Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Difficult Transition

The transition back to "normal life" has been a little more difficult than I expected. I thought that I would return on Tuesday afternoon, take Wednesday off, and transition back into work and my normal routine on Thursday. Well, it's still Sunday and I still don't quite feel like I'm there.

I can't help but wonder why God has chosen me to be exactly where I am. I am more fortunate than I've ever realized. I don't have to want for much. And I've been pretty content the past three years making my home in Nashville. It's crazy to think that one room of my house holds more possessions than most of the households in the Dominican. It's just a reminder to continually praise God for the things I've been blessed with. I think one of the hardest things for that I know that eventually, it won't be in the front of my brain anymore. Over time, I will forget and get caught back up with the things I want to help "fill" my life. I just pray that I remember how fortunate I am and that I am reminded often to share what I've been given.

While in the Dominican, we were given an opportunity to help sponsor a child through G.O. Ministries. I picked a seven year old girl named Sheyla. For $30 a month, I am helping to provide a private Christain education, school books and supplies, and a birthday and Christmas present. I've already received her photo. And I will receive more information soon. I think the most exciting part of it is that if I go back to the Dominican Republic, I be able to visit her if I'd like. Pray for Sheyla! I definitely will be!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back Home

I'm back home from the Dominican Republic and there are a million thoughts rushing around in my head. Our team got back yesterday afternoon. I'll be honest. It's been very strange to come home. I feel like I have so much I take for granted. While I was incredibly excited to take a shower with hot water with actual water pressure, and be able to brush my teeth with running water out of the tap, and walking into air conditioning, and sleeping in my own bed...I wouldn't have expected this, but I really miss it. It was kind of nice to disconnect and unplug from the world. No e-mail, no cell phone, no computer, no Facebook. Those of you who know me know that I'm always in touch with what's going on. But it was really refreshing to not have to worry about any of it for a while. Of course, I did come home to 89 emails (not including work email).

I really wanted to spend today reflecting and writing about my experiences, but I think I still need some time to process. I did journal a lot while I was over there, so I will type up those journal entries and get them posted (hopefully tomorrow).

I just want to say thank you for partnering me with prayers, thoughts, kind words. You are all awesome!

Thoughts on the DR to come soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The beauty of languages all worshiping one God

Church this morning was amazing. To think that we were worshiping in an unfinished church where people were coming together to praise God was pretty neat. People who speak different languages, who come from different backgrounds, different countries...but everyone had a common bond in Christ. To hear the gospel being preaches in English, Spanish, French, and Creole was pretty amazing. All the languages come together to make a beautiful sound. How powerful that was!

While I'm still unsure of why God has brought me on this trip, I know that my life will be changed upon my return home. I remember the very first time I went to Cross Point when I was looking for a new church over two years ago, Pete was talking about an upcoming DR trip. I remember watching a video thinking how awesome it would be to be a part of something so eternal. I know sometimes I get so caught up in possessions and how much I have. I wanted to come on this trip and work and love on kids. But I feel like my life has been blessed with so much more. Just by hearing the stories of the people here. How churches and schools and feeding centers have been built. By seeing how God has been working through GO Ministries and the missionaries here. By being surrounded by people with barely any material possessions but are truly happy. For those kids to look up with huge grins on their faces just to have someone hold thier hand or pick them up and give them a hug.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just how heavy is a bucket of cement?

Today was a long and difficult day. We went back to the church to work this morning. My muscles are tired. I felt worn out, but there was still so much to be done. It's still amazing to me that we are actually building a church. We are putting together a structure for other people to come to worship. It's almost unfathomable to me at this point.

Before lunch, we hauled a lot of water using the passing of the bucket technique. Somewhere along the line, someone invented a new way to pull the water up to the second floor. It seemed more efficient in the long run, but it definitely took some arm muscles.

We left the work site for a couple hours and headed to"The Hole" to help at the feeding center (I figured that deserved it's own post). And after lunch, we started working again. We mixed and poured concrete...lots and lots of concrete. At one point, it started to pour down rain. We continued working. It felt nice that it had cooled down, but with our bodies soaked from the rain, it was almost chilling.
We all worked hard today! And we got a little messy...or a whole lot messy!

When we got back from working at the church, there was no running water. The one day I decided to work hard and not worry about getting dirty. We had to bathe out of large trash cans that were kept in the shower stalls. Trying to get the drying concrete out of my hair was a task too big. I tried to get it wet and comb the cement out of my hair. Hey, at this point, whatever works. :)

"The Hole"

Before lunch, we loaded the vans to go to "The Hole." It was literally a trash dump in Santiago that people had made their home. There were tiny paths where sewer water ran down into the water below. Along the paths were tiny houses no bigger than my living and dining room. Kids with bare feet ran through the sewer water that was slowly making it's way down to the basin below. Starved dogs and cats chased after them. The smell was wretched.

We hadn't gotten very far from and only walked down a few levels, before kids came running with their arms raised just wanting someone to pick them up and love on them.

It broke my heart to see the people living there. We were told that "The Hole" was basically ruled by the drug ward and we were actually there under his protection. Apparently, years ago, when the feeding center and church were first being built, he asked for a meeting with the pastor because he liked what was going on there and he saw hope and future for the kids. So he told the pastor that he would watch out for him and the groups that he would bring in to help with the church and feeding center. It's a pretty crazy story, but I felt safe.

My heart was broken for these kids. That life is what they've always known and even with help and education, it would be so hard to change their lives. We were told that drugs and prostitution are very prevalent there. To look into the eyes of those little girls and know that is the environment that they will more than likely grow up in almost brought tears to my eyes. It was incredibly hard to get back on the bus and leave. I don't think these kids are hopeless at all. They just need love...just look at their faces. I think that says it all.
Below is a short video clip I took with my camera at the basin of "The Hole."

Upon my return home, I found this video that Harold from Morgantown posted. It breaks my heart. Pray for the kids in "The Hole." Pray for their safety and health.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

All in a hard days work...

We spent all day yesterday and today working on a church that Cross Point began sponsoring a few years ago. The pastor of the church, Moise has been working along side us. Pray for him as he continues this effort, even after we leave.

We have put a lot of sweat and hard work into tying rebar, lugging buckets of sand, pulling water from the well, and mixing cement. It's definitely not glorious work. But even just the two days we've been working so far, we can see that the second story walls are almost completed. It's amazing to see that when we all come together, we can accomplish so much.

Tonight, I pray for strength.

And if you're curious about how we actually hauled hundreds of buckets of sand and water, check out Pete's video "The Journey of the Bucket."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Flexibility will be key!


How quickly we are welcomed into the Dominican lifestyle. It's only been a few hours since we arrived in Santiago and already we are discovering how much we take for granted. Within our first six hours here, we are already without water. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth, washing your hands, washing your face, and taking out contacts all require a little extra time and thought.

We went out to eat empanadas tonight. On the way back to the dorm, some people who have been here before were talking about one trip where there was no water for three days and electricity would be turned off at night. While I am trying to prepare myself for that, I am hoping it's not something we will deal with this trip. I'll be honest. If I have to go for three days without showering, I'm going to be pretty foul.

Tonight, I pray for flexibility!

In the Dominican Republic...

Wow! The Dominican Republic. First's hot...and noisy.

I'm not sure how hot it is, but it feels incredibly HOT!

We had a short "orientation" this afternoon and after it was over, we were told we had a couple hours before dinner. Almost all of us girls came back to the dorm and crashed. I'm sure it had nothing to do with being at the airport at 4:30 this morning! :)

I woke up a few minutes ago, and laid here looking out the second story window down into the city streets of Santiago. Already, I can tell that the culture is so different. Laying here, I can hear the sounds of life being lived outside. Mopeds and motor scooters, honking horns, kids playing catch, some man selling fruit out of his truck, a baby crying, people speaking Spanish, passing cars, more mopeds...

Everything is so loud outside and the sounds come sweeping in our windows with the wind. Yet almost everyone around me is sleeping soundly. What a great way to start the week.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Here I am"

So, here it is...6pm the night before I leave. I am absolutely nowhere near ready at this point. I've got piles of clothes laid out with an idea of everything I need to take with me. Anyone want to come help me pack?!

I'm definitely starting to feel anxious. I'm not incredibly sure what to expect, but I'm welcoming it with open arms. Yesterday at church, Pete discussed the story of Abraham and Isaac. It takes great faith to say "Here I am," especially when you have no idea what God has in store for you. When I first started attending Cross Point, I remember watching the video of the group who had just traveled to the Dominican Republic. I wanted to go...I was ready to sign up right then. Last summer, I didn't have the PTO to go, or availability with work. I took an information packet home for the spring trip, but never ended up doing anything about it. I felt like God has been slowly preparing me for this for a while. I feel like I jumped one hurdle by signing up for the trip. Now, I stand here saying "Here I am, Lord" hoping that I have the faith to listen and follow.

If you want to follow our trip, check it out...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

DR Countdown...One week!

The realization that we leave for the DR in one week came crashing down on me today. I haven't really received a lot of information and I don't feel like I'm prepared. Of course, I realize that it's the over-analyzer coming out in me.

I am super excited about this trip! I know that God is going to do amazing things and I can't wait to be a part of it.