Thursday, March 31, 2011

3/31/11

Last night was the first night since being here that I actually slept well. We finally figured out that if we had the A/C on and the windows open, it didn't freeze us out or fry us up. Yes, it seems a little wasteful, but everyone said it was ok.

First up for the day was training the Dominican Staff. We went to the offices and started with going a little deeper with the Strengths Finder assessments that the staff took when the first team came through 2 weeks ago on their way to Haiti. We discussed the 4 quadrents and how they could lead with these strengths. It was actually a great learning experience for me as well and I'm surprised at how much I knew about the strengths just from being immersed in it at Flood.

After the break out sessions we went over diplayed thinking and the DR staff seemed to really enjoy using it to brain storm their office retreat. After lunch we came back to find that Ben and the new DR ILB Director were using it for the ILB (I Love Baseball) program. We were informed that the second group that we were going to work with in the afternoon actually had participated in the morning session, so we didn't need to do it again. We took the opportunity to go out and get supplies for our thank you to the DR staff.

Vicky staied behind to work with Ben and ended up getting to sit in on a meeting between ILB and the Mayor of Barahona. The rest of us piled in the van and went with our interpreters: Juanchi, Rambo, and Ramone to the market. Our cook for the week, Manuela, came with us and acted as our "jefe". We went to several different markets, struggled to find buttermilk, and found the biggest carrots I've ever seen!

When we came back, Manuela made mac & cheese at Holly's request. I just wish I could find my video camera because as it was served Holly did something that I can only describe as "The mac & cheese jig". Quite amusing. It was de-lish if I may say so myself. After dinner we prepped the food that we would be using tomorrow. The kitchen was full of people skinning carrots, chopping fruit, mixing cakes, adding spices to meat, and joking around with Manuela.

Vicky did the devotions tonight and out of that incredible futuristic mind of hers, put together a list of 7 active steps to reach your goals and how to think big about them. It was very impactful for all of us.

Derek, Caitlin and I went for a late night swim and Ben joined us for a little bit then Travis finally got in the pool for the first time since we've been here. We all ended up having a very long discussion. Talking more than swimming. It was a good discussion about community, relationships, healing, and (of course) strengths.

Alright mes amigos, I am going to bed. Buenas noches.

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.-- Psalm 18:32-34

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3/30/11

I find that when I wait until the very end of the day, I always end up getting pulled into great conversations and random moments of laughter and will find myself sitting with the labtop on my lap and only one sentence written. Usually my blog entries are written after everyone else finally retires to their rooms.

Today we went back to Altagracia to paint the school. Amber, Vicky and I started to pencil out the things we were going to paint and I started to paint the tree with one of our translators Rambo. It turned out really well and the children used hand prints to make the leaves of the trees and to make flowers. Caitlin translated the days of the week and months of the year and we also made them a food pyramid since we had seen one at all the other schools. It all looked really good when we were done. Especially for most of the members on our team saying they weren't artistic in painting.



A little after we started painting, I left with half of our team to do interviews. Derek and I were on the film/photo team. His camera puts my camera to shame. It was awesome to be able to use it. We interviewed two children at that school who were of Haitian decent and spoke mainly French Creole. They were both around the age of 5 and it was kind of difficult to get them to answer questions with a bunch of Americans sitting around. But when they got to show us their homes and family, their smiles came out.



After our lunch, we went back to the school and dropped off our paint team and went on to the next school to do more interviews. Holly wanted to interview her sponsor child and because he had a common first name, we weren't able to find him the first time we visited. This time we found out that he was with his grandmother. But we did get to see the kids end their day singing their national anthem while taking down the flag. We interviewed two more kids who were a little older. And it was interesting to be able to find out more about them and make some jokes.



After that we took a detour and went to see  Vicky's new sponsor children. While we were at one of the villages we found two girls who were twins and Vicky decided to sponsor them. By the time we got back to Casa Batesda we were exhausted! Still..... they were able to talk me into jumping into the pool.

Caitlin did a great job of leading devotions and gave us an activity to list 3 things we wanted to give 1. to ourselves, 2. to others, and 3. to God. It was interesting. Mine were as follows:
1. Myself - "Permission". I struggle a lot with feeling that who I am is wrong and I just want to give myself permission to be whatever God made me to be with out restraining or limiting myself.
2. Others - "Freedom" I want to give others the freedom to make their own decisions about my faith and God without me force feeding them my experience here, my mission, or my faith in general. I want to give them the ability to approach me with their questions as the Spirit leads them, and not in my time.
3. God - "Trust" I still try far too hard to control many aspects of my life and I want to give God control over those things and believe that he knows what's best for me better than I do.


"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." -- Psalm 9:10

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3/29/11

Hola mis amigos! Today we went to visit Ben at the I Love Baseball practice. Holly, Caitlin and I joined in some of the drills. Doing high-knees in long skirts was rather hilarious for everyone. The new in-country director from the program was wearing a Cleveland Indians jersey (yes Dad, I got a photo for you) I was able to go up to several of the boys and asked them some questions Most of them are Boston fans, so I pulled out my Boston cap and put it on. The coach then came over and talked to me and asked me some cool questions and told me that he was a pastor and gave me a blessing. :)



Then we went to the final school/community that we had not visited yet. It is one of the newer school but the the first COTN community. It was much of the same, but yet each school was a unique experience. I feel that explaining it would just be repeating what I said yesterday. Just don't think that my lack of description meant that it was anything less than the others. I actually felt a great calm while walking through the community. We even passed some older boys (late teens/ early twenties) who were playing a game of dominoes. Instead of betting money, if they lost they had to clip clothes pins to their chin. It was entertaining to watch and they enjoyed us cheering them on and laughing with them when they had to clip a clothes pin on.



We came back to the Casa and had lunch. We decided to take the afternoon to stay at the Casa and plan out our next few days. We will be working with the Dominican staff and doing a displayed thinking and we will be going more in depth into Sthrengths Finder. (Which is a great topic on it's own.) Since we aren't going into Haiti, we decided to ask the staff if there is anything in particular we could do for them. So we are going to be doing some painting of one of the schools. Days of the week and months of the year in Spanish, letters, numbers, a mural, and the food pyramid. At the same time, we will be interviewing the children getting video, photos



I must say, I LOVE this team! I feel like we all gel very well. Each person brings something to the table so dynamic and unique. Even Ben adds his part and I feel completely comfortable lounging around with everyone. We are like a family. I can see myself doing this for a whole summer. Like when I was doing seasons of theater. I could do this for 3 months at a time. I also love the ability to talk freely about my faith and hear the ideas of others. To know that I can actually have a discussion about these things with others who battling the same questions and seeking towards the same thing. The love from each other gives this safe, supportive, comforting place to explore these things.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. -- Ephesians 3:18-19

Monday, March 28, 2011

3/28/11

Last night was rough. Our air conditioning was on full blast and didn't turn off once it started to cool down. I had taken my shower late and went to bed with my hair wet and was freezing! I put my sweat pants on and a sweater, wrapped my head in a towel and even threw one of my skirts on top of myself, but was still freezing. Finally Holly and I both got up at the same time and just turned the whole thing off. This was probably around 1:30ish. After that, it was a good night sleep.

I woke up at 7am to enjoy some quiet time and have some Dominican coffee. The locals keep joking about "Dominican Time" which means when they said there would be coffee at 7am, it was going to be ready at 7:50am. I grabbed some OJ and enjoyed the quiet of the morning.

The compund is beautiful in the daylight. It reminds me of a small scale church camp. The girls are sleeping in bunks in a dorm style room. We had scrambled eggs, bread, peanut buter and guava preserves. I really like that this team feels like a family.

We left after breakfast to go to the clinic. Once we arrived Holly gave us the news.

THE NEWS:
We will not be going into Haiti. They just had an election and both candidates are claiming to have won. They are expecting riots and even the in country staff member isn't going to be venturing into Haiti. I am disappointed to say the least and I am saddened to have to inform all those who thought I was going, but I have to believe that it is by the grace of God that he is keeping us safe and that he has plans for us here in the Dominican.

We then met the clinic staff. The receptionist actually grew up in the COTN program and is not working with them. Wanchee (sp?), our translator is also acting as our guide. When he took us into the surgery room he explained that they have two tables in the room so that while the surgan is working on one patient, another is being preped and they continue in that rotation. He said that it is common for the volunteer surgans who come in to work 10-12 hrs and do an average of 60 surgeries before taking a break! He said sometimes the Dominican staff have to tell them to stop and rest. He admited that there is much need in the community for the service of the clinic.


We then toured the Learning Center (kind of like a traid school) and climbed up a cleared hill behind the building that is COTN land and got an amazing view of the mountains and ocean. Then we went to on of the schools. The children are amazing. I really wish I knew more Spanish because I can't really say anything to them. And for some reason I just keep forgetting "adios". I keep saying goodbye in French.




We came back for lunch of rice and corn, chicken, salad (lettuce and tomatoes) and pineapple. Then had our siesta. Derek and I decided to go for a swim in the pool and Ben joined in. Then we went back out and toured the rest of the schools and communities.


Once again, the children were amazing. The dynamic of the people here is incredible. So welcoming and loving. Everyone we meet blesses us and welcomes us with open arms. I have not drawn any comparisons between this culture and their poverty and the US and it's poverty. It's just too different. Even if they are poor people, they are not poor in spirit.



Now we are back at Casa Betesda and prepairing for dinner. Time for another dip in the pool, rehydration, and relaxation. Blessings!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

3/27/11

THE PRECURSOR:

Derek arrived about 30 min before we arrived at el aeropuerto (the airport) to meet him. We could easily tell him apart from everyone else standing around. It is nice to have someone else with us. After getting a coffee, (which was quite difficult and the smallest coffee for $5 I've ever gotten) Derek and I ventured out of the airport while Holly and Vicky stayed and had a snack. Adopting the Dominican habit of "freeway jumping", we took our chances and darted across the road and walked along the cliffs dropping off to the ocean.

The weather is absolutely ideal and the water is a crystal clear turquoise. Derek threw in a rock and we realized that we were looking down to the bottom about 30 ft below. We scaled along for a bit hunting for an area of the cliff where we might be able to get out if we had "accidentally" fallen in. Not gonna lie... we both were seriously contemplating diving in. Alas, we couldn't find any good foothold that wouldn't smash us against the rocks and the rocks here are a mix of sedimentary rocks and coral. It almost looks like the Pumice kind of volcanic rock. (i.e. Not fun to crash up against.) That's kind of how the whole landscape is with scraggly plant growth and coarse brown grass growing between the rocks and garbage all over the ground.

In a few minutes Travis, Amber, and Caitlin will arrive and the translator will be here to pick us up for our 4 hour bus ride to Casa Bethesda in Barahona. Apparently we will be getting a roadside chicken dinner 2 hours in.... yummy? I'm hoping to make an addendum to this tonight when we arrive at the Casa. Peace to you all!

ADDENDUM:
This is it. This is what I've been waiting for! Maybe I'm getting my excitment get the best of me, but at this point I don't care. I've wanted to travel to a country for a mission trip for years but never thought it was possible. Travis asked the question tonight, "Did any of you think that by volunteering for a youth sports camp, you'd end up in the Dominican within a year?" Thinking of it that way is pretty incredible. Holly, Travis, Caitlin and I all met at the Flood Fripple Games. I'm going to venture to guess that none of us thought we'd end up here, but are very happy that it did.


I am amazed at the ways God works in our lives completely undetected. Excuse me for the reference, but I think it's so true: there was a Futurama episode where one of the characters meets God in the form of a star cluster. One of God's quotes was "When you do something right, people aren't sure that you've done anything at all." Or something to that effect. How often are we completely taken off guard by the way things come together and we see the happenings and choices in our lives have all worked together to get us to something incredible? You can call it chance if you want or luck or irony, but I call it God.

Soon after Amber, Caitlin, and Travis arrived we had an unexpected guest show up. Ben from COTN's I Love Baseball program approached the group. None of us knew that he was even going to be here and apparently he didn't know that we were going to be here either. He has become a welcome addition to the group. He really helps to balance out the male to female ratio. And I've already had several rewarding conversations with him. He will be out doing ILB work, but we will see him for meals and each evening since he is lodging at Casa Bethesda too.


The bus ride here was everything I was expecting and more. We loaded up on an old school bus that had NINOS DE LAS NACIONES on the side and were on our way. It didn't feel like 4 hours at all. Lots of good conversation. We did stop to have that chicken and it wasn't bad at all. Same as any American fast food place. We were welcomed into Casa Bathesda with open arms, hugs, smiles and all. We got set up in our rooms and then all came back to the main building for devotions. Tonight was my night to lead. Holly had me pray at the end because I am working on steping out of my comfort zone and spoken prayer has always been a struggle for me. Surprisingly I did well.


After the devotions most of the new arrivals went to bed and I staid up to blog and as I waiting my turn on the lab top I had another good chat with Ben and finished out the night talking with both Ben and Derek. Now I'm off to take a cool shower (there is no hot water here) and get some sleep. Coffee at 7am and breakfast at 8pm. Coffee and morning quiet time sounds wonderful!

Tomorrow we tour the bateyes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

3/26/11

Today we woke up early and took a cab to Boca Chica to spend the day at the beach as this is our last day before the rest of the team arrives for the mission part of the trip. I must say that after driving in the Dominican, I see driving in Boston as a cake walk! We sat on the beach, talked to some people from Canada and told them all about COTN. We all thoroughly fried our skin in the sun. A gentleman told us about some of his friends who went into Haiti and asked us to be careful. Then we found a hotel/restaurant where there were several older Italian men sitting around and they helped us order a salad to share. Holly took a look at the rooms and then decided to book the place for the rest of the team when they stay for vacation time after the venture trip.



Vicky and I are somewhat jealous because it is a quiet hole in the wall place where you can walk right off the patio and into the ocean. They won't have to take taxis to get everywhere. Still, I will be glad to get out of the tourist atmosphere and get away from people shoving all sorts of jewelry and trinkets in my face saying "You buy!", "I make special price for you." and the men blowing me kisses and telling me that they love me. (Especially since most people know my severe connotations for that word.)

I want to get this show on the road. As horrible as it might sound to people, I'm sick of this vacation and I'm ready to be doing something. I keep praying that we'll get into Haiti. Tomorrow we pick up the rest of the team from the airport and make a 3 hour bus trip to Casa Bathesda in Barahona. I look forward to tomorrow's post.

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. -- Romans 8:25

Friday, March 25, 2011

3/25/11

Good morning from the Dominican Republic. We are still struggling to get used to the time change. We woke up at 7am (4am San Diego time) to loud children laughing and shouting and the basketball being bounced against the wall of our room. There is a school right beside our hotel and it would seem that the children are always at recess or that we are next to their recreation area.

Apparently I was able to sleep through the dogs barking all night and the rooster that Holly said crowed all night EXCEPT for when the sun came up. But I was awoken by the children. After shouting for a while they all started singing the Dominican National Anthem. It's interesting to me that no matter what country you're in the national anthems all sound the same. Loud bombastic orchestras with blairing trumpets. I kind of wish each country's anthem would be more culturally diverse. That would be neat to get a taste of their native sound with their anthem.

Then we could hear someone walking heavily on the roof above our head. Yesterday we ventured about the small hotel and went up the stairs thinking it was the restaurant but instead walked out on the rooftop where they had the hotel laundry drying in the sun. So I'm assuming the heavy walking (sounded like heels) was someone doing the laundry. Soon after that, we heard two fighter jets do a low fly-by. Who knows what that was about, but it means it's time for us to get up and start our day.


Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5

EVENING:

So, today we went to the Dominican National Aquarium. I think we've established that I am more patient and enjoy taking more time to enjoy nature. There was one fish tank that had sunlight filtering through in streams and casting light on the rocks and across the colorful fish. I could have sat there for an hour just watching the fish and rocks. There were a couple schools there for the day. Holly and Vicky acquired some teenage boys for tour guides who brushed up on their Ingl├ęs by talking with us.

Then we went to Los Tres Ojos. I really wish dad were here for this. I can't wait to have a cord to upload the photos. It was a beautiful cave with 3 lagoons. I could have just stayed there all day.

As beautiful as this was, I can't really help but want to get this mission trip started. Currently we are still in limbo waiting to see if we are going to get the green light to go into Haiti. If we aren't allowed then we will be doing some training of the Dominican COTN staff, but I know we are all anxious to get across the boarder. I just keep looking forward to when the rest of the team arrives on Sunday. Then we will be going to the COTN complex, Casa Bathesda in Barahona.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3/23/11

IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:

Last night, Holly, Vicky and I left on a red eye flight out of San Diego at 10pm PST on March 22nd and (after a layover in JFK) arrived in the Dominican Republic at 11:30am EST on March 23rd. A total travel time of 10.5 hrs. On the first flight we all made the mistake of getting exit rows for more leg room only to find that the seats were hard and didn't recline. Woops! It only took us about 30 min to get our luggage, get through customs, and exchange our dollars to pesos. We had a taxi waiting for us to take us to the hotel.

We are staying at the Carey House Hotel in Santo Domingo. It's the basic of the basic. (Think Motel 6) But there are 3 separate full size beds, so none of us have to share. The weather is beautiful. Not the scorching hot weather that Holly had warned us all about. After a quick lunch we headed out to the market to buy items to use for our silent auction in May. I knew that it would be somewhat frustrating to not know the language, but I didn't really know that no one would. We will not have an interpreter until we are at the COTN compound, Casa Bethesda.

We have been required to read the book "Foreign to Familiar" and it explains a lot about this culture viewing the DR and Haiti as "warm-climate" cultures and the USA as a "cold-climate" culture. Basically it's the same difference as Feeling vs. Thinking in the Myers Briggs. I don't know that we are crossing cultures effectively. And I'll admit that I keep wishing we could slow down and take a moment rather than barrel through. My concern is being viewed as rude which is a huge offense to the people in this culture. But for now I just follow and do as I'm told.

In all honesty, I'm anxious to get this part of the trip over with. I want to get to Casa Bathesda and start working on a project. I admit I like the absence of technology distractions. I think I'm itching for something significant to be doing.

As of right now we are still waiting to hear if we are going to be going into Haiti. We have everything prepared for the trip and all of us are hoping and praying diligently that we are able to get in.

Well, it's now 10:30pm EST and I'm ready for bed! Buenos noches!

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." -- Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3/8/11

I really think Chris Clark is right. Those heading to Haiti are under a spiritual attack. I’m finding that the closer we get to our team’s departure, the more things that go wrong. And what’s worse is I know my dad is going to read this and it’s going to turn more of his hair gray. But, I started this blog to allow people to see the joy and struggles in this budding charity and allow them that glimpse of this side of charity work. We help the children, but how often to people consider who is helping us? We know how much these children struggle, so we step into that role to struggle for them.

I am going through a core group class called “The Heart of Generosity”. So much emphasis is put on being generous with our finances and I feel so broken because I have nothing to give. Instead I’ve been giving of myself (my time and my talents) as much as I can. I’m becoming stretched very thin. There are so many things that people are screaming “priority” at me and yet so few of these responsibilities are able to keep the roof over my head or put any food on my table.

I know we are all struggling and that’s what makes me so selfish to be worried about these things. In one of the videos I watched for the core group the speaker breaks down what percentage of the typical American paycheck goes to our different expenses. I decided to do this myself just to see how much money I could actually give:

% of monthly income to living expenses
60% - Rent
2% - Utilities
2% - Internet
15% - Student Loan
9% - Gas (if I can get by with putting in only $20 a week)
12% - Food/Additional Expenses/Savings or Credit Card

I found that if I tithe 10% I am left with $21 for food or other monthly expenses.

Since I will be in the Dominican and Haiti the last two weeks of this month, I will be cutting off the end of my usual income because I won’t be here to train my clients or to clean the house. As of right now if I don’t have any clients cancel than I will just make enough to cover my rent. All of my tax return went to pay off my mounting credit card bill that has been taking the edge off my expenses by holding the weight of gas and groceries.

Then tonight when I went to run with my friend she noticed a ticket stuck under my passenger side wiper. Apparently I got a ticket for parking outside my own apartment complex and not cramping my tire to the curb. MY TIRE! A $59.50 fine!

I had to sit in my car and just cry for a while. What more can I do? I know I’m being stuck with the title of “negative”, but it’s hard to be positive when I’m trying so hard to live for Christ and I just keep getting taken out at the knees. I was there to run with my friend, so I got out and ran. I ran the long way. I wanted to out-run the thoughts and tears and stress and fear and uncertainty. I wanted to run until my feet wore away and I couldn’t run anymore. My lungs burned, my neck and shoulder cramped, and as soon as I ended the run the sobbing caught up with me. I couldn’t stay to go out for tacos with the rest of the group. I came home and sat in my parked car (with the wheels cramped against the curb) until I could pull myself together enough to go inside. Took a long LONG bath and now here I sit wondering what will happen.

I believe with all my heart that God provides, but I am not so certain that I am doing what He wants me to be doing. Am I struggling because I’m under attack or because God is swatting at me trying to get me to stop it? How do I put on the happy face? How do I act like nothing is wrong? I know eyes are on me, pressuring me to prove that I am able to stay positive through this, but when does positivity turn into denial of reality and just pure insanity? I don’t want to express concern and be a Debbie Downer.

Pray for Chris Clark and his family.
Pray for our team already in Haiti.
Pray for the people and children in Haiti.
Pray for the efforts of COTN.
And then… if you have anything left… please consider praying for me.

You have led me, to the sadness, I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken, I'm crying out to You...
I will sing of Your Mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.
-- The Valley Song (Jars of Clay)