A Picture Says a Thousand Words

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The view from our cable car ride the first day was breathtaking, and a little scary for a few of us. 

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Here is the Christ Redeemer Statue that adorns the top of Mount Isabel del Torres.

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Above is part of our mini photoshoot atop the mountain. 

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The Makarios school is so colorful with its yellow facade and blue walls.

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The whole team in the new cafeteria at the school!

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Everyone on the team is becoming a pro at soccer.

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Here are three of the carpenters with Cakito.

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We were so blessed to hang out with all of these kids in Pancho Mateo.

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And, finally, Zach is loving the food here every day! The fried chicken is the bomb.Image

¡Vamos a la Playa! (mañana)

Boy oh boy is our team excited for beach day tomorrow.  Let’s just say pretty much everyone but Erica and Courtney know about 50 words in Spanish, and a phrase that has united us all is: ¡Vamos a la Playa!  However, today was even better than the beach because we spent all day with the Makarios kids!  Even the carpenters were able to make an appearance.  To all parents reading this: if your son/daughter did not have a solo shot in the last post, do not fear, he/she will be featured below!  

This morning was started at the crack of 7:15 with wonderful breakfast prepared by Margaret.  For the record, we do not brag enough on her… her food is AMAZING.  Tonight during roof time it was revealed that Shannon thinks her food is better than what she has in the states.  Plus, keep your eyes peeled below for the section on dinner tonight.  Let’s just say we all want her recipes… Now, back to this morning.  The reason we left the Mak house earlier today was so that we would have an opportunity to be at the school and see the different ways that children arrive.  Some walk with parents, some walk in groups of children, others ride in on “motos,” and some come running ready to start the day!  We all got to hang out on the ranchito near the Makarios sign before school began and were greeted with besos y abrazos from all of our Dominican friends.  They are the most affectionate and loving kids you will ever meet, which really helps to brighten a tired morning.  

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Every day at the Mak school begins with breakfast and a prayer, as you can see from these two photos.  This darling girl is filled with love for Jesus, and illustrates the posture that all of the students have towards God.  Breakfast varies, but today was pan dulce with water.  Each day, students receive breakfast and lunch, which is a huge blessing for the students’ families.  Moreover, when school is not in session the students are all sent home with rice and beans to last for the break.  Our hearts were a bit broken by how fast the kids have been shoveling down their food since it was revealed to us that the reason was they had been on break for so long and many of them were experiencing pure hunger.  However, we noticed today that the students seemed much less hungry and were overjoyed to share meal time with them.  

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ImageThis morning, we participated in chapel, which is led by Cakito.  When chapel begins, the students all sing and clap, displaying their love of God.  Each time, one student volunteers to lead worship, and we got to witness Ismael do this during chapel today.  Below there is a picture of him standing with Cakito.  We were responsible for acting out the story of the Good Samaritan.  Travis, pictured above, played the Good Samaritan, and Chris M. was the one who was rescued by him.  The thieves were Sam and Daniel who mugged Chris and made the kids laugh like no other.  Chris Hume played the priest an Zach was our Levite.  Fortunately,  Erica has had a lot of practice reading in Spanish, and she took on the role of orator for the story.  Before the play began, Laurena, Audrey, Courtney, Tiffany, and Shelby sang Here I am to Worship…in Spanish!  The students joined in and were very surprised.  We performed the play twice: once for the younger kids and once for the older kids.  We were warned before hand that some of the younger kids cry during plays since the first one they saw was David and Goliath, and one of their teachers “died” during that skit.  Low and behold, the minute Chris M. walked across the room two students burst into inconsolable tears.  However, everyone else seemed to throughly enjoy the play.  

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After chapel, we spent the rest of the day talking to kids before we went to Chichigua.  Chichigua is a Hatian bate.  For those who do not know what a bate is, here is an explanation: a bate is a village in a remote area that is comprised of Hatian people who came to the DR during the sugar cane boom.  Bates are the poorest communities in the DR, and about a third of the kids are from here.  Below is a picture of one of the stores there.

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After our visit to Chichigua, we went to the top of a mountain that Belice and Paige often run up.  After, feeling ambitious, the group decided to run home.  

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From this point forward, we will post photos and give a description.  Parents pay attention because your child is most likely featured!

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Here is Audrey and una amiga!  Qué lindas! 

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Here are the guys playing basketball at the Mak house with Cakito and Belice. 

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Today was Miranda, the school administrator’s birthday, and the tradition is that on your birthday the rest of the staff get to soak you with water.  They caught Miranda by surprise after school and made up for a few other birthdays they have missed!

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To Conner’s dismay, he was beaten by Juan Fernando SIX times IN A ROW in checkers.  Let’s just say they have some smart kids at Makarios!

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Here is Chris and Cakito posing very handsomely! 

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Chris finally got to leave the carpenters and play with kids!  He is so wonderful with kids, and has been a blessing to one of the family’s with a two-year old at the Mak house.  She is in for a rude surprise when we leave! 

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Before the run, Daniel expressed his happiness here in the DR by taking this photograph.  He has been learning great things from God this week and dreading leaving!

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You may have seen this beautiful child on the Makarios website!  She is beautiful and loves taking pictures with Erica.

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Here is Margaret, our host mom cooking the most delicious hash brown casserole that was TO DIE FOR.  She is an amazing cook and an amazing picture of gospel-centered mission work.  We will miss her dearly.  Her husband Paco or “Doug” will be featured tomorrow! 

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Here is Paige with two of her dear friends in Chichigua!  As you can tell, Paige is 100% content here and can not wait to return for another full summer! 

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One thing our team has been so amazed by is the mutual love of God the children have, and that even though people here speak Spanish, God is still the same and the power of prayer is too.

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Probably my favorite picture of Sam in the world!  He loves playing with the kids and letting them ride “a caballito”!

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Some of the kids remember Shannon from last year, and they love taking pictures with her!  She also has been wonderful at teaching kids the gospel with Erica! 

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Shelby also loves playing with kids and giving piggy back rides!  She has a lot of experience from Kids at the Stone. 

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Tiffany also is remembered by the kids from her previous trip to the DR!  You can tell how much she loves it here by that beaming smile! 

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How could we leave this photo out!  At Makarios, all of the students are required to brush their teeth after each meal, and this is most likely the only time they do so.  

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And… like we said before VAMOS A LA PLAYA.  Fortunately, this long-awaited day is officially today since it is 3:35 in the morning here.  See you soon amigos!

We Shouldn’t Be This Tired for College Students (Kids, Kids, and more Kids)

Sooooo… we didn’t blog last night.  We would like to infrorm Mrs. McKenzie (and the rest of our parents) that we are all in fact alive, and you can go to bed now.  We spent all day playing with kids at school and in Pancho Mateo one of the primary villages that the Makarios kids come from, so by the time we returned to the Mak house in los Ciruelos we were all too tired to form coherent sentences.  Instead, we decided to call it an early night and get some much needed sleep instead.

ImageImageAbove is a picture of one of the signs in Pancho Mateo that is a part of the basketball court we spent a lot of our time at during our visit.  Pancho Mateo is near and dear to the hearts of Makarios because it is one of the three villages students come from, and many of the staff members live there as well.  In fact, Cakito, one of the staff members who is in charge of discipline/chapel/etc., is from Pancho and he gave us a tour of the village as soon as we arrived.  As usual, the children were so excited to see us that they demanded that we bring them “a caballito” (piggy-back style) during the tour.  We were so blessed to be able to see how God is working through Cakito as he introduced us to people in the village and we observed his love for where he is from. Then, Cakito took Sam and Paige to his home where they were able to taste the ice-cream that his mom makes for a living.  The rest of the team is so jealous because they both said that ice-cream is like nothing you can find in the states.  While this visit was going on, the rest of the team was gathered at the basketball court playing with the kids.  Margaret, our host mom, told us beforehand that the girls in the village love braiding hair, and can be a little rough, and the minute we got there Erica, Audrey, Shelby, Shannon, Paige, Hailey, and Margaret herself were guided to the benches for makeovers.  Despite some minor pain, it was wonderful for us to see these girls putting our hair in “trenzas” and using the skills they have accumulated living in Pancho.  Laurena, whose father is a landscape architect, was overwhelmed with emotion when the little girl braiding her hair ran off to retrieve three white roses, and then began braiding her hair with flowers tangled style.

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While the girls were getting their hair braided, Daniel, Zach, Chris, Conner, Sam, and Juan Miguel were playing basketball with the locals.  They were not quite as adept as the Pancho kids, especially Cakito and his little brother Kenny who was equally as hilarious as Cakito.

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While most of the boys were playing basketball, Travis and Chris were bonding with two boys who must have been no older than three years old.  In fact, the boy Travis was loving on sat on his shoulders and as he puts it, “while I was walking around I felt his chin on my head and I asked Hailey if he was asleep and she said that he was just relaxing and taking in all of the action.”  Also, Chris M. had the opportunity to talk to one little boy about the gospel!  He is limited in his language skills, but he was able to talk about who Jesus is and Juan tres y dieciséis with him.  Erica helped him with her tremendous Spanish abilities, and then spent some time asking the other kids about Jesus and what he is like.

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Now, flashback to our morning at the school.  The bearded men, aka our carpenters Daniel/Travis/Chris H./Chris M., went back to work on their shelves for the teachers lounge, while the rest of the team spent the day blessing the Makarios staff by sorting shoes and giving them a break when their students had “recreo” or recess.  Instead of trying to explain what we did anymore, we are going to share some of the wonderful photos Hailey has been taking.

However, first, we would like to highlight Paige/Página Wu/Página Wu Wu!  This lovely lady has been a SERIOUS blessing to our team.  For those of you who do not know, Paige spent all summer last year living in the DR and teaching at the school with Naolin.  She did not think she would get to be back in the DR until spring break but she lucked out and is here now with us.  The kids were so excited to have her back and it is clear the God has called Paige to have a huge role at the school.  Additionally, she has blessed Genesis this week because she had to go to the city for something and Paige has been teaching her class with Belice to help out.  She has a huge heart for the students and the mission of Makarios and has been teaching us so much while we are here.  Erica has also been helping teach the kindergarten class because she spent the first day preparing all the materials for crafts for all of January with Dena, their teacher.  She helps with crafts and is becoming quite the favorite in their room.Image

Hailey captured a great picture of Erica letting the kids use her disposable camera to take pictures.Image

Finally Hailey made it in some pictures with kids!  They all love her attempts at Spanish and sweet smile.

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This is Bella (one of the profe’s) sons.  He is in the Prek 4 class.

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Zach couldn’t resist posing with Conner during his afternoon siesta.

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Here is Courtney loving on one of the sweet Makarios girls!  She is quick to make friends with her returning Spanish skills.

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Laurena is playing with one of the kindergarteners in this photo who clearly adores her!

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Zach has been a huge hit on the futból field lately!  The kids love him.Image

Painting, Planking and Pressing On…

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The sunrise began another blessed day in the Dominican Republic where the Lord revealed his glory through creation once again. After a quick cereal and toast breakfast we hopped in the guagua again and headed over to the school. Painters continued edging and adding a second coat to the walls of the office and the carpenters (all four bearded men on our team) picked up their drill bits and assumed the task of assembling shelves for the storage room of all of the classroom supplies. Teacher helpers came alongside each teacher and aided them in preparing for the kids’ first day back from Christmas break tomorrow! Cutting, dusting and rearranging the room- teacher finished preparing their rooms for their eager students’ arrival in the morning.

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Cakito, the school chaplain who is a beneficiary of the first-fruits of Makarios, lead a tour through the surrounding village that a few team members got to accompany him on. (Cakito is twenty years old and he is from a near by village called Pancho Mateo. He was raised in poverty but has overcome (Revelation 12:11 “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony”) with his life being awakened by the spirit through Makarios. His life has been transformed by the gospel and he has learned many things in school. He speaks four languages- Spanish, English, Creole and French, and he has achieved many things with his education- although he would be the last to pridefully share this.) While walking through the village, we saw the river that flooded most of the homes and part of the Makarios school. Women and children were bucketing water to take back to their homes when Cakito outlined the journey some kids have to walk to get to school each day. His humble heart is so compassionate. We were blessed to experience such a culture that embraces each other. There is no need for home addresses, because the lack of privacy proves the tight-knit community where crime ceases to exist because people know each other by name. Families come together and care for the well-being of one another, influencing us to desire to cultivate intimacy and embrace people through each season of life. Along the tour, a man was stripping sugar cane with a machete and Cakito bought a stalk for the guys to chow down on.

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Once we got back from the village tour we finished painting the office building and rejoiced to begin moving desks and other furniture back into the room. Bella (on of the teachers) asked for Laurena to join her in singing “I Will Always Love You” by the well known Whitney Houston- which was a blast. Before we left the school to return to the Mak house for dinner, we took a group photo on the jungle gym- in anticipation for the kids’ arrival tomorrow!

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Before dinner, some of the neighborhood kids came over to play soccer and other games. One ten-year-old girl named Louisiana wanted to play school, so Laurena, Shannon and later John Michael engaged with her as the teacher as she wrote words in spanish and assigned us to write the definitions of them- IN ESPANOL! Then we read abbreviated version of the story of the Good Samaritan (in Spanish!) only to get confused in an attempt to teach her some basic applications from the parable for her daily life here in the DR. We believe due to a language-barrier issue, she was convinced the donkey (el burro) that the good Samaritan was riding was the one who helped the man beaten by robbers, not the good Samaritan himself. Despite our frustrations, we trust that the Spirit will reveal himself to her in a personal way. Laurena assigned her “una tarea” (homework assignment)- to read the passage in her bible at home in Luke 10. We will expectantly see what harvest the Lord brings us tomorrow!

Mexican casserole and rice with cornbread filled our bellies and we had another communal experience sharing our “highs and lows” from the day on the roof. We then broke into small groups and discussed prayers God has already begun to answer over this trip- one being God moving in all his power in our hearts and bonding us together in his son as a sweet community in his body.

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Tomorrow, the kids come- their first day back to school after Winter Break! We will finish building shelves and organizing things within the office and library. With expectant hearts, all of us are waiting to play with the kids at the school! Be praying that the love would be contagious all around and God to be magnified!

First Day on the Job

This morning marked the beginning of our work at the Makarios school. After days of waiting in anticipation, our team finally stepped foot onto the Makarios campus. For some of the team members, it was the first time to see the school; for others it marked an opportunity to see how much the school had grown since past visits. Upon arriving, we immediately split up into groups based on what jobs we were working. We had painters, teacher’s helpers and four bearded carpenter men. Each group worked in their respective areas through the entire day working on their specific projects. The painters were cleaned walls and put up beautiful blue paint. The teacher helpers assisted the staff by getting ready for school on Wednesday. The carpenters built shelves for the new teachers lounge. At lunch time we regrouped and were able to discuss our individual experiences of broken Spanish converations over fried chicken and rice.

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A few of the returning team members expressed how much Makarios has grown since their initial visits. New buildings and building additions have been a few of the blessings God has provided for this ministry, but the real growth and blessings are clearly evident in the relationships that have been growing in Makarios. Makarios has an extremely positive reputation within the local community that ultimately comes from their faithfulness to the gospel of Christ. It makes our team all the more joyful to be able to partner with them.

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With the day’s work completed, we were more than ready to relax back at the Mak house. We spent the remainder of the evening recuperating from our laborious activities and enjoying the AMAZING food of the host family (Trust us, it’s amazing). We ended the night with our daily “roof time” to reflect on the day’s events. God is really bringing our group together on so many levels. We are excited to see Him accomplish His purposes through us and through Makarios.

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Also, If you know Chris Magnuson, ask him to sing the song “Be Our Guest” from the movie Beauty and the Beast. You won’t regret it.

Sobre del Mundo: On Top of the World

 

 

 

Today was our team’s day to relax, rest and relish in God and His creation. We started the morning off with a service at El Iglesia Templo Biblico. A local church member graciously provided an English interpretation of the message for our group- an interpretation that we desperately needed. It was incredible to see God’s people from a different culture worship the same God we worship. Hearing prayers and familiar songs in another tongue really magnified our understanding of the depth of our Father’s knowledge and the love that he has for us.ImageAfterwards, we returned to the Makarios house to prepare for our main adventure of the day. At the base of the grand Mount Isabel Del Torres, our posse boarded a small gondola (or cable car) that carried the entire team up to the top of the mountain. At the top, we enjoyed an incredible view of the coastline and mountain ranges that testified to God’s beautiful handiwork through His creation. Our team deeply enjoyed the mountaintop experience that acted as great spiritual edification. Praise report: Laurena (team member) was not feeling well this morning and had to miss out on the mountain top excursion- yet she encountered the Lord today while worshipping on the roof of the Mak house and was healed of stomach pain!

*Keep a lookout on Facebook for all stereotypical college student pictures.

Back at the Makarios house, we spent the rest of the evening preparing for tomorrow’s work. A Makarios staff member, nicknamed “Cakito”, swung by to help organize a Good Samaritan skit that we will be putting on for the kids during chapel. Some of the girls will also have to sing in Spanish during our presentation. Hopefully they will be able to make it through the song! To end the night, we gathered together on the roof for some reflection of today’s events. We geared our conversation to preparing our hearts and minds for this week’s work. We are excited to see how God uses us this week in our partnership with Makarios.

 

 

 

 

 

Safe and Sound

 

Upon arriving in Miami late last night, our team was blessed to get the last three available rooms at the hotel located inside of the airport. Shannon (one of the trip leaders) talked with the travel agent from American Airlines and shared how we were traveling to the DR. To our benefit, the travel agent was originally from the Dominican Republic and helped us score these accommodations in the hotel. We got the last three empty rooms- so eight guys shared two beds in one room, and nine girls divvied up two rooms- four to one bed and five to two beds. As you can imagine, some of the guys were conked out on the floor!

This morning, we planned to check out of the hotel at 10am, and then grab some grub before boarding our flight to the DR at 11:15am. The travel agent from the night before gave us around $500 in meal vouchers, so each team member could embody the stereotype of the “hungry college student” with about $30 for a meal of over-priced airport food! We decided to eat at a gourmet burger joint to spend our meal vouchers. To our surprise, getting 17 burgers to go would take more time that we expected. One-by-one burgers came out in to-go boxes and we hurried to our terminal just in time to load. With the last burgers in hand, couple guys on our team almost missed the flight because they headed in the wrong direction- thinking they were headed toward Terminal D-45. The guys noticed they were headed the wrong way- so they sprinted all the way to the terminal just in time to board. God is such a provider that once the cabin door shut, all of our team was on board!

Upon landing, our team made it through security smoothly and customs without problem. Also, the Cusinart coffee maker made it to its new home in the Mak house successfully! (Thank you Travis for your loving hands that carried it all the way!)

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Doug (Paco) and Margret Beck (the house hosts) oriented us to the Mak house when we arrived and gave us a big “Bienvenidos” to welcome us to the DR. Some of the children of the Makarios staff families joined an epic soccer game in the back yard with some members of our team. For dinner, we had the opportunity to fellowship with the Makarios staff. The surprise of the night was to find out that Paige Wu is REALLY Paige Wimbush (she interned here all summer and came back undercover), she delighted the whole Makarios staff! Later we gathered on the roof of the house to share our names, occupation and favorite superhero. I believe Batman had the most favor, in close call with Spiderman!

Tomorrow we are looking forward to Church where the message will be delivered in Spanish, but translated for us in English (thank you translators!) and hiking up on Mt. Isabel to enjoy the lush creation God has created here and man has yet to cultivate. 

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To Leave or Not To Leave? That is the question!

Yesterday, the team gathered together to begin the journey to the Dominican Republic- starting with packing donations to take to the island. Bottles of glue, colored construction paper, markers and other supplies were all assembled into suit cases by the hands of our team. After only an hour of packing, all supplies were ready to go by 11am. 

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The rest of the day we bonded as a team- making homemade pizzas and brownies and talking together. For dinner we met Robbie Moore (College Associate at the Austin Stone) and his wife Kristen for dinner at Rudy’s BBQ. 

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Story of answered prayer: Tiffany Rogers (one of the team members) accidentally left her phone and wallet (containing her passport inside) at Wal-Mart when we were purchasing our final donations as a team. Recalling she had left it sitting by the sunglasses, she returned to Wal-Mart a couple hours later to find her iPhone taken- but her wallet and passport right where she left it! Thank you God for answering our prayers and helping us preserve her way into the Dominican. Praise the Lord, she still has her “pass” into the “port!” Also, Hailey Harbour (another team member) had an extra fully-charged iPhone in her purse that she was able to give Tiffany to use!

Early in the morning, when we were supposed to leave the house for the airport at 3am, we were notified that our flight to Dallas was cancelled because of sleet and rain. Our flights have been pushed back a day, so we will be arriving in the DR tomorrow around 3pm. Pray that we will not have any more delays and good weather paving our way!

Preparations well under way…

Christmas Day has passed, most college kids are planning their New Year’s plans and rejuvenating over the winter break. Eighteen of us are preparing to see another side of God’s heart. We are arranging to leave the comforts of the American way and come alongside the efforts of kingdom forerunners already planting seeds and reaping plentiful harvest in the Dominican Republic. At Makarios school, we will commune with Jesus through the work of our serving hands and the words of our humble hearts- firmly rooted and confident in the victory Christ won for all humanity on the cross. With America in the rear view mirror, we are positioning our hearts to be servants in a land unfamiliar to us.

The benefit concert we hosted at Dominican Joe’s on December 8th proved God’s faithful provision as he blessed our team with $500 towards our funds to get us to the Dominican Republic. Music, coffee and fellowship is always a good brew for bringing people together, and Jesus is the cornerstone who purposes us to reach out for the legacy of something more than ourselves- the power of the gospel.

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Approaching this mission as poor and in need of a Savior who is also Lord just as much as any other person, we hope to restore healing to this nation through our love, first awakening us into family with our Heavenly Father. Intercessors, lift us up in prayer-
That we would live in our sanctified spirit, so the pullings of the soul and body may be tamed.
That our hearts would be secure in Christ, for all life flows from him.
That we would consider the needs of others above our own- both Dominican and American.
That our eyes and ears would be open to receive the fullness of what God is doing and speaking in this time.
About a week and some flights separate us from the beginning of this mission in the DR. We go forth on the words spoken before us, that they will accomplish what they are spoken to do. (Isaiah 55)

Headed to the DR

Headed to the DR