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.


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.

Plan On It

I had to run some errands today.  We were out of some household items, so I was off to Sam’s Club this afternoon. Normally it’s not a big deal, but when you’re trekking the four miles from my house in New Tampa to the discount club in Wesley Chapel, the after-work traffic makes it a thirty-five minute event.

Patience. I need to work on my patience. 

As I walked into the store and flashed my membership card, I remembered the conversation my wife and I had about how we didn’t need to be carrying two memberships for discount clubs; one for Sam’s and one for BJ’s. I made a mental note to follow-up on that at later time.


I grabbed what I needed and headed toward the checkout lanes, all in under ten minutes. This is the benefit of going sans spouse to the warehouse. I swiped my card at the terminal of the self-checkout aisle.

“Your membership expired on March 10. Would you like to renew now and complete your transaction?”

It seems I no longer had to worry about the membership club decision seeing as how God had already made the decision for me. I giggled as I meandered back to the shelves to return my items, thinking of how I now needed to stop by BJ’s. Thankfully, the nightmare, afternoon traffic on this side of town is only in one direction, and I would be travelling the opposite way.

I pull into BJ’s, blissfully unaware of my immediate surroundings, completely consumed by the music on my radio. As I get out of my car, I notice a man reaching into the back of his trunk. This is completely normal given people are often loading their vehicle after shopping at the store. Then I saw it. His rear tire was flat. He wasn’t loading groceries or goods, but rather unloading items from his trunk to get to his spare.

My first impulse was to say in my head, “Good luck, dude” and be on my way. I actually got about seven steps away from my car before the feelings in my heart consumed me. The Holy Spirit had initially whispered to me to help that man. Now He was screaming at me.

Obedience. I need to work on my obedience. 

In my class at Bible College, we recently had a discussion on how some young people feel we don’t need the Old Testament because we have the New Testament. What that view overlooks is the fact the Bible, all sixty-six books, is how God reveals Himself to us. Additional, the OT is about promises made while the NT is about promises kept.

For me, what I love about the Old Testament are the stories of the nation of Israel after they left Egypt. It’s a series of cyclical stories showing how Israel would lose patience with God, choose disobedience to God, face the consequences of their behavior, and repent of their sins to once again find favor with the Lord. Through it all God is with them. Yes, He is angered, and yes, His wrath is displayed. But so is His love and mercy and infinite patience.


In a nutshell, the story of Israel wandering in the desert is the story of my life. Praise God for all He’s done. Lose patience with where I’m at. Falter in obedience to what He’s calling me to do. Stumble, fall, and accept the consequences of my behavior. Ask Him for forgiveness. Become redeemed once again in His eyes.

Sometimes I experience that cycle with small things; sitting in traffic, standing in line, etc. In my past I’ve experienced that cycle with the big things. It’s the reason I have an ex-wife and a period in my life that is marred with regrets.

Yet through it all, God was, is, and always will be with me. With each experience I build up my patience. With each opportunity, I display my obedience.

The man with the flat tire, his name is Joe. He was in his late sixties. He was very appreciative of me getting on the ground and situating his jack so we could change the tire and put on the spare. It was a blessing to be able to help him. It was the highlight of an otherwise mundane day. And it makes me smile to think that had my Sam’s club membership not expired, Joe would be on his on with that flat tire.


Don’t resist when the Holy Spirit compels you to do something. His plans are always greater than ours, and it’s through patience and obedience that we serve the Lord.

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” Deuteronomy 28:1 NLT

The Power (and Responsibility) of Love

It is a blessing from God to find someone in your life to love with all your being. Someone with whom you can grow old, and share every aspect of your soul along the way.

I assume that is the love Bud Caldwell shared with his wife Betty. It is clear Bud and Betty were truly blessed to have each other. But also key to the story in the video below from CBS News is the love displayed by Jerrod Ebert and Kevin Schultz: love for service, love for kindness, love for love.

As so eloquently stated by Steve Hartman, “Sometimes, to make a difference in the world, you need a good idea. And sometimes, all you need is to recognize the good around you and clear the way for it.”


Empowered Through Him

God is great. God is all powerful. God loves to delegate.

So much time is spent questioning why God did or didn’t in our lives. So many people of faith speak counter to their convictions and challenge God because of the troubles in their lives or the lives of others.

My faith walk has taught me so much, one of which is the lyrics to the Matthew West song Do Something are so very true.

So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

We are all called to serve in our own way. We are all called to make better for those around us. Be it in our office place, our schools, while in line at the grocery store; we are all empowered by Him to serve for Him.

I was fortunate to experience that today. As we visited Pasitos de Jesus, an orphanage for girls, there really wasn’t a whole lot for me to do, per se. My strong suit is not sitting at a table with little kids and doing crafts. I’m not exactly qualified to do the medical work other members of our team were performing. I am, however, capable of doing yard work and moving trash from here to there.

So with gardening sheers in hand, I set off to make a little bet the landscaping of the grounds of the orphanage. I was given a specific task; trim the hedges that line the wall. I didn’t have to pull the weeds or remove the dead limbs from the hedges, but since I was there already, I did. I didn’t have to pick up the trash that had accumulated at the bottom of the hedges, but I did anyway.

Later in the day we visited a village. We had previously purchased food to take and distribute to the members of that community. The plan was to give the individual a bag of food, have our team pray with them, and then continue with the distribution. As with most things in life, things don’t always exactly go as planned.


As it turned out, many of the recipients, although grateful, did not want to have to wait in order to take advantage of the gifts they were given. With twenty five bags, the queue for prayer grew quickly. Some started to leave.

We have only one pastor, but we have a team full of ministers, and God implored me to not let these people go home without a blessing. I felt empowered to step up to the next person in line, place my hand on their shoulder, and pray with them.

The Holy Spirit provided the words, and the fact I was able to deliver them in Spanish made them, I believe, a little more comforting to those receiving them. Other members of our team followed suit. All of the sudden, there were pockets of prayer going on. There were huddles of church in the middle of a village in the Dominican Republic.

We didn’t have to think about it. We didn’t have to question it. All we had to do was act.

As believers, we’re called to do His will here on earth. We’re called to step out of our particular comfort zone and extend a hand to someone in need. Believing in Christ is wonderful, but simply having faith does not make us Christ followers.

“So you see, faith by itself is not enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” – Jame 2:17

Looked Over and Forgotten

Their smiles melted my heart. The warmth of their hands moved my soul.

Our first full day of ministry began with a visit to a sugar cane village. Abject poverty, malnourished children, and of course – because we’re in the Dominican Republic – a baseball field. The eyes of the children opened wide as they saw our bus pull into their village. We all quickly broke out into games, throwing Frisbees and kicking a ball around. The males in our group became horses, carrying one, two, and even three kids on our backs, all the while running around like the kids we once were.

As I sat with a young girl and spoke to her about Christ, I stepped through my evangecube, an educational tool that is used for visually sharing the gospel. I was surprised at how well versed she was with who Jesus is and how He sacrificed Himself for our sins. I then began thinking about why this child of God lives in an environment in which she has to make do without shoes.


In the afternoon, we visited a living facility for the elderly. Whereas the village of children made me take a step back, the living facility wrecked my heart. To say it’s a facility is a misnomer. It’s a one-story building with rooms with beds. It’s a home to a forgotten generation of individuals, each beautiful and longing for validation, wanted to be reminded they are people too and not simply someone else’s burden.

The thoughts were overwhelming. The “Why’s” were without end.

At both places I got lost in my own mind, my thoughts cascading over what it is we need to do to fix the problem. But how do you fix poverty? How do you fix generations of inequity? How do you fix the influence of Satan in the thieves and the policy makers, both whom prey on the weak in their own way?

I don’t have an answer to that. My mind loves if-then process flows that lead to clean and neat solutions. Perhaps that’s why I’m so exhausted after dwelling on a systematic problem for which there may not exist an answer.

What I do know is that for those living in darkness, light is most important. For those living in loneliness, nothing is greater than love.

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and God is love (1 John 4:8). God reminded me today that my mission was not to solve the problems of the boys and girls at La Balsa village. It was not to provide a permanent solution to the women and men at La Esperanza home. My mission, the task to which God appointed me, was to love.

Love in the form of a smile. Love in the form of a hug. Love in the sharing of His good news. Love in the form of piggybacks and high fives and coloring books. Love in the form of serving soda with cookies and pushing a wheelchair and praying over someone.

These people I met today are overlooked and they have been forgotten, but not by God. Rather, it is we who have conveniently tucked them away into the unseen and marginalized them so that our lives may be a little easier.

I believe God has a plan for us all, but I struggle greatly in trying to understand God’s plan for these people; people who love Him and praise His name yet have their days filled with wanting, emptiness, and pain. Although it’s God’s privilege to conceal His plan from us (Proverbs 25:2), I think maybe His plan for them is actually quite simple: to help us grow in our faith.

I came to the Dominican Republic expecting to serve people, but today I found beautiful people ministering to me. People who have little about which to be happy, but still have a joy in their heart; a joy given to them by God.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5