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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

I drove into town today to get online and catch up with some email and other work items. I wish I could say I can easily get online at the children’s home, but whatever service they use for Internet is DOG SLOW. So much so I would argue it’s a waste of money for the organization since the Internet connection cannot be used effectively.

Sitting at the restaurant in Samana was better but still not nearly at the speed to which I am accustomed in the states. If this is how the Internet is all over the island, then I think I’m trouble. When I spoke to Mike, I explained how I can live without hot water and air conditioning, but I draw the line at bad Internet. Although I am only half-joking, I do realize part of being a missionary is having to let go of the comforts to which I am accustomed.

Still, Lee and I have such big plans and ideas for the children’s home, and many of those ideas require a reliable, functional, and fast Internet connection. I guess we’ll be focusing our prayers on a viable solution for when we arrive.

Mourning Eutaw

As a follow-up to my post from yesterday where Lee and I met with Bob and Joan Galasso, I wanted to share a realization that came to light as part of our discussing our move into mission work.

I mentioned to Bob and Joan how when Lee and I first felt the calling to do full-time mission work, my heart was to do so in Latin America. D.R., Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica; any place in which I could utilize the fact I am bilingual. It was also based on the fact we’d served in Eutaw, Alabama, and the idea of doing full-time mission work there scared me.

Lee’s heart, however, was for Eutaw, and following last summer’s domestic mission trip to Alabama, she desperately wanted to end up there when the time for us to transition came. I spoke to my pastor how the idea of Eutaw terrified me, and Paul reminded me how Lee and I had the opportunity to mend fences, build bridges, and be an important part of racial reconciliation for that town.

Following that conversation, I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in me. I felt my attitude change. Not only was I coming around on the idea of serving in Eutaw, I was full steam ahead with the idea of church planting in Eutaw. So much so, I started developing my introductory sermon series for the community of Branch Heights.

With the opportunity to move to the D.R. and become directors of the children’s home for Advocates of Love, I was left wondering why God stirred those feelings and dreams in my heart the way He did. As I explained it out loud to Bob and Joan, I said, “I know I can do this, and I know I can do it well. I’m just not sure why God changed the assignment all of the sudden.”

…and as I was saying it, I realized what I was doing. The look on Joan’s face confirmed it. There were many “I’s” in my statement. There was a large focus on what I could do, and no mention of what God would do. It was very prideful and very arrogant. As Joan went on to explain, perhaps the assignment changed because God didn’t need me to rely on me. God wants me to rely on Him.

Bob went on to explain that losing a dream is not unlike losing a friend or a loved one. There are emotions that need to be dealt with, and I had to mourn the loss of that dream. I had to come to terms with the fact that everything I wanted to do for the families of Branch Heights, using my position from the pulpit to serve them and hopefully create betterment in their lives, would not come to fruition. I had to mourn that loss.

So here I am, writing somewhat out of catharsis in order to say goodbye to that specific pastoral dream. I write that knowing that although our role in the D.R. will be mostly operational in nature, there is the potential for a lot of pastoral-like services. The thing is, I have no idea what that looks like. I do not know exactly how will be received or if the families there will be receptive to the American couple in their neighbourhood. The beauty of it is I don’t have to know. All I have to do is let go of my pride, trust in God, and know that I will be where He needs me to be.

Reignited

For the last several weeks, I’ve been feeling very bummed by my current situation. I am happy to act out of obedience to the Lord and move into full-time mission work. Still, it was my expectation assumption our house would be sold by now, and Lee and I would be settling into our new place in Samaná.

Instead, there’s been a lot of waiting (and waiting and waiting) while I mire in this interim stage in my life that is no longer employed in corporate America but not yet actively involved in non-profit America. I feel I’ve geared up for the big game but God has me riding the bench for now. There’s a whole lot of, “put me in, coach!” going on in my head these last several weeks.

Needless to say, those feelings of curiosity have morphed into frustration, and my need to trust in God has waned. I’ve become impatient and at times found myself lost in little moments where I had to remind myself I am a missionary.

So it was with great joy this morning when I spent 90 minutes on the phone with my new boss (the head of Advocates of Love). He was recapping for me his recent trip to the D.R. (a trip, BTW, on which I would have participated if not for my car accident).

To hear the enthusiasm in his voice about some of the barrier-breaking experiences he had on the trip definitely lifted my spirits. To hear him speak about the wonderful, new possibilities for AOL made my heart pump faster and faster. By the end of the call, I was jacked once again about my new role as Director of the children’s home in Samaná.

I will try to keep this feeling going through the duration God has determined it will take to sell my house. And if I’m excited now, just imagine how I will be feeling once Lee and I are on that plane for good the D.R.

Brad GIF

Mental Shuffle

Mental Shuffle

Yesterday I wrote about things I am going to miss once Lee and I move to the Dominican Republic. Tonight’s post is kinda’ the opposite, but not entirely.

To say my music family has changed my life is a dramatic understatement. When you follow the dominoes that have fallen, it’s very clear Lee and I would not be preparing for this move into full-time mission work if not for our music family. We ended up at Relevant Church as a result of being invited by our friend whom we met through our music family. Our introduction to Advocates of Love came as a result of my best friend whom – again – I met through our music family. Being introduced to that community of friends back in 2006 has been life-changing.

Part of this music family experience had been The Rock Boat, a floating music festival that is the best vacation you’ll barely remember. Lee and I have had the pleasure of taking part of seven TRB’s, and each one has been uniquely special. From our first in 2007 to our last in 2015 (we missed a couple of years here and there), thinking back on TRB memories makes my heart smile.

I say “last” one because we sailed on TRB XV a day after returning from our first ever mission trip in January 2015. Even though we had a good time, there was something off about that boat. For Lee and me, it was not the go-for-broke party atmosphere we’d enjoyed on previous cruises. Rather, there was an almost somber undercurrent, a whisper from God telling us TRB XV was our last hurrah.

He was preparing us for our next steps.

So here I am, on the sail away day for TRB XVIII, seeing the Facebook posts from literally hundreds of my friends who set sail for five excellent days of music, sun, fun, and killer hangovers. And it’s interesting how The Boat is no longer a priority in my life. Instead, I am filling my days with process steps I need to complete in order to move to a foreign country and serve God with the work my wife and I do.

Just like with old computers when you’d run a defrag command in order to re-order the hard drive, God performs a spiritual defrag in us according to His will. Things we once thought were important are moved out of the way in order to make more room for Him.

Would I like to be on a music cruise with my friends right now? Of course! Is it where I need to be right now? Not even close. Where I need to be is here, prepping my house so I can sell it, reaching out to other ministry organizations seeking partnership opportunities, and praying everything for which we’re hoping comes to fruition.

So instead of pining away about a ship that has already set sail (literally), I’ll close out with a nostalgic look back at what used to be. Enjoy.

A Taste of Things to Come

A Taste of Things to Come

We spent more time at the children’s home today, and since they were out of school (teacher’s workday), we got there early and filled our morning with games and smiles and hugs. Around noon, Lee and I trekked out into Samaná proper to check out what that port town looks and feels like. We wanted the opportunity to know what to expect in terms of the municipality itself should God confirm this missionary opportunity for us.

We drove the thirty minutes to the city, and we were accompanied by Dairon, a volunteer at the children’s home and brother to Hellen Jimenez, one of the board members of the Dominican NGO. We came across a little restaurant the serves mostly seafood and has a nice view of the bay. What we discovered is a potential ‘date night’ spot should Lee and I end up moving to the D.R.

To say the food was amazing is an understatement, and when we received the bill, we were pleasantly surprised to find it to be less than half what we expected to pay for the equivalent meal in the U.S. I looked at Lee and said, “I think we may be coming here quite often.”

All in all, I think it was yet another instance of God winking at us and reaffirming that by acting out of obedience, blessings will follow.