asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


Leave a comment

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.

IMG_0023

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!”


2 Comments

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!)

 


3 Comments

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!


1 Comment

Coson Bay

IMG_1763.JPG

As most of you know, in order for us to get a true day off, we have to leave our community. We often take that opportunity to relax and explore this beautiful island.  One of our most favorite areas to visit is the Las Terrenas/Coson/Samana area.

From January to March, the whales migrate through the warm Caribbean waters of Samana.  There are many companies that offer whale watching tours in which one can see the calving and mating rituals of the humpback whales.  This is a MUST SEE!  We took a group two years ago and were lucky enough to see a mom and baby breach for us, and two males fighting for a female’s attention.

IMG_8856

Whale breaching

Normally, we rent a house in Las Terrenas, which is about a 30 minute car ride outside of Samana.  We like Las Terrenas because it is a small beach town with numerous shops and restaurants.  You can pretty much walk anywhere you want to go.  There are many beaches in the area that are clean and relaxing.  Various excursions are available such as renting 4 wheelers, visiting the Limon waterfalls, zip lining, scuba diving, surf schools, kite surfing, and more.

This year, we decided to visit Playa Coson, which is a 10 minute car ride outside of Las Terrenas. We stayed at the Coson Bay Hotel and Residences.  Were we ever so thankful that we did!

This place is a wonderfully hidden secret!  Seriously, I almost want to keep it to myself to maintain its peace and tranquility. 

Coson Bay Hotel  property sits on approximately 4 acres and offers 42 condominiums.  There are 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms and a penthouse available.  The average cost per night is $250 during high season and $190 during low season. The property offers a large relaxing pool, beachside seating and beverage service, a restaurant and bar, a gym, and a game room. The staff can also assist in scheduling spa services and tours, such as the ones named above.  The accommodations are clean and modern.  Coson Bay is 100% family friendly and safe.  The staff is AMAZING!  We got the opportunity to sit down and talk with Roberto, the general manager, and Carolina, the front desk manager.  The pride that both take in the property is refreshing. The mission of the Coson Bay Hotel is to satisfy the clients, the property, and the staff.  You could definitely tell that the staff loved and took pride and ownership in their work.

IMG_1765

Roberto and Carolina

Each condominium offers a full kitchen, dining room, living room, and patio.  Each bedroom has its own full bathroom.  This gives you the option of cooking your own meals.  If you prefer to let someone else do the cooking, the property offers a open air restaurant facing the ocean.  Their brick oven pizza is cooked on the premises and is the most delicious pizza that I have ever eaten.  We stayed three nights and ate pizza every night!

There is a large pool that overlooks the water, with the ocean just steps away. If you prefer to relax on the beach, there are plenty of seating options.  Lounge chairs to relax and get a tan, or to nap under the shade of a palm tree. This is a great place for surfers to catch some waves while their family can relax on the beach and watch. There is truly something for everyone!

coson bay

If you are looking for the excitement and fiesta style atmosphere of an all-inclusive resort, Coson Bay Hotel is not for you.  However, if you are looking for complete peace, tranquility, a place to relax and truly checkout of the hustle and bustle of your daily life, this place is exactly what you are looking for!

If you are sick of the cold weather and need a long weekend getaway, we are able to offer you a 20% discount on all rooms.  Use the code LUDLAM20 when making reservations!


4 Comments

Punta Cana

IMG_6464We have been planning a vacation for our family, which includes the K’s, for several months now.  We knew that it would be the last time that we would all be able to get away as a family before Keely returned to the states in July.  We had all been setting aside our money and had planned to go the last week of May.

God had an even greater plan for us though!

About a month before our trip, I had lunch with a missionary friend named Jodi.  She asked me if we got an invitation from CHN for the missionary retreat in Punta Cana.  I told her that I knew nothing about it.  She said, “Let me see if I can get you an invitation”.  Long story short, she was able to get us one, and they gave one to the K’s too!

Get this…IT WAS THE EXACT WEEK that we had planned our trip.

IMG_6467

Worship was in this room each night. All of those people in the front in the dark shirts were our angels. Can you see their wings?

Let me explain what the CHN Getaway is, to the best of my knowledge.  CHN (CHRISTIAN HOSPITALITY NETWORK) is a group of angels that God sent down to earth to provide a respite to those who are working on the mission field.  Each year, these angels gather at a 4-or-5 star resort and invite all the missionaries from far and wide.  They give them 4 days and 3 nights to relax, rest, and rejuvenate.  During that time, they bring other angels that have names like “Counselor”, “Hair stylist”, “Photographer”, “Chiropractor”, “Masseuse”, “Pastor”, “Worship leader”, “Handmaiden”, “Helper”, and “Babysitter”.  Let’s also not forget all of the angels that stayed back in the States to help coordinate all of this, and those that donate money to make all of this possible.  All of these angels come together, in one form or another, to love and serve all the missionaries! Each night, we are able to worship in ENGLISH!  This year, the members of DALLAS BAY BAPTIST CHURCH came to sponsor and serve at this retreat.

Did I mention…that ALL OF THIS WAS FREE to us?!

IMG_6477 We stayed at the MELIA TROPICAL CARIBE RESORT. It was a beautiful resort with tons of restaurant options and a huge pool right by the beach.  It was so wonderful to sleep in air conditioning, watch cable TV, and shower with water pressure and hot water!  The staff at the Melia was very helpful, and many were able to speak English.  There was a gym available, as well as a spa with a steam room, sauna, and hot tub.  The  food was wonderful.  We loved all of the options available: Thai, Japanese, Italian, American, Dominican, Mexican, and French, as well as several buffets with numerous options. IMG_6503

The main goal of these Getaways is to pour into the missionaries.  Our team had not truly had time away from the community since February.  My family took a two day getaway recently to get logistics together for the Surf Camp in June, which was a working getaway.  The K’s, on the other hand, had not gotten away at all since February, and were running on what little reserve that they had left.  This trip could not have come at a better time.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”  Matthew 25:35

That was us…and so many other missionaries that joined us this week.  We all came thirsty and were given ‘a cold drink of water”.  We were filled to overflowing, so that we are now able to return to our work and fill others with our overflow! All because of these angels that came to show us God’s love!  “Thank you” does not begin to show our gratitude for the love that each of these individuals gave to us!  We left feeling loved and appreciated…and relaxed and rejuvenated!

IMG_6475 God calls us to be His hands and feet here on earth

In Matthew 9, we see Jesus helping others and performing miracles. This was His way of showing us SINCERE LOVE.  His living example taught us how to go out and offer that to others. The Kingdom of God needs more “workers”, and God needs us to be His hands and feet more today than ever before. IMG_6474

For our retreat, the Chik-Fil-A company donated money to hire the team of masseuse at the resort to give daily foot massages.  There were also volunteers that were called “Handmaidens” that gave daily hand massages, while loving on and praying over us.  Seriously, these people have amazing hearts!  I love the imagery of this as well…The hands and feet of Jesus massaging the hands and feet of His children!

If anyone would like to get involved with CHN, click here for their website –>The Christian Hospitality Network.  The work that they are doing, their vision, and their love is truly a blessing for those of us on the mission field.

IMG_6546

That crazy, stressed out peacock at the top looks a little worse for the wear.  I am fearful that we looked a whole lot bit like him when we arrived at the resort.  Now, that fella on the bottom…the one with the beautiful, relaxed feathers…I am certain that we looked a whole lot more like him when we left!

 It’s much easier (and less scary looking) when we are serving our community if we look like the bottom fella than the top one!

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

And He does…because God is faithful to His promises!


3 Comments

Las Terrenas and Samana

We often get questions about places to visit and stay while visiting the Dominican Republic.  Although we haven’t traveled the island as much as we would like, due to time and money, we have tried to visit different areas when possible.  I hope to start writing about these experiences more so that others can see the beautiful sites to see here in the DR.  This island truly has some breathtaking scenery!

Last year in February, the K’s, our friends, Julia and Jo, and my family went whale watching in Samana.  Each year between 3-5 thousand humpback whales migrate and mate through the waters of Samana during the months of January-March.  If you ever come here during those months, this is a DON’T MISS opportunity. There are several different boat tour companies available.  We used Whale Samana and were very pleased. We were fortunate enough to see a momma and baby whale breach, which was very exciting.  It just so happened that, during this time, Lexie was studying whales in her homeschooling.  She was able to take much that she learned and actually see it in person.  She loved sharing with us the things that she had learned.  It was a good education for all of us.

IMG_8816

IMG_8822

IMG_8858

IMG_8865

We didn’t actually stay in Samana.  We stayed about 45 minutes away in Las Terrenas.  I love this community and think that it would be fun to live there someday.  It seems like a quaint little beach town.  There is a heavy European population so there are many restaurants from which to choose.

After searching on VRBO, I found a little casita within a short 5 minute walk to the beach.  After contacting the owner directly, he offered us an amazing discount so that we could afford to stay there.  It was large enough to accommodate 12 people, and also included a large den and kitchen with an outdoor living area and dining area.  We also had our own private pool. IMG_8812

IMG_8804

IMG_8805

IMG_8811

IMG_8813

Las Terrenas breakfast

We enjoyed Las Terrenas so much that we returned this year with the K’s and Mo’s family.  The little casita from the year before was not available.  I did, however, find another one on VRBO –>HERE .  This owner also gave us a super good deal since we were missionaries.  It turned out to be PERFECT for our crew.  If you ever stay in Las Terrenas and have a large group, this one is very accommodating.  Each room has air conditioning and there are actually 3 separate little casitas, 2 with bedrooms and bathrooms and one with the kitchen and living room.  It also has an outdoor living room and outdoor dining area, and a private pool.  The manager was very helpful, and we had a lady that came to clean everyday.  You can also pay extra and have your own private chef to cook your meals if you prefer.  There are several grocery stores near by so we bought food and cook for ourselves.  We will definitely stay here again.IMG_4773

IMG_4774

IMG_4787

IMG_4781

 

IMG_4796

IMG_4799

IMG_4800

IMG_4801

IMG_4738

 

IMG_4785

Seriously, it was a little slice of paradise nestled within a 5 minute walk to the beach and about a 5 minute drive to restaurants and shopping.  Not sure why it’s called the little banana though…

We took this picture during our visit in 2014:Las Terrenas 2014

We tried to get a similar one this year:

IMG_4735

 

We are super sad that the 2016 picture will not include the K’s as they are both returning to the states this year.  However, we are excited to start new adventures with the new interns moving here when the K’s leave.  The K’s can definitely not be replaced, and they are truly like family in our hearts.  God is showing us how to open our hearts to welcome others into our lives though, because the fleshly part of me wants to cry and pout about them leaving.

After staying at these two place the past two years, we fell in love with the outdoor couches and living spaces.  We are currently working to finish our own little outdoor space also.  Although it isn’t finished, we have already gotten so much use out of it!IMG_5602

Las Terrenas is about 3 hours from the Santo Domingo airport, and definitely worth the extra ride time.  If you are looking to get away to a place that isn’t super touristy with a taste of a local beach town, this is perfect.  The beach is beautiful and not overcrowded.