We are HERE!!! It almost doesn’t seem real that we have moved to the Dominican Republic to start working with at risk kids affected by human trafficking, social poverty, spiritual poverty, economic poverty and an over all daily struggle to survive!! It has been three years almost exactly to the day of our calling that we arrived here. June 7th of 2012 we headed out on an adventure that would change our lives forever! Now, on June 3rd, 2015, we landed to start that journey that God has called us to. In that three year waiting period, Jeff served as Youth Pastor at Foothills Community Church, took multiple mission teams to the Dominican Republic, started our Transform365 Feeding Center Outreach, began raising our monthly and long term support to start the first cottage of the Rescue Base, a daily feeding program, supplemental education – helping children secure their legal paperwork so that they can enroll in public school then provide them with a meal and Christian schooling teaching them about Jesus!!! This is all on the prevention side of human trafficking. We will be ministering to boys and girls that are orphaned with no mom and dad, girls that become pregnant and have no where to go and no one to turn to because they have been kicked out of their homes, and those that will be rescued out of human trafficking providing counseling and restoration for the precious children. We will be working with all ages from birth to early 20’s providing a transition home for those who are older, but need that extra love and care.
Let me warn you … this is a long one!! It has been awhile since we have sat down and talked!! If you get bored hearing about us, then you can drop to the bottom and read updates about the ministry!
Now, let me bring you up to date on what’s been happening in our lives in the last two to three weeks that we have been preparing to move, moving, and getting settled in.
Here is where the title fits!!! Normal!! What is normal?? I used to think there were “normal” people, “normal” situations, “normal” culture, “normal” behavior, but the older I’ve gotten all of that has gone out the window! I firmly believe now that NO ONE is “normal” and that nothing is “normal”. We are trying to get settled into a new culture with a new language and lots of people to meet and LOTS of thing to learn!!! We do feel out of place or frustrated at times! It’s a big change to have all of these things hitting you all at once. We are creatures of habit, are we not?? So we are adjusting and finding new habit! We LOVE the Dominican Republic and are getting settled into our new way of living!
So here goes the wild ride that we have been on these past few weeks … Who says life with Jesus is boring? Not in the least!! Love it!!!
Before leaving for the DR, we were feverishly packing, selling, storing, donating, raising final support, meeting with churches and individuals, Jeff speaking, trying to secure our 1 year visa in the DR, getting physicals, purchasing plane tickets, saying good byes to family and friends, having going away parties, spend the nights with the girls friends, celebrating twins birthday, and on the list goes, I must say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of our precious friends and family who self sacrificially gave of their time to help us pack, sell items, raise money, donate to the ministry, give gifts to us and to the Lord, do repairs and painting on our home, even spent the night with us to get the job done.
As I type this I’m overwhelmingly reminded of what an incredible God we serve and what incredible people God has surrounded us with!!! I couldn’t even possibly name names as this blog would be super long and I don’t want to leave anyone out!!! Let’s just say, the list would be VERY long! Praise the Lord!
We left on Wednesday, June 3rd, and Garry Barber and Darin Wise, pastor and worship pastor of our sending church, Foothills Community Church took us to the airport! What a blessing to have transportation for us and all our suitcases. We had a wonderful friend, Liz Sencen and her girls show up to the house and bring us our last Chick-fil-A nuggets to enjoy on our way to the airport. Wow! So wish we could have a CFA here in the Dominican Republic! Maybe one day! Any takers on someone coming to help us get one started? By the way, there are NO Chick-fil-A’s outside of the United States. A lot of prayers on our part would need to go into CFA deciding to come to the DR. 🙂 It was cheaper for us to fly first class on American (which we have never done before – we were super excited) with our three suitcases per person than it was for us to fly coach an pay extra for our bags. So checking in our check in bags was a snap, THEN off to go through security. This started a chain of events that lasted for several days. One of our girls, who will go unnamed, forgot and packed a pocket knife in their carry on! Oh, boy! Thankfully, they were sweet and allowed Jeff to take his carry on and go back to the beginning and check his bag in with the pocket knife inside. While he was standing there speaking with the airlines agent he noticed our flight was delayed and we would miss our connecting flight to Santiago in Miami. He inquired and the agent said no problem we will put you on a Delta flight, but you will have to fly coach. Ok! Ugh, no first class. We had some crying girls who were super excited about the experience. We made it to Miami and were planning on having CFA one last time. No CFA on our concourse! More tears! Then off to Santiago, back on our American flight flying first class! Yay! It was awesome! Boy, talk about being pampered. However, upon arrival to Santiago … there were no bags. We would not see our luggage for two days. The girls and I had our carry-ons packed with clothes (no toiletries), but remember how Jeff had to check on his bag, well, poor daddy had to wear the same dirty clothes until Friday. When we received our luggage there were 4-5 suitcases with extensive damage. We are now a day behind in our little vacay that we were trying to take before jumping in with both feet here getting moved in. After, taking inventory of all our things, we headed out to the beach for some R and R. For the first 3-4 days we had all kinds of crazy things happen … pool was green, Jessica got locked out of her room for a day and couldn’t get to her clothes or bed, oven didn’t work ( we bought groceries so I could cook and save money), but we God brought some new friends into our lives through all of this Donna, Bill, and Manny, missionaries from Canada working with Haitians in a Batey here in the DR! Wow! They were a God send and took care of us all along the way. We even got to have dinner with them one evening. So much fun!
We have had some more bumps in the road since being here, but through every bump (just normal DR stuff – no power, no water, HEAT – but no A/C, fans, or water, when the power is out to deal with the heat! I was fine, just the rest of my family was about to pass out! Lol! Not fun having no water though when you are stinky, sweaty, and dirty after having no power and moving in. But we felt that was God ordained as well! God just wanted us to get together with another missionary family, The Webb’s – the family that we stayed in their house last summer while we were down here. They had us over for showers and home made cookies. Good God centered conversation, food, and showers – you can’t get any better than that! (God actually provided two families to come to our aid for showers – Luis and Loida – on our team here in the Dominican – thank you to ya’ll for offering so graciously as well!) So even though we have had a bit of a bumpy landing, God has been with us each step of the way! Watching His hand at work and how He puts the tapestry of life together is way more fun than doing it ourselves. He always creates a masterpiece!
We experienced a miracle yesterday amongst our no power, no water, water valve that wouldn’t shut off issues … OUR SHIPMENT!! Yes! That’s right!! We are now officially moved in to the DR with all the items that we were planning on bringing with us! The miracle is that everything made it through customs. We were very nervous about our medical supplies that had been donated as the government could have charged us a huge tax on them or held them from us. So a BIG thank you to all those who donated those awesome medical supplies to us so that we can carry out our medical/dental clinics. Such a blessing! Also, a BIG thank you to George Harbor and Red Meador for driving a U-haul trailer down to Florida to Missionary Flights International so that all our items could be flown over. Thank you to the team that showed up at our house to load everything after we had already gone! Again, watching the hand of the Lord move among His children!
We also wanted to give you an update on the three girls and our Haitian friends here in the Dominican Rep. We have had an incredible reunion with our three precious girls, Benjina, Fransceca, and Darwine. They jumped into our arms and we hugged and kissed! Then we hugged, and hugged, and hugged some more! It was so much fun! We took them to the park this week, bought them some new underclothes, food items, tooth brushes and toothpaste, laundry detergent and now that our shipment is in we have clothes for them too! Woohoo! They are living currently with their dad and step-dad, Willie. We are working with him to help him get a job etc. HOWEVER! Here is the fly in the ointment and a huge prayer request – two days ago on June 18th, all Haitians are being sent back to Haiti. This is not a law that just applies to Haitians, but all foreigners. That is why we were scrambling at the last minute getting our visa to enter the country. (That was a huge miracle that we were able to secure that so quickly – three weeks!) So most of our Haitian friends are living here I the DR illegally. The one that we are most concerned about is Benjina. She was not born here in the DR like her two sisters and also is over the age cut off for kids. She is a prime target to be sent back to Haiti. With no mom and only her step-dad to care for her who is here illegally as well, she could be sent back with no one to go to. Her birth certificate is in the process of being searched for in Haiti, but there are no papers to keep her here. Also, another great concern is our Haitian translator Casimir. He does not have his updated paper work right now either. His visa just expired, so keep him in your prayers also.
1-Please pray for us as we now begin the work that God has called us to!
2-Pray for Satan to be bound and not have power over us or these kids here in the Dominican
3- Pray for our Haitian friends and kids that we are trying help with their paperwork so that they can stay here legally in the Dominican Republic!
4- Pray that Benjina does not get sent to Haiti and that we can find just the right people to speak with about this – it’s all in who you know. So pray that God directs our steps.
I had a lot to say! It had been way too long since I’ve had a moment … more like 3 -4 hours in one sitting to write down these thoughts! My ticker says I’ve typed 2,051 words. If ya’ll have read all the way to the bottom of this blog … ya’ll are awesome! This is a long one!!
Adios! Dios te bendiga! Good bye and God bless you!
Jeff, Jill, Jessica, Jami Jo, and Judith Anne