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.

 

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Our Life in the Dominican Republic (So Far)

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.

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.

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Box Set

Box Set

As we continue to get everything ready to move temporarily to Georgia and then permanently to the Dominican Republic, one of the items of concern was how to get all my tools down to the D.R. I have a hodge-podge collection of tools, some I’ve purchased, most I inherited from my father. They’re all gathered among several toolboxes and tool bags, with no sense of order or organization whatsoever. For someone like me who embraces his O-C-D, this chaos drives me a bit crazy.

Since we made the commitment to become full-time missionaries, Lee has been searching for the perfect ‘every day’ bag, something in which she can carry her Bibles, tablet, materials, etc. Late last month, she came across Better Life Bags and fell in love with one of their items.  Even though these bags are handmade and cause driven, the price was a little on the cost-prohibitive side.

That moment you find the perfect bag….the one you’ve been searching for over the past 2 months…and I mean the PERFECT bag to carry around my ‘missionary’ supplies once we get to the DR (bible, Chromebook, journal, etc)….only to realize it is $252. Doesn’t exactly scream missionary now does it?!? Haha

LeeBag

As it turns out, Lee’s friends decided to bless her with the bag, so Yay God for the gift and the support from those close to Lee.

I have a messenger bag I used for my classes at Trinity College which will work perfectly for me in the same capacity, but I can really use something to consolidate my tools. Well, this evening Lee decided to bless me with a new toolbox set, one with which I can both organize my tools AND transport them down to the D.R.

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I was going to go with a smaller and much more affordable solution by Stanley, but the unit felt VERY plastic and I just knew it would not survive a flight to the D.R. By contrast, I’ve seen this model of Ridgid boxes make it to the D.R. on more than one occasion given it’s what my friend Amanda used to take down her tools for our mission trips through Relevant Church.

So a world of thanks to my wife and Yay God for the continued blessings in this transition experience. And for the record, my new toy is still half the cost of her new bag. #justsayn

 

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Like a kid on Christman morning!

 

Whatdya Give?

Whatdya Give?

Sister Hazel has been an integral and bedrock part of Lee’s and my relationship since we met. Lee and I have seen the band countless times since 2005, and our immediate circle of friends is a result of people we met through Sister Hazel.

As we transition into full-time mission work, Lee and I have been drastically downsizing. Although it’s been a pleasure and a blessing to give away so much of our stuff, there is also a need to fundraise in order to cover some of the moving expenses associated with this next chapter in our lives.

So to accomplish this goal, we’ve listed two of our favorite Sister Hazel items for auction via Facebook. I’ve copied the descriptions below, and we have the auction open until Friday, March 16. Unfortunately, you have to have a Facebook account in order to participate in the auction.

If you’re interested in supporting our missionary work directly or sponsoring a child for Advocates of Love, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

We are auctioning *TWO* excellent and unique Sister Hazel items from our collection.

Our first is a framed image of an acoustic guitar on the beach, with lyrics to Sister Hazel’s ‘Sail Away’, and signed by Ken Block.

Our second is an acoustic guitar signed by Drew Copeland and Ken Block.

Bids can be entered in the comments, and this auction will remain open until 10:00 PM PACIFIC time on Friday, March 16. We will ship to anywhere in the continental US.

Please keep us in your prayers and we appreciate your support. Also be sure to share this post with your circle of friends and fellow Hazelnuts. Happy bidding.

 

 

Hooked on Ponics

Hooked on Ponics

I had the pleasure this afternoon of meeting Jaime Guerra from Aquaponics for Communities. Jaime is an expert in aquaponics and he presented to me the various options and setup types that are available in the aquaponics arena. My goal in meeting with him was to establish a relationship so that when the time is right, Jaime can assist us with the implementation of an aquaponics system at the Advocates of Love children’s home in the D.R.

 

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Image of one of Jamie Guerra’s aquaponic systems in the U.S.

 

In summary, aquaponics uses the waste water from a fish tank, typically Tilapia, to provide nutrients for plants (herbs, leafy greens, and other vegetable garden items). The plants are grown with no soil as the root system of the plants is submerged in the nutrient-rich water system. The end result is a sustainable mini-ecosystem that produces both edible fish and greens.

The way aquaponics would fold into our vision for the children’s home in Samaná is varied. There would be reduced food costs as a result of being able to produce meal items on site. We could teach responsibility to the children by assigning them chores related to the cleaning and maintenance of the system. Their potential for learning is expanded by introducing them to new aspects of biology, botany, and engineering. And the community as a whole can be introduced to the concept of sustainability and stewardship.

 

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Visit Aquaponics for Communities on Facebook

 

 

I know we’re many months (if not years) away from realizing the benefits of an on-site aquaponics system at the children’s home, yet today’s meeting was about sowing. God has had me working on my patience for some time now, and today was another exercise in that. Still, I firmly believe He will honor our prayers and intentions and deliver us a wonderful system that will make the lives of the kids and staff at the children’s home so much better. But for now, we simply …

PTW


A word of thanks to my new friend Tami Carr who made this meeting with Jaime possible. Tami has a servant’s heart and a passion for aquaponics, and I am grateful my new boss (Mike Clark) introduced me to Tami. 

Rev’d Up

Rev’d Up

It was a strange and almost surreal experience, standing up in front of the congregation while my Pastor spoke loving, kind, and supportive words about me and the faith journey I am on. It was all part of the process of being ordained through my church and carrying with me the fully certified and recognized authority that comes with the title.

My new faith journey began in June of 2009 when my wife and I attended Relevant Church for the first time. Since then, Lee and I plugged into service ministry, small groups, volunteer efforts, and mission trips. I feel our spirituality has grown exponentially since we discovered: faith is about a relationship and not religion, faith is meant to be done in community, and that through our individual faith in God we are stronger together as a couple.

So as Pastor Paul completed the presentation of the certificate of ordination, I felt Lee’s name deserved to be on that certificate as much as mine. I would not be the man of Christ I am today if not for her guidance, direction, and support. I would not be on the cusp of moving to the Dominican Republic if not for her shared enthusiasm and determination to do God’s work. I may have attended the classes at Trinity College of Florida, but Lee was with me every step of the way.

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It is an honor and a blessing to be able to celebrate this milestone in my life, and I owe a world of thanks to everyone who also helped make it possible along the way. I feel I am a reflection of the collective love and support I’ve received from my friends and family, and I hope I will continue to be a positive representative of this loving community in the years to come.


On a completely separate tangent, I sent a photo of me to our Technical Director Jarrett asking him if it could be included in the service. It was a picture from my First Communion, and no, it did not end up as part of the service. Although Jarrett wanted to use the pic, Pastor Paul was not on the same page.

Those in attendance at Relevant may have been deprived of this glorious artistry, but you won’t be. So please, enjoy!

Gil FC