Monday, October 06, 2014

“Great is our Lord and Abundant in strength, His understanding is infinite.” ~147:5

I have been teaching an art class this summer. It is one of my favorite things I do. Almost all of the kids in the class are also in my princess bible study group. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but it worked out that way.

The princess Bible study is a study that I have been leading for the past 5 years for girls between the ages of 11 and 14. Usually there will be 18 to 25 girls on any given Friday.

At first I did it because I knew God was asking me to. I didn’t know what I was doing. 5 years later the class is still full.

Most of the girls in the art class are also in the nutrition center. So they are in the center daily, meet for art class once a week, and are in the princess study every Friday night. A handful of them also come to youth service on Saturday evening and family service on Sunday.

In a world where there aren’t really playgrounds or a boys and girls club, it makes a big difference where you choose to spend your time.

You could spend it inside your house. For a teenager that is not only difficult, but detrimental to social growth. And anyway your mom’s boyfriend might make you feel uncomfortable and maybe there is no electricity so you can’t even watch TV and if you don’t really know how to read, then what?

It’s not a good idea to hang out in the street. Oh, the streets are filled with activity and people. .. and boys and alcohol and gambling etc…

Sometimes I see some of the girls in the Bible study hanging on a young man or standing with a friend on the corner just waiting for something, anything really, to happen. Sometimes I know it won’t be long till I won’t see them so often in the church. They begin to look less like a little girl and more like a woman and I’m not the only one that notices. A 12 year old left because she went to go live with her boyfriend. She is now back with her mom and pregnant. So, the cycle continues.

But there are those who have chosen a different place to pass the time. They are the handful that are there every time the church is open. Every time they are in the church is a time they are not in the street. Every time they are not just hanging out in the street is a time they are less vulnerable to the wheels of “the cycle”.

In the princess study we are studying the Jesus story Bible. It is really a kid’s Bible, but is beautifully written in such a way that it refers to Jesus in every single story tying our hope and salvation into one big story rather than a collection of separate books.

In Art class last session, Romans 8 was our theme.

I believe that until the girls meet their creator and know that he values them the way he does, they really have no reason to change their behavior. Why should they not look for a release of endorphins? Why shouldn’t they do whatever they have to in order to fill the void in their purses and hearts? Until they know how precious they are and how goodness and sweetness can be theirs and that Their Father God is good and strong, there isn’t a good reason to respect or obey.

Some have chosen a safe haven away from the flow of the world. This simple act of where to pass the time, could change the course of their life.
A few of the beautiful lives being changed

Romans 8:19-23

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of god. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Art and the Multitudes

We have been in Hato del Yaque for 6 months now.  New home, new family, new job description. It has been a little like art.
The definition of art is the act of creating something that stimulates emotion through one or more of the senses.
..... Is an artist that uses hundreds and thousands of dots to create a picture. Close up if you put a bunch of red and green dots together they are individual strokes of paint, but if you stand back you can see a field of green grass.
I think before, when I was commuting out to HDY, I only saw the big picture. A picture that sometimes seemed sad, like when Pastor Aristides died, or sometimes felt glad, like when we had the inauguration of the new building and the whole community showed up.

I took a couple art history classes way back when and I remember studying the artistic movement of post-impressionists to cubism and abstract and on from there. I remember looking at a piece of work that was basically a large rough red square and not being a little bored. The professor began to tell how the artist painted this after Germany invaded Italy in world war II and suddenly I saw it. The crumbled buildings, blood in the streets, fear and pain. All of that in the rough red square.
This boy is pulling a rock around for entertainment.
Living in Hato del Yaque has been like looking at a piece of Art and suddenly seeing it. Really seeing it.

I always understood that the people living in Hato del Yaque battled against poverty and its effects, but now it is at my doorstep and I battle many of the effects too.

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
~Matthew 9:35-38

Singing with the kids in Hato del Yaque
Jesus saw the multitudes, yet he saw the crowds for who they were. He healed them and shared good news with them. But when he saw them he saw them for where they were. He had compassion on them.

I think Pastor Elido, his wife Modesta and I, since we moved to Hato del Yaque at the beginning of the year, we have learned to see the crowd. We have been proclaiming the good news, feeding children and working with teams to bring Medical clinics etc. for years. But since we have been living there, we are beginning to see where people are really in their lives, economically, spiritually and physically. We are learning what compassion means and what Jesus saw.

Thank you for working along side us in this harvest field.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We're Here!

We made it!

Isaiah and I are finally up and running in the ministry house in Hato del Yaque.

After six months with Isaiah in Oregon, we finally received his passport Dec 21, 2013. We landed in Santiago DR on January 1st. There have been a lot of changes for us both the last year. Even though all the changes have been positive ones, it is a relief to be getting into the groove of things.

One of my favorite changes is our living accommodations. When we flew into Santiago we drove straight to the newly open ministry house in HdY. I love living here and being part of the community every day. One of the best parts of living here is being right next door to Pastor Elido and his family. I am thoroughly enjoying chatting with Modesta almost every evening and Isaiah enjoys playing with Eliam and Amalia. It’s a pleasure to do life and ministry with friends.

So many people have worked so over the last several years to make this ministry house a reality. Pastor Elido invited the construction crew along with GO DR president, Eduard and his family, all over for some goat meat one evening. It was a gesture of gratitude. I found I had a hard time expressing my gratitude with words, because I was fighting back tears most of the evening. It was all sinking in. My wonderful son is with me and we are in HdY. Two things that were a hope only a year ago are completely reality.

Thank you to every hand that has helped to build this ministry house.

Another big change is my job description. I am very excited to be stepping into a new role within GO Ministries.

GO supports six nutrition centers in the Dominican and Haiti. Children come to eat lunch Monday through Saturday. These centers serve at risk children in impoverished communities. My hope is to assist the Pastors and Directors of these centers to extend the outreach to supply not only food, but also spiritual, emotional and educational programs that reach not only the children enrolled, but their families and the whole of the community.

We are beginning by introducing spiritual curriculum in each center that can easily be taught before the meal and create an environment for spiritual alimentation as well.

Teaching children and watching them grow has always been a passion for me, so I am delighted to work with these centers and the valiant partners that direct and lead them.

John 17:25-26

New International Version (NIV)

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[a] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Redemption at work

Remember the story of Abram in the Bible? How God promised to give him a child, but Abraham and Sarah got anxious and ended up making a big mistake. The remarkable thing is, God still  kept his promise and blessed them with Isaac. God loved them, despite the fact they doubted and panicked and took matters into their own hands. (Genesis chapters 15,16 & 21).

Living in poverty can put a person in a constant state of fear and worry. Studies show that people living in poverty tend to live in less than sanitary conditions and have less access to nutrition and adequate education.  Lack of education makes a person feel inferior and effects social and emotional relationships.

Studies also show that a person can develop and heal later on in life. In a sense, rise above these effects of poverty. It takes work, determination and Jesus, but it is possible.

"The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down."
~Psalm 145:14

I have a friend in Hato del Yaque. Her name is Yolanda. She has been working as a cook with for the nutrition center for several years now. She is a single mother. She lives in a very small wooden house by the polluted canal. She never learned to read or write, but is smart and a hard worker. She knows that God has promised a good future for her and her kids.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans 
 to give you hope and a future."
~Jeremiah 29:11

She is became a Christian a several years ago and started attending Church. It was difficult. Her family didn't understand why she wouldn't drink with them and are offended that she won't worship the dead with them anymore. Then at Christmas time, her mother died. Yolanda felt alone, worried and overwhelmed. 

Like Abraham and Sarah, she began to panic and think maybe she needed to help God. Like any single woman in poverty she began to think she needed a man to help supply her needs instead of God alone. The Christmas after her mother died she felt especially keenly her loss. There was a man who wanted to move into her house, so thinking that maybe this was good for her and her children she agreed. 

But it turned out not to be so good. 

A couple of months later a group from Discovery Church in Simi Valley came for a mission trip. A wonderful lady stood up and gave her testimony to the ladies. 

Lovie is a smart, happy and beautiful example to all of Christ's love and redemption. When she gave her testimony she spoke of poverty, abuse and addiction; She spoke of self worth and the promises of God. She shared about how after years of feeling like she didn't deserve a good future. God gave it to her. God blessed her with a job to help others and a good husband. God did and does what he promises.   

Lovie's testimony was one of the reasons Yolanda finally decided to completely trust God. The man moved out of her house and she began to be steady in work and attend services regularly. 

But a surprise happened.

About 5 months later Yolanda found out she was pregnant. She was devastated. Now she would have three children and no husband. Now she would have a larger family to fit in her home and how was she going to supply all that she needed? Fear, worry and loneliness became her companion again, but not for long...

Instead of ostracizing her, she found that her church family embraced her. The ladies of the church held a shower and as poor as they are themselves, supplied her with what she needed. 

When the baby boy was born, instead of giving him several family names that is common in any family, especially in the Latin culture, Yolanda decided to simply name him Isaac.  

So we had a baby dedication in church yesterday in Hato del Yaque. Yolanda dedicated Isaac to the Lord. Montan and I stood up and witnesses and I promised to give both Yolanda and Isaac as much spiritual guidance as God leads and they will allow.

There is still a lot of life ahead for Yolanda and her three children. With the help of her Father God and her church family she is rising above the effects of poverty. There will be many ups and downs I am sure, but I am positive that God has good things in store for Yolanda and her family. 

The same is true for everyone living in Hato del Yaque and really all of us.      

"He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; He saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth"
~Job 5:15-17 



Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University

Prof Michael Marmot: UCL

Eric Jensen, "The Effects of Poverty on the Brain"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AIDS and HdY

Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. 
I will take away sickness from among you, 
Exodus 23:25

That is a strange verse if you are in a country where the faucet water is riddled with "amoebas" and outbreaks of leptospirosis are commonplace. 

There is this house next to our hub in HdY. Sometimes from the roof I wave and say "hi" to the people, but I never really visited their home or got to know them. Their daughter in law and son came to church some. Mostly the daughter in law. Their granddaughter recently entered our nutrition center.

In October, a team from First Christian Church of Fort Myers was here. One of our cooks asked if I would go pray because the son was very sick and staying there with them. So, I went with Pastor Elido and one of the team members to pray for him. I went more to comfort the family of a sick person rather than anything. As we sat there, Elido conversing with the father, the sick man came out and sat with us. He was terribly thin and had a strange look in his eye. I was uncomfortable with the look and tried not to make eye contact for too long. I mostly sat and listened to the conversation. In doing so I learned that the man had Aids and his organs were beginning to fail. They talked about healing, heaven, fear and faith.

I left with the feeling that there was nothing to do, and the understanding that this story was all too common.

According to dr1, an online newspaper, an estimated 88,000 people in the Dominican Republic are infected with HIV/AIDS. The article reads "There are currently 23,000 adult women between the ages of 15 and 49 with HIV/AIDS." Since there are so many single parent homes in the DR an estimated 58,000 children have been orphaned or are at risk of being orphaned because of the disease. I recently read a paper that was done in 2009 about prostitution in the DR. Apparently even with the grotesque sex tourism, it is locals that make up over 80% of the customers.

The point of me spewing these numbers out is to show that the conversation I had with the widow and her friends after our neighbor died is a common tale... common beliefs... a common problem.

After I heard that the man had died I went to both homes. First I went to the home of the father of the man who died. They all seemed tired, but somehow relieved. They said that he had suffered greatly and was scared and were glad that it was finally over. I can understand that.

Then I went to the man's home where his wife was sitting outside with some friends. She seemed ... scared.
Her friend was very talkative about HIV and how men who have it aren't careful and don't seem to care about who they spread it too. She said that people don't take the medication because they feel fine for a long time and so don't bother. She said that sometimes people don't believe they have it because they don't have anything wrong at first and so they don't tell their partners.

When the widow finally chimed in she said that her husband had been very promiscuous before he settled down with her. She has HIV, but took the medicine when she had her kids and they have been negative so far.

They said that when you have the disease you become a sort of outcast, so most people pretend they don't have it. But TB doesn't lie. Tuberculosis is an opportunistic disease and here almost anyone who has an extremely weakened immune system can get it, especially people with HIV. The ladies told me that if you have a horrible cough people will start to think that you have TB and if you have TB they automatically think you have HIV and then they won't associate with you.

The thing that struck me most is something the widow said. She said that her doctor told her that the disease was so common that pretty soon every one on earth will die from AIDS. So pretty much he was saying that there is nothing we can do and its not a big deal. But it is a big deal.

A couple of years ago, when I started to look into adoption, I researched what it would look like if I adopted a child with HIV. I researched, read, even emailed and called doctors who were experts in the area. According to them, HIV is very livable and if we all took precautions and proper medication, HIV could be wiped from the face of the earth. 

Well, that remains to be seen. Meanwhile in our little barrio of 26,000 people we are just getting started. Our enemy isn't HIV. Our enemy isn't promiscuity, adultery or fornication. Our enemy isn't the absent father or the neglectful mother. 

Our enemy is the one who desires to steal, kill and destroy

The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; 
I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure. 
John 10:10

This is Jesus speaking. "The thief" refers to Satan whose weapons are the vises that we cling to, as we try to fill our lives. 

But Jesus is speaking. "I have come so that they may have life...". So there is a counter attack. We are not left defenseless. We have truth. 

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. 
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 

We fight by welcoming as many people as will come to be part of our church body. We visit the sick, disciple through sports leagues, teach young people of their own worth in Christs eyes through studies and clubs. We love the struggling parents and help them provide for their children where we can. 
Jesus said "I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure."

When people look at a little place like Hato del Yaque. They see the poverty, lack of education, drugs, prostitution, malnutrition and disease.

Jesus did what he did because he saw something else. He sees love, hope, abundance, joy, peace and wisdom. He sees eternity in their eyes. He believes they are worth every fight and he is sending you and me into battle for them. 
As Paul said during his days of battle...


"As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;  in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;  in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." 
2 Corinthians 6:6-10

Ok, I have never been beaten or imprisoned, but I can relate to pretty much everything else. And I too have been given a great grace. Every plate of food, every princess study, each time I translate a vbs, it is for the sole purpose of bestowing even just a smidgen of it. 

Again I resonate with Paul when I say to you...

"... to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus"

1 Corinthians 1:2b-4


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Big Visions

Our vision for Hato del Yaque is big. Very big.
Pastor Elido tying rebar with a team member
There is a central building that has a dormitory for teams, an office for Pastor Elido, a kitchen and pantry, a water purification system and a large cafeteria where the children in the nutrition center eat as well as the American mission teams. The second floor is under construction for classrooms and sanctuary.
 We have recently bulldozed our new baseball field and anticipate our volleyball and basketball courts.
Across the street the ministry house is well under way. The first floor will be a duplex. I and my son will live on one side and Pastor Elido’s family will live on the other side. The second floor will have apartments for interns and other staff. The third floor will be an open area for get togethers. 

All of these buildings are tools to touch people’s lives and make an impact in this enchanting community.
Pastor Elido is spending time raising up leaders to expand every facet of ministry so that Christ will be felt in Hato del Yaque.
Elido has encouraged the congregation to raise funds for equipment for their church instead of waiting for handouts. Last year the poverty stricken congregation raised enough money to buy themselves a used sound board for a sound system. This gave them a sense of accomplishment, unity and pride.
In March we had some intruders come into our building who robbed us of that same sound board.
The following day Pastor Elido and I went to the station to make a report. The captain establishes his authority by talking in a manner that everyone around has to listen. He begins to talk about how there are so many “tigers” in Hato del Yaque and how you can’t trust anybody and these thieves have no conscience… but something he says grabs our attention. He says “let me tell you that God won’t forgive this thief”. Both of us in unison say “That’s not true!”. Elido begins to reference the Bible, speaking of the thief that entered heaven with Jesus. I point out that we are in Hato del Yaque specifically because of that thief, because Jesus does forgive him.
The captain didn’t agree with us, but it was like a match was lit. We remembered that it truly was for the “tigers” that we are in Hato del Yaque. The congregation has rallied. They too are realizing who they represent in this community and what the true cost …. and reward, may be.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you be Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” 
­– Colossians 1:21-22.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

learning to be a woman of God

Since my pastor Aristides died last December I have been to several more Dominican funerals. One was of Montans mother. She was like 107 years old or something. She was alert until the last month or so. She liked having someone sit on the bed with her while she rambled about life. I only understood about 40% but still enjoyed it.

Another funeral was for someone I had never even met.

I was blessed this year to go to the women's conference. Nikki and Samira along with a fabulous team of women put together the beautiful theme of "submerged in Living water". The decorations were something out of my fantasies as a child and the foot washing at the end of teh prayer walk was heart melting. My favorite though was the communion. There were women I respect from various parts of the Dominican serving the others.

Left to right. Griselda (los guandules), Reina (la mosca) Yudi and friend (the hole)
'praying' Modesta (Hato del Yaque), Alexandra (Batey 9), Fior (Via Cafetelera),
Tata (Hoya del Caimito and retired DR first lady of GO), Kendy (Hoya del Caimito
and present DR first lady of GO)

The women in the church wait all year for this. They make things to sell in order to pay their way. It very well may be the biggest event in their lives all year save the birth or marriage of a family member.
I roomed with all of the people from Hato del Yaque. One of the ladies was named Lucia. She really hadn't come to church in a long time. Her son, Christian, has been coming on and off since he was a child, but she has never been very consistant.
It was a great opportunity for Lucia to reconnect with the church body and get to know our new Pastor's wife, Modesta.
The ladies from the church in Hato del Yaque, La Mina, minus Lucia

Unfortunatly Lucia received a phonecall during the conference with the news that her mother had died. Once Modesta was able to get me to understand what had happened, we instantly looked for a vehicle to take her to her mother's house where they would be holding the funeral.

As quickly as I could I grabbed my purse and the van keys. Someone asked if they could go with us so that I wouldn't be driving alone. I said "of course" and opened the door. I jumped in the drivers seat and looked in the rearview mirror. What I saw made tears spring to my eyes. Not one person came with us, but the whole entire group of women from two churches in Hato del Yaque came. They prayed and comforted and loved on Lucia all the way to Moca where the house was. They all missed a quarter of their precious conference.

We arrived before any other family. We stayed during the preliminary wailing of Lucia until stronger friends and family arrived.

The thing is... Lucia was not a faithful member of the church. It would have sufficed if the Pastor's wife and maybe one other had went. But thats not how these women do things. The whole group went.

True, I am here to teach and support and help people. But I have so much to learn from these ladies about being a woman of God.

2 Corinthians 6:10
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.