Dear friends and family,
Trying to figure out where to begin is harder than I thought. I guess I’ll start in Miami, which getting to was a miracle in itself. There were multiple times along the way that I didn’t think that we would make it, but we were there and we were pumped. The process of check-in and shuttles to South Beach and waiting just to get inside the Fillmore was enough settle the frustrations of the past 48 hours. By the time we found ourselves inside with the music pumping and the excitement filling, I felt unstoppable. Stephen even seemed to relax a little bit. We were goofing off, there were people on stage hyping up the crowd playing games and give out free stuff. They were using Twitter and Instagram to pick people out of the crowd, and Stephen got called up. Even better… it was to lip-sync!! I remember leaning over to Chayil and saying “talk about being push.” When the song started, I lost my mind. He had to sing “Let it go” from Frozen, his least favorite song and song that was banned in the house because Sarah would play it on repeat. It was exactly what was needed to break Stephen out of his shell and he killed it!!
Soon thereafter, the training and worship started, and there was no better way to start the trip than to ramp up the over 2000 missionaries and fill the Fillmore in South Beach with praise and worship. Powerful is the only way to describe it. Finding the words to explain it is difficult, but something I will never forget. The next day was a game of hurry up and wait. It was travel day and although we were excited, we were also the last flight out of Miami. The highlights of the day were the fact that Chick-fil-a heard about what we were doing and made us lunch… on a Sunday, and the arrival at the airport in Santo Domingo. They made us feel like rock stars!! So many people turned out to welcome us with dance and music and signs. It was such a cool feeling.
Next morning, the work began!! We had an early breakfast and attempted to be out of the hotel by 7:00 for a flag raising ceremony. We were literally raising a banner over the nation to declare the start of La Mejor de Republica Dominicana (the best Dominican Republic). The Dominicans go big or go home and the ceremony was complete with a marching band. The act of raising the banner is a very historical and biblical symbol claiming authority over the area. “He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily!” (Isaiah 5:26)
After the ceremony it was on to our first ministry site. We pulled up to a tiny yellow tin can looking building in Villa Linda. It was no bigger than 14 x 25 and it was church. The neighborhood people took turns trying to stuff into the building to see us. A little girl came up to me and immediately stated her name was Mariana. All the English she knew but so proud she couldn’t wait to tell us. The pride she took in the simple statement was astonishing. This community was rough and unsure of the outsiders. Most would answer questions but it was taxing to just keep the conversation going; then came the time to hand out shoes. I sat on the rocky ground as beautiful babies came and sat on my lap. Sores covered their feet but they were happy. We only had 100 pairs but they disappeared as though there were only 10. I hated telling them we had no more. The poverty of this area is forever ingrained in my mind. My only hope is that in some way we planted a seed in hard hearts that will break through. For the first site, it was a hard site. I felt that I was not related with anyone and not breaking through to them.
The next stop was humbling. It was a school and the pride that the caretakers took in what little they had to give brought tears to my eyes. They wanted to show us everything. The kitchen and dining room where they feed the children and single mothers in the area was their pride and joy. It was also the first time we prayed for someone in need of healing. There was a blind man that helped out at the school as much as he could. I sat there praying and believing that God was going to do something miraculous and that we would see his awesome power. As we finished praying, there was little change, but the man did say that he was beginning to see things differently; however, I began to get very discouraged. The group meeting the next morning wasn’t much help. People were talking about miracles and bringing large groups to Christ, but I felt like I was doing something wrong. I wanted to see God move. I wanted to see his power. I guess I had this idea in my head that would be straight out of the pages of the Bible, but I was determined to not allow my frustration to downplay God’s work. He is great and holy and everything is perfect in his timing. I just needed to wait.
The next day was the longest day of ministry and everyone was feeling it, but it was this day that we got to see just how true 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 was. “Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” After a long, hard day, we walked the streets to our next location, a small school in the barrio. Now there are two things that you need to understand as we arrived at this final site. First, we were running low on everything: water, patience, even shoes for the children. Second, God shows up when you least expect it.
When we arrived at the site we were down to about 10 pairs of shoes that were all the same size. We arrived, performed our dance and skits, and the time came to hand out shoes. What happened at this point is still mind blowing. Every time we went to get a pair of shoes there were still shoes left in the bag and the shoes that were all the same size, somehow fit each child. Our team leader kept telling us that we needed to hand out our shoes, but we already had and all the children had a new pair of shoes in their size. The 10 pairs of shoes of the same size were multiplied into 40 – 50 pairs in all sizes!!! But this wasn’t enough; God still had work to do.
Those who realized what just happened were amazed and just sat there shaking their heads. There was no explanation, but that God showed up and provided for his children. However, there was still the issue of water. While we were en route to this site, Stephen and another went back to the bus to find any and all water that was left behind. They were able to find about 6 bottles of water to share between the 40 of us. We were dehydrated and doing our best to share as we walked back to the bus in awe of what just happened with the shoes. We get to the bus and now we are down to maybe three bottles of water. Someone remembered that we had cups and can easily split the water we have. As we start to split the water, more water bottles start coming out from nowhere. One here, one there, and then an entire case!! Now you may think that maybe it was just looked over, but Stephen and one of the other guys checked everywhere on the bus. There was no water to be found. We went from not enough to an abundance.
This brought us to Wednesday and my goal for the day was just to make connections and man did God meet me there. The first stop was a public school. 400 children filled a multipurpose room and waited to hear about why a bunch of gringos were in their school. Our team leader communicated it so well every time. We traveled there because we loved them and wanted to let them know just how much they are loved. Again we did our dance and our skits. We prayed over the group and then we spent time just taking with them. It was at this time that we met Edward. Edward was learning English so he was excited to get a chance to practice. Stephen spent most of the time talking to him and getting to know him. At some point in the conversation, his sister joined us. He introduced her as Orchidia and she immediately grabbed my hand. As the boys continued to talk, I wanted to get to know her so we walked to find a translator to help us. We started talking music and she said that she liked Chris Brown. I knew she would have no idea who Britt Nicole is so I pulled out my phone and began to play “Ready or Not (ft LeCrae).” As I explained who they were and what the song was about, I asked her whether she was a Christian. I will never forget her answer or the look in her eyes. “No, but I want to be!” I had the joy of welcoming this beautiful girl into God’s family. It wasn’t fancy, but it was real and the soundtrack couldn’t have been better. “Ready or not” is about letting your light shine and sharing the love of Christ with everyone. “Ready or not here I come; I’m going to show you where the light comes from. Ready or not, here I come, this is who I am I won’t hide it. I’ll take it all over the world, to the young to the old, every boy and girl. Ready or not, here I come, I’m gonna show the world where the love is.”
I got one more chance to connect through music. I befriended the sweet Lorleslie by sharing music with her on our bus ride. Lorleslie is the 7-year-old daughter of one of the pastors we worked with over the week and she joined her daddy for our last day of ministry. I had an open sit next to me so she sat with me on the bus. We rocked out to Britt Nicole and although we couldn’t understand each other she became my shadow. We ran down a hill and walked through the trees at a National Park that her father showed us and when we were at sites where other kids attempted to talk to me, she was my voice to let them know that I had no clue what they were asking. Being able to connect with the language barrier was a precious gift from God.
God was working on me throughout this trip, showing me his heart for the people and what he had in store for me. When I was finally able to make connections, it was with the girls of this beautiful nation: all different ages in all different ways. I loved them and I wanted to show each one God’s love. However, this was not the only lesson I had to learn. Apparently, the hardest lesson for me to learn started on Thursday. I was either completely blind to this or I was stubborn, or very likely both. We were at the baseball outreach and as Stephen was playing his heart out I was doing little girls’ nails in the stands. Now when Stephen plays sports he puts it all out there. I know this and I was focused on showing love to the little girls. The leader of our translators kept telling me I needed to pay attention to Stephen. He wants to hear me tell him how proud I am of him and how well he was doing. I kept telling her, he knows that and he understands that I’m focusing on the girls right now. I think over the course of the night she told me three or four times and then again as we the week ended and were saying goodbye to our translators. It wasn’t until later that I fully comprehended what I was being told. I’m very selfish in my nature and quite often I would pray for things and then ask that God would give Stephen the same desire, but God was doing a work in Stephen and He wanted me to pay attention to it because Stephen is going to lead our family into the purpose God has for us. God has something amazing planned and if I don’t pay attention and get caught up in me and what I’m trying to do, I’m going to miss something awesome.
Saturday came and the day of the final event. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the stadium event, but it was a celebration. Everything that we had done the past week seemed to be completed in the moment that the stadium was dark and cell phones were raised to make a response for Christ, a perfect picture of the small lights that were ignited over the past week. It was breathtaking. You would think that things ended here, but they haven’t.
Sunday came and a day of travel. At breakfast was the final confirmation as to what God was preparing us for, Mavette (an amazing woman from the Every Nation’s Church in New York) sat down and joined us for breakfast. We had maybe one or two very brief interactions with her throughout the week, but she just began to pour into our lives the truth of what God had for us. We were already feeling drawn to ministry, but in 20 minutes she confirmed this for our life. There is no telling when or how we will take this on, but we are determined to learn and pray and prepare for when God says it’s time.
After that there was still more processing to do. The drive from Miami to Tampa was helpful as Chayil went through a sort of debrief to assist us in processing the past week. It was good, but Monday was powerful. There was no one else, just me and Stephen driving home. There is no other way to describe it other than we had church. A small revelation during the drive turned into an hour sermon about seeing God’s power and being able to understand it in God’s timing. We worship God together driving down I-75 and fully accepted God’s call on our lives. We know that there is a long way to go and that there will be many struggles, but God has covered us and we are determined to trust him and his way.
With that being said, we are already praying and looking at our next stop on this journey God has us on. We ask that you lift us in prayer, there is a long way to go and there is no telling where it will take us. If you would like to continue to partner with us on this journey, please let us know. There will be more trips and more stories and more of God’s awesome power working through us. We are thankful and blessed to have each of you in our corner cheering us on. Thank you again for all your support.