Monday, July 30, 2018

2018 Summer Update

Every once and a while, it's good to give a quick summary of what has been happening.  These past few months, we have been traveling in the USA and sharing.  But our time in the USA was shortened and we feel we haven't had the opportunity to meet with everyone we would have liked.  A lot has been happening.  Whether we have been able to visit with you or not, this will provide a good overview of the last few years.  Thank you for being a part of what God is doing!

In the last two years we transitioned away from working with one church and have been joining the church planting efforts of a new association of churches in the D.R.  It's been painful to separate from Nueva Vida in Jarabacoa.  But it's also been exciting and energizing to join the ministries of the Bendicion Church in Los Higos.  You can read more below as we give a recap of some specific churches.

Iglesia Vida Nueva in El Montana:  This church has seen many ups and downs, but is finally legally incorporated as a church and independent from its mother church.  Pastor Damazo is mentoring a young man to become a pastor and with 30 adult members the church is actively evangelizing and discipling others.  We have played a supportive but decreasing role in their development.

Iglesia Nueva Vida in Buenos Airies:  When we returned to the U.S. in 2015 we left the Buenos Aires church with a heavy heart as they were struggling through some conflicts.  The mother church had was intervening and we hoped things would have healed by the time we returned to the D.R.  Unfortunately, when we returned to the D.R. we learned the church had been closed and the property was being sold.  This has been the most difficult situation we have faced in our time in the D.R.  The believers in Buenos Aires do want to see the church reopened.  We met with a remnant of the believers for about a year, praying and learning key principles from the Bible.  Please pray with us as we return in August with the hope that in our upcoming term a new church would be re-planted there.

Iglesia Boma:  The faithful of Boma continue to worship together and show love and compassion for their community as its young people move to cities where there is better educational and job prospects.  Valle, a farmer, has made it a habit to load his motorcycle with surplus produce and visit remote cottages to bring spiritual and physical nourishment.  Enrique and Blanca continue to serve the needs of the church and community.  

Iglesia Bendicion in Los Higos:  During this last term we began to support the Ministry of Blessing church in their efforts to train mature leaders and reach the youth of their community.  U.S. teams have played a role by providing sports activities and works of God’s love in the community.  We look forward to broadening our role by becoming involved in the “Ministry of Blessing” association of churches throughout the island.  This will present more and more opportunities.

And now for the most exciting news!!!  We have teammates!  Gil and Danna Leon are wrapping up a year of language study in Costa Rica and fly to the D.R. the first week of September. Jeimmy and Justin Smith are in the home stretch of raising their support, hopefully in 2019 they will join us as well.  Pray for them as this last percentage of support is the hardest to accomplish and they are more than ready to join the work.

Upon arrival both families will take some time to acculturate and build trusting relationships before diving into full time work. Watch for updates on an expanding ministry as we target some new rural areas for planting churches and investigate prospects in other parts of the island. 

We arrived in the Dominican Republic in May of 2007.  It's hard to believe we have been there over 10 years.  It has been a challenging but exciting time.  And many of you have been with us the whole way.  Thank you to those who have and thank you to those who have joined us since along the journey.  

God has done a great work in our life, in the lives of many Dominicans and in Dominican churches.  We have all been a part of that but to God, we give the glory!  Praise Him.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Ministry Van has been purchased!

We are very excited to announce that we have bought a ministry van!  

How did this happen?  Many times in the past 10 years, we have thought how wonderful it would be to have a van.  It can be used weekly serving the different churches.  And it would be used by teams (2 are coming this summer!).  This past winter, I raised the question again with a close friend who knows quite a bit about our life and ministry.  I didn’t hear back for a while but then one day, he called and said his church had considered this need and would like to contribute $10,000 towards buying a van.  I was stunned, and am still stunned!  Since then, we have shared this need and we have raised a huge amount totaling $21394!  Praise the Lord!

Along with this friend and few others, we created a van policy.  The van policy includes things like that it would be a ministry vehicle that would be used by United World Mission’s ministries and also directs that it’s maintenance would be paid by those who use the van.

So, praise God, the van you see pictured is our Ministry Van!  It is a 2007 Nissan Urvan and holds 15 passengers.  

Finding the right van was a lot harder then I expected.  Originally we hoped to buy a newer van but as we saw prices and compared vans, this one was in the best condition.  Just a few days ago, I looked at a 2013 van and I didn't even bother calling my mechanic.  It wasn't in the same condition as this one.  The mechanics, after looking over a few 2011 vans, looked at me and said, none of these are as good as the 2007.  Buy the 2007. 

So we are excited.  A van will be a great ministry tool, opening up many opportunities that we haven't considered due to the challenges of transportation. 

In addition to the front row, it 
has 4 passenger rows.  It holds 15. The seats you see are covered with pretty worn leather covers.  Eventually, we will replace these.  In this picture, the back row is folded up, which is great for airport runs.

We want to say a HUGE thank you for all the gifts and prayers.  And I want to pass on a thank you from Pastor Damazo (El Montaña) and Pastor Jesus Delgado (Los Higos) who have been praying with us here for the right vehicle and the right price.  Praise God!

¡Vaya con Dios!  (Go with God!)

(Updated 6/5 with pictures from the van we bought!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trip to Cuba!

--> In the first part of February we had the opportunity to travel to Cuba, where United World Mission sent out its first missionaries in the 1940s.  Rick grew up hearing many stories about the work in Cuba from some of the very missionaries who left Cuba under Fidel Castro’s orders following the Revolution.

The purpose of our trip was not to enjoy beautiful beaches or marvel over antique cars.  We have no political motivations or desire to uncover the “real” Cuba.  Instead, we traveled to meet our fellow believers and see the work God is doing in the lives of Cubans today. 

We visited several churches which were established and built before the Revolution.  They were closed for decades, but have been allowed to operate again.  It was a joy to worship in them and experience God’s presence and the enthusiasm of His people.

The gospel is being spread by dedicated people who share the love and hope in Christ one to one.  The established churches have started many house churches in outlying areas.   Christian leaders go to the people traveling many kilometers on foot, bicycle, or by “botella” (catching a ride).
God is eternal and omnipotent.  His Word does not return vacant.  Nations and peoples may ignore God, but He does not ignore them.  His love for each person transcends any life circumstance.  We heard testimonies of salvation, hope, and restoration from many of our new friends.  God’s Word is living and active despite a scarcity of biblical texts.

So many times Rick and I felt like we were in the Dominican Republic rather than Cuba.  The accent, customs, food, and the landscape are so similar.  One day we visited a rural area and it was uncanny how the house, outbuildings and crops were the same.  The believers we met were every bit as warm and hospitable as our Dominican brothers and sisters.

We shared many delicious meals with our hosts.  Red beans and rice is the most typical meal and we felt right at home.  Breakfast was typically coffee, eggs, and bread. We were blessed to be able to eat some chicken and pork as well. Just like in the Dominican Republic, Cubans drink a lot of coffee and so did we!

Toward the end of our trip we visited one of the most precious places in the hearts of many UWM missionaries and our new Cuban friends.  Camp Las Palmas is a large property that gently slopes down to a quiet bay.  Originally purchased in the 40s and developed for camping and seminary training, it has come back to life and enough renovation has been done to serve many adult leaders who come for theological instruction.  In the summer, hundreds of young people attend camp. 

A few things surprised and/or impressed us.  Cuba has a quality educational system and it was evident in the people we interacted with.  We didn’t know how internet worked on the island and were excited to find that wifi is available in the town square with a prepaid card.  So we were able to text a few times with our kids. 

We returned to the Dominican Republic, praising God for how He is working.  We felt honored to meet and see the ministries of our Cuban brothers and sisters.  It was inspiring.  Becky and I hope to bring some Dominican pastors to Cuba to see and learn as we have.  Also, it's possible that some of them might travel here.  We feel we have a lot in common and can learn a lot from one another.  Praise God! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Worshipping in Los Higos

Yesterday afternoon, August 21, 2016, I preached at the church in Los Higos.
Here is a little clip of their singing.

The Church of Boma Singing

Sunday morning, August 21, 2016, I preached in Boma.
Here's a little clip of the singing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

El Montaña Baptism

The church in El Montaña has recently baptized three adults.  

Damaso sharing the importance and significance of Baptism.

It was very special to baptize a lady that Becky has discipled.

Praise God!

Monday, May 30, 2016

But They're Not Educated

***The Dominican Republic is very diverse.  Education is pushed and more readily available in the cities.  The thoughts here are based on our experiences in a very rural part of the country. This does not a represent the whole country.***

Tonight a missionary stopped by to pick up some things.  We were talking about a new Bible study he had started in one of the communities of Jarabacoa.  He remarked that so many of the adults didn't know how to read and it was challenging to teach people that are not educated.  While I knew exactly what he meant, his saying Dominicans were "uneducated" made me think about some things that I would like to share with you.

Of course, my friend meant "they" aren't educated in the same way he was educated.  The truth is, "they" are very educated in what is necessary to live in their society.  Dominicans are educated (prepared for life) differently than Americans.  They have different values, opportunities, and resources.  Their education is based on their life needs and culture.

In the past the things that school taught (reading, writing, arithmetic) were not as valued as learning to care for livestock, work the farm and the ability to fix just about anything with a rubber tube.  So when I sit and talk with a man about my age who has been educated in those things, I realize how poorly my education prepared me to live in his world.  I know very little about livestock, the farm, and I thought it was duct tape that fixed everything.  Many of those my age dropped out of school for the more valuable life preparation with their dad or other family members.  In one community I asked in a Bible study what grade everyone had completed.  Most of the adults had only completed third grade.

Now this is changing.  A higher percentage of Dominicans are completing 8th grade, high school and even college.  And we see the impact.  The younger an adult is, the more likely they are able to read.  And we realize this will continue to change.

But what does this have to do with us and other missionaries?

First, we need to discover how Dominicans prefer to learn.  When a Dominican wants to learn about a topic, what do they do?  Most in our area don't have the internet.  There isn't a public library in town.  What do they do?

Second, we need to teach using their preferred learning style.  If we can teach in a way that is natural to their learning style, they are much more likely to understand and pass it on to others.

On the other hand, if we teach them using our preferred learning styles (from the USA), they will probably smile and sit patiently but it is unlikely that they will "get it" or pass it on to others.

As we do this, we will see and value other forms of education.  The mountain man who has had little of what an American would think of as "formal education" will be looked at with intrigue.  He will arouse curiosity and respect.  How has he learned to do so much?  And with this new feeling, this uneducated American [me!] who is living in a foreign land will be able to begin his Dominican education.