True Commitment

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This precious young lady rang our doorbell a few years ago. Resume in hand and assurance in her steps, “I”m here for the teaching position in Cien Fuegos.”

I sat with her for a few moments and fell in love. She interned for a psychologist who was a friend of ours (God rest her soul) that told her about our center.

“I’m going to graduate from college soon with a degree in psychology. I love to work with children and I’m hoping to get this job.”

My heart leaped, “It’s yours,” but it really wasn’t up to me.

Ruben came down for the interview. He was impressed, but he felt we needed a man in that position so he didn’t give her the job. A few weeks went by and that new male teacher wasn’t all he promised to be, so we called Solainy.

“Are you still available? If so, the job is yours.”

She showed up the next morning with zeal. She amazed us with her skill of reaching the children.

She quickly became our center director. Her passion for what she does in Cien Fuegos is overwhelming. 

She walks two-three miles each morning in the mud, rain or stinging hot sun to catch two buses in order to arrive at our center each day.

She comes back on her day off to do fun activities with the teen girls there to keep them off the street. Then she’s back again each Sunday to help lead our growing church there.

Dedication isn’t a strong enough word for her.

She would even join us on HOPE Mountain during camps to serve as a cook! She is a gem worth putting on display.

She is a gift that keeps on giving.

The salary we pay her doesn’t match her commitment. She deserves so much more.

If only we could all serve at her level.

If we could simply see the reward in being a part of God’s plan to shape a life, we would all dive into our Kingdom assignment as seriously as Solainy.

My life has been enriched by this treasure. 

I pray more people like her come ringing my bell in the future. Thank you Lord for Solainy!

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Wait on Him While You Wait For Him

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Waiting is most definitely at the top of my most hated to do activities. It takes supernatural power from my heavenly Father to make me sit quietly as I await anything! I must admit, microwave popcorn was like a dream come true for me. No more waiting for the oil to get hot. No more waiting for the kernels to pop. No more shaking that pan and waiting. Just pop it in the microwave and out it comes….like magic! Oh! How happy that makes me.

Fast, quick, ready, now, hurry up, I don’t have time, get a move on it, let’s go, are words that frequently come out of my mouth. It surprises me that so many people tell me that I’m calm and patient. I sure don’t feel that way.

It took me years to just sit and wait during my prayer time. I wanted to hear answers right at that moment. I didn’t have time to linger. No time for the process. Nope. No process for me, just do it God and do it now, please, Amen. 

Taking a stroll with my children was often hurried by my impatience. Who had time to smell flowers or to admire trees? I was on a mission. I had to hurry!

It took time for me to get it, but I’m learning that miracles occur in the waiting. 

I remember walking into Eli’s house with some friends from Dallas. She sat in a chair and said, “I’m ready.”

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My sister-in-law, Elizabeth had been taking an uncomfortable trip into Eli’s neighborhood of Cien Fuegos for weeks at that point. She spoke with Eli and with others about the love of our Savior.

Now here we stood. Used by God to water her already seeded garden, we led Eli to Christ. She smiled. She knew that she was different.

Then life took a drastic turn for our dear Eli. 

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Her husband was wrongly accused for a crime and imprisoned. While she mourned the absence of her husband, her sister was brutally murdered.

Here stood this new Christian woman in tears. This gem of God’s kingdom stood waiting. Waiting for the judge to confirm her husband’s innocence. Waiting for her sister’s murderer to be prosecuted. 

While she waited, she smiled. Her precious children attend our center and were cared for the best way possible by our staff.

She remained faithful to our church and invited neighbors.

Weeks went by and she had no money. Our center helped by feeding her children, but it wasn’t enough.

As she waited, she trusted. She remained faithful to the One who gave her new life.

The cook that worked at our center during that time quit. We were shocked that she would leave as abruptly as she did. We were now stuck without a cook.

Then Eli showed up. She stood before us, mop and bucket in hand, “I’m here to serve. You don’t have to pay me, you already pay by feeding my children each day.”

She was our miracle.

She began to serve as cook and housekeeper at our Cien Fuegos center. The children love her cooking!

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She always has a smile on her face. She definitely taught me a lesson.

WAIT ON HIM WHILE YOU WAIT FOR HIM

In other words, serve Him while you wait.

Her problem was solved because we did and still pay her. Her husband was acquitted and was sent back home. Her sister’s murderer was imprisoned.

And Eli became stronger. But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weak. Isaiah 40:31 

She mastered the secret art of expecting God to move on her behalf. She understood that only He could do what was necessary in her life. Her waiting was a HOPE that was confident. Her waiting gave her energy which she wisely used to advance His work in Cien Fuegos.

So, she taught me a lesson. I’ve learned to wait too. It’s not always easy. Yet, I wait. My Master always comes through. He is forever faithful.

Well Done

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Imagine the scene. Friends and family meeting us at the airport while the morning was still dark to bid final farewells. Dad being pushed by mom through the airport in a wheel chair. He broke his Achilles tendon at our going away party. Eight kids in tow, each loaded down with carry on bags, blankets and pillows for the trip.

Or was it a journey? Perhaps a quest?

Yes, a quest into a dream that was beginning to take form.

We were on our way to live in the Caribbean. We were on a mission to bring the HOPE of Christ to our precious Dominicans.

To those who shared the same birthplace as my husband. To those whose blood runs through my children’s veins. Dominicans.

Smack dab in between Cuba and Puerto Rico. On the same island as Hispaniola, shared with Haiti. In the very midst of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

To a place far away from what was the norm for us, yet close, so close to the heart of God.

He called dad. Like Esther, it was for such a time as this. His call to dad reached into the hearts of our clan. We all gathered around him and willingly followed. He didn’t force us. “We won’t go if its just one who says that they aren’t willing,” he would say while we prepared to leave. Our love and trust for him outweighed our jitters. We were willing to take a chance on his dream.

Then, God moved on our hearts.

I remember filming our first fundraising video. The laughter that day will never be forgotten. The soul searching that went on was real. The inward questioning of our own reasons for doing this permeated the air. If we made this quest all about dad, we would’ve failed. 

We let God show us that we were also a part of this plan.

So like a bunch of awkward looking folks, we boarded that plane into the unknown.

Sure, we’d been to the Dominican Republic before. We also spoke Spanish fluently. We were accustomed to the food. We were familiar with the culture. We had family there. 

Yet, it seemed so foreign at first. 

I remember our first home there. No toilet seats. Freezing cold water. Unstable electricity. Mosquitos that devoured every inch of our skin. Loud music outside each night. The clanging sound of Spanish in our ears over and over again.

The loneliness.

Sleeping on the floor.

The tears.

The questioning.

Realizing that we weren’t as familiar with the culture as we thought was enough to make us want to pack it all up and go home. Noticing that there were all types of Dominican foods we knew nothing about kept us in a state of despair.

Oh, and the ache in our hearts when we learned that the land we went there to purchase was not for sale. The disappointment we faced felt tragic.

It seemed as if we would never get ahead.

Setbacks seemed to be the norm that first year. It was hard.

Yet, in the midst of the hard, God shed His HOPE upon us. We were there to give HOPE, but we needed it ourselves. 

God proved faithful. We learned that we can’t give what we didn’t posses.

HOPE became our song in the night. We wouldn’t loosen our grip on HOPE. It was like walking uphill during a mudslide. But you know, we made it up that hill.

Some of our clan is living in the states now, but they still are a part of this quest. They support in huge ways. They suffered the discomfort so that others today can find comfort. They set the trail ablaze so that others could clearly see in the dark.

Sometimes we just have to make ourselves remember. We can’t forget how hard it was to reach today. We must force ourselves to acknowledge what others did to make our lives a little better. In doing so, we will live in a hopeful state of mind.

HOPE becomes a domino effect when we cling to its message. Christ is our HOPE.

We are still on our quest. We’re simply further ahead than before. We will continue to travel this road and bring as many people as possible with us.

We will arrive and when we do, our Savior will be staring us in the eyes with His arms wide open and proclaiming, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…well done.”

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Anxiety flees…Peace arrives

My head rested comfortably on my special “flight pillow” as the plane ascended. Here I am, once again on a flight back to the USA.

A few years ago, I would’ve jumped with joy at the chance to take a trip back home. Its funny how I’ve changed. Now, a trip back home is flying back to the Dominican Republic and driving up my mountain. Yes, HOPE Mountain is home to me these days.

Anxiety holds me tight as I freeze under a blanket and wrapped in my grandmother’s sweater. I can’t relax, even though I got no sleep last night. Just worry. Fear. Wonder of what happens tomorrow.

I’ve known for years that my legal immigration status in the Dominican Republic needed to be corrected. So many of us foreigners lived without worry because we knew that we could just pay a tax when leaving, thus the process of becoming a resident didn’t weigh us down. My situation was even better. As a missionary, I was exempt from that tax, so I could stay there as long as I wanted without a worry.

But like an unwanted rodent in the night, the law changed. It changed and we weren’t even notified! We found out when it seemed to be too late.

So now, here I go, back to the USA to work out our Dominican residency issues. Away from home. The DR law requires us to obtain our Dominican residency in our country of citizenship. I have to work out these immigration issues at a Dominican consulate in the states.

It seems so not right. So untimely. So unfortunate. 

The ladies on my mountain were finally opening up to me. Our churches are finally seeing the numeric and the spiritual growth we’ve longed to see. We are experiencing salvations and baptisms almost every week!

Our property is as peaceful as ever. Our children centers have the order we’ve longed for and HOPE sings in the air! All while I’m sitting on an airplane!

My heart cries for the our ministry in the DR, not for DR consul in DC!

And the anxiety! It won’t let me go. I prayed all day yesterday-even throughout the night. Why so much fear?

Perhaps I’m afraid of our supporters. What will they think of me when they see me in the states once again? Why does that thought make me tense?

Perhaps the ladies won’t open up any more? Or the churches will become desolate or the property may turn into a non-cared for jungle again or the centers will become chaotic or HOPE’s melody will cease.

Oh, and there is always a need for money! Children won’t eat at the centers if there is no money. Our teacher’s won’t get paid without money. The church’s rent, the musicians, the projects, nothing would happen without money!

I can’t understand. Worry is really trying its best to grip me.

I’ve begun a new prayer journey. My prayers have become more direct and written out with scriptures attached. They’ve been effective. Straight forward. Hitting its target. Serious. Forceful. Meaningful. That’s what my prayers have been lately.

Perhaps the anxiety, fear and worry is a counter attack.

Perhaps the enemy wants me to focus on my false reality and not on my true reality, who is a Person, Christ Jesus!

So, to remain consistent with my prayer journey, I pray, “Why so downcast Oh my soul, put your HOPE in God. And Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” I fight back and I win.

My hope rests in my God.

He drew the ladies, not me.

He grew the churches, not me.

He brought the order to the centers, not me.

He brought the tranquility and peace, He is the HOPE that is proclaimed in the atmosphere, not me.

And He provides, not humans. He has never, ever let me down. He won’t stop now.

So I choose to fear Him, not man. Not any man.

He sees my insanity and He provides clear direction. He forgives my iniquities. He is full of grace. His grace is poured out upon me now.

So, I’ll drink my watered down American coffee on this flight; just to keep warm. I’ll snuggle up in my grandmother’s sweater and blanket and lay my weary head on my pillow. He knows what tomorrow holds. My life and HOPE Dominican Republic is in His loving and faithful hands.

Reach Out and Believe…He’s Passing By

As I sit on my favorite chair in my special spot on our massive wrap around porch, I can’t help but rejoice in the sounds outside my gate. Little girls running and laughing and not far behind them, I hear their mom. She’s laughing too.

The mom who no one believed in. The mom who simply yearned for someone to tell her that she was valuable.

She stood at my gate a few days ago and called. My heart leaped to see that it was her. This one. The one who has been extremely unapproachable. The one who wasn’t interested in looking me in my eye. The one who walked by and never said, “Hello.” She was at my side gate calling me. “Vicki, thank you for helping my son. Thank you for teaching him what’s right and what’s wrong.” She held her head up,  “And thank you for helping me to be different, for teaching me that I’m a treasure. I’m not the same anymore. You told me I have value and I believe you.”

My eyes welled up in tears. She believes me.

I remember her walking pass my gate in the past and yelling at her girls the entire walk to their small house which sits hidden within our sweet Dominican jungle. I remember how she spent her days doing nothing as life continued and her children roamed. I remember how the neighbors talked and talked and talked about her infidelities, “She’ll do anything for money,” they’d say.  Not anymore.

Simply because she believed me.

Like the woman at the well. She believed. She believed that she could be different. She believed that this man could give her living water. She believed and her belief caused many to come to the loving arms of Our Savior. What if Jesus hadn’t passed through Samaria that day?

Like the woman with the issue of blood. She believed too. Her belief caused power to flow from our Savior. Her faith made her well. What if He didn’t choose to go with Jairus to heal his daughter that day?

The passing by of our Savior brings life. He brings HOPE. He brings change.

What if I hadn’t come to live on this mountain? In this jungle? What if I had chosen to stay put and comfortable?

For that mom’s sake and for my own-I’m so overjoyed that I made the right choice.

What about you? Where do you see Him passing by in your life? Grab on to where He is and don’t let go. His presence brings transformation which yields a metamorphosis of ashes to beauty in the lives of everyone around you.

What should you believe right now?

Your shift in your convictions will cause the trajectory of so many lives to alter. Make the hard choice today to believe that His HOPE is evident and available to you at this very moment. Do it now. Don’t wait. He’s passing by, reach out and believe.

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