the capital and being American is that the cops LOVE to pull you over for no real reason.  Often, as my friend, Ashley, commenting on THIS POST, they want a “donation”.

Seriously, in the beginning, we would get pulled over almost every single time that we would drive into Santo Domingo.  It was so frustrating!

I had a friend tell me that we should take a picture of the police officer with his name badge clearly visible the next time that it happened.  She said that they would typically back off then.

One day, Mo and I had gone into the capital for a few errands and a quick “day date”.  When we turned left at a light with about 20 others cars, the cops pointed us out and told us to pull over.  We literally had done nothing and were in the middle of the pack.

We pulled over, the cop asked us for our paperwork, and began to make up a reason that he pulled us over.  I had had enough!  I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures.  The cop immediately got defensive and told me to delete the photo.  Mo was driving so he was in the middle of all of this.  At that time, I didn’t speak a lot of Spanish but was attempting to “give him a piece of my mind” in Spanish and in English.  I was telling him that “we were sick of being pulled over when we did nothing at all and that all he wanted was money.”  I told him that “we were going to report him.”

Of course, he understood NONE of what I was saying because, truth be told, it was mostly said in English with some Spanish thrown in here and there.  The cop starting saying “Why is she so angry at me?” and “Tell her to delete that picture.”

Remember, Mo was right in the middle of all of this and was paralyzed with fear!  He seriously thought we were going to Dominican jail, and he was about to becoming someone’s “Mrs”.

He looked at me with pleading eyes and said, “Tamara, I really think we should just give him some money and get out of here before we go to jail!”

About this time, I put my face in my hands and start crying!  The cop is suddenly like, “Ok, hey, here’s your paperwork.  I don’t know what I have done to upset her so badly but why don’t you guys just get out of here?”

He leaves, we drive off, and Mo turns to me and says, “What the mess is wrong with you?  You never cry.  What got you so upset?”

I just looked at him, smiled, and said,

“I wasn’t really crying.  I just wanted him to leave us alone.”

Moral of the story:

A crying woman translates the same in all languages! (Hehe!)

 


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Meet Albania

I am always reluctant to tell other people’s story.  We can never fully feel the emotions of another person and what helped mold them into the people they are today.  I am going to attempt to do that in this post.

IMG_6134This is Albania.  She is 22 years old, is married, and has two small children.  Albania moved into our little neighborhood less than a year ago.  Her husband and her built a little house from materials that they could afford or that were donated.  The floor to their house has been dirt.  When it rains really hard, their house floods, and the floor is then mud.

I invited Albania to join Hermanas en Cristo last year but she didn’t seem very interested then.  I told her to come whenever she wanted.  About 6 months ago, she came up to me and asked when we had our weekly bible study.  I told her, and she said that she wanted to join.  She began attending weekly, and everyone was so welcoming and encouraging to her.  At that point, she was not a Christian but said that she was enjoying learning about the Bible.

A few months ago, her daughter got sick.  From the best that I could understand, she would get fevers and terrors only at night.  She was fine during the daytime, but, at night, none of them were getting any sleep because of her fevers and terrors.  Some of the ladies in the group and in the community went to her house one afternoon to talk with her and pray over her house and her family.  They talked to her about God and salvation again. She accepted Christ into her heart that night.

From that night on, her daughter has been fine.  No night fevers or terrors!  Everyone is getting a full night’s sleep now.

After that, we have all encouraged her in her walk with Christ and let her know that we are all here for any questions that she may have.

One day, Rosa and I were cleaning up after a HEC workday.  I asked her how she felt Albania was doing.  I explained to Rosa that, when I first accepted Christ, it was during VBS.  Some of the reasons that I accepted Christ were out of fear and also just the overwhelming emotions that happen during VBS.  I explained that I hadn’t understand the true meaning and rededicated my life to a TRUE relationship with Christ in 2009.  I asked if she felt that Albania truly understood salvation and a true relationship with Christ.  And, if not, what could we do to help her grow in her walk?

Rosa said, “Yes, I do believe that she understands.  Today, when we were working, she prayed over her necklace after she finished it.  She didn’t realize that I was watching but I heard her say ‘God, my family really needs money right now.  Please help my necklace to sell. Thank you for loving me.’

Short, sweet, and profound!

Rosa and I went to her house that day to just sit and talk to her.  I wanted to hear about her life.  As we spoke, she explained that she did not come from a Christian household and had never had Christians in her life.  She explained that, in Hermanas en Cristo and the ladies in the community, she was learning about God and his love for us.  She told us that she felt God in her heart now, and that she was reading her Bible daily now.  She also explained that she didn’t always understand everything that she read, and the HEC bible studies put it in a way that she could understand.  She also told us how she wants to learn more.

Although her necklace has not sold, she did recently get a concrete floor.  Mo and I went over to see it, congratulate her, and swoon over it.  She was so thankful and continued to give all of the glory to God!

Our first real bible study with HEC was Experiencing God.  We originally did this study with 8 women, who then went on to break into 4 groups and teach this to a total of 32 more women.  It has been a study that we have used to encourage a true relationship with Christ.

Rosa will now be holding this study with a new group of 8 women.  Albania will be one of these women.

Please pray that God continues to support and fill Rosa with the knowledge that she needs as she helps to grow the new believers in our group.

Please pray for Albania as her love and relationship with Christ continues to blossom into something so beautiful and life changing!


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A sudsy experience

sudsy spongeIn 10 days, we will be returning to our passport country.  As expected, we have a million and one emotions surrounding this.  We are closing out and transferring leadership of our ministries, slowly saying goodbyes, and reflecting on our time here.  We have been writing down different experiences that we have had- some good, some bad, some funny, some sad.  Mo suggested that I begin sharing them.

Here is a funny one for you:

When you stop at a red light in this country, you will be bombarded with vendors selling various items- windshield wipers, sunglasses, fruit, water, chicken shaped wooden holders to store your eggs, etc.  The one thing that bothers me the most is the windshield washers.  They sneak up out of nowhere and squirt your windshield with dirty water.  Then, you have no choice but to allow them to wash your windshield, and you have to pay them.  Mind you, it is typically only about 20 pesos (equivalent to about 50 cents US).  However, it happens at every single red light…even if your windshield is already clean.

(In defense of the windshield washers, many of them are homeless teens that are just trying to get enough money to eat. We didn’t know that when we arrived here though.)

So…

In the beginning, we had a friend tell us, “If you don’t want your windshield washed, then turn on your windshield wipers, and they will leave you alone.”

During our very first outing as a family, we decided to venture out of our little community and drive the hour or so to the grocery store.  We were sitting at a red light waiting to turn left into the store when out of nowhere comes a windshield washer.  Mo turns on his wipers and…

…THE GUY LIFTS IT UP SO IT IS FLAPPING IN THE AIR!

We were like…”But she told us they would leave us alone. Now we have a wiper just flapping in the wind, and the guy won’t stop washing our windshield!”

All of our windows are up but Mo starts yelling “No, gracias, No!”

THE GUY CONTINUES…

Mo then bangs on the windshield AND IT CRACKS (because that car was so janky)! And…

THE GUY CONTINUES…

Mo then rolls his window down and tells the guy to stop. And…

THE GUY HITS MO IN THE FACE WITH HIS DIRTY SUDSY SPONGE!!!!

Suds go all over the inside of the car,

on the girls and I,

and…

We just start screaming…

“GO, JUST GO!  WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!!”

Mind you…this is our very first experience out on our own!

We pull into the grocery store parking lot and just sit there for a second.  We are all shaking and so thankful to have NOT DIED!!!

Hahahaha…we laugh so hard about it now though!

So there’s one!


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A Wall of Warriors

warriorOne thing that I hope everyone knows about me is that I am real.  What you see on social media will be the same thing that you see in my “real life”.  You won’t hear spiritual platitudes coming from my mouth.  I won’t say things just to placate you.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

The reason that I am saying this is because I need all of you to know that.  I hope to show as much of the good, bad, and ugly of me that is socially acceptable.  (Let’s all face it…only your closest of friends see it all!) My hope is that by being honest and vulnerable that you can see God at work.  My hope is that through my own personal struggles and angst that you can see God working in and through me.  My hope is that this gives you hope and points you to the one that seeks your heart!

Yesterday, I posted a plea for prayer on FB.  Over the past month, we have been getting attacked from all sides in ways that we have not made public.  The same thing happened when we were entering the mission field.  We have been a bit shocked that it is happening as we are leaving the field to enter a season of rest and healing. We feel that we aren’t much of a threat right now and couldn’t understand why we were under siege.

Hermanas en Cristo has been doing the War Room bible study, and our recent Women’s Retreat’s theme was “This is War!”, with our focus on becoming Prayer Warriors.  For anyone that has not read Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent, she talks about how satan attacks us in all areas of our life to distract us so that we will lose our focus on God. He uses problems in our marriage, our relationships and our finances to distract us.  He wants to take away our passion and our energy so we won’t have the strength to fight.  He uses others to remind us of who we were in our past. Once he distracts and weakens us, then he goes in for the kill.

That is where I was yesterday…distracted and depleted!

How can we fight against that?  Through prayer and scripture!!!

I heard God say, “Ask for help!  Surround your family with a Wall of Prayer Warriors!”.

I needed to “practice what I preach”.

As I reached out on FB, I was nervous for laying it out there for all to see.  I was weak, vulnerable, and sinking! I was nervous about being judged for “being weak in my faith” (<—don’t get me started on that! That is for another day, another post).

We were overwhelmed by love and support! We received so many private messages and words of encouragement, and so many people began praying for us. It did feel like we had a Wall of Prayer Warriors all around us.  It gave us strength to refocus on Him.

There are going to be times in our lives where we don’t have strength to fight alone.  God is always with us and always faithful.  I believe that is why He also provides us with Prayer Warriors to surround us and protect us as we refocus on Him.  God also uses these times to grow and mold us.  He will never let our pain occur in vain.  He always uses that for His good.  God is teaching me to be vulnerable, bold, and to live without fear of judgment. He is teaching me not to listen to what others say about who I am, but to believe who He says I am.  He is showing me that I am not the sum of all of my past mistakes and failures. I hope that my moments of weakness can serve as a testament for Him.  I hope that you can see that no one is perfect in their walk with Christ.  Yes, I definitely hope that you do not see a “perfect Christian”, but that you see a broken person that NEEDS Jesus! I hope that you can see the new story that God is beginning to weave into our lives. I hope to continue to focus and rest in Him.  I hope that you can see that He will always turn something beautiful from the ashes to glorify His name!