Rewrite Their Stories

Bad stories surround us all. Our typical reaction to a negative situation is usually one of sadness or despair. It’s sad to see a young girl who is sold by her mother to the neighborhood men for tricks each day. It can be a bit overwhelming to visit a family living in a shack made of tin with holes in the wall that expose the outdoors.

Truthfully, these heart breaking experiences were like heavy weights to me a few years ago. It was too much for me to see pain that I could not cure. Women beaten by the men who promised to love them tore at my heart. Some of those women believed they had no other choice but to accept the harsh treatment.

One of the girls at our center walked in on her dad as he was cheating on her mom in their own bed. That little girl wouldn’t eat for weeks and her mom pretended to not be bothered by the affair because she really believed that he was the best for her.

Another young girl left our center at the age of thirteen because her mom told her to find a man who would care for her. That twenty-eight year old man wouldn’t let her come back to us. At fourteen, she was pregnant as he led a lifestyle of alcoholism and cheated on her every chance he could. So many bad stories. So many reasons to give up hope.

I almost did.

I almost quit.

I wasn’t sure that I could make a difference in their lives.

One precious twelve year old girl went to visit a friend. Her friend’s adult brother took advantage of her that day. She lost her virginity and didn’t even know what was happening until it was too late. My energy was depleted when I heard the news.

Rivers destroy homes leaving families homeless. Storms cause more damage to their already devastated livelihood than we could image.

The men who want to work struggle to find employment. Young boys roam the streets without supervision only to find themselves caught in the traps of selling drugs, gang involvement, sexual abuse and pornography viewing. Women feel trapped and helpless. Children are left alone to care for themselves, sometimes as young as the age of three.

It’s a lot to take in. It’s a bit much to bear, I know. So much so, I haven’t wanted to share their stories with you. They are human beings who deserve respect. They are real people who don’t want their despair paraded online. Plus, I’ve been afraid that you wouldn’t be able to handle their truths. I remember telling a friend that I wouldn’t wish my job on my worst enemy (if I had one).

Yet, God arises over and over again. He shows up in unexpected places and in unplanned ways. He said that we would have trouble in this world, but He promises to overcome. He says that He has overcome this world. He oftentimes does so through us.

Our Vida en Cristo churches are located in areas where needs are enormous. They have become light to the dark world they occupy. You see, those same “bad” stories show up at our churches and the love of Christ slowly begins to transform those stories from bad to good.

Our churches are life saving stations. Lives are released from the power of darkness as they enter into the goodness of our God.

As the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ envelops their being, their lives and the lives of their families are transformed.

Our churches are deliverers of hope.

Neighborhoods are changing because of our presence. Our churches protect girls from sex traffickers as they are given tools to build respect for themselves. Planning is in place to educate them on the vices of human trafficking in order to help them stay safe. This is all happening at church!

These truths are taken into their communities and families find peace.

Our children centers are housed at our churches where our children are fed, educated and taught God’s word. We take the time to visit their families with groceries, clothes and prayer.

Little by little, person by person, neighborhood by neighborhood, church by church; we are making a difference.

And I can finally see my part in it all. I bring the sadness of their realities to God and He sustains them. I also bring their truths to you. I’ve come to realize that God uses you to make those sad stories happy.

There are so many good stories to tell too. It’s because of your faithfulness to give.

We now have a center where 100% of the school aged children attend school. Our children feel secure in knowing they will eat each day. Our girls ignore the “job offers” from traffickers and focus on their walks with Christ and their education.

Our women understand their value. That was huge for me. It brings me so much joy to see our women walk with their heads held high as they pursue deeper walks with Christ.

Our men find creative ways to provide for their families and our young boys have learned the value of hard work and education.

The end has yet to come, so I can’t say that their bad stories have ended well; but I can say that we are now surrounded by stories of HOPE! It’s a hope that circles hope all around.

Please consider a gift today.

We need to replace the recent $2,000 loss we’ve recently faced.

Children are in need of your help. You can help to write their stories.

It would take ten of you to give $200 each month or twenty of you to give $100 each month. Just know that your monetary gift is transformed into the making of a beautiful end to a sad story.

Help to rewrite their stories today!

Give Here!

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Save a Girl Today!

IMG_5961We chose a different spot at the beach one day. This time we were a lot closer to the main part of town in Sosua than usual. The atmosphere was different. We typically enjoy the area on the other side of the beach, its more quiet and has a family area. This day, we wanted to try something new. After a short walk, we decided upon a restaurant that served one of our recent teams.

The workers set up our lounge chairs and umbrellas. They were kind and very polite. I began to feel comfortable. My girls enjoyed the waves with the visiting team of university students and I rested under the shade of my umbrella.

Then it happened.

The same nice and polite man who served us well led two women to a group of men. He introduced them. The men looked them over up and down, front and behind. Once they approved, the ladies were told to wait.

Our nice assistant led them to a table where they waited for these men all day. Mr. Nice  repeated this scene over and over again that day.

I. Could. Not. Enjoy. The. Beach

I was too distracted by men sizing up women and making deals with Mr. Nice. By two in the afternoon there was a table full of beautiful women waiting for these foreigners who had just made deals for their bodies that day.

They seemed like an invasion on the beach. Maybe it has always been this way, but now my eyes were opened.

We have more slaves in the world today than ever! Most of those women were there against their will. Most believe they have no other choice. Since adult prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic, sex tourism has become a major lure for tourist.

Our centers in Puerto Plata and in Cien Fuegos are positioned to help our girls avoid the trap of prostitution. It is estimated that 60,000-100,000 women work in prostitution in the Dominican Republic. Our center directors work hard to teach our young ladies a different path.

Our prayer is that our girls will not end up like the ladies we saw on the beach that day. With over half of the Dominican population living below the poverty line, there is a great possibility of them believing the lie of prostitution.

It takes $2,500 to run one of our centers each month. Will you join our fight to protect innocent girls? We cannot continue without your help.

 Donate Here

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Resurrection Power

IMG_5826Faces like these are true representations of new life! Death is real. Their dead situations were real. One single father recently told us that our center’s presence allowed him the opportunity to work so that he could provide for his small children. Prior to the existence of our center, he had to leave them alone without any supervision. He spent many days without the means to feed them because they were never safe when left alone, but had no one to help. Their mom walked out and never returned. Today, his children have that needed care, food and education. That is the power of the resurrection of Christ!

The ability to bring life to what is literally gone keeps us going. That ability is found in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We promote Him each time we go door to door to share His story. We elevate Him when we open those center doors each morning. We exalt Him each time someone walks into one of our Vida en Cristo churches. As He is lifted up, new life is extended.

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Children who once rummaged through a trash dump to eat now sit at a table for a meal each day. That’s the power of the resurrection!

Women who sold their worth to the highest bidder now stand to lead worship at church. That’s the power of the resurrection!

Men who chose to walk away from their responsibilities are now working the best they can to support their families. That’s the power of the resurrection!

A little girl who recognized the dehumanitizing touches of men is now safe and secure. That’s the power of the resurrection! 

Young girls and young boys who were convinced that a life on the streets was the only way to go are now on those same streets sharing the truth of our Savior. That’s the power of the resurrection!

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Shall I say more?

How about forgotten communities that now find hope each day? Or the elderly who are no longer alone? Or the scores of young missionaries who find new meaning while on HOPE Mountain? His resurrection power is evident throughout our ministry every day, yet we face a crisis situation. We need to rebuild our financial support.

As we face a huge decline in our financial support, we seem to be walking through our own version of the “valley of the shadow of death”. Yes, it’s only a shadow, but it sure feels like death! On this resurrection Sunday, will you consider a special gift for HOPE Dominican Republic? DONATE HERE

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If our centers shut down, many children may find themselves back at the trash dump.

If our churches close their doors, countless lives will miss out on the truth of our Savior.

If HOPE Mountain closes it’s gates, scores of young people will miss out on the opportunity to serve Him and to glean from His presence.

Will you be a part of God’s resurrection power today?

You see, you and I have a choice. We can turn our heads and close our eyes to their plight and continue with life. They, unfortunately can’t do the same.

If our Moca church closes it’s doors, the single mom who cares for her invalid daughters won’t have our help.

That dad in Puerto Plata won’t be able to work any more.

That sweet little girl won’t have a safe place.

Those women, those teens, those men will all have to start all over again without the proper tools.

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If you already give, please double your gift today. If you have not given, please do so today. Four gifts of $1,000 to get us on track for this month. Eight gifts of $500 will do the same. Real lives depend upon your donations. Please come alongside the powerful work of God in the Dominican Republic today. We need you!

DONATE HERE!

 

Church Planting in the Dominican Republic

 

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Just a few miles off the coast of Miami lies the most visited travel destination in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic is a nation that boasts lovely beaches, warm tropical sun, beautiful mountains and a society of exceptional hospitable people. Their hospitality is a door opener for us as we knock on doors to share the gospel. Most are extremely welcome and permit us to enter their homes to pray and to openly discuss the God’s love.

They are story tellers. We listen to their stories. Then we share our stories.

They listen with open eyes and ears as we tell them of the Love that set us free from our sin and bondage. They invite us to sit and to have coffee as we talk about Jesus’s desire to walk with them. You see, almost every Dominican knows that Jesus Christ is Lord. Their flag even has an emblem of the Bible.

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Catholicism helped to teach Dominicans the truth of Jesus as Lord. They know all about Him. They  say, “God bless you,” in normal conversations. They know that Jesus died and rose for them. They are familiar with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, many are not familiar with the reality of living and walking with Christ daily. This is one of the reasons why church planting is essential in this nation.

There are still about 2,000 village communities in the Dominican Republic without a church. Though many cities enjoy Evangelical churches, most Dominicans can’t afford transportation costs to church.

We want to see a church in every Dominican community!

God is already making this happen! Successful church planters travel to the Dominican Republic to teach the pastors and leaders at our yearly conference. Church planting is necessary for a sustainable growth in Christianity. Our pastor’s conference focuses on church planting. It is designed to teach pastors and church leaders to multiply their churches, not just their congregations.

Dominicans need churches that are accessible to them. They need churches that relate to them as a people. They need churches that are full of God’s glory and truth. They need churches with leaders who walk and live with Jesus every day.

The more healthy churches we see, the less orphans we will see. The more we plant robust churches, the more we will see a decrease in crime. The more we establish living and strong churches, the less we find the trafficking of human beings.

Local churches, full of Christ, can only produce a life giving community.

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As each church learns to plant four churches, we will see a transformed nation. 

Since 20,000 Dominicans are given United States residency each year, as an American, you should want them to arrive with a strong relationship with Christ. Their relationship with Christ affects us all.

Simply put, they live in our hemisphere. We are connected in so many ways. Columbus went to them prior to his arrival on the North American continent. Freed slaves from the United States were sent there and started communities that thrive today.

We are connected. The people of the Dominican Republic are a part of us. They too live in the Americas and they need your help.

Will you give today to help a church leader? Our upcoming church planting conference is designed to teach pastors to plant churches. Please make a donation to help these pastors today.

Donate Today!

 

 

 

 

This Christmas

Lights, trees, glitter, festive music and food surround the Dominican Republic. Visits from distant family fill hearts and homes with joy. Expectation envelops us all. There is a hope of something desired that lingers within.

The joy of giving ignites our faith as we receive the gift of our Father God. The gift of His Son’s return fills us with great anticipation. The HOPE of this world gives us a reason to hang garland and lights.

That HOPE inspires us to make the season meaningful for the less fortunate. This is our amazing opportunity to share the love of our awaited Savior with them. A gift, a meal, a festive celebration-all for the glory of His name.

This Christmas, the children at our centers decorate with handmade decorations, glittery mesh and lights. Families all over the Dominican Republic will gather on December 24 to celebrate a feast of roasted pig, special salads, rice, beans, grapes, apples and gumdrops.

Our churches and centers reunite each year for a special Christmas event of worship, fun, food and entertainment. Everyone receives a gift as an expression of love. It’s a time of remembering the true reason for this time of year.

It’s a season of HOPE in the awaited coming of our Savior as we celebrate His birth. Will you join us in bringing HOPE to the Dominican Republic this Christmas?

Our celebration needs to take place prior to December 17. Please send a donation today to help cover the costs of the dinner, transportation, gifts and venue for every HOPE Dominican Republic participant.

Thank you for making this and every Christmas we’ve celebrated special!

DONATE TODAY

A Home for Children

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According to the Global Slavery Index, one in four of the 40.3 million slaves today are children.

Right now.

Since the Dominican Republic is the most visited tourist spot in the Caribbean, it has become a known location for sex tourism. The unfortunate reality is that many of these tourists have an appetite for children.

Innocent children

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We were recently approached by the largest anti-sex trafficking organization for children. They wanted us to take in children for them. They have done an amazing job at rescuing children and understand that rescued lives need restoration and hope. In doing their due diligence to place these children, they reached out to us.

Many know that we moved to the Dominican Republic with every intention to start a children’s home. When we leaned towards that direction, God led us to plant churches first. Church planting will always be our main focus. We need churches in order to bring true transformation in this world. Our churches provide vital resources within our communities and train leaders to work within special aspects of our ministry as well.

This is why we are sure that now is the time to begin our home for children.

Will you join us?

It is our heart’s desire to go back to that agency with a resounding, “Yes! We can house children.” We can’t do this without you.

We set aside land on HOPE Mountain for this home. Our estimated costs to build a two story home for children is $50,000.

Please join us today as we play our role in the rehabilitation of broken lives.

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Donate Here

A Time for Everything

We took a walk in Moca a few days ago. We strolled down paths that were dry and seemingly safe. The river that runs through the community was muddy, but peaceful. It actually appeared to be composed and amicable.

Truthfully, it was hard to believe that such a harmonious component of God’s creation could cause the turbulence it generated a few days ago.

As we trudged on through the recently hurricane wrecked village, some of the people explained, “I’ve lived here my entire life and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

It was difficult for me to accept.

The smooth, gentle water destroyed homes and ravished livelihoods of so many innocent dwellers just a few days ago. It rose several feet high with supernatural strength and swept away anything that collided with its path.

Homes, trees, farms, animals-the sustenance of life; was all gone in an instant.

As they all took turns to share their stories, my heart melted. Life, of late, has given me so many reasons to insist upon an icy heart, but it began to thaw as I took notice of my surroundings.

They sure had more reasons than me to complain, yet they all constantly thanked God for keeping them alive during the storm. They met death, yet safely parted. They valued their lives and the lives of their family and friends more than their loss. They have a true understanding of life’s worth.

Strangely, no one asked me for anything. They simply wanted to give God thanks for sparing them. They sure did a work on me!

As we began our adventure, I noticed one of our Moca church family’s crossing the river to get home. The bridge was knocked out during the storm and they had no other choice but to get wet in order to come to church. Mom, dad and baby had to walk through a river to get to church.

Let. It. Sink. In

I know that you and I have suffered too. I’ve been through quite a few things in life, but walking my family through a river to get to church has not yet made it my list of suffering. How about you?

We continued our journey. We wanted to visit our members who were affected by the storm. We wanted to reassure them of our love for them as they suffered. 

The trek to their homes was an eye opener for me. They faithfully take this journey more than once a week to worship God at our church.

Despair doesn’t stop them.

Discouragement didn’t turn them away.

They have to rebuild their lives with scarce tools, yet they carried on in stride.

The children collected avocados to sell. They still have hope.

When they were done gathering the fruit from the fallen tree, they played as children do. They remembered that there are still reasons to laugh-even when your house is washed away by a storm.

All of this has caused me to ponder upon life differently. Introspection leads my way lately.

What really matters? What am I striving for anyway? Why do I work so hard?

My husband’s recent sermon series lingers in my heart and in my mind right now. “There is a time for everything,” he confidently tells our churches, “…a time to laugh, a time to cry…”

His repeated words of the wise man beat within my heart tonight.

What am I doing with my time? How have I helped those who are crying today?

As he continues to read from the book of Ecclesiastes, my heart pounds and pauses for a second, “…for He (God) has placed eternity in the hearts of man…” 

My goal, my passion, my reason for being, my all should be focused on eternity as I walk through each moment in time. I think that our Moca friends understand that truth.

Their hearts are set on eternity.

They painlessly accepted their reality. They took God’s word to heart and faced their “time” with courage.

“Oh Lord, make me more like them,” was really all I could say as I walked away.

The river glided along in its peaceful fashion and life continued as usual. But I left that place with a new heart that’s ever so more determined to make every moment count and to make each occasion stretch into eternity.

Someone Else

After my dinner of cream of broccoli soup, I eagerly nestled under my blankets.

 

I was tired.

 

I knew the night would feel long and dreary so I wanted to get a head start on my sleep.

Tonight would be the second consecutive night of hurricane winds. We are used to the howl of strong winds up here during hurricane season. The night before felt treacherous as the wind gushed against our home.

 

We could even feel our house shake at times.

The rain on the tin roof and the might of the powerful river only added to our anxiety. Tonight would be the same.

 

Another sleepless night.

 

Fear doesn’t keep me awake during storms. My husband went to great lengths to secure our safety up here on HOPE Mountain.

The bolstering wind and rain are simple reminders of the fact that I’m pretty safe here during storms.

My children snuggled in the room next to me. My other children were safe and accounted for. They all had dinner before nestling into their warm, confortable beds.

Yet, I faced another sleepless night.

I drank a cup of tea to help me relax. My hubby was on edge too. I blended a few of my favorite essential oils for relaxation and gave him a foot massage. Those oils work! He was out fast!

Yet, I stared at the ceiling. My mind wandered with questions focused on the same theme.

I knew that Jesus Ramos, one of our Moca church members, lost his house right after the last storm.

Why didn’t I move faster?

 

His children didn’t have a warm bed that night like mine. I’m not sure if they had a warm meal before bed.

I had been so caught up in my own life. I was so busy helping to run this ministry all the while forgetting that the “running” of it all is for Jose Ramos and others like him.

 

Sleep escaped me.

 

My heart actually hurt.

Why didn’t I move quicker?

“Lord, forgive me,” I prayed, “I know what it takes to help Jesus and his family yet I didn’t do it. Please give me another chance.”

 

Still, I was awake.

 

Wind pounded the wood that lines our mountain home. Trees leaned back and forth throughout the night. Roof tops shook and fought to stay put. The dogs howled all night. It was too loud for me to sleep.

The girls dorm flooded earlier that day so most of them were sleeping in the house. I couldn’t walk into my den to sit and read like I usually do on sleepless nights.

Instead I felt trapped by my lethargy.

I was too slow in finding aid for Jesus.

In a sense, I woke up!

 

I realized that I haven’t given enough.

The realization of the fact that my children were safe, fed and accounted for kind of made me feel privileged.

According to worldhunger.com, 66 million primary school-aged children attend classes hungry across the developing world. Habitat for Humanity says that 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing. The Global Slavery Index says that 30 million people are enslaved today!

Though Christianity remains the world’s largest religious group, still over half the world has no relationship with Christ.

 

It’s time for us to wake up!

 

If you have more than one outfit to wear and a meal that you can count on daily, you are privileged.

We can so easily get ourselves caught up in this world and so easily ignore the truth that faces us each day.

 

Someone else is hurting more than you right now.

 

There is someone else in more pain than you at the moment.

 

Another is hungry.

 

While you and I gleefully enjoy our own meals at home or at our favorite restaurant, someone else’s child is dying of hunger.

I know it’s a lot to take in.

 

I know that it’s easier to believe that you can get away with turning away from that truth.

 

I know that it’s easy to give a little so that we can feel better.

 

Yet, Christ gave His all!

Here on this earth, we are His hands and we are His feet.

 

Give a little more.

 

Give until it hurts.

 

Walk away from your comfort just a little bit more.

 

Someone else’s child was just sold at the Haitian/Dominican border.

 

Some other woman was just forced to commit an unthinkable act once again.

 

And we worry about what to wear tomorrow.

 

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. Take care of your family and of yourself first. Then teach your family and yourself to help someone else.

W.A.K.E UP!!!

 

This is real!

 

People made with flesh and blood like you and me are suffering and you really can help.

Your small dent and my little chip in the wall of world suffering will make a difference because it would be multiplied by God.

 

He multiplies at the exponential level. Like the little boy who gave his fish and bread. Like the shepherd boy who used his slingshot and stone. Like Mary who simply said, “Yes.”

All you and I have to do is allow Him to use our little. He can take what is small and cause it to grow.

Jesus Ramos lost his house in a storm and we will soon begin to rebuild his house because we did what we knew to do to help.

He came to our church because we first helped someone else in his village when they lost their house because of a storm. That person led Jesus to Christ which led him to be baptized here on HOPE Mountain way before this current disaster occurred.

All because we started in that community with one!

 

Just do something!

Someone else needs you right now.

Stop focusing on your problems, though they seem insurmountable.

Stop bringing up the past.

Stop licking your wounds.

 

Wake up. Get up. Show up.

 

Allow God to use you right where you are.

Make yourself useful across the globe as well!

Tonight we’ll have Dominican hot chocolate with a freshly baked cinnamon torta for dinner. We will then snuggle up under our sheets with our secured roof over our heads.

 

And we’ll do our part to ensure the same for Jesus Ramos and others like him.

Goodbye again…

We have had to say goodbye many times since starting this ministry. It has become a part of us. The word that is so final, yet recurring.

My grandmother told me to say, “So long.” She didn’t like the finality of goodbye. I guess it really doesn’t matter. No matter how we say it, we understand that another season of letting go is upon us.

Today we face that season once again.

God sent us Kristan at the right time. We were experiencing a time of exponential growth, but not enough help. Kristan came on board and served with all of her might.

She worked in every aspect of our ministry.

She served in our churches as they needed support and help with the youth. She served as a teacher in our children centers and she taught English to the children in our Lajas community.

She led the teams of counselors that led groups at our camps. She managed our household and even traveled with us to the states to support our family as a nanny. Needless to say, she was our right hand. Like Aaron and Hur, she held up our arms as we faced the many necessary battles of ministry and family.

Kristan is loved and treasured by us all.

But today we say goodbye again.

I’m trying really hard to hold back the tears.

She has brought so much joy to this place. Her sincere love for Christ and her true humility have refreshed us.

Kristan is different.

She thinks about herself last. This morning I watched as Solimar fixed her plate and forced her to eat.

She follows orders. She does what we ask without question. We know that we can count on her.

She sees deeply. She keenly beholds the heart of her companions. She’s enriching and engaging.

Kristan, thank you. Thanks to all who supported her as she served us. We are grateful to you all.

We know that God has great things in store for this precious soul and we are thrilled to have had a small part in her life.

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