Three-Six-Three

Three-Six-Three

Three hundred and sixty-three days.

Not quite one year, but in many ways it feels like a lifetime.

On November 28, 2018, my wife Lee and I will board a plane to fly back to the United States. We are going home to reset ourselves, pray, and hopefully discern what God has in store for us next. We are also going home to proverbially lick our wounds and learn from the experiences of the past five months.

This time last year, I was preparing to accompany my friend Jeff on his first ever mission trip. We traveled to the D.R. on November 30, 2017, to take part in a dental mission trip, and also helped put the finishing touches on a new church in Los Corrales, Samaná. It was a trip that would change my life.

In very short summary, my wife and I sold our house, the majority of our belongings, stepped out in obedience to God, and moved to the Dominican Republic to serve. Now, we have just about everything we own in seven suitcases and our carry-ons. (#baggagefees).

I am sure there will be blog posts in the future in which I write about lessons learned, the hows and whys of what happened, etc. But for now, I sit here with sadness in my heart because of the friends we are leaving.

Friends is not the right word.

In the last five months, we’ve become family. We laughed, shared, and created together. We also struggled, cried, and experienced frustrations together. We made each other better, and I know I’ve learned so much from the women and men who keep God in the forefront of their lives and reflect His love is all they do.

Making the decision to end our ministry partnership with Advocates of Love was one of the most difficult and depleting choices I’ve ever made. Lee shares that sentiment with me. It was so incredibly hard because of the children we are leaving as well as the wonderful staff that makes the entire orphanage work. I still marvel at what they do day in and day out with the limited resources at hand, and even though their work is thankless, I know God is updating their account in Heaven on a daily basis.

The title of this post was almost Salty and Exhausted. Those words speak to the amount of tears I’ve shed in getting to this point, and how empty I feel inside as a result.

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I will carry my Dominican family members with me in my heart wherever I go, and I will be counting the days when the Lord allows me to come back to visit. Hopefully, it will be a lot sooner than three hundred and sixty-three days.

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Pivot

Pivot

Following our resignation from Advocates of Love, Lee and I knew we’d remain committed to working in service for the Lord. Be it mission work or some other form of ministry, there is no going back to the corporate nine-to-five life we left earlier this year. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we do know change will be a constant (in the near term, at least).

With that come the requisite cosmetic changes to our social media presence. Our Facebook and Instagram pages have been renamed to reflect our new direction. We look forward to continuing to share with you our experiences that come as a result of working for God.

Our foreseeable future involves AirBNBs, the occasional hotel, and probably more drive-thru meals than one would consider to be healthful. Still, we welcome the uncertainty with a sense of wonder and adventure, and we know that in surrendering our lives to the Lord, His provision is all we need.

We must, however, do our part and be diligent in seeking out our next ministry opportunity. Selling all we had to move to the Dominican Republic has been a complete blessing.  As a result, Lee and I have the flexibility to go anywhere the Lord directs us. So if you know of any churches that may be adding staff, please let us know. If you’re aware of any mission organizations needing individuals to serve, please drop us a note. If your neighbor is looking to sell her SUV at a great price, definitely send us the info. If your relative has an empty house that needs to be rented, we may be interested.

We pray that having such a supportive network of family and friends will allow us to step into what God has in store for us next. We also ask you to keep us in your prayers as we turn the page into this new chapter of our lives.

Thank you again for the continued support and the outpouring of love. I look forward to keeping everyone abreast of what happens next.

A New Direction

It is with sadness we announce we have for personal reasons submitted our resignation to the board of Advocates of Love.

Following two days of intentional retreat with God, during which we wrestled and agonized with our situation, we felt the best solution was to step away from this ministry partnership with AOL. Although it was a heartbreaking decision for us, we are at peace with the decision.

We will remain in place until November 30 to assist with transition work, and then we’ll return back to the United States. We are both still committed to staying in ministry/mission work, and we’re praying that God directs our steps and further reveals His plan for us so we can align ourselves to His will.

We sincerely and heartfully thank everyone for the love and support we’ve received through this journey.

The Healing Power of Time

The Healing Power of Time

A week ago today, I was walking to the local market – they’re called colmados here in the D.R. – to pick up a couple of items. It was dark and there was a slight drizzle. I walked on the edge of the road (there are no sidewalks here) while facing oncoming traffic, armed only with an umbrella in one hand and a flashlight in the other. The flashlight served to both light my path and make me visible to cars heading in my direction.

My defense tactic worked like a charm with the first car to come my way. I saw a pair of headlights, I flicked my wrist from side to side, and the vehicle politely veered away from the edge of the road.

Upon seeing the second set of lights, I repeated my task of alerting the driver to my presence. As it turns out, my plan was not foolproof. The car continued to advance right at me. In my memory, I swear it even veered toward me. Having already stepped off the road and onto the shoulder, I had nowhere left to go for safety. Nowhere except for the ditch that runs parallel to the road.

The fall caused me to scrape my leg along the embankment of the ditch, an embankment that is perpetually smiling with teeth of rocks and stone. Ouch is an understatement. But being one week removed from the incident, my fancy scab graffiti is looking better.

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It is said time heals all wounds. That is true both literally and figuratively, and it got me thinking of a post from a long time ago. So with this context in mind, I’d like to once again share this posting from over ten years ago.

What Scar?

 

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3 NLT

Axl Rose Was Right

Axl Rose Was Right

Actually, my pastor was right.

Never pray for patience, because when you do, God is more than happy to put you in situations where you need patience. Ever since Lee and I moved here to the Dominican Republic, I think I’ve prayed for patience on a daily basis. I know what you’re thinking, but you should know that living in the D.R. and being put in situations where you need patience are redundant.

So when I am in a jam where my head is about to explode, I think of two things. The first is another thing I learned at Relevant: Be the church. It’s a mantra that reminds me that regardless of the situation, I am called to be a reflection of God’s grace and love.

::whispering:: Be the church. Be the church. Be the church.

The second thing I think of is the chorus of perhaps my favorite Guns N’ Roses song called Patience. Although the song is about a relationship between a man and a woman, the lyrics of the chorus are applicable in any stressful, p.i.t.a. situation.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

Today we completed some back to school shopping for some of the kids, and the scene inside the store we visited can be best described as chaotic. For reasons I can’t really explain (yet I understand because I grew up in Miami), the people here seem to be very impatient. Don’t get me wrong; Dominicans are sweet and friendly and inviting and generous, but they are absolutely not zen-like. Just spend a minute driving on the roads and you’ll understand.

So when there are nine people in line and there is only one person at the cash register, the vocal opinions start flying. Comments about how there should be other registers open abounded. People began looking to cut in line because they only had one item to buy. The atmosphere grew toxic quickly.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

It’s important to note the store was not air-conditioned, the outside temperature was about 90 degrees, and it had just finished raining, so humidity was at a million percent. It was hot, sticky, crowded, noisy, the lady behind me was jabbing my ribs with her shopping basket, and there was a man in the corner that kept looking at me funny.

::singing in my head:: ♫ You and I just use a little patience. ♫

In looking at the lady working the register, you can see her counting the minutes in her head until closing time. She was being berated by customers, sometimes verbally, almost always visually. I stepped up to pay for my items, Axl Rose’s whistling still playing in my head.

I said hello and I wished her a good day. Startled, she looked up from her register as if in shock anyone would offer her a gesture of kindness. I smiled at her and she smiled back, I think more out of instinct than out of genuine reciprocation. We completed the transaction and I thanked her for her help. She looked at me and thanked me with her eyes. It was only a split second, but I can see it was a moment of relief she was able to experience before diving once again head first into the hornet’s nest.

::whispering:: Be the church.

Now I know this post smacks of humble-brag, but what I want to share is this: goodness begets goodness. In this particular case, patience begat kindness. For me, it became apparent all my prayers for patience were not for my benefit but rather for the benefit of others. All my hours in the proverbial furnace were not so I could appreciate the splendor of the refinement. They were so the woman at the register could have a tiny moment of joy in an otherwise joyless situation.

God does not work on us for our sake alone. God works on us for the betterment of His kingdom. And the thought of being an instrument for His glory is music to my ears.

 

In His Timing

In His Timing

I believe in God winks.

You know, those little moments that are serendipitously cool and bring us just a little closer to the Lord. After all, coincidence is simply God showing off.

So after having blogged last night for the first time forever, Lee and I were reviewing the post and talking about our experience here in the D.R. so far. I was at the end of Page 8 of my post, reflecting on the words I wrote.

(W)e need to raise young men with the understanding that women are priceless and not property. They are to be cherished and protected, not sold and enslaved. That is a generational change. That is kingdom building here on earth. And that is why Lee and I are committed to being here for decades.

I had Spotify playing in the background and Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE came on.

Now, I know the lyrics don’t exactly apply to how I am feeling about my new life experience in the Dominican Republic, but the chorus sure does.

Oh if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me?

I firmly believe the timing of the music was God’s way of reminding me to keep on marching, to keep on pressing even through the difficulties and distractions. It was His way of winking at me and saying, “I’ve got you.”

God wink indeed.

Our Life in the Dominican Republic (So Far)

When the year started, I really wanted to post something on my blog every day. I built good momentum until about the April timeframe when I was involved in a car accident. Then, I had a week-long site visit to our children’s home in the D.R. and the lack of reliable Internet threw me off track.

Lee and I have been in the D.R. now for forty-five days and this is my first blog post. The thing with blogging is that you need both time AND motivation to sit down, organize your thoughts, type them out, edit them, and make sure they formatted correctly for your respective blogging platform. Suffice it to say time and motivation with regards to writing has been scarce.

So, as I sit in my apartment, I am feeling motivated to take some time and capture my thoughts for my blog. I will say there is a LOT to capture, so in the interest of avoiding a TL/DR post, I’ve broken this submission into various, bite-sized pages. This way it’s not an overwhelming read, and you can easily come back to it later if you so choose.

With that, I thank everyone for the continued prayers and support, and – of course – for taking your time to share in this writing experience with me. I hope you enjoy.


Click here for Page 1 of our story so far.