asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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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!


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Q & A: Part 2

Now for Part 2 of the Q & A.  If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.  We will periodically do these posts if there is enough interest.

Beth asked: “I see you with crispy cream donuts….do they have like american food places? And how do they drive? Can you watch our american channels on TV……I could go on and on”

Kay also asked: “What’s the food like there?”

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We live in the campo (aka country) that is about 1 hour outside of Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic. The main dishes that most families eat here are rice & beans, and chicken.  Salami is also very popular here, and we typically eat salami sandwiches or salami and eggs for lunch.  However, when we are feeling the effects of living in a 3rd world country and need some semblance of our old life, we make a trip to the capital.  We do our grocery shopping and usually grab a bite to eat.  There are many American restaurants there, such as Wendy’s, MacDonald’s, Chili’s, Outback, Johnny Rockets, and many more.

Traffic is INSANE!!!  Seriously, there are very few traffic rules that are followed.  Basically, it’s all man for himself and can be quite frightening!  Most of the time, we say it’s like playing the game Frogger.  We have to avoid other cars, people, and motorcycles at all times.

As far as TV, some of our neighbors have satellite TV.  My family does not have any type of cable/satellite.  We do have a TV and one of those Apple TV device thingies.  With satellite TV, you can get many American channels.  Most are in Spanish but you can get English subtitles.  We have chosen, for now, not to spend the money on satellite TV.  If we want to watch a movie, we download it on iTunes.  Hulu does not stream here.  I hear that Netflix does now but does not have a large selection here.  Mo watches sports using frontrowsports.com.

 

Kristy asked: Are you able to see if our sponsor children are near you ?”
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Yes, all of the sponsor children live in this community.  For those that don’t know what this means, “sponsor children” are the children that attend the private school with which our church partners.  In order for many of the students to attend this school, they need to be sponsored because their families cannot afford the tuition.  Through an organization called Vision Trust, people living all over the world can sponsor the students here.  All gifts and supplies that are sent to these students must go through the Vision Trust organization.  However, if you want to know more about your sponsor child or want pictures, just message me.  Many people will ask us to set up Skype dates with their sponsor children.

Kristy also asked:  “What is your favorite thing about your new home?”

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When you say “home”, I think that you are talking about the country that I now live, not the actual block structure.  There is so much that I love about my new home.  Number 1, my neighbors are amazing with the biggest, most loving hearts that you will ever find!  Number 2, it is gorgeous here!  The picture above was taken from my back porch.  Number 3, they have siesta here from 12:00-2:00!  Seriously, U.S., you are missing the ball on this one!  This is the time of the day that most of the families return home, eat lunch, and rest before returning back to work/school.  LOVE that time of day!!!

 

Lara asked: I’d like to know some of your favorite recipes!”

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As I mentioned before, I am not much of a cook.  Many of the women here have TRIED to teach me how to make Dominican dishes such as Moro con guandules (rice and beans) and chicken.  I still can’t do it!  I do make one dish that my family and I enjoy.  First, you have to have this magic pot (because it rocks)!  Fill it will potatoes, carrots, onions, fresh cilantro, a special Dominican spice, chicken, and water.  Then cook it for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  It’s delish…and so easy!!!  I can do easy!

Of course…last, but not least…

Lexie asked: How does it feel to have an amazing daughter like me?”

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Gosh, Lex….there are just no words to describe the joy it is to have such a beautiful, talented, funny young lady as my daughter!


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Q & A: Part 1

We get a lot of questions about what our life here in the DR is like.  I posted a question on Facebook the other day asking people for questions that they would like to have answered for a blog post.  Well…here are some of them:

Wendy asked:  “Are the girls homeschooled?”IMG_5981 - Version 2

Yes, they are homeschooled in the afternoons for their American studies.  In the eyes of the US, my kids are enrolled in Homelife Academy.  However, in the mornings from 8:00-12:00, they attend the Dominican private school, that our church helped build.  The school only goes up to 8th grade.  Lexie is in 7th so she will be there for one more year.  At Homelife Academy, Lauren is a 9th grader.  She decided that she didn’t want to be the only American girl at the Dominican high school so she stayed at the private school in 8th grade this year.  They attend the DR school for social interaction and to improve their Spanish.  They are technically getting 4 hours of Spanish a day so you can imagine how incredibly fluent they are.  Next year, Lauren will be exclusively homeschooled and will be an assistant librarian with me.

Dawn asked:  “What are some of the things you must do differently there? Such as laundry, and other daily task.”

My friend, Shawn's, washing machine

My friend, Shawn’s, washing machine

Chores here take much longer than in the states.  Above is a picture of a Dominican washing machine.  It’s called a semi-automatic washing machine.  This is the way it works:  Fill up the left basin with water and add your detergent.  Insert you clothes and let them wash.  Then remove the clothes and place them in the basin to the right.  This will spin the water out of them.  While they are spinning, drain the water in the left basin.  Then fill it up again with water and add fabric softener.  Remove the clothes when they are done spinning and place them into the left basin.  When they are done, then place them back into the spin basin.  Then hang them on the line.  Repeat the process for EACH LOAD OF CLOTHES! Exhausting, yes…but Mo helps with this and we have a washing machine.  Many of our neighbors do not.  They either put their clothes in a bucket to wash and rinse using water from an outdoor faucet, or they go to the river to wash their clothes.

We have no air conditioning so our windows and doors are always open.  Because of this, our house is ALWAYS dusty.  I could literally dust and mop twice a day but only do it once a day, in the mornings.  So, every single morning, I dust, sweep, and mop our house…every inch of it.  I don’t know if most of you do that in the states but I didn’t.  Dusting got done once a week, and I mopped a few times a week as needed.

Cooking…oh, cooking!  Most everyone that knows me knows that I loathe cooking and am not very good at it!  I tend to forget that I am doing it, get distracted by something else, and burn most everything that I cook.  Yeah, whatever!  We don’t have fast food restaurants near us…actually we don’t have any restaurants within a 20 minute drive from us.  We used to have a pizza restaurant about 10-15 minutes away but that was short lived.  It was open about 4 months!  I think that my family and Kristi and Keely were it’s only customers.  That being said, we have to cooked most all meals (unless we go to the Capital).  This has been quite trying for me to learn.  Luckily, Mo is a wonderful cook and is like the MacGyver of the kitchen.  Once again, many of you in the states do this every single day for every single meal but I didn’t.  We ate out several times a week in the states.

I have mentioned before that women are not called “housewives” here.  They are called “amante de la casa” which translates to “Lover of the home”.  I have to agree that the process of doing chores here creates a love for your home.  I have finally found joy in all of this! :O)

Michele asked: “Here’s one for you, how did you find such a great hair stylist down there? Your new “do” looks fantastic! So bouncy and curly!”

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We found a salon at a mall in Santo Domingo.  This lady is Dominican and is a magician!  I LOVE the haircut but have yet to be able to style it to be “bouncy and curly” on my own.  I am going back to her this week to try to figure out what kind of magic she used! Oh, and thanks so much for the compliment!

 

These are only a few of the questions.  I will be posting others in a future post.  If you have questions, comment below!

 


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One year ago today…

Today is our one year anniversary of living in the DR.  We have prepared a video to share the highlights of this past year.  Enjoy!


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Six months in…

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On July 29th, we will hit the six months mark of living in the Dominican Republic.

It has been amazing to see how our family has changed and grown.  Both girls are speaking Spanish rather fluently.  Watching the ways in which they are overcoming insecurities and challenges has been quite inspiring to me.  We are seeing an increase in their self-confidence and a maturity in the way that they see the world.  Some of the things that they have seen and experienced have been very difficult for 12 and 14 year old children.  They have definitely learned that the world is not always fair, but that it can be quite beautiful.

They have been working hard on developing a plan to care for the animals in this area and figure out a way to control the pet population.  They found a veterinarian at one of the universities in Santo Domingo that is willing to come to our community with a few of the vet students and neuter/spay 15 dogs.  They have opted to spay 15 female dogs.  They decided that the females are the ones that have the puppies so that is a good place to start.  Mo and I have been very impressed with their tenacity toward this project.

The girls also teach English to a small group of girls in our neighborhood.  Right now, they are working on colors, names of animals, and some adjectives.  I know that seems a bit random but I love that they are “developing their own curriculum”.  It seems to be working.

Mo has such a special way of touching the lives of the people in this area.  He has made several very good friends, and makes a point to spend quality time just sitting and chatting with them each day.  He has inspired me so many times to just sit and talk even if the language is difficult.  He is continually working with someone in the neighborhood on some sort of project or another.   He is still “preaching” a 10-15 minute sermon every Sunday at the church.  He has been talking to several of our neighbors about getting a couples’ bible study started.  We are very excited to get this going.

Mo inspires me in so many ways.  I have stated it numerous times but he has such a servant’s heart.  It is so easy for him to just serve and give of himself.  Where I have a difficult time trusting people, he trusts to a fault.  Luckily, God gave us each other to balance that out.

Our entire family has fallen completely in love with the family across the street, Fernando (the barber), Alexandria, Fernelli, Jeffrey, and Rue.  They have been so kind and accepting to us.  Most nights, we just sit on their porch and talk to them.  They are very understanding of my challenges with the Spanish language.  They will speak slowly and help me to understand words that I don’t know, and correct me when I say things incorrectly.

It hasn’t been easy for any of us to adjust to a different culture.  There are things that we absolutely LOVE about this culture and its people, they are things that drive us absolutely bonkers, and there are still things that we don’t understand at all.  God has been so good to our family and has really given us the strength to trudge through the hard times.  There have been times that we have just “broke”.   We have zero privacy.  People are constantly walking into our yard, and peeping in windows and doors.  They are constantly calling our names.  We actually have people look in our bedroom windows when we are sleeping or just taking an afternoon rest.  Because it is hot and we don’t have air conditioning, we cannot close our windows or doors because we need the air.  This has been one of the hardest challenges on us.  Please don’t take this as complaining.  We understand that we are here to serve this community.  We just need a little privacy every once and a while.  The mission team coming in a few days will be building a fence for us and the new missionaries that are here.

Luckily, we have several missionary friends that have listened to our concerns and have/have had the same challenges.  We have been told over and over and over…MAKE SURE THAT YOU TAKE TIME AWAY FROM YOUR COMMUNITY!  So, a few weeks ago, we took 3 days and went to the beach.  It was so nice to be in a place where we could just be!  We came back refreshed and not grumpy anymore!  We HAVE to make ourselves get away so that can be more effective for the ones that we serve.

God has suddenly started opening up many doors for us.  The girls and I have been helping to organize the Children’s Ministry at the church.  There have been about 10 girls in the community that have come forward to offer their gifts to teach small groups.  I really want to reserve a post just to share this ministry with you.  We are super excited to see how God is going to use this ministry for the children (and future) of this community.

As with my previous post, we have the chicken house done and have 3 chickens that are laying eggs.  We still don’t know where this project will lead.  It may just be a way to provide eggs for our family and for us to share with our neighbors.  The children of the Dominican Republic are so low on protein so we are really hoping that this grows.  My hope is to educate people on how to raise chickens for eggs and the kids are getting more protein in their diets.

Our church sent two new missionaries to our community on Tuesday.  Their names are Kristi and Keely.  Kristi is 24 and Keely is 25.   They will be teaching at the school that my church helped build here in the area.  One of our jobs is to be a host family to these ladies.  We are excited to have them here and want to be available for them.  Mo has, of course, taken on his daddy role immediately!  I can already see how having these ladies here will be a valuable asset to the community and our family, especially my daughters.  What a wonderful example of following God’s guidance in your life!

We have a HUGE mission group coming on Saturday so we have been quite busy preparing for them.  There will be a total of 55 people including translators, cooks, and leaders.  We have lots of projects planned, a kids’ club for the kids in the community, a baseball ministry for the boys, a crafts ministry for the girls, and a teacher workshop.  LOTS of stuff going on!!!

One of the projects that we will be working on is a goat corral.  A lady in our church felt God lay it on her heart to help to start a goat ministry in this area to help widows provide food and financial support for their families.  This is another subject that I would like to reserve for an individual post in the future.  Needless to say, the girls and I are super excited because our family will be getting 2 goats of our own so that we can learn how to raise dairy goats.  We cannot wait to get started!

Lately, I have been struggling with a few of my own challenges and unbeliefs.  I can feel Him right beside me trying to smooth over those rough places of my heart.  Throughout all of the challenges, fears, and difficulties, God has been so good to us.  He has given us strength that could only come from Him.  He continues to guide our family into leaps of faith.  We are learning to lean on him more than ever.  He has comforted our hearts in many difficult situations.  We KNOW that He has exactly where He wants us!  He has been so faithful!

Lastly, we would like to thank all of you for all of the support that you have given our family.  We also would like to thank each of you that has helped support us financially each month, or with one time donations.  As you know, we are Faith-based Missionaries,  which means that we have faith that God will provide financially for us monthly and for the work that we are doing here in the DR.  You cannot imagine how much your donations, kind words, prayers, and support mean to us!  It definitely makes it easier to deal with the heat and challenges of living in a third world culture!  Thank you!!!!


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3 Months In…

BY MO

Hola, Todos & Todas,

Today is a monumental day for our family.  It is the end of our 3rd month in our wonderful journey.  I can not begin to write down the many experiences that we have been through, and the lessons learned.  We have had many back in the U.S. of A and many here in the DR help us with our challenges.  To you all, we say THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!  God is teaching us so much.  His grace is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Before we moved here, our goal was to raise our kids in a godly home and to work toward our retirement at a rapid fire pace…work, work, work, save, save, save.  Oh yeah…and spend when there was a toy that we JUST HAD TO HAVE!  You all know the one…THE OBJECT (new car, new computer, new running shoes, new phone that was going to make me feel better)!  Also, and my bride will attest to this, my affinity (or addiction) to managing time!  I wore a watch and was acutely aware of the exact time and day at all times.  My watch was actually 5 minutes fast so that I could be early to places.

I mention the above because they were not on my list of things to do once we got to the DR.  I wanted to come to represent my church and “DO”!  I was going to work, work, work and manage all kinds of stuff.  Well…I believe we are representing our church and our community back home in a respectful way, but none of the things have worked out the way “I” planned.  Guess what?  It’s OK…not only OK, but great and freeing!  You see, I was so caught up in getting things and working on my goals that I lost sight of God’s purpose for us all.

As Christians and human beings in general, God put us on Earth to love one another and to live in community.  You would think that after sacrificing His son for our sins that we would all get that.  Our society with it’s fast pace and “get it done in a timely manner” attitude warped me and my perspective.

Today, I am pleased to say that I do not wear a watch.  I don’t even have a “wristband tan” anymore.  A lot of times I do not even know what day it is.  Living simpler has changed my family’s perspective on what we perceive as “needs vs. wants’ are. We need to love one another.  We need to lift up one another.  As Pastor Brady and Phillip stated in such a moving message this last Sunday, we need to forgive and give grace!

Tomorrow starts month number 4…and I can’t wait.  My wife and children have grown so much.  Don’t get me wrong…we still have challenges!  For example, my daughters just went screaming through the yard trying to get a frog out of Stickbug’s mouth (our FOURTH dog…but an outside dog), City power did not come on much today, Tamara has numerous infected mosquitos bites all over her legs, and I about chopped my leg off with a machete today…

Needless to say…WE LOVE IT HERE!!!


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Our girls

I am feeling very nostalgic this morning.  As I spend a lazy Sunday morning catching up on a few blogs that I follow, one grabs my heart…and my memories.  One of my favorite bloggers recently had a baby.  I read her birth story and enjoyed the pictures of that squishy, new baby.  I caught tears coming down my face as I remember the birth of both of my girls.hula laurenI remember the excitement of Lauren’s birth…our first child.  Mo and I weren’t young kids…I was almost 30 and Mo was 36.  However, we had no idea what we were doing or what to expect.  We had spent our lives up to this point doing what we wanted when we wanted to do it.  Now, we were having a baby…a small person that we were responsible for keeping alive!  After 23 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing, the doctor finally announced that it wasn’t going to happen and a C-section was necessary.  That wasn’t the birth plan that I had ordered!  God knew though…He knew what we needed.  We needed a healthy baby…and she was perfect!  She was VERY healthy at 8 lbs. 14 oz.  Her apgar score was a 9.  She has continued worrying about getting the highest scores possible on all her tests since then too!

We brought her home and that is when we realized…WE. KNEW. NOTHING. ABOUT. BABIES! I am serious…NOTHING!  I remember crying in the middle of the night…”God, what were you thinking?  How could you have made us the parents responsible for keeping this little tiny thing alive?  I think we put the diaper on upside down…how do you expect us to do this?”  I think that she was a little nervous also about the reality that we were her parents.  But He knew…

Then…9 1/2 months later…the pregnancy test read positive!  Really, God…again…WHAT. ARE. YOU. THINKING???  We HAVE a baby…we don’t need another one just yet!

I LOVE being pregnant!  Absolutely LOVE it!  I am usually put on bed rest for a moment here and there during my pregnancy.  I had gestational diabetes both times.  However, if you ask me, I will tell you that I have FABULOUSLY, WONDERFUL, UNEVENTFUL pregnancies!  Those few moments in 9 months seem trivial compared to how great I feel the rest of the time!cookie lexieAnywho…I had a wonderful pregnancy with Lexie.  I worked out until the day before her birth.  We had a VBAC doctor who was a complete weight nazi so I only gained 22 lbs.  We I was FINALLY going to have my natural childbirth  (no C-section but WITH an epidural)!  I had been dilated to a 5 for 3 weeks but the doctor needed to wait until I was 37 weeks before inducing.  When D-day came, we were soooo ready!  I was given pitocin and things progressed very quickly.  Unfortunately, Lexie got stuck!  After much panic by the doctor and nurses, she was delivered but lifeless!  Her first apgar was a 3, and her 5 minute apgar was only a 7.  She was 3 weeks early and weighed in at 9 lbs. 1 oz.  Even in the NICU, she looked up at us with lazy eyes as if to say “Chill out, Mom and Dad!  Everything is going to be ok!”  THIS has been my Lexie’s way of doing life every since!  Even through all of our fears that day, God knew…

As I sit in our quiet house here in the Dominican, I think back to those two moments in our life.  As our children are navigating their way around a village in a third world country…emerging into the unknown like they did that day 12 and 14 years ago, I hear God say :

“For I know the plans I have for you plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

the girls

As we hear others talk about how independent and brave our beautiful daughters are, our hearts explode with pride and admiration!  

As we hear our girls communicating with others in a brand new language, our hearts explode with pride and admiration! 

As we see our girls doing relationships of complete respect and love with others whose lives have been completely opposite of the opulent life they left in TN, our hearts explode with pride and admiration!

As we see our girls caring for and giving themselves to the people and animals of this community, our hearts explode with pride and admiration! 

They have adjusted so well and matured in so many ways.  Before moving here, we had so many worries, concerns, and fears for what this move meant for our girls.  Now, we are in complete awe because we had no idea what to expect!

However…

God knew…