Living Stones Discipleship is Taking Root

Living Stones Discipleship intern serving at a local pregnancy crisis center.Here at Respond to Christ, our focus is on implementing and strengthening discipleship practices.  To put that into action we run both Spanish and English focused outreaches.  While our Spanish focused ministries (Piedras Vivas, Familia Para Cristo, Paso Adelante) mostly work alongside the local church and communities in the implementation of discipleship practices, our English focused ministry is completely different.

Living Stones Discipleship (visit www.livingstonesdiscipleship.org) is our missions-based discipleship outreach (or it could be more accurately defined as a training ground) that involves English-speaking young adults (ages 18 and older) coming down to the Dominican Republic for an extended discipleship session (usually three months).   Read More…

Pregnant in the D.R.

 

Pregnant in the D.R.

Only a Few Days Now and We’ll be a Family of Six

What a pregnancy this has been. I’m writing this from the perspective of a husband and father as my wife isn’t quite up to sitting down at a computer to type out her feelings.

What a crazy nine months. Our pregnancy with our fifth child (we lost one during a pregnancy in 2007) has been quite the experience, as our new daughter has been an added blessing and challenge in our transition to our new roles as missionaries, especially for my wife.  I thought I’d share some of the various ways Jenni’s pregnancy has been a bit different this time around.

The News

Surprise!First off, we can’t forget Lyla’s (that’s her name) grand entrance into our lives. We found out that we were pregnant only a week and half before we left for the Dominican Republic. I remember Jenni feeling very lethargic last summer and she just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, I just said, “Umm, do ya think you possibly could be pregnant?’  And the word “pregnant” just hung out there in the air for a bit before we both looked at each other with feelings of “are you kidding  me” and “no way” to “What??…How??…NOW??” Of course a pregnancy test confirmed our suspicions, and then we had quite a frank “talk” with Jesus.  Not that we challenged Him, but just that we felt like the timing was a bit… inconvenient in our human perspective.

While we were a little flabbergasted (I love that word) about our pregnancy, we weren’t all together shocked by the Lord. He has been in the habit of giving us these little gifts in our lives wrapped up in reminders of  “Obey me” and “I know what I’m doing.” And after we get over ourselves and our preconceived notions of what we feel is the best timing of things, he sends us this message in our hearts – “You may not understand it now, and it will rock your world, but this is my present to draw you closer to Me.”  Indeed! Each of these “gifts” (our adoptions and pregnancies just to name a few) have been amazing reminders of His love for us. And now we have the pleasure of receiving another beautiful miracle with the joy of and praises to our great God. Another living example of His magnificence and His love for us. Blessed indeed.

You may not understand it now, but this is my present to draw you closer to Me."Of course we also love the story of the day we were prayed off at our home church, Calvary Chapel Chattanooga. At this point we had told only two close friends about our news. So then our pastor, Frank, proceeds with sharing about our time in the body at Calvary and how our calling to the mission field reminded him of his calling to move from Florida to establish the church in Chattanooga. And as he illustrates his own story, he states that the only difference was that his wife was pregnant at the time. As those words hung out there for a bit, we take a glance over to see our friends sitting near the front row almost falling out of their chairs, barely holding back their laughter. Apparently, Jenni and I also shared enough emotion to peek the curiosity of some others (specifically Pastor Erik, our missions pastor) in the audience who quickly approached us after service and asked us if we were pregnant.  The cat, as they like to say, was out of the bag.

And so, we moved forward in faith (again), while chuckling a little to ourselves about how crazy it’s going to be to pick up and move to another country while also fully knowing we are expecting.

Not the Only Living Thing in Jenni’s Tummy

The amusement with the reality of her pregnancy ended abruptly, though, when after only a couple of weeks into living in the Dominican Republic, Jenni begins to get very sick. At first we chocked it up to morning sickness, which would be new for her as she didn’t experience that with the other pregnancies. But after comparing symptoms with a few other people who weren’t feeling well either, we discovered that it wasn’t morning sickness after all. Instead, she (along with the others) learned that she had a parasite which she ingested somehow (from bad water or food most likely).  This news was NOT good. First off, she got so sick that her muscles (she has a neuromuscular condition) completely grew weak, leaving her with a harder time to walk and function in a normal way throughout the day. Not to mention, it was even worse dealing with this while living in a public missions house (where we spent the first 6 weeks). You know how it feels when you’re sick. You just want to let go of all forms of decency and just veg out.  And of course with her being pregnant it caused us to jump through a few more hoops in regards to her treatment of it (including a rather eventful trip to the emergency room). But that kicked off her pregnancy in a foreign place in such a way that from that point on it never had been the same physically for Jenni.  Thank the Lord, though, that the medicine did kick in and the parasite was evaporated.

Cultural Differences

Being pregnant in the Dominican Republic comes with a few different cultural perspectives. Pregnant women are treated surprisingly better sometimes than other women. They are in general very cared for as both Dominicans and Haitians feel that pregnant women are fragile, as if they will break easily if jostled, bumped into, or if they move around a lot.  This even carries over to a few laws. For example, pregnant women are not supposed to sit in the front seat of a car (although we haven’t been so obedient to this rule, much to the dismay of our two oldest who would love to steal the opportunity to sit up front).  Pregnant women also apparently don’t clean their own homes. Even when Jenni was only about four or five months into her pregnancy, locals (especially other women) were shocked when they learned that Jenni still did a lot, if not most, of the housework.

Another big difference are the OB/GYN appointments.  Jenni’s doctor’s office is located in a private clinic attached to the private hospital where we’ll have the baby delivered. When it’s your day for your appointment you are not given a time. You just show up to her office, sign in, and wait…for a LONG time (our longest has been three hours so far). The doctor has morning and afternoon office hours and she sees you on a first come, first serve basis, so the key is to get there an hour before she is scheduled to be in so you get your name on the list early.  Like all other things related to time in the DR, there are times she comes an hour or two later than expected. The “waiting room” is a very crowded, narrow, non air-conditioned hallway that is shared with about ten other doctors. There’s a tiny, old school television set hanging from the wall that usually has a fairly risque Spanish soap opera showing. But the other people waiting in the area are very friendly, and even more so to us gringos, especially when we have Asher with us.  And while it’s so much fun sitting around in this environment with the kids and all, we typically would drop Jenni off and then go run errands while she waited.

We have been impressed and are quite confident in her doctor, who went to medical school in Mexico. She specializes in ovarian and cervical cancer as well. And best of all, she speaks English well enough to make it comfortable and less nerving for us. And while I’ve never been in the room with Jenni during an exam, she tells me that the technology used may be slightly older fashion (think our parents’ generation) but is still thorough. I won’t get too graphic here, so if you want to learn more about this aspect, you’ll have to contact Jenni – haha.

Jenni is scheduled to have a C-section three days from now. And while everyone, including even Jenni’s own doctor, is surprised that we are staying here to deliver the baby, we feel very good about it. C-sections are by far the preferred method of delivery here as something like 90% of women have them (Why? Let’s just say it has something to do with wanting to keep their husbands pleased in bed). Because Jenni had a C-section with Asher, we knew that was the method we would have to do again. And with that percentage as high as it is, it is a good indicator that doctors must know what they’re doing. Dominicans and Haitians do after all have babies themselves.

The Wait is Almost Over

We are so excited for Lyla’s arrival. Our other kids are getting more and more excited themselves. And while it clearly isn’t up to us, one thing is for sure … we feel that this little girl will most likely be the last child we have (well … naturally at least).  Of course the Lord may decide to give us the joy of more “gifts” in the future. And while we’d most assuredly be shocked, we would equally welcome those opportunities to embrace those special ways to enjoy His love and presence in our lives.

We can’t wait to introduce you to our sweet Lyla. Be sure to return to the blog (and our Facebook page) in a few days to (virtually) meet her for the first time!

Our Victory

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“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:4-5

Oh the sins, the longing covetousness of the things of this world. It’s what the enemy uses to trap us and hold us captive. We fixate ourselves on our own worldly idols – television, food, success in our jobs, money, clothes, cars, homes, and even our human relationships. They are gold to us. What great temptation they are to put our trust in them to give us our worth.  But in the end, these items by themselves hold us prisoner.

Yet wait! There is hope! There is something…err…someONE that can break us out of our prison of worldly idolfullness.  His name is JESUS! But, just knowing Jesus isn’t enough. Just reading about Him isn’t the answer.

What’s the key to unlock our prison door and claim victory over the world? BELIEF (FAITH) that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Praise the Lord for the gift of Himself.  Believe in Him.

What an incredible foundational truth. Claim it…and LIVE!

“…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Ephesians 6:16

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Hymn: Faith is the Victory

By John Henry Yates, 1891

Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise.
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled.
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

Refrain

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God.
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath,
Swept on o’er every field.
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.

Refrain

On every hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array.
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head,
With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,
And echo with our shout.

Refrain

To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv’n.
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heaven.
Then onward from the hill of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus’ conquering Name.

Refrain

Plowing the Land and Getting Ready to Plant

Get everything ready for you in the field.

Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 24:27, “Prepare your work outside, get everything ready for you in the field; and after that build your house.”

This is the theme for us for the next few months. In fact, through the work of the Spirit, we’re already in the middle of “getting everything ready for us in the field” through our time serving with Makarios. The main question we get now that we’re venturing on our own is “What is your ministry focus?” It’s a very honest and obvious question to ask…and we’d ask the same thing if we were on the other side.  And while we have all kinds of ideas in our brains about potential ministry opportunities, the truth is we need to wait before we commit to or announce any ministry focus. If we did, it wouldn’t be fair to God as we’ve only just started this phase…which is somewhat hard to grasp since it feels like we’ve been doing this for months when in reality we were quite busy committing our time to our previous ministry work.

Our time now is to “get everything ready” before we “build our house” of ministry. So, what is our “everything?” It’s people. It’s relationships. And it’s spending lots of time praying for the Lord to open doors to the areas where He wants us to focus.

Getting Started

To help us in get started, we are going to walk alongside those already out there ministering in the area. We’ve met several other missionary families who’s ministries focus on a variety of aspects (from church planting and direct evangelism to education, abstinence education and work with women in prostitution…to name just a few). But even though there are several others ministering in the rea one thing is for sure…the field is still ripe for harvest and there is plenty of work to be done for the Lord. We are also going to rely on our national friends here (Bernard, Emmanuel, Santa and Alfredo, Pastor Pedro “Amouri”, and the staff at Makarios) to help us in mapping out the needs (and assets) of the areas around us. They know the lay of the land better than we do and have a different perspective to offer.

This is going to be a great time of discovery. We will meet new people and venture off into unknown places. It’s also going to be dirty work that requires great discipline. And it will no doubt also be a time the enemy will use to distract us and cause us to question ourselves, grow impatient and lose focus on the Lord. So, we need you.

Would you join us in praying for the Lord’s guidance and for “His plans to be established” in our work?

For His glory.

Jefe…Another Four Letter Word

I knew coming into our role as missionaries here that because I’m a)white, b)a man and c)American I’d automatically be considered someone that local people (mainly Haitians) would try to befriend in order to try to get more for themselves and their family. I had read enough books, blogs and stories about how Americans are often considered the “great white hope” of the disadvantaged and poor throughout the world (and most of that is our own fault due to our past “hand-out ministries”). And with my initial role as the principal of the Makarios School, I automatically arrived in a supervisory capacity, which just escalated that mentality. Even though I had some great Dominican and Haitian staff work alongside me at the school as the principal, I have still grown to abhor one word here – “jefe” – the Spanish word for boss.

It was fun at first to have that word attached to me . It was a new word for me. And during our first few weeks of staff training (and first few weeks here) the Dominican and Haitian staff would call me that. So initially it brought a little silly grin to my face as they’d label my name tag with “Jefe Pat.” But over time that word has grown tainted to the point that I just can’t stand to hear it.

Ever since we moved in to our rental house there has been a team of workers (all Haitian except one that I can tell) renovating a large apartment complex across the street. They are actually really hard workers, who use only manual tools to get their work done. And working in the hot sun with little food, it’s no wonder that each of them is super thin yet remarkably strong. We have never really had any serious issues with any of them. They have greeted us fairly kindly for the most part, especially when we are together as a family.

But there have been times, especially when I’m alone, that one or two of them would come over with a sly smile on their face and say “Hola Jefe.” Or in their broken English… “Jefe, I work for you. You pay me.” Really?  Ummm…seriously?  It gets annoying.  Especially because I’m not looking for workers. I don’t prompt them with any leading questions that would elude that I need work done. And if I did need work done, I’m not just going to hire someone like that off the street.

But I can’t blame them. They are hungry. And their families are hungry. And so they are constantly on the lookout for opportunities for work. But sometimes, it just comes across as though we are bait for them to reel in.   That sounds harsh I know, because many of them really would work hard for us, but it’s the mentality of “Oh, there’s a white guy, let’s go see if we can work and get some of that money he has.”   So they come asking. And it probably wouldn’t bother me as much if they weren’t so persistent.

I learned this during our cultural training that when Dominicans and Haitians are told no, that only means no at that particular moment, not no forever. So they keep asking, poking, prodding with their “Jefe…”, hoping that you’ll see them and one day they’ll hear, “Okay, I need…”.

I’m continuing to pray through this, and that when I hear that word, it’s not something that makes me cringe, but that rather it would be an open door for me to start a conversation that would take us back to focusing on our one and only true jefe who provides, loves and cares for us…Jesus Christ.

 

Christmas Time at Makarios

It’s the last month serving full-time with Makarios here in the D.R. before we launch our own ministry, and we’ve had a series of fun Christmas events take place at the Makarios School. Below are some images and descriptions of some of our fun we’ve had with the students and staff at the school.  Look for future posts on our last few days with Makarios and what we look forward to in the future.

We took a few photos of the kids for the Makarios Christmas e-blast that went to all the donors and supporters of Makarios. These were actually taken in October but by that time the local grocery stores were already playing Christmas music. These guys LOVED this. 

I have several individual photos of the students from the day of our Christmas photo shoot but these two stuck out to me. Aylin just has these remarkable eyes, which coupled with the Santa hat just made this picture. And Erickson’s smile could brighten up any Christmas tree.

The week before the end of the semester we held a Christmas Extravaganza which involved a showcase of different presentations that the kids performed for their students. Before the students came out, Profe Yomo read the Christmas story. We always want to take the opportunity to share Jesus. 

Each class performed some type of act for their parents. I was especially proud of Profe Sarah’s 1st graders, who are usually quite a handful. But maybe because their parents were there watching or maybe they were really nervous, but their song went so well. 

It was a really great few weeks to end our time working with Makarios.

 

And We’re Back

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So we had a virus on our blog, which we’ve cleaned out, but at the expense of some of our most recent posts. But at least we’re back online and can communicate life.

Dia de La Raza

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Today is La Dia de La Raza – The Day of the Race. In the Dominican Republic it’s the day they pay tribute to the native Taino indians who inhabited the island when Christopher Columbus discovered it way back in history. Unlike in the U.S. where we celebrate Christopher Columbus, here in the D.R. he is more of a reminder of the brutality he used to practically eliminate the natives. Even though most of the Dominicans and local Haitians have European and African descendantry, they don’t like to be associated with Columbus.

So instead of celebrating Chistopher Columbus’s “discovery” they celebrate the native race he tried to destroy and enslave. I find it still a little ironic that their imagery of the native Taino people is similar to the Native American indians portrayed in the United States. I’m not convinced they wore feathers on their heads but such things tend to stick. Regardless, the kids (and professors) definitely looked cute in their outfits.

4 Cosas

These four items (not the rubber band though) have been vital in the first few weeks of life here.

 

  1. The Bible 
    The one thing to get me through everything. I love that each morning at school we start with a staff devotional, where we each get the opportunity to share what the Lord is working in us. The sword and rock!!
  2. The Dictionary
    This and Google Translate have been a life saver for me. I carry this little dictionary everywhere and just ask for patience with those who I’m trying to speak with. I’ve come to find out though that those in the D.R.  sometimes use different words, but people still get the idea and appreciate that I’m trying to learn.  Spanish lessons with one of our bilingual teachers (Johan) are coming soon and I’m praying our proficiency takes off. We shall see.
  3. The Water Bottle (with duct tape and CalvaryChatt logo)
    An essential item to have on me at all times. I have drank more water in the last four weeks than I think I have in the last four years. And I usually sweat it all out by the end of each day. (sorry…gross, I know, but it’s the truth)  Since I’ve taken this photo, I’ve already used up all the duct tape and will be applying more to it later. This was an old camp trick that I learned. One is always ready with duct tape at hand…the cure all for anything broken, ripped, torn. 🙂
  4. Coca Cola
    I get a treat each day for lunch from the nearby “calmado” (tiny store). These 1/2 liter cokes in a glass bottle have real sugar in them and only cost $25 RD (about  $0.65 US).

October Newsletter

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Here is our latest newsletter (and our first one from the field). ENJOY!!
Getting Settled and Some Big News – http://eepurl.com/gbilv