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"Accident"ly Changed

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (32)

Dear Friends,

 

As many of you know, we will begin our transition back from the Dominican Republic next month. It is crazy to think that it has already been 2 years. What a wild, fun, exciting, difficult and sometimes scary ride. Thank you for coming on mission with us and for supporting the children here in Rio San Juan.

 

Our journey here began with a car accident involving a moped, a surfboard, broken windows, and me (Ryan) going to jail. We brought to that experience everything a new missionary, fresh from the US would bring to something like that. We were frustrated with senseless system, a slow process, and also angry, hurt and overwhelmed. We tried to fight the Dominican process every step of the way and ended up tired and extorted for several hundred dollars in the end.

 

Fast forward to our journey the other day:

We were driving our car (which hasn’t had any problems aside from the above accident) to a town about 1 ½ hours away. We saw some flashing lights on the dashboard and stopped to check what the problem might be. A little low on oil – no problem. We pulled in to a local gas station, topped off with oil and grabbed some oil for the road. About 10 minutes later the same lights began to flash again – followed promptly by our car dying in the middle of the highway. We pulled off to the side the best we could, but there wasn’t much of a shoulder. As we were changing seats so Ryan could push the car to a clear spot, 2 Dominican men showed up and helped us push the car. The clear area was the front yard of a Dominican man named Jerry.

 

Jerry ran off to fetch oil (and told us to wait inside his home) while we did all the standard things you do when stranded on the side of the highway. I checked the oil a few times while the boys fed and chased the chickens in Gerry’s yard. We chatted with random Dominicans passing by, admired the view and fruit trees, commented about how “nice” Jerry’s house is, and just wait. Upon Jerry’s return we realized there was something much more significant wrong with our vehicle. So – Jerry ran off to get the local mechanic {Did I mention we were about ½ hour between towns}. So we waited some more. And waited… and waited….

 

Jerry’s friend Ingles showed up and started trouble shooting. Apparently lights flashing on our previously pristine Dominican vehicle now means our engine has decided to seize completely and we are going to need a tow. No – not tow truck towed – we were pulled by a rope attached to Ingles’ Celica. Jerry followed on his moto and told folks to get out of the way.

 

The story is still being played out as our vehicle is still stuck in a village an hour away, but the change in our attitudes has been noticeable. This time we were satisfied to sit in front of Jerry’s house for several hours in the June heat just waiting and talking. We were comfortable being towed through the worst driving conditions imaginable by a Toyota Celica (same one Sandy had in 1991 btw;). We were ecstatic to find out the local gas station has plastic chairs and a treacherous jungle gym, which our boys enjoyed. Some Dominicans fetched water for our dogs (did I mention of course our dogs were with us too). We were content to sit and wait while our friends (and fellow missionaries) rescued our stranded family.

 

The moral of our story is not car problems. It is that Dominicans have taught us that our American pace of life was just WAY TOO FAST. And also, that waiting is okay, even great, because it’s a great time to focus on relationships and connect with people. Instead of focusing on what task isn’t being done in the waiting process, we have learned to focus on what important things can be done.

 

Your lives have continued while we have been away and many of you will expect us to return as you remember us. However, this experience has changed us significantly for the rest of our lives. We are going to return different than we were. We are going to return pretty tired, quite a bit tanner, but also changed in ways we have not yet begun to realize. Thank you for your support, your prayers, and most of all for your understanding.

 

 

Ryan, Sandy, Bodi & Kai

(Also Chile – the New Mexico Brown Dog and introducing… new to the family… Rio – our Dominican Coconut Hound)

Dominican guy caring for the hounds in the heat

 

 

If you would like to support us through our transition, please click  “Giving” above. We will soon begin the long process of merging our two lives.

 

And If Necessary, Use Words

Posted on March 10, 2016 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”

That’s a phrase loosely attributed to St. Francis of Assasi. It’s kinda controversial actually.  Us... we love it because words mean less and less these days. Society seems to be more about ‘telling’ and less about ‘showing’.   From the political controversies all over TV to the local church people are quick to share their opinion (or spread it on Facebook) but are slow to be the change they want to see.  For us, it has become evident throughout our time here that showing is so much more effective.  We are beginning to find this true in all facets of our life. Our kids here in Rio San Juan don’t need more religious people yacking God AT them.  There are plenty of religious groups here screaming (yes literally) about Jesus.

What our kids need, and really respond to is God being SHOWN to them.  Not a spoken love but a demonstrated love.  It is amazing what happens when people actually live out their faith and become Jesus in the flesh instead of just talk about their belief in some guy named Jesus.  

We had an incredible mission team visit us this week. They were all about ‘showing’ our kids Jesus. It was inspiring to watch a group take the part of the Bible about being hands and feet literally.  This team lit our missionary fire and gave us strength and encouragement for months to come. If they used words, I’m pretty sure their love language was:

TIME

PLAY

HUGS

SHARE

EYE CONTACT

LAUGH

SNACKS

HIGH FIVES


                               


                           


                                                    


Our ministry is growing but also being refined. Our student leaders are doing an incredible job running Club Chiquito on their own. Our main efforts these days are keeping them in line :)  How hard is that?


We have an incredible group of supporters who I only wish wish wish could experience this place and these beautiful young children. Thank you for going and being and doing with us!




Giving Tuesday

Posted on December 1, 2015 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (1)

Hello friends,

What an interesting rollercoaster of days. It is difficult to truly appreciate this until it’s done from afar. First we have a great holiday (one of our favorites) Thanksgiving. A day to be intentional about being thankful – something that is surprisingly difficult in our hustle & bustle world. Then we roll right into Black Friday and Cyber Monday where we buy more than the GDP of most countries in order to fill our consumeristic needs and overindulge while going broke to save money. Then comes Giving Tuesday…

 

As you are all waking from the craziness of the past holiday weekend we encourage you to consider our ministry. Club Chiquito and our many other programs provide a safe and loving place for the impoverished kids of Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic. We cannot do it without you. We know that we are truly the blessed ones, having the opportunity to be your hands and feet here in the DR. Thank you for loving, caring for, praying for, and financially supporting the least of these.

 

Deductions are tax deductible – Click "Giving" at the top or Click HERE.



 

Come a Long Way...

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)
Thank you all for loving these kids with us.  
We have all come a long way in the last 14 months.  
What a great group!  


Check out these pics of the early days and the video from last week. 

  



    


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Eucharist Tired

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello friends,

Looking back over the past few months and to our last blog reminded me of a podcast we listened to recently. It discussed the different types of tired. There is physically tired – where you are just worn out and your body hurts. There is mentally tired – where your brain is cooked and you are worn down and exhausted from pushing yourself mentally. Then, there is Eucharist tired – where you are just worn out, beat up, and overall exhausted from pouring into others. Eucharist tired is the type of tired you get from doing your part of God’s mission to the world. We all experience it from time to time. Even though we may be in the great place that God has intended us to be, we can still get beat down and worn out. That was the type of tired our family was when we went back to the states in July. We stepped foot on American soil feeling dirty and carrying a few diseases that we care not to talk about  :)  Thanks to so many great friends, family, (antibiotics) and awesome supporters pouring into us and building us back up – we are recharged and READY TO HIT IT HARD! Thank you for caring, for listening, asking, and for supporting. You know who you are – the ones who invited us in, took us out to dinner, grabbed a good beer, or just listened.

Because of the support we received we are back here in the DR and are already hitting the ground running (the very “hot” ground – why do we always transition to this island in August)  :) Club Chiquito has officially started again for the school year and we are excited about taking this program to the next level and getting to know many of the kids you support even better (although maybe without contracting impetigo this time)  :)


    


Along with our normal Club Chiquito, we loaded our plates with a few other things. This year we are hosting a study hall for the Manna Christian School students in the community center. This is not only a great time for them to accomplish their homework, but is an opportunity for us to take some of the students aside for some mentoring time and to dive a little deeper into the Dominican way of life. Club de Chicas Respetuosas will begin next week and Club de Chicos de Dios will reconvene this Saturday. Ryan is teaching a leadership course to the Manna Christian School seniors this semester (who knew all those years of Air Force professional military education would pay off).




Thank you again for all those of you poured into us and were a “good gift” (Eucharist) to us while we were in the states and as always – Thank you to our supporters who are making this possible. If you would like to partner with us on this journey, please click “giving” at the top of this page.

 

¿Have You Ever Wondered - Where Are You God?

Posted on June 19, 2015 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello friends,


It has been a long 6 weeks! Thank you to those who have been praying for us and helping to encourage us.
Just to give you a quick glimpse – we haven’t had electricity or running water for a lot of the past 6 weeks, most everything is broken, both vehicles and moped have needed significant repairs (of course all at the same time – leaving us on foot), kids have been sick, our neighbor was shot during a breaking and entering, and no sleep for the weary due to extremely loud music during Dominican holidays. Sandy had a case of the shingles, a bout with poison ivy, and her tendonitis has taken a new turn making it painful for her to even walk. Oh, and did I mention that some of our loved ones are facing the realities of deportation to Haiti due to a politically charged racist immigration law. All the while I was in the US for an Air Force school and feeling helpless with a thousand unanswered prayers…

 

I guess I always thought missionaries got a pass on a lot of the things that other people complain about or that God just miraculously sorted that stuff out for them or answered their prayers faster and more precisely. We never know what we might learn from the crazy things that seem to keep our attention on matters of the world, but we usually learn something and are stronger on the other side. The big problem is that it is difficult (at least for me) to focus on matters of the soul when the majority of your time is spent trying to throw away food that spoiled in your refrigerator that isn’t getting electricity or getting water (without mud or sewage) to run through your faucet or ensuring the safety of your family when neighbors are getting shot.

 

Unlike the guy who wrote “Footprints in the Sand” we have not yet gotten to the other side to notice that God was carrying us. We are instead still asking – God where are you? At times like this we often discuss the difference between cognitive ability to know God is good and God is present versus feelings counter to those ideas.

 

THEN:

 

 

 

We are reminded that what we have experienced over the past several weeks is just another day in the life of these little guys – the reason we are here.

 

We would like to introduce you to Club de Chicos de Dios (Boys of God). Yes, they picked the name even though we wanted to call them either wild ponies or caballeros (cowboys). These boys ages 9-11 have lived an entire life much more adverse than our past 6 weeks. Yet always they are full of smiles at the smallest hug or tiniest bit of encouragement. Thank you all for making this center in Rio San Juan a place of safety and security for these Chicos de Dios. We had 15 kids at our first meeting last Tuesday. We all played board games, built a cool hot wheels track, painted with water colors, and got to enjoy MANY, MANY, MANY bowls of cereal. Thank you for enabling us to bless these little guys. We are very excited to see their story of despair turned into hope and a future.

 

We may still be asking – “Where are you God,” but we know we are here to help breath life and love into these kids. We know that God is telling a story that is much greater than our little family and that eventually we will look back with a great story of how God used this for HIS good.

 

¡Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

 

It's like a real community center!

Posted on May 14, 2015 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello friends. Thanks to our faithful supporters we’ve managed to again expand our programs here at Centro Cristiano. In continuing to ask the question – “what is Good News” for our community we opened our school of English last week with 12 students and one stellar director, Carlitos. English is so important here. There are not many jobs to be had, let alone good jobs. If you know English, then you’ve already made your way to the front of the line.


Carlitos is a senior and about to graduate from our Manna Christian School and will be heading to college in Santiago this fall. He’s described by other missionaries here as a ‘rock star’. We are so proud of this man (because that’s what he is now) for taking so much initiative and leadership in serving his community. Carlitos is the type of person who follows God with a fervor that is unique among his age group. He knows that God has blessed him so that he can be a blessing to others here in Rio San Juan.



Speaking of Manna Christian School. This ministry began 4 years ago and is about to graduate its’ first class. Many are sponsored to head to college this August. If I gave you a glimpse of teenagers around the DR, this would be what they DO NOT usually look like:


Can you just see the light radiating from them? It’s blinding. This community could really use more of what you see here. We know that hope will spread as these stellar young women and men evenually return to their communities not only with a great education, but with hearts that are after God’s own.


Our programs help feed into the school and we are proud to tell you that 4 of ‘my’ girls from our girls club, Club de Chicas Respetuosas, will be starting at Manna Christian school this fall. All of these girls need sponsorship of course, but particularly we’ve got our eye on one special little character (and she IS a character) named Dileimy. She’s grounded, has a sweet spirit and is a huge help in our Club Chiquito program. She lives with her mom in one of Rio San Juan's most poverty-stricken areas. She has a wonderful extended family (Carlitos above is her cousin) and prays to God like no other 13 year old I've met.  It is our goal for our ministry to support Dileimy through her 4 years at Manna where she will be mentored to grow into a strong Christian leader. Her tuition will be $150/mo. Would you partner with us in helping to rewrite her story and supporting this effort? (Please select ‘giving’ above).


Our Club Chiquito after school program is thriving. We are excited to host many mission teams this summer. In store: lots of hugs and snacks!  Here’s a great pic of some boys we like to call our “Wild Ponies”. Seriously, they were WILD back when we started in August. We couldn’t even get them to sit down never mind stop throwing fists. Through lots of talks, consequences and hugs they seem to just get it now. We have been very excited to see stories of God’s hope and some lessons in character help turn their stories from pain and darkness to hope and a future. Not only that, but as we’ve grown to know them they’ve become respectful and dare we say….loving.



 

6 months in the field, how are you?

Posted on March 14, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Hi all of you. What an adventure it has been so far. We just returned home from a few weeks of R&R back in the States. Interesting that here is our new definition of ‘home’, but in just 6 months, it already feels that way. We received so many questions from our friends in the US we thought we’d answer a few here.


1. How’s the DR? Hmm…good but also nebulous. We think pretty good. ‘DR’ is floating around in the Caribbean, all tropical-ish. Although I’ve never asked personally, I get the overall feeling this ‘DR’ is content and ‘tranquilo’ as they say here.


2. Biggest Surprise? 1. We landed ourselves an incredible community of English speaking friends. It helps that we walk up to people and say, ‘hi, doyouspeakEnglish---doyouwannabemyfriend?’ After only 3 weeks here we had ourselves a veritable community group. That there is a God thing because there just aren’t a zillion people around to pick and choose from. What we love is that we really do life together. When you don’t have to compete with busy schedules and Iphones, opportunities for deep relationship just happen. 2. The second biggest surprise is our affinity for our Manna High School teenagers that lead our Club Chiquito program. WE DON’T LIKE TEENAGERS! Ohmygosh, yes we do, we LOVE our teenagers! They are different.


3. Biggest Difficulty? 1. Need. Our predecessors warned us of this but, gosh. We’ve been wading through a lot of teachings, especially those from Oswald Chambers who consistently reinforces the fact that it is all about what God has CALLED you to do, not simply filling the needs of the people. We could go aimlessly on need ‘til the cows come home - And they are all out partying all over creation-- not even thinking about coming home. 2. Cultural change was hard, but the real challenge has been God’s working in us to lower our expectations in order to focus on what really is important. This is a change we REALLY wanted but still, growth can be painful sometimes!


5. What have you learned? Dominicans have taught us so much about living in a collective society and putting relationships first. Slowing down too. Let’s mash those together: slowing down for relationships. These people are SO loving. They may not get stuff done like we do, but they are showing us what’s even more important.


6. What do you miss most? Ryan: good beer. Sandy: good mountains


7. When are you coming home? See first paragraph. We know that God has us right where he wants us. When he says ‘out you go’ then out we will go.


8. Oh yes! And many of you (when you weren’t spoiling us with comfy beds and yummy dinners) asked for updates on our ministry:


Supporters! Look at your new floor! Huge gratitude goes out to our supporters who funded this new safe floor. A bit of an understatement; but it’s so nice to NOT have kids tripping and falling on broken tile every day. We can even play leap frog!


  


This week we hosted two very hard working mission teams. They directed a great activity with the kids including a drama, crafts, activities and lesson. The kids had SO much fun. They also painted and poured new concrete slab for our outdoor area. If you are interested in funding some basketball hoops out here please click giving at the top and identify bball hoops in your note. We can’t wait to show you pics of kids out here jumping rope and shooting hoops.


  


Last Fri night I got together with my 12-14 year old Girls club: Club de Chicas Respetuosas. I thought their little heads were gonna pop off when I asked them if they wanted to go and get ice cream. While there we did some planning for our next meeting which will involve indulging in A LOT OF PASTA and chick flicks. I told them I’d give them money for the shopping and they said, “No Sandy, that’s not fair.” I said, “oh dears, this ice cream and that pasta is paid for by some great friends in the USA that support this ministry.”

They thought that was too cool, so I decided to ask them: “Why do you think they send us money to do this?” I gotta tell you, I really wasn’t sure what I’d get, but… “because God asks them to care about other people.” Nailed that I think. Have I told you I love these girls?

Later we walked around Rio San Juan for a while. I felt like mother hen and also had the very distinct feeling that coyotes were circling the coop of my 12 chicks. (I wonder how many bazillion times that night I reminded them to never walk alone at night). Please pray for these girls, their safety, their discernment and the knowledge that they are worth so much. With your partnership, together we will run those coyotes right outta here.

 



 

¡Feliz Navidad!

Posted on December 28, 2014 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)
Yes, we’re here! Seems like every Anglo has left the island so we imported our own. Our dear friends who we call Aunt Vicki and Uncle Ken are visiting for Christmas. It’s always nice to see someone from the USA, but it is quite fantastic to host people who are willing to serve with a smile and are encouraging at every turn.





Ken and Vicki are part of a distinguished group of friends who brought/sent us all kinds of goodies so that we could have a Christmas party and distribute little gift bags to about 85 kids this week. Many of our kids will not receive any gifts or experience any type of traditional celebration of Christmas. You can tell from their smiles that these presents mean the world to them. Though it is only a small gift, these kids now know that someone actually cares about them and even more importantly they can associate our lessons about Jesus to feelings of comfort, joy and love. Absolutely priceless smiles:




We pray you are enjoying the peace of Christmas and the so very many blessings God has provided. As we are celebrating our first Dominican Christmas, we have been contemplating its real meaning. When culture isn’t running you over with the consumerism message, the message of Christmas comes through a little more clearly. We pray as the craziness of the Christmas season winds down you will have the opportunity we have had to reflect on the Incarnational miracle of Jesus and the lifestyle that calls all Christ-followers toward. It is truly amazing what these little Dominican friends have taught us over the past few weeks.




We are excited to tell you that in January we will be growing our ministry. Ryan will be working with the teenagers of Rio San Juan, helping to facilitate a weekly devotional/fellowship in the café at the back of the community center. Sandy will be ministering to a group of 11-13 year old girls where we’ll have ‘girl’s night’ once per month in the same café. I know a lot of our friends are screaming – WHAT! TEENS! What’s weird is that teenagers are SO NOT our people group in the USA, but our Dominican teens (and kids for that matter) are very different and are a special group with whom we feel called. We are excited to watch these teens grown into the leaders we see within them and are looking forward to sharing stories of mentorship, discipleship, and a little crazy Dominican fun with you next year.




Our supporters are simply inspirational. We kicked this mission off in August, and we appreciate the trust, love and encouragement they have provided. We are thankful to report that last week we were blessed by a couple who will be supporting our snacks AND craft budget every month. If you would like to be a blessing to kids that really really need to know that they are SO loved by God, please select giving at the top. Your donation is tax deductible. (2014 is almost over!)




Giving Tuesday

Posted on December 2, 2014 at 6:20 AM Comments comments (1)

It’s giving Tuesday, a day to celebrate generosity and a day to give. We encourage you to consider our ministry which provides a safe and loving place for the impoverished kids of Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic. Donations are tax deductible.

 

Jessica.

Many of you have asked about Jessica, our first little friend in the Dominican, and the subject of our first blog post. She is the 9 year old girl that sells popcorn on the streets during the day and sleeps in a not-so-great place at night. Today we (Manna Ministries) showed up at her school for the Magi Christmas celebration. It was nuts and although there were at least one ZILLION children, who was first to take my hand? Little Jessica. She was excited for me to meet her teacher and immediately dragged me there. I could tell by her smile that her teacher is a huge blessing in her life. I asked her if Jessica is a good student and her teacher just BEAMED with pride, ‘oh yes SHE IS!’ I asked Jessica why I hadn’t seen her at the center and she gave me the usual shrug off. I asked if it was because she had to work and she nodded yes. For some reason she can’t ever seem to look me in the eyes during this conversation.


Today we had 92 kids at the center. Of course Jessica was not there because she was out selling popcorn. About half-way through our event Jessica was peaking in the window with her tub full of popcorn. We just couldn’t take it anymore. We paid for all of the popcorn and yanked her in just so we could get back some bit of her childhood for at least one hour. She had a great time and I just pray she felt a little bit of God’s love through it all.


My mother in law has had a heart for little Jess since she first learned her story. Here they are, happy girls:

 

     


 


Magi Christmas photos: For most of these kids this is the only gift they will receive this year.


     

                                    Best Time of The Year!        Santa and his Angels

 


    

                  Ryan's Dad and His New Fan Club         Beautiful

 

 


 These kids are blessed because our incredible supporters chose to be a blessing to them. We need your partnership. Our ~600 sq’ space is overloaded and we would like to put concrete in our yard which measures about another ~800 sq’ and use this for games and lessons. This will cost ~$2000k. Other needs are our craft budget which runs $40/mo and the snack budget which costs $50/mo.

Thank you so much for your encouragement, prayers and financial support. If you would like your tax deductible donation to support our program please click giving at www.truesonmission.com.

 

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give – Winston Churchill

 

 

The Sanky Panky

Posted on October 30, 2014 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Nope not a typo. If you look up Sanky Panky on wiki, it has some sexual connotations but around our community it is what is loosely referred to as a Dominicans taking advantage of a gringo (if you don’t know what a gringo is then wow you are really gringo). There are actual movies made here in the Caribbean about it. Generally the plot revolves around a latino man in search of an older gringa woman to take care of him. So funny and popular that Sanky Panky 2 just arrived in theaters!


I’m struggling with cultural differences. DUH, you say! Of course you are, it’s a struggle for every missionary in the foreign field. But, what I mean is I think I am struggling more with my culture than theirs. Example:


We’ve written a lot about need in our past few posts. Our predecessors told us that the biggest challenge will be deciding who to help. Everyone needs help and they will ask for it. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like a walking-talking ATM machine. Occasionally you feel like you are playing a lead role in ‘The Sanky Panky’.


We have an electrician named Bruno. I LOVE BRUNO. He helps us with anything and at a moment’s notice. Even when I am in town waiting for Ryan, he’ll sit and wait with me, stop traffic and open my car door. A few weeks ago I told Ryan, I LOVE BRUNO, I don’t know what I’ll do if he ever pulls the Sanky Panky…


Two hours later. ‘Sright…Bruno needs $10…emergency and all that. Ryan gave it to him, he said he’d pay it back, but that was a while ago. My heart was broken.


We talked the situation over with a few friends who have lived here for a long time. Four friends, four opinions:

1) Yes it’s the Sanky Panky

2) He probably looks at it like an advance for work

3) It’s probably a compliment, he looks at you like family, borrowing money is not a big deal here

4) It means you are friends, and he sees your house/car and knows $10 is not a lot for you


Instead of picking apart Dominicans, maybe I needed to do some introspection. Let’s face it, in the USA asking for money is TABOO. Really, does a relationship get more awkward than when money is involved? Raising financial support is the biggest barrier in getting missionaries to the field. (Not the money, the asking for money) and personally I know it is uncomfortable. Why are we so hung up this? Just because we understand something from a perspective doesn’t mean it is correct. As we try to gain access into this community-centered culture some of our paradigms feel like they need a shift.


That is just one of a lot of cultural differences we are processing. Some of these things we will likely never overcome because they are so ingrained in us – but why? It is easy to just think we have cultural norms figured out because we come from the 1st world. However, the developing world has a lot to teach and we are just getting started.


Back to need. Kind of wacky switching from Sanky Panky to Oswald Chambers who said:


A missionary is someone sent by Jesus Christ just as He was sent by God. The great controlling factor is not the needs of people, but the command of Jesus. The goal is to be true to Him— to carry out His plans.


Ryan and I have always said we give when we feel God pressing on our heart. So for our ministry, and otherwise we are prayerfully going forward with our focus on the command of Jesus.


At the end of the day we are blessed with these smiles which tear down all cultural barriers. Things are going well at the community center, and we are enjoying getting to know each and every kid. We love that some of you have been asking about the kids by name! Thank you to our supporters who just bought us a new SAFE floor that will be installed in Dec/Jan. (Yes it takes a month here). If God is pressing on your heart to support this mission, please select giving above. I promise, no Sanky Panky  :)




           

                 



Niños De Carácter --- Meet Francisco!

Posted on October 6, 2014 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (1)

Hello friends!

We have just finished week 2 of the re-opening of the community center in Rio San Juan, and through each child we have met, it has been a great blessing. We are so thankful that we get to be your boots on the ground and love on these great kids. After talking with the principal of the local elementary school, the mayor of Rio San Juan (RSJ), and our leadership team, we have been focusing on two main areas. First, building the foundations of discipleship for our young crowd and second, helping develop children of character.

We have a special place in the center where each week we display the name of a child who has exemplified good character. This is how we met Francisco. Francisco was one of the first kids in the door on our opening movie night and has been the first person in line every day our doors have been open since. He is always ready to give us a high-five or make a joke while waiting 45 minutes for us to open. We do not yet know much about Francisco’s family life, but we see him playing in the streets every day in RSJ, many times without shoes. He doesn’t seem to smile much until he sees our doors open – then the grin pops out and his great smile shines through.


The day of our first event there was a lot of craziness. Of course we met Francisco as he was waiting for the doors to open, but then we noticed that he was standing out among the kids who were paying attention and really engaged in our event. At the point we were attempting (with our meager Spanish) to have the kids cleanup we noticed Francisco leading the charge. He was the first person to start, the only kid to help, and the last person to finish cleaning. Along the way some of the other boys were giving Francisco a hard time for helping us, but he didn’t mind – he just smiled and kept on helping. Thus, Francisco was named our first “Niño de Carácter.” You should have seen the smile on his face as Sandy announced his name and gave him a small prize. Now, he points to his name every day and smiles and says: ‘Soy un niño de carácter!’ (I’m a kid of character).


Thank you partners for making the outreach center a place that Francisco can not only learn to be a Niño de Carácter, but a place where he learns that God loves him more than he could ever know.

We need more partners! Our facility is in worse shape than we expected. Our floors are treacherous, some of our space is unusable due to lack of care and anything that was left for us to use for the kids has disappeared between our arrival and when the last missionaries went home. To be blunt, WE NEED YOUR HELP financially. We currently have enough money to keep the doors open and the lights on, but not enough to make our program excellent. If you would like to engage with us or if you know a person or organization that would like to help support the cause of loving these children in RSJ, please partner with us. To partner financially, select giving at the top of this webpage. If you would like to help with something specific so as to be certain of where your financial support is going, top ministry needs are below. Feel free to email us at TruesOnMission@gmail.com so we can target your gift.

1. Plastic Tables – 8 ($45 ea)
2. Projector for movies – ($400)
3. Supplies for crafts and games (1 month supply) – ($40)
4. Repair of main center floor ($650)

 

Up 'N Runnin'

Posted on September 22, 2014 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (1)

We’ve actually managed to stay out of the pokey this week and get some work done…

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve met with our directors here at Manna as well as local leaders in Rio San Juan. Particularly, the principal and the mayor were interesting. They were not shy with their needs (good for them!) and more or less gave us free reign in their communities. We were pretty overwhelmed (still are) with all of the need. There is a lot. We’ve decided to start small and hope to build a program that helps this community help themselves.

We spent a few days cleaning (gross!) the community center in preparation for our first event. We put the trash outside --- I’m talking legit trash (colored coloring books, dried fingernail polish, broken pencils, etc) and it was looted. Pouring rain? No matter, it was like Christmas to these kids. They were clinging to their ‘items’ for dear life. Part of me wanted to pounce because they were making a GIANT mess, but mostly my heart just crumbled. There are just no words. I never want to exploit these beautiful people, but when I write to you about NEED this picture is worth a thousand words.


 

Our first event was a movie night and was a super success. About 100 kids came, not a parent in sight. In fact I think it is weird that we thought it was weird when we saw one mom drop a kid off and pick her up. (???!!!) We just haven’t seen a lot of kids attached to parents around Rio San Juan.

  

Today we started our after school program. Our center is bare bones, a few chairs and that’s about all. We bought some balloons, pinterested some simple games, (kids in the US would say ‘no thank you’!) but OMG was it fun. And loco. Our ministry (Manna) runs a high school of 40 students. When you see these kids you just think, ‘wow, these kids are really different’. When you tell them so, they say, ‘Yes I know, thank you’. We are incredibly blessed to have them help with our ministry. I’m not sure if you’ve traveled through the Caribbean much, but young, strong, Christian, male leaders like these kids just don’t exist. I want our little kids to want to be like them. In fact, I know they already do, now they just need to learn the ‘how’.


So, to our supporters – well done! We wish you could also have been the one to receive the big giant unsolicited hugs from these kids as they left the center. We are so proud that you’ve taken a risk to bring love and hope here.


 

 


 


If you would like to partner with us, please select giving at the top. If you would like to help with something specific, top ministry needs are below. Feel free to email us at TruesOnMission@Gmail.com so we can target your gift.

1) Plastic chairs – Require 35 more ($8/ea) - This need has been met - A Thousand thanks!  Hope you can come enjoy an icecream and a Boynka in your chairs.  
2) Plastic tables – 8 ($45/ea)
3) Projector for movies – ($400)
4) Supplies for crafts and games (1 month supply) – ($40)

 

Angels with Popcorn

Posted on September 6, 2014 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (7)

When you are having a bad day –sometimes the best remedy is to love other people.

You know when you are just having one of those week. The kids woke up every night crying, Bodi has a double ear infection, we have lost power and run out our batteries several times, water was cut off for a while, it has been excessively hot (and no batteries means no fans), still no internet, still no car after 10 days of promises, our washing machine still doesn’t work (look for pictures of me washing clothes by hand) to name a few.

Then, yesterday we experienced our first accident in the DR. Two kids were riding on a moped, carrying a surfboard and decided to pass us on the left as we were about ½ way through a left hand turn. As they both hit our rental car and their surfboard broke the window, Bodi and Kai both started crying. Our kids had already had a difficult day and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back (or it was the surfboard that broke the window).

I exited the car to a screaming Dominican kid, I realized he wasn’t just yelling at me, he was trying to get me to back up so we could get his friends arm out from under our tire. Thankfully, both boys are ok (aside from a broken leg) and our family is all safe without a scratch. I’m thankful that Sandy handled the situation so well, without missing a step she was getting the boys calmed down, checking them for injuries, calling our friends to help us get things sorted out, and overall being a stud! I’m thankful for our Manna Global Ministries friends who arrived quickly, and even sent translators so we would be well taken care of. I’m also thankful for a man named Pago who was driving by and stopped to help (he even took our spare tire into town to get it filled with air). We still have a few more un-pleasantries to deal with as our rental vehicle is impounded, but I am thankful this bad situation turned out so well and for the people who helped us.

As you can imagine, after waiting at the police station for an hour (instead of going to our team devotional) Sandy and I were worn down. Friends brought the kids to the Manna missionary camp to play with the other kids and we stayed behind to deal with the police. After we were informed our car was impounded and we would need to come back tomorrow, we decided to wait for pick up at a local Italian restaurant. Once we sat down, it all hit. We started feeling sorry for ourselves and the weight of the entire week came crashing down. The questions of – what are we doing here, did we make the right choice in moving our family here, is it really safe to drive on this island, will we be extorted – all came rushing in. As we were sitting in our slump, whom should appear but the little girl you all met from last week – Jessica, with 3 of her “sisters.” These young girls who walk the streets selling popcorn until the late hours of the night stopped everything they were doing when the noticed Sandy had been crying. They crawled through the railing of the restaurant to get to Sandy and instantly began to hug and kiss her and play with her hair and tell us that they hoped we have luck with our car and are very sorry we were in an accident. These little girls, who sleep on a dirt floor and sell popcorn to help their family, were more concerned about us and our boys than they were themselves – who is the missionary here!?

After having a nice dinner with the girls and trying to get them to eat their vegetables, we realize we are here for a reason, and that reason has nothing to do with us. It is amazing how feeding a few little girls and listening to their story for an hour can destroy self-pity and shine light on a dark situation. I’m so thankful my family is safe, but also thankful that God sent us these little popcorn angels to re-confirm our call to Rio San Juan.

 

We made it! Meet our first little Dominican Friend.

Posted on August 27, 2014 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (9)

What a journey so far. In only 7 days life has changed so much. Life in the DR is a lot different than in the US, and a constant reminder of everything I took for granted. (Like water, food and electricity). One thing that appealed to leaving the US was eliminating the ‘static’ and living a simpler and more communal way of life. Maybe you know what I mean when I say this… like the ‘static’ of all the daily tasks we do…play dates, soccer practice, smart phones, shopping—They seem like necessities, but they are not and still we run run run like they are. Now all of the static has been removed and already I’ve found myself wishing for static. Static and stuff: I want, I need a hairdryer/clothesdryer/anything dryer, window screens, a park for the kids, internet, tahini, kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, _____stuff! Amazing it was only 3 weeks ago during my 4th garage sale where I lost my mind because of all the STUFF we had.

Here’s something I read the other day from a book called 1,000 Gifts:

Our fall was, and has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other. It’s the sin of ingratitude.

Is God enough, or have I been held captive by my static and my stuff?

Are you?

 

We have settled in nicely in a little house in a small village called El Breton. I have to admit after this crazy week I lost a little focus and thought gosh, I could have kept my nice cushy house and life and just been a missionary in my own town. Yeah, that’s what I should’ve done….! BUT that isn’t what God called our family to do. (Plus, too much static).


Yesterday we went to church and met the rest of our ministry team. We pulled up to the compound and were greeted by a welcome wagon of so many great smiling people. We are so honored to be part of a group that is constantly rewriting storylines. 10 seconds after exiting the car I noticed there was an arm wrapped around my waste and my hand was being held, but for a good 5 minutes I was still having conversations up at 5’8” level. When I looked down I saw a big smiling face. Hi! I said, how are you? She said, good, how are you? Me: What’s your name? Her: My name is Jessica.

I sat down with her still attached but she settled for the chair next to me while my boys were already best friending with the other two missionary kids that happen to also be boys, about their age. Paul, who manages the orphanage with his wife came by and said, I see you’ve met Jessica! Yes I have! I said. Paul, although he doesn’t do much Spanish, keeps every kid and their story on his radar. He should be running youth and family services in the DR. He told me Jessica is an orphan who lives on the streets in town and sleeps in a ‘not-so-nice’ place at night. They call her the popcorn girl because she and her 2 friends sell popcorn on the streets at night. (Interesting side story is that while peddling us some popcorn back in Apr, she asked when the community center would again open). She’s only 9 and she has the where with all to jump the Manna truck from town up the hill every Sunday—by herself. 9! After some music, she ran off to Sunday school with the rest of the kids, including mine. When they finished she brought me her perfectly colored pic of Jesus calming the storm. Interesting the Spanish word for storm is la tormenta. She explained it and then gifted it to me.

Hmm, who is here on mission to bring God’s love to whom?

Please pray for Jessica and that Jesus calms las tormentas in her sweet little life.

 



Thanks you so much to our supporters, we are so blessed by you—you also will be rewriting storylines. We are extremely grateful because we now have funding to pay for electricity and water for the community center for two years. That means we’re open for business people! Over the next few weeks we will be coordinating with our Manna staff to determine what types of activities we will provide. For those, we’ll need more funding. If your heart is being pushed on, or if today is the day that you want to begin to rewrite a story because you don’t like the ones being told, please click the giving tab at the top.

Always feel free to leave your thoughts/ideas/prayers in the comments. They make us smile!

 


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