asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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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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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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I’m a little teapot

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First, I ask that everyone please pray for France and the families of the victims of the horrible attack yesterday.

Second, with all the chaos and pain in the world right now, I would like to share something positive and show the kindness that exists.

A few months back, I commented on a picture that one of my FB friends had posted. I have never met this person personally but “knew” her through a missionary group. She lives in China. Her post was a picture of a little teapot and a description. I love a good cup of tea and thought this looked precious, so I commented something similar to that. Almost immediately, she messaged me and asked for a shipping address because she wanted to send me a set. (For those of you that have asked, we don’t have an address so everything has to be sent to our church)

This simple, selfless act of kindness has touched my heart in more ways than she can imagine. This little teapot put the biggest smile on my face and my heart.

Why do I share this? Maybe…we could ALL be a little teapot to a stranger today! Maybe a simple, selfless act of kindness can put a smile on someone else’s face and heart today.

This is what God asked of His children…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”

Matthew 25:40


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When God speaks through peppermint mocha lattes…

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

invisible personThose close to me know that I struggle with invisibility…and now the whole interwebs know as well.  It’s a nagging childhood wound that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  It’s definitely a scar that satan uses to pull me down…to tell me that I don’t matter…and I am not good enough.

Today has been a really rough day for me.  For a few months now, we’ve been going nonstop, entertaining teams and guests, working our ministries, and dealing with numerous illnesses.  Seriously, I feel like this whacked out little peacock:

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Can you say ragged?

I know how important self-care is here on the mission field but have been too busy to slow down.  Satan knows this.  When I get rundown and tired, he wants to isolate me so that he can bully me with his mean ole words. He is such a jerk face!

However, tonight, I didn’t let that happen.  I immediately messaged the people in my life that I  love and trust.  I told them,

“Pray for me!  I am struggling with invisibility tonight and am wallowing in a huge pool of pity!”  

Each one of them sent crazy encouraging words to me, along with lots of prayers.Starbucks_Peppermint_Mocha

Earlier in the day, I had posted on Facebook how I needed someone to bring me a Starbucks peppermint mocha latte STAT…

…because that would cure my pity party and make me visible again. I am quite certain of this!

Right in the middle of the crisis in my mind, I got a message from a childhood friend that said, “I work at Starbucks and I want to send you all the things to make a peppermint mocha anytime that you want to!”

TEARS!!!

It felt like God spoke straight through her to say,

“I see you there, Tamara!  You are not invisible to me!”

God really does love me…

And He kicked satan’s butt with kind words from friends…

…and a Starbucks peppermint mocha!

You go, God!!!


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That time when God said, “Be still and shut up”….

IMG_8008I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I have been very quiet lately.  No Facebook, no Instagram, and no blog posts.

“Be still and know that I am God”  Psalm 46:10

For quite some time now, I have been vaguely hearing God ask me to “Be Still”.  In fact, we ask our mission teams to come up with one word that describes their trip, or a word that God is speaking to them.  With the last two teams, my word has been “Still”.  I wasn’t exactly sure what He meant because I couldn’t quite hear Him over all of the hullabaloo of my world.  Yes, my current culture is much, much louder than my passport culture.  However, that wasn’t the noise that was preventing me from hearing His voice.  It was too much scrolling, not enough quietude…too much talking, not enough listening…too much doing, not enough being.

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For many years, I have been wanting to do a silent retreat.  I have asked numerous friends to do one with me.  Each time, my lady friends laugh and say, “I don’t think that I could be quiet for that long.”  It’s true…when women get together, we just want to talk and talk, and then talk some more.  It’s one of our favorite things.  We have a love for words that men just can’t seem to understand.

I mentioned all of this to my best missionary friend here, and she thought that it was a fabulous idea.  She had been hearing God telling her to “Be Still” also.  So, we marked a weekend off on our calendars, made a plan, and met up for this interestingly, strange weekend of quiet.  To prepare for that weekend, I decided that it would be good to cut off social media to begin to quiet my mind.

Also, in complete transparency, we decided on 24 hours of silence.  I mean, we were at the beach without husbands, kids, or ministry pulling on us.  We couldn’t NOT talk at all…

We met on Friday at our little resort around lunchtime.  During lunch, we came up with our rules and schedule.  After lunch, there was no talking until lunchtime the next day.IMG_8010

During this time, we could pray and journal.  We agreed to no music (because that was more noise) and no books (because that was still words).  We stayed in the same room, and went for a walk early Saturday morning.  We ate dinner and breakfast together, and even sat beside each other in our lounge chairs on the beach.  ALL of this was done without talking.  FYI, eating with someone without talking is very difficult and awkward!

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We were both happily surprised at all that we were able to experience with God.  Once we cut out all of the distractions and commotion and sat quietly with Him, God spoke into our hearts.  In that short 24 hours period, He healed some wounds, spoke many truths, and showed us how He was molding us closer to His image.  Life is not perfect, and neither are we!  I am so thankful for that truth.  God loves His broken people because they know that they need Him.  I am thankful to be one of those broken people!

He showed me how He has provided for us here in the DR in so many ways. One of those ways was simply being able to go away with a friend that loves God, lives and understands this crazy life we are living, and loves so many of the things that I love. This friendship is so special to me.  I am in complete awe that God cares so much for me that He would send me a friend here in the DR to love.  That seems like such a minute detail in His grande plan. It was important to Him because it was important to me. I fell more in love with Him that weekend!IMG_7993IMG_7994After sitting in silence and coming back together to share what God had spoken to us, we did a craft.  Then we just filled the rest of the time with words.  Neither of us was ready for our time to come to an end, but life was calling.

I still haven’t ventured back into the Facebook or Instagram world yet.  I am sure that I will eventually because I miss seeing all of the people that I love.  I just don’t feel like it’s time yet.

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 Could you do a silent retreat?  We are considering doing another one in the Spring.  If you are interested in attending, let me know!



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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.

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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.

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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!


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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.

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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

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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

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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:

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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.