asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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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 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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Waiting for God’s voice

listeningAs you know, we are studying the book of Esther in Hermanas en Cristo.  We continue to be in amazement and awe of how God used a 14 year old girl for such an important task.  What continues to come up in our weekly study is her character.

We have all agreed that she is patient, obedient, and wise beyond her years. In Chapter 7, THIS was truly her “time such as this” moment. We talked about how it was crucial that her words were perfect. If she said the wrong thing, it could be the death of her. If she spoke the correct words, she would save her Jewish people. We know one thing…

She did not speak before she had prayed about it AND waited for God’s voice.

I asked the women to share any experience they had had in which they prayed before speaking to someone about an important matter, or an experience in which that didn’t pray before speaking to someone. Also, what was the outcome?

One of the women told a story about how she needed to talk to her husband about something important so she prayed about it.  She, then, went to talk to him, and things went horrible wrong.  They ended up in a huge argument.  She was so confused so we went back to God and said “God, I prayed about this before talking to him.  Why did it end like this?”  She laughed and said that she heard God say,

“Yes, you prayed to me but you did not wait for my answer!”

Oh my goodness! What an wonderful example and reminder to us all!

We all need to let Esther be an example to us.  She prays, waits, and LISTENS to God before speaking.  She allowed God to prepare her mind and heart, while He also prepared the path, minds, and hearts of those in His great plan.  When He wants to use us for His purpose, He also wants us to know that it is in HIS strength, knowledge, and wisdom, not ours!

I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear this!


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Brave little Esther

esther

Man, sometimes during Hermanas en Cristo, the Word just comes so alive that I cannot contain myself.  The ladies laugh at me because I just get so excited!

We are studying the book of Esther right now.  Let me give a little history on her.  She was born a Jewish exile named Haddasseh.  When her parents died, her uncle, Mordecai, adopted and raised her.  Esther was known to have great beauty, poise, and incredible character.  Because of these traits, she won the favor of King Xerxes and became the queen of Persia. As we will read more into the story, we will learn that God had a incredible plan for her life.

In chapter 4, Mordecai said to her,

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?”

No pressure, right? She would save her Jewish people.  And…get this…SHE IS ONLY ABOUT 14 YEARS OLD!

Yesterday, we were in chapter 5.  In this chapter, she is now about to step up to fulfill God’s plan. The chapter begins by saying that she has put on her royal robe and is standing in front of the inner court of the palace.  She is about to go in to talk to her husband, the king, and she was not summoned!  To approach the king without summons is against the law, punishable by death.  YET…

Here is this 14 year old girl standing gallantly in front of the king’s court to approach the king on her own accord, knowing that it could get her killed!  Let that sink in…

It doesn’t say how she is feeling.  However, we were discussing how we would feel and the fear that we would have.  Yet, the way it is stated, it appears that she is standing there with full confidence.

At that point, I asked the ladies to look back at the end of chapter 4. Before she made the decision to go, a few things happened:

  1. She gathered some of her closest girlfriends to discuss the situation at hand
  2. They all decided to fast and pray for 3 days prior to her approaching the king.
  3. Then, she spent those days in silence and praying!

I asked the ladies a few questions:

*How many of you, when you are having a problem or need guidance, go straight to all of your friends and talk and talk and talk about it? Almost all hands went up

*How many of you get stressed and worried, and often lose sleep over it? Almost all hands went up

*How many of you stop and pray first before doing those other two?  Very few of our hands went up.

This opened the door for us to see WHY this young girl of 14 years of age was so confident and strong as she approached the king. She was fearLESS because she had sat, prayed, and heard God’s voice.  She knew what He wanted her to do and knew that He would protect and guide her!  She knew that, in those 3 days prior, that He had prepared the path for His will!

That really helped ALL of us to remember…

In times of distress, or when God is asking you to do that REALLY BIG THING, stop…pray…and listen!  When we are talking and talking and talking (and, oh my word…I love to talk), we cannot hear His voice!  If we cannot hear His voice, we cannot know what His plan is. Sidenote: our closest girlfriends can be amazing prayer warriors and voices of reason for us also.  Get ya some of those girls!  They will fast and pray with you!

That’s good stuff right there!!!

 

 

 


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Let’s hear it for the boy!

mo boys cabarete.jpg

(First of all, the LYRICS of this song crack me up because they describe Mo to a T! For all of you that know him, am I right?  Keely, think “crocs”)

I want to take a few minutes to brag on my man! Besides God and his family, the above picture shows everything that he loves in this world…the ocean and these boys! If you have ever visited here, you have most likely met Golita, Dioni, Seba, and Gaba. Mo truly feels that God did not give him biological sons because He had these boys waiting for him here in La Represa. There isn’t a day that goes by that these boys do not come by our house…usually just in time for dinner!

So many times, Mo questions whether he has done enough here.  I know that there are times where he feels unappreciated or under valued for the work that he has done here.  I can say, with zero hesitation, that Mo has been an amazing servant for God here in La Represa. He heard God’s call on his life, gathered his family, and went. He gave up a lucrative business to follow God’s calling because he simply could not say “No”.

Mo has over 60 boys in the Surf Ministry.  I continue to be in awe of how God has used Mo and surfing to be able share God’s word! Many of the boys don’t even want to surf. However, through this program, he has been able to offer a safe place for the boys to hang out, share a meal, and share the Gospel.  Mo puts it best when he says, “We want to fill their bellies and their souls!” ALL of the boys have added so much to our lives. Mo has literally lost sleep over these boys.  He has had to have difficult conversations with them because, more important than ANYTHING, he wants to help grow God-loving, men of integrity! He has walked alongside them, loved them, and corrected them when they needed it.

So…Mo, yes…you have done a great job!  You have “ran the race that God put before you”…and you have done it with a servant heart.  You have been a father, leader, and great example to all of these boys.

Now, all of you know these things too!


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A Season of Rest

We are often asked, “When do you think that you will return to the states to live, or will you ever?”  My response is always, “When, or if, God closes this door”.

On January 29th, we will be celebrating our 4 year anniversary in the Dominican Republic. These past 4 years have been incredible and difficult and joyful and challenging.  We have learned so much about ourselves and God’s will and guidance in our lives.  He has broken us and molded us closer to His image…with much more molding needed!  We have learned how to truly “love our neighbor” and how to “lean into God for our strength”. We have learned how to selflessly serve others because God desires us to ‘serve one another’.

We have been hearing God speak to our hearts over the past 6 months.  If we are honest, it has been longer.  We didn’t want to hear what He had to say. However, we know all too well what happens when we don’t listen to God and His will for our lives. Now, we must be obedient to His will…

It is with sadness and understanding that we want to announce…

God is closing this door to our service in La Represa…

He has clearly stated that He will be sending us to a “season of rest and healing”.  We are tired.  We have served with all of the energy, passion, and love that God has filled inside of us over the past 4 years.  We are emotionally, physically, and spiritually tired and empty.  It is time to heal minor health issues that we have, and allow ourselves to be filled and fed emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

At this time, we do not know our next step.  He has not revealed that to us.  We have resigned our position as New Vision missionaries, and will fulfill our responsibilities with them in July.  We do not know if God wants us to stay in the Dominican Republic or return to the states.  We do not know if we will be returning to TN or to FL…or another state or country altogether.  We only know that we will have a ‘season of rest and healing’ for now.

Please join us in prayer as we finish our time here in La Represa.  This community is family to us.  This decision was not an easy one to make, and one that was made with much prayer and discernment (and tears).  To leave here will be one of the most difficult things we have done.  Our specific prayer requests for now are:

  1. We FINISH STRONG.  Pray that we serve well until the end.
  2. Pray for our girls.  They were 11 and 13 when we moved here.  This is the life that they know and the hearts that they love.  This community has embraced them as their own children, and my girls think of them as family, as well.
  3. Pray for our family’s hearts as we will be saying many ‘goodbyes’ over the next 7 months. In our own strength, we will not be able to do this.  In His, we can be comforted.
  4. Pray for discernment as more decisions will need to be made.  Pray that He makes it clear to us where we need to live. Pray that He provides a home, income, and direction.
  5. Pray for many fears that we have as we make this transition.  The unknown is always fearful.  However, sometimes the known can be even more fearful. Pray that we have TRUST IN HIM, as opposed to fear in our flesh.
  6. Pray for the missionary family and interns that will coming in behind us.  Pray that God brings them forward.  Pray as God begins to prepare their hearts.
  7. Pray for this wonderful, sweet community.  They are not accustomed to saying ‘goodbye’ to the ones that they love. They have already learned how hard that was by saying ‘goodbye’ to Keely, and they will be doing the same next week when Kristi leaves.  As we leave the field, Macy’s internship will be over in July, and she will be returning with us.

Thank you for all of your love and support over the past 4 years.  For those of you, that messaged us regularly, prayed for us, and supported us in ways too numerous to mention, THANK YOU!


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One Word 2017

It’s that time again- the New Year!  This means it is time to post my One Word for the year.  (I wrote about it–>Here and Here and Here if you would like to read more.  I posted a few links in one of the post to read more about the One Word concept.)  I know many of my friends ask God for One Word each year as well.

Last year, my word was Open…which seemed like a bizarre word at the time.  However, as God always does, He showed me throughout the year how He could use this word to grow me.  There are numerous ways and situations throughout this past year in which I have needed to be Open to Him or Open to others.  The ways in which He grew me and stretched me in this word were quite surprising.  By the end of 2016, I saw how He truly needed me to be Open to HIS will for my life.  I feel like all of 2016 was basic training for the question He would ask me by year’s end, which was “Do you really trust me and my plan for your life?”

The past few years, I have not truly known my One Word until almost February.  However, THIS YEAR…He gave me the word in November.  I felt Him saying…”You are gonna need a little more time with this word so I am giving you a few extra months to work on it!”  I can already see how He is teaching me, growing me, and challenging me beyond any other year.  I can see how this coming year is going to present me with ways in which I will need to practice what I am learning.

This year’s word is Love {Well}.

I say word because it feels like one thing to me, although it is more of a phrase.  Here’s why: It is easy to love those who love us and love those who are easy to love.

I feel God saying,

“Ok, so how are you going to love:

those who are difficult to love,

those who have hurt you,

and love when you are so far up in your junk

your heart is closed and locked up.

Tamara, how are you going to love MY children?

Now…how are you going to balance this

with boundaries and codependency and vulnerability

and all those other things which get love all twisted and turned?”

For some of you, this may not be a problem.  For me, it is.  Somewhere along the line, Love got all twisted and turned and confusing and scary and unsafe…and a whole lot of other things.  If it didn’t for you, that is wonderful. For the rest of us, you understand, right? You can still be a Christian and say, “These things can be hard for me, and I want to learn to do it better.”

Brené Brown said it best in this talk, Brené Brown on Boundaries, Empathy, and Compassion,

“The most compassionate people I have interviewed over the last 13 years were also absolutely the most boundaried.”

She goes on to say, as she became more boundaried,

“I am not as sweet as I used to be but I am far more loving.”

For me, all of this is how you truly learn to Love {Well}!

As I listened to her, I knew exactly what God was doing with this word in my life.  My journey has definitely already started.  I am praying (oh my goodness…I am praying!), researching, reading, learning, and seeking such wise counsel on this!  I am excited, scared, apprehensive, and so ready to see where this journey is taking me because…

in order to truly love His children WELL…

I have to learn this stuff…

so I can love myself well first.

I will be sharing throughout the year what God is revealing to me and ways in which He is stretching and growing me.

I may come out of 2017 bumped and bruised and a little rustled…

and, I hope above all else,

I am not as nice as I use to be to His children but that I am definitely more loving!

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What is your One Word for 2017 and how can you see God using it to grow you?