What is my story here?

My friend and I have been asked to head up a project. The project will be a cookbook SLASH anecdote book about life in the Dominican Republic.

It got me to thinking, well, first, that I don’t cook, but then, what would I tell someone? What stories do I have? What advice would I give?

It’s such a broad question. I said, at the dinner where this was presented, “I just don’t know that I have anything to contribute to this from my experiences.” Then my friend told me.

She said, “Melissa, the way you are able to interact at the baseball games, make friends, and meet people, that’s you. That’s your story.” Well, she said something like that, but the way I wrote it is how I heard her words. And I think it’s true. I don’t really have a lot of talents. But I really do like to meet people, have fun, make people laugh, and show them the love of Jesus. And I hope that’s what I’m doing at the baseball games.

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Through going to the games, I’ve made friends with people who sell food, people who serve food, players, fans, and even the President of the team. The players wave and smile at me, and the security guards watch out for me. Sometimes, players even drive us home.

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There’s something to be said about being fun and smiling. Don’t you want to be around fun, smiling people? I know I do. And for me, here in the D.R., I’ve found I feel safe, and I feel comfortable, and it’s because I’ve put myself out there to meet people. In doing that, I’ve made a community of friends who watch out for me.

I don’t know if that’s a talent, or what it is, but it’s my story, and it’s what I have to offer people about this country: Smile, show joy, be kind, and talk to people.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose…

When I was in the 8th grade, I transferred to a Christian school. I vividly remember reading an abridged version of Through Gates of Splendor in our English class. I think that’s the only thing I remember from actual classes. The story is written by Elisabeth Elliot, and is the true account of her husband and four other men who went to the jungles of Ecuador to reach a dangerous people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the story, the five men were violently killed. Elisabeth Elliot, with the help of Rachel Saint (the sister of another man who was killed), and Dayuma (a native of the tribe who had helped them translate and had become a believer), went back to this same tribe and reached many of them with the Gospel, including the man who had killed her husband.

The famous quote from this book is something Jim Elliot said, as states my title: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 

I think the power of his quote lives on because he lived and died by these words. He gave his life to gain something greater, the salvation of these people. And the salvation of many to follow.

God used this story to burden me for missions, to give what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose. 

Our Dominican pastor took a mission trip to Ecuador, and tonight he shared testimony of his trip. While on the trip, he and 2 American missionaries took a trip up to the place where these 5 missionaries were killed. As I was listening, I was thinking of how amazing it would be to visit that place. They had 2 Ecuadorians (?) with them. Through conversation they learned that one was a Christian and one was not.

(Pardon any inaccuracies in this story, as I listened to the whole thing in Spanish)

Somewhere along the trip, Douglas, one of the American missionaries, and William, one of the guides, were separated from the group. They conversed about why William was not a believer, and he confessed that there was pressure from his friends. After more discussion, Douglas called over Miguel (my pastor), and told Miguel that William said he was ready. He was ready to receive Christ. Miguel had the privilege of explaining the Gospel in Spanish, and then the other guide explained in their native tongue, and there, on that trip, William accepted Christ.

I just couldn’t get over how cool that would be, to be on that trip, and to lead a native to Christ, and on a trip to the place where the first missionaries had come, and had given their lives for these people. Wow.

On the return trip, they came across a temple, and someone asked if they wanted to see the grave site of Rachel Saint. Of course they did! Then, next to her grave was another fresh grave, no plaque had even been placed. Someone said, “This is the grave of Dayuma. She died in February.”

Then William explained that Dayuma was his grandma.

Wow.

Not only had Miguel been given the privilege of leading this young man to Christ, but this young man was the grandson of the very first person from this tribe to receive Christ. Wow! What a gift. What an experience.

I still have tears in my eyes thinking about who must’ve been praying for William. And then I think about how Miguel is from a completely different country and was only there  short time, but it was God’s timing. 

Here I am in a foreign country. Maybe God will use me to help someone know him. And I pray that those who are in the states, near my loved ones, will be the ones to witness salvation for those I love who don’t know Jesus. We are all part of the plan. We just have to listen and follow.

I’m praying for my loved ones to know Jesus. Now I am reminded also to pray for those who carry the Gospel to them.

(I’m sure the story was much more powerful when told in person by Miguel, but I still wanted to share!)

My Life in Pictures … with Captions

 

Sometimes I get to meet famous baseball players like Fernando Tatis.

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Sometimes I get to spend time with my friends, my students, and their families at baseball games!

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Sometimes, I get to worship Jesus in Spanish!

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Sometimes, I see the people of the city living their everyday lives.

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Sometimes I get to enjoy being near the ocean.

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Sometimes, we take touristy moto rides on a Sunday afternoon.

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Sometimes, I get my hair done, and watch some guy take out this lady’s curlers even though he doesn’t work there.IMG_0721

But most of the time, I’m with 70 awesome kids that I love with all my heart.

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One of those Baseball Posts!

Well, my MLB season has ended as my Detroit Tigers have been eliminated from the playoffs. Honestly, I’m a little sad, but better now than build my hopes and destroy me like last year. Now I can watch the playoffs and enjoy them with no stress. I really hope this upcoming Baltimore/Kansas City series is as amazing as it I think it could be. I want one of them (or the Nats, if they can hold on!) to win it all.

But I won’t be without a team for long because the Dominican baseball season begins next week! I’ve already purchased my tickets for the opening night of the 17th. I saw today that there are preseason games this week, so I’ll probably go on Saturday night. Our San Pedro Estrellas were pretty awful last year, but I sure had a lot of fun cheering for them. I heard they won it all the year before, so who knows what’s in store!

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Vamos Estrellas!

The Balance of the Gospel and Obedience in the Classroom

Within the walls of a classroom, rules and order lead to more success than disobedience and chaos. Not surprisingly, this idea also works outside the walls of a classroom: in a home, on a team, in a country, in the world. Since my goal is for the children to learn and think, I focus on the process to do this: create order, demand obedience, and then teach.

If you’re a teacher or a boss or a parent, or a human being really, you’ve experienced the frustration of people not following rules, not doing what’s right or required. Welp, that’s me. I’m frustrated. In my heart, I want what is best for each child, but I can’t make them obey! I want to make them obey! I want them to obey so they can be successful, so my anger is righteous, right? Maybe. Probably not always.

But then, where is the Gospel in this? Conforming is not transforming.

My dilemma:

In a classroom, it’s natural for me to focus on rules and enforce obedience. But this is backward from the Gospel. The Gospel says love, forgiveness, grace, mercy. The Gospel isn’t about obedience. Obedience is a response to love, forgiveness, grace, mercy. SO WHAT DO I DO? How do I show Jesus and the Gospel when I reallllly need obedience to do my job well?

Where is Jesus in my classroom?

God’s response:

You can tell your students what is best, but they are responsible for what they do. You are responsible for what you do, and how you respond to them. Do you respond in frustration or forgiveness? Do you respond in love or anger? The Jesus they see in the classroom will not be the rules you set for them. Jesus is not morality. Jesus is love. Your patience, self-control, and kindness is Jesus in the classroom, not their obedience. “You are the light of the world.” You are the light in your classroom. Continue to ask for their obedience so that you can do your job, but what about you? You said obedience is a response to the Gospel. Let that light shine before men that they may see you good works and GLORIFY me.

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In all this, God is refining me. He’s humbling me. It’s not easy, and I’m fighting it! I don’t want to be humbled! I want to be successful and awesome in my eyes. Jesus, forgive me.

It’s as though God is saying, “You think you’re here for the kids, but you’re here so I can transform you.”

And as amazing as it sounds, it’s not easy. I want to be transformed, but I don’t want to go through the refining fire!

 

Child, Remember

Daniel, remember when you were put in the lions’ den?

Shadrach, remember when you and your friends were thrown into the fire?

Children of Israel, remember when you were bitten by poisonous snakes?

Lord Jesus, remember when they mocked you, spit on you, and crucified you?

These are extremes. But often, I am thinking about the things in my life that are bad: the things I want to change. I pray and ask God to change these things, or even to remove memories of the past because these bad things hurt. But when we are saying, “God change these things!” God is saying, “Child, I want to transform you.”

Child, remember when I shut the mouth of the lion? How did that honor my name?

Child, remember when I walked in the fire with you? How did that cause you to glorify me?

Child, remember when you looked at the snake for healing? Did you remember my goodness then?

Child, remember when I suffered and died, and absorbed all your sin an punishment? Did you know my love then?

This last week or so, I’ve been trying to change my prayer from “change these things” to “Change me on the inside through these things.” God wants to transform me, bringing honor to Himself, but in that, I become the person I am meant to be.

 

 

 

He wasn’t in the quake

Many times in my life, I have told God, “I don’t FEEL your presence. I know you are here because your Word is truth, but I don’t FEEL you.” I find myself asking God to make Himself present in a way I can acknowledge, feel, experience. What good is a relationship if I don’t feel anything?

This week, I was definitely feeling that way. I was mentally trying to lean on the truth of God’s presence, but emotionally, and physically, I felt nothing. I was reading 1 Kings, and it was the story of the prophet Elijah. God called to him, and Elijah went. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There was a fire, but God was not in the fire. Then God spoke in a small whisper.

A small whisper.

I wanted something big from God. God said, “The small things. The peaceful things.”

The smile of my students when they understand.

The cool Dominican mornings.

The palm trees.

The curriculum I have.

My students’ faces.

The “hellos!” from former students.

The prayers of my friends and family.

Hugs.

God is always present, and how he demonstrates his presence is not always something big in my eyes. Instead of God saying, “You moron, I am always with you. Quit complaining,” he said, “I am here. Let me show you.” He renewed my mind. He didn’t conform to me, and give me something BIG. He changed my perspective instead.

Thank you, Lord, for the small voice of your presence with me every day.