Answering Some Questions about Las Palmas

While I was home, I had the opportunity to share our ministry of Las Palmas with my home church family. After having conversations with several people, I decided I should write a post to answer some of the questions people had. Many of us build our own assumptions based on what we see or think, but we don’t really know or ask questions. I’m glad my church family asked me questions, because now I can help them (and you!) have a better understanding of our ministry here at Colegio Las Palmas.

  1. Does the school receive a lot of American financial support?

Almost all of our American teachers receive some financial support from friends and churches in the states. The school itself, however, receives almost nothing. The school functions based on the revenue and budget from tuition, tutoring, and a couple other small on-site activities.

2. Is the school just for rich kids?

After seeing pictures of the kids in class, all proper in their uniforms, some of my American friends assumed their families have money. Let me tell you something spectacular about my Dominican people… they are the cleanest people you will EVER meet! They amaze me. It doesn’t matter if they live in a mansion or a wooden house with a tin roof and dirt floor—when you meet them, you would never know it. Everyone is clean and smells good and looks good, and makes sure their white pants look brand new. I don’t know how they do it! So you might see someone who is beautiful, pristine, and sharply dressed, and that’s because they are very proud of who they are and want to look good! Don’t we all?! Seriously, I need to learn from them. I’m a slob!

So who does go to Las Palmas? Well, it’s pretty cool really. We have children of lawyers and judges and doctors. But we also have children of everyday, hard working moms and dads, who sacrifice to put their kids in our school. We have many students who are in our school through partial and complete scholarships because the families simply cannot afford the education. We also have boys and girls who live in children’s homes who attend our school. Then we have some American missionary kids, too! It’s a mixture of all kinds of families, and I love it!

So, no, we aren’t just a school for rich kids. If they look rich, it’s that beautiful Dominican pride that is showing through.

3. Do the kids go to school for free?

Based on what I’ve already written, you probably understand now that the families do pay to attend the school. It would be wonderful if we could offer free education, but reality says things cost money. Our financial director is an intelligent, Christ-loving business woman who does all she can to cut costs where possible so that our school tuition can remain affordable for the families here. We have had to raise tuition as the school grows, but we’ve also partnered with the families to help find scholarships so those who couldn’t afford the increase would be able to continue at our school.

4. Do the American teachers get paid or do they just have support?

The American teachers do receive pay from the school. However, the cost of traveling, living, visas, school supplies, etc., wouldn’t allow for most of us to live here solely on what the school pays us. Therefore, we do raise money from the states. Personally, I am able to pay my basic bills here from what the school pays me (Rent, local travel, internet, electricity), and then I use support for savings, food, U.S. travel, school supplies, personal  needs, and more.

How I’m Growing

Sometimes I get caught up in thinking that “fruit” means I need to have 100 converts or an amazing story to tell about how I fed a village and gave them new homes and clean water. But what I’m learning, what I need to keep learning, is that fruit is inside me. And it pours out.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Sometimes it’s really really hard to love people. When you work on a mission team like I do, you’re kind of forced to befriend people that you might not really have chosen as friends. But because we have the same goal–the same mission, we’re able to work together, hang out, and even be friends. God has used this to teach me to love. He’s teaching me to be kind. I think He is saving patience for last because He knows I’ll be terrible at it.

Suzanne reads and reads and reads, and loves loves loves animals, and is one of those super-duper Harry Potter lovers. Me? I don’t enjoy reading. I don’t really like animals (in my home), and I’ve never touched a Harry Potter book. But guess what? We’re really good friends. I mean REALLY good. And I’ve only touched the surface of how different we are. She’s straightforward, speaks her mind, and is completely confident in her viewpoint. I’m passive aggressive, I hold things in, and I fear my opinion is probably never right. But guess what, we’re really good friends.

She probably gets really frustrated with me, and I sometimes get frustrated with her, but we work through things. God has used her friendship to help me be more straightforward, and she’s said our friendship has helped her to be more soft in her answers.

I can’t say, “That’s just how I am!” anymore. Because God is changing me. God has used my friendship with Suzanne to curb my passive-aggression, but also to get to a deeper root issue … my pride that says, “If you’re not like me, then I don’t want to be your friend.”

I was definitely the person who mocked and teased and said mean things to and about people that were different from me. Worse than I realized, even. Because I wanted to be cool. And if someone liked Harry Potter, or didn’t like sports, well, what good were they?

This is where I see God growing me most… helping me to see each person as an adored creation of God, one who Christ went to the cross for. I haven’t arrived–I never will–but I see God growing this fruit in me, this fruit of kindness and goodness and love. I need more of it.

God is growing me.

 

 

 

Building Purchase!

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We are on our way to purchasing the school building and property in San Pedro de Macoris! I would love for all my friends and readers to invest what you can in the lives of the students and families who are impacted by Las Palmas. Won’t you consider giving toward the Kingdom?

Here’s a great video about our school!

Click here to read about the building purchase/Or to donate!

 

 

 

That Time I Cut My Finger

The other day I was cutting potatoes, and the knife slipped and cut my finger. I screamed and jumped, and grabbed a paper towel to put pressure on it to stop the bleeding. Once I thought I would live, I decided to go back to cutting potatoes (I don’t learn lessons very easily). I thought I was being careful. But no, slip, cut. again. Other finger. Worse. Oh dear. I’m an idiot. Screamed, jumped, grabbed paper towel. Quit cutting potatoes.

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You’re welcome for not posting the immediate pictures. Yes, I took them. This is the world we live in.

Anyway, I’m right-handed, and the cuts were on my left hand, so I was pretty sure I’d live, and not be too inconvenienced. Nope. Wrong. It’s amazing what you can learn about a part of your body when it’s injured! People say that about toes all the time, how you don’t think about how important they are until you hurt one. Well, this week, I learned how important the upper part of my left index finger is! And I learned by accidentally using it to loop my finger in a water bottle hook. OW! Trying to take off items of clothing! OW! And and assortment of other activities, none of which I can remember right now, which is why I probably shouldn’t blog.

Anyway, it got me thinking all spiritually… How we are the body of Christ. How each member is important. It reminded me that when someone is hurting, the body suffers. We all hurt together. It also made me think about how we forget that other people are hurting. I kept forgetting my finger hurt until I tried to use it. Then, OW. Dangit. I forgot again!

Don’t we do that with people? Don’t I do that with people? I forget they are hurting. I live in my great big ME world that declares I’m the only person who hurts. But no, we all hurt.

So this week, my super-not-awesome potato cutting finger cutting incident reminded me that we are all in this together. We are all working for the same goal, to honor and glorify God, to show the light of Jesus to the world, and to be part of the reconciliation plan God has for this broken world. But in all of that, people are hurting. People in our own body are hurting.

Do you know what the rest of my body did when I would remember that my finger was hurting? My right hand took over. My other fingers jumped in. My thumb learned new responsibilities. Heeeey, guess what? If we realize people in the body of Christ are hurting, we have the opportunity to step in, to serve, to minister, to encourage, and to learn to do new things we’ve never done before.

So yeah, my finger still hurts really badly. I kind of wonder if I needed a couple stitches. But I’m glad God used it to remind me of Himself, and of the body of Christ. And my purpose here.❤ Lord, help me to remember that other people are hurting.

so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

My June Mission Update

 

Here I am at the end of year three in San Pedro de Macoris, praising God for so many wonderful blessings, and also praising Him that the school year is almost over! The end of the school year is always bitter sweet! I’m so ready to be done with grades and planning and disciplining, but I will miss the community, the discipleship, and the growing that comes with being a teacher. I will miss the students’ laughs and their stories, but I’m glad to have time away from excuses for no homework. Ha!

Just after my last update, God gave me an amazing opportunity to walk through the gospel with one of my students. He is the son of missionaries who are here with FCA. He raised his hand at the beginning of the year to say he was not a Christian, and I’ve been praying for him ever since. After a chapel message, a visiting speaker asked if anyone was ready to receive Christ, and this boy raised his hand. I was able to talk to him after chapel, to hear his heart and thoughts, and there, on the front balcony, he prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior.

The most exciting thing is that He is now a child of God! But, I must also selfishly admit that it came just when I needed it. I was at a point where I was feeling like my work had no fruit. Doesn’t Satan do that to us? We hear Satan’s lie that our work is in vain. It’s not. No matter what we see or don’t see, God has called us to labor for him. And God promises that we will reap if we do not faint! Oh, how tempted I am to faint! To quit! I’m so thankful God is patient and loving, and draws me back to Him each time I fall to Satan’s lies.

More recently, one of my students, Randally, has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. She has completed her first round of chemotherapy, and the doctors are very happy with the progress. There was talk of amputation because the cancer was growing so rapidly, but I believe God’s healing hand is on her, and they have set aside that option for now. During this time, I was able to share the gospel with both Randally and her mom. Later that day, a Dominican lady from our ministry spoke to them also, and both accepted Jesus. I am so thrilled to know they are both children of God! It has been a (can’t think of a good enough word to put here!) experience to see Randally’s joy and faith as she goes through this trial. So many people in our community are rallying around her, as believers should. Please pray for Randally’s healing, and for financial needs of the family.

I will be flying to the states in June to renew my visa, meet up with supporters, and also visit family. Please pray for my financial needs for the summer. This tends to be my most costly time of year. I’m paying my medicare/social security, buying plane tickets, traveling in the states, and doing my yearly shopping for classroom and personal needs. God has always provided, and I’m not worried, but it is something that I always want to lay before his feet in prayer.

Continue to pray for the needs of the school. We are always looking for more American teachers as the school grows each year. We also have a need for Dominican teachers, as many leave us to teach in the public schools because the pay allows for more stable living situations. We are still working on the purchase of our building and property, and seem to have come up against more problems. We trust that God will do his work in his time, but again, we always want to lay our burdens in front of Him, to remind ourselves that He is in control.

If you know of any recent college graduates who love Jesus, teaching, and missions, please let them know about The Palms! You may be God’s voice to them, as Steve and Julia Griffin were for me three years ago when they said, “I think you’d be a great fit for this ministry!” Maybe you know someone!

I am so thankful for the Gospel that is being shared here, for lives that are being touched, and for how God is teaching me more and more about Himself each day. Please pray for me spiritually. Just like anyone, life is a spiritual battle each day!

 

Jesus is always the object of the lesson

Mark Chapter 11:

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke andrebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

There have been many times in my life, even recently, where I have cried out in own words to God, asking, “Teacher, don’t you care that …” fill in the blank. Sometimes, I don’t feel it, or I just forget. But usually, I’m asking God if He cares because I don’t understand. I want to have faith, but having understanding, knowing why—it feels safer. It’s easier. Having faith when we don’t understand—that’s the hardest. We’re human! We like to think and reason; we like black and white. We like answers! I just went from I to we because I’m going to pretend you’re all a little (or a lot) like me sometimes.

But Jesus says to me, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” He’s not saying, “You failed. Now Imma let you drown.” He’s not saying, “Things would have ended differently if you had more faith.” And He isn’t saying, “If you had faith in the first place, this never would’ve happened!” Our faith doesn’t change the circumstances. God is already in control. Our faith is trusting that God is in control. Our faith brings the perseverance and peace to make it through. When I don’t feel it. When I forget. Or when I don’t understand.

When I read this passage yesterday, I thought of David and the army of the Israelites. What if one of the disciples had David’s faith in that moment? “Guys! Wait! Check this out! I can’t wait to see how Jesus takes care of us! Because of course He will. He’s God!” I think it would’ve been the same story–Jesus calming the sea–just a lot less anxiety and stress.

“Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Well, He’s someone I should probably trust. I should have faith that He’s going to bring me through whatever comes my way.

The object of this lesson is that God is faithful to us. always. Their lack of faith didn’t cause the storm, nor did it stop Jesus from calming the storm. He knew they didn’t understand. He knows we forget. He knows I don’t always feel it. He’s God. So He puts his arms around us and says, “Why are you so afraid?” I don’t think He says, “Why are you so afraid, you idiot! When are you going to learn!?” He calmed the storm to remind them that He is faithful. And then He asked them to trust Him. always.

 

 

 

A New Year’s Prayer

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Worshiping with Matt Chandler this morning

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19

  1. Strengthen me with power through your Spirit, in my inner being.

I’m always praying for God’s strength and power in my life. But after reading Scary Close, I took careful notice of the phrase “inner being” here. I want God to help me get back to the me who is hiding inside. The real me. The me He loves. Not the me I’ve created to impress the world. I want God’s power to begin in the deepest part of who I am, and grow outward from there.

     2. Root me, ground me in love. 

I want God to help me use love as my motivation, my encouragement, my self-discipline. I want each action, each day, my life, to be grounded in love.

2b. Forgive me for my selfishness.

As I was praying for God to root and ground me in love, He brought to my attention specific ways that I do things, not out of love, but for attention and praise. Lord, forgive me. 

    3. Help me to know your love that surpasses my knowledge.

I can boast about knowledge. But if I’m going to talk about God’s love, I’m boasting on who He is. I want to know His love, to see it, to feel it, to experience it…. but it will always surpass my knowledge. My mind is limited. His love is infinite.

    4. Fill me with all your fullness.

When I prayed this, I had to ask what does that even mean? God is Holy. God is just. God is love. God is patient. Everything that God is, I want inside me, and I want to be FULL of Him. Drench me. Cover me. Fill me.

Matt Chandler also asked that we pray this for our church body. Imagine if each individual in the church prayed this for himself and for the church body. What power.

 

Change

Baptists believe that God is immutable: He cannot change. I was raised with this doctrine, and I still fully believe it. I guess there are probably several other denominations, and even other faiths, that believe God is immutable, but since I was raised in Baptist doctrine, I used it as my opener.

So as I’ve learned about God, and as culture morphs and humans change, it’s been embedded in my brain that God doesn’t change, so then, these things I’ve always known to be true won’t change either. Because truth doesn’t change.

But another thing I believe is that we get to know God more and more each day. We can never fully understand everything, but with each trial, each blessing, each experience, each moment, we know Him more. Guess what happens as we learn more about Him! We change.

So what happens if the God I saw 5 years ago looks so different from the God I see today? God never changed. I did. I learned. I grew. He changed me. I’m a sinner. I live in a fallen world, in a broken body, with a corrupted heart and mind. There are going to be errors. mistakes. misunderstanding. But the more I seek God and his face, the more I understand Him better. Maybe he teaches us about himself little by little to keep us humble, to keep us from thinking we have arrived.

As God grows me in my spiritual life, I find I care less about certain rules that at one time seemed to be important. As I draw closer to Him, relationships supersede rules. People become more valuable than programs. Love trumps lists. How’s that for alliteration and assonance?

When I see Jesus, He was never harping on the the laws of Leviticus. He was praying with sweat drops of blood. When I read about Jesus, I don’t find him screaming hell and damnation on the sidewalk. The stories of Jesus scream love and redemption, justice and equality, second chances and transformation.

What I do. How I live. Where I go. What I say. I want my life to look like Jesus’s life. I want to be part of the story where Christ reconciles people to himself. I want to see redemption, justice, equality, second chances, transformation.

So though God never changes, He has certainly worked  a lot of change in my heart and my mind and in my life. We’re not going to get it all right this time around. Look at the Crusades. Look at slavery. Look anywhere in history, and you’re going to see Christians who got it wrong. But little by little, each of us can hear God’s voice, know him more, and He’ll help us figure out this path called life.

So when you see someone living a certain way, and you think, oh they’re not as Christian as they used to be, remember what it means to be Christian. Maybe they just understand Jesus a little better now.

Gracia, Papa Dios, por un día más de vida

 

 

“Gracia, Papa Dios, por un día más de vida.”

Thank you, God, for one more day of life.

Every time I go somewhere with my friend on his moto taxi, he says this. Sometimes right away, sometimes mid ride. For a while, it annoyed me. It wasn’t relevant to anything going on, I thought. In fact, I kind of thought he was just saying it to impress me because he knows I’m a Christian. It was rote. Or so I thought.

In a recent conversation, my friends and I were talking about suicide rate. We wondered what the rate was in the Dominican Republic. Up until this last week, I’d never heard of anyone (news-wise) taking their own lives here. I’m sure it happens, but you don’t hear about it like you do in the states.

So I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, in a list of 170 countries, The D.R. falls at 139 (1 being the highest rate). The United States? 50.

Doesn’t it seem like Americans, with all the opportunity and prosperity, would be happier? More excited about life? More excited, than say, a Dominican who lives in a cinder block home without a kitchen or a real shower?

Nope.

I think there’s so much to be said here.  So much about joy, about simplicity, about what life is. When you meet someone, no one asks what your job is. Do you know what they ask you? “Do you have children? Are you married? How is your family?”

The central focus of joy here is family. Children. Life!

They value life. Value life? I think that’s the answer to so many problems I see in my home country… we don’t truly value life.

I’m challenged and encouraged by this way of thinking, this way of living. Many Americans visit or hear about living here and think about the challenges and inconveniences that come with living in a developing country. But for me, living here has been a healing adventure for my soul. The people have shown me how to love life, how to let things go that don’t matter (Ok, so I’m still learning that). They’ve taught me that things don’t always go how you plan, and that’s ok. I have another day of life. Joy is in life itself.

Isn’t that what Jesus is all about? Life! He came to give life and to give it more abundantly.  I came here to serve the people of the D.R. and to teach them about Jesus, but in so many ways, I see Jesus in them. They have helped me to know Jesus better. And they’ve helped me to value my life more.

When my motoconcho thanks God for another day of life, he’s not being rote. He’s genuinely grateful for his life. Here in the D.R. I am daily refreshed by the love of life itself.

December begins…

My December began with a whole lot of busy going on!

This week was Spirit Week at Las Palmas. The students and teachers (and parents!) dressed up for a new theme each day, and we cheered for school spirit. The kids always have a great time, and the teachers do too, but we are also pretty exhausted by the end of the week, moreso than usual.

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Monday was “favorite sports team.”

This week I also started working with a ball player on his English. I met him last summer because he was working for the team in Bowie, Maryland, where I live. He knows a lot of English, but it’s been fun helping him to learn more. He also just signed a new contract with the Orioles organization, so I’m very excited for him.

This week Marco found out our little league ball fields will be closing for about a month for renovations. It’s kind of a bummer, but it will be nice to have the fields fixed up! December is the time of year most Dominicans do renovations, repairs, painting, and so on. It’s Dominican law that people receive double pay (or so I’ve heard… I’ve not really looked into it) in December, so it’s only natural they use the extra money to do larger projects. We’re also hoping this means the new field for the little guys will be done, but we don’t know for sure.

One of the journalists from the stadium gave me a bunch of tickets to share with my students for the 7th annual Latino Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions. Some friends and I went as well, and I was able to see some big names like Omar Vizquel, Tommy Lasorda, Manny Acta, Ivan Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa. I even got a picture with Pudge!

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I still can’t believe this is my life. Jesus. Children. Baseball. Every day! I’m so thankful. I don’t know why He’s chosen me to be here, but I sure am thankful!