Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What happened down there? Days 1 and 2

I left Spokane at 6:30pm on Friday April 26th. I can't believe it's been over a month. My flight to Santo Domingo was not a great route. Had I been the one who made the travel arrangements I never would have set things up the way they were but that, along with the rest of the trip really, was out of my hands so I just prepared myself for a long day and the fatigue I knew would follow me for a few days once I got to The DR. I traveled from Spokane to Salt Lake City where I had an almost six hour layover.

The layover started out pleasant enough. I found a bar and ordered a Polygamy Porter which was actually quite tasty and visited with a guy named Michael from Lisbon. There was no baseball on TV which was a bit annoying but the conversation with Michael was sufficient to pass the time. Unfortunately for both of us, the bartender called last call at 9:30pm. Evidently, all the bars (and everything else in the airport except McDonalds) closed at 9:30 until the Monday following the Friday I was there when the bar we were in was going to start staying open until midnight. Michael’s flight to New York was at midnight and my flight to Atlanta was at 1:00am so we wandered aimlessly for a while and then he decided he wanted to sit down for a while and I wanted to keep walking (I ended up doing three full laps of the entire airport) so we went separate ways. Thankfully, a friend decided to give me some Spanish lessons over text for a while and the time actually passed quickly.

I managed to sleep the whole flight to ATL thanks to some Melatonin from TF and met up with the rest of the team when I got there. I’m not sure how long they had been in ATL but they were all sleeping in the gate area when I arrived so of course I woke them up. I was ready to start the party! (Sorry guys)

We wandered in ATL and got some breakfast (Yay for Caribou Coffee!!) and then took the relatively quick flight to Santo Domingo.

The first hint of baseball in The Dominican Republic came from the air

Good news!  The net for the batting cage made it! Ben was clearly very happy about this development.  We got some weird looks for this one.

Loading the bus

When we landed we were greeted by Juanchy, our amazing guide and one of three interpreters for the week. We loaded the bus and drove another four hours to Barahona with a stop in Santo Domingo for the first of many delicious Dominican meals with rice and beans and fried bananas.

Our Fearless Leader Juanchy!
Once we got to Barahona we went directly to Casa Bethesda and settled in. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to stay. The compound had a main house with a few bedrooms and a kitchen and behind the house was a guest house with dormitory style living where I stayed. It can hold approximately thirty people. The grounds had a pool which we utilized every day as well as little shaded gazebos with rocking chairs we used throughout our time there to escape the heat of the day.

Settling into the girls room

Main House - there is a large addition being put on the left of the house with more rooms, a bigger kitchen (I don't know how the ladies did what they did with the kitchen that is currently in existence) and a large dinning room which is much needed.

Thank goodness for the pool

Guest house where I stayed

That night we basically ate dinner and went to bed. I had left for the airport at 4:30pm and arrived at Casa Bethesda at 3:15pm the next day.  Before going to sleep I took my first of many cold showers but woke Sunday morning feeling rested and not dealing with any jet-lag. That was a huge blessing.

On Sunday we all went to church together in Barahona. It was one of the loudest, most joy filled church services I’ve ever been in. If you want to hear a snippet of the music check it out here: Barahona Worship

Juanchy translated the sermon for us that lasted almost two hours. He was as dynamic as the preacher and while I can’t remember the point of the sermon (it was hot and I was still taking in all of the sights and sounds around me) the time flew by and I was amazed by the joy displayed by all of the people around us. At one point Joel leaned over to me and whispered, “They have nothing but have such joy. It’s amazing.” and he was right. From the very beginning to the very end of my time there that was the most powerful thing we saw and we saw it consistently.

After church we did a little sightseeing. We drove up the coast to a picturesque view of the ocean. It was the Labor Day holiday weekend for them so the beaches were packed but we were able to find a little quieter beach and go for a swim. It was the first time I had ever been in the Caribbean Ocean. The beach was not sand but smooth flat stones. There were a lot of large rocks in the water that were covered with vegetation that made it a little nerve-wracking to stand on but at least they weren’t sharp! The weather was hot but not uncomfortable.

The FPCB portion of the team

The first beach where we stopped had waterfalls that flowed into the ocean. People were hanging out in the falls and it was a big party scene with food vendors, including ones that were selling whole grilled Lobsters for an equivalent of about ten American dollars.

On the way home I requested ice cream. Since going to Singapore in high school that’s been a thing for me. I like to try ice cream in each country I visit. The Dominican Republic did not disappoint and we returned to Bon Ice Cream about three more times throughout our time there. The first time there I had Tres Leches Ice Cream (yummmm) but I also tried Dolche de Leches and strawberry through the week. There wasn’t one I didn’t love.

The boy in this picture was a mentally ill street boy.  COTN has helped him in the past with medical conditions and we gave him ice cream each time we stopped but his situation was heartbreaking.  It lead to some heart to heart discussions about God's goodness and why God allows suffering.  Each one of us wished we could do more for him in our own way.
I hadn't expected the island to be so mountainous.  The tallest mountain actually gets snow on occasion.  Everywhere we went I was blown away by how beautiful the island was.  However, the thing that struck me the most about the island the first two days was the amount of garbage that littered the sides of the roads. Here was this incredibly beautiful country and everywhere you looked there was garbage. It is clear disposal of waste is a large problem for society here – from garbage to sewage. We couldn’t drink the water but on occasion I would forget and get water in my mouth in the shower or while brushing my teeth and I never had a problem. The people were so warm and hospitable and I fell in love with each of them immediately.

I didn’t have the frustration of not being able to communicate during the first few days that would become a huge part of my brain space in days to come so I just enjoyed listening to another language being spoken around me.

I never felt out of place as one of 12 white people basically anywhere we went but I did notice we stood out. The Dominican people are not only warm but they are gorgeous. Both the men and women are very attractive people as a whole. People tend to sit outside their houses a lot so I was able to do a lot of people watching as we drove around. Sitting together around their houses was part of their culture I actually really liked. They spent time talking to each other or selling things on the side of the road. It probably isn’t the best thing to have admired about the culture because it really means they aren’t working and it is part of what leads to such poverty, but there was something about the community that existed because of it that drew me in.

That night Raphael, a local man, came into the Casa Bethesda grounds and sold us Larimer jewelry. I bought some for my mom for Mother’s Day and some coconut jewelry for my nephew for taking care of my dog for a day when my parents couldn’t. Larimer is a stone that is only found in The Dominican Republic and it is beautiful – in fact I have some on today that one of the translators gave me. Anytime I look at the pieces I have I am instantly back in Casa Bethesda “negotiating” with Raphael (at Ben and other team member’s insistence) over an amount that was nothing to me but was probably enough to feed his family for a month. It was fun for all of us and recalling Raphael’s laughter as we went through the process brings a smile to my face still a month later.

In my journal I made note of the fact that I seemed to get my Malaria pills worked out by Sunday. That was mostly true. After throwing up after taking them at home before leaving I did find a way to keep them down but there was more than one afternoon where I spent the time feeling really ill and pushing through. When I go back in October I’m going to try a different type. I didn’t have any funky dreams like I did with the Typhoid pills but the nausea was really annoying.

I also made note that the food was good. We had chicken and rice and rice and beans and a lot of fresh fruit – pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. Any of you who know me outside of the internet will be amazed to hear I also drank a lot of Coke while I was there. They use real cane sugar in their Coke and it really was delicious. Wait a minute, maybe that’s what caused my upset stomach instead of the Malaria pills. :)

Sunday night was our first night of Bucket of Nouns. Oh boy, the fun that was had.

I love how nervous I am in this picture - and it's before Larry has even started!!!

Ben is laughing at me - rude. :)  That probably wasn't the first time and definitely wasn't the last time during the trip.  Darn Ben.

The whole team in our evening debrief/game gazebo 
And these are just days one and two.  We haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet!!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tune Tuesday - Zumba baby!

OK this one's a little random.  I take a Zumba class at my gym at least once a week and my instructor uses this song pretty much every class for a beginning to the cooldown.  I don't know why but this song has been stuck in my head every weekend for the last month.

Watch out! It's catchy!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Children of the nations and I love baseball

A good place to start in giving some details on my experience in The Dominican Republic is to explain the group of organizations under whose umbrella I traveled to Barahona. The purpose of our trip was to support the I Love Baseball (ILB) program in Barahona, however, you can't support ILB without also supporting Children of the Nations (COTN). I knew very little about either organization when I left. In fact, I didn't even realize we were going to be in Barahona. I was 250 miles away from the rest of my team so I was a bit out of the loop but I was also strangely fine with that.

Since and during the trip I've learned a lot about COTN and ILB. COTN was started in 1995 after Chris Clark and his wife traveled to Sierra Leone with Youth with a Mission and realized there was no organization reaching out to orphans there. They then developed COTN in an effort to manage orphan's physical, spiritual, social and mental needs. This vision was expanded in the Dominican Republic where they help not only orphans but also those living in poverty. In 1996 they began to feed the children in the region around Barahona and in 1997 they created their first relationship in a batey called Algodon. A batey is a living organization/town that would have been developed usually four generations prior for Haitian refugees who were working in the sugarcane fields. COTN now supports five bateys near Barahona. This support includes education (including a spiritual component) for the children living there as well as two meals a day for the children in the program.  They attend school for half a day, either morning or afternoon, and are given meals based on the time they are at school - always including their biggest meal of the day, lunch. They are also promised a fullride scholarship to University if they decide to attend once they graduate.

COTN is headquartered in Silverdale, WA.

In 2008 Ben Holman (who went on the trip with me) and others who he was working with at COTN, all University of Washington baseball players, saw a need to protect young boys with potential to play Major League baseball. The system of recruiting boys in The DR is extremely corrupt with agents forcing families to relinquish parental rights and removing the boys from their communities, not giving them any education (usually leaving them at a 6th grade education at best) and taking huge sums from the boys if/when they are signed by a Major League team between the ages of 16 and 18.

ILB was put into place under COTN with a similar model as the batey system.  The boys play baseball each morning, after opening the day with a devotional, are given two meals a day (one of the greatest expenses for the program as you can imagine) and then go to school each afternoon.  The team has a coach/pastor as well as a fulltime well-seasoned coach and a program director with a coaching background.  The boys revere their coaches.  The entire week I was there I never witnessed a second of disrespect to any of their adult influences and coaching was given and taken with respect for one another.  Even in moments when there were disagreements between the boys on outs or other scenarios within a game or practice, the boys always backed down when a coach stepped in.  I have never known a group of better behaved 13-18 year old boys.

Now that ILB is in place, where the boys are given spiritual teaching, book education as well as world class baseball coaching Ben worries the boys in the program will be stolen by gunpoint. The system is terribly broken and it leaves the boys who don't make it into the Majors (a majority of the boys being trained) with no hope of a life outside of the slums. ILB boys are given hope of a future - along with an eternity with God which to me is the biggest gift we can give them.

The programs are supported by sponsorship of the kids in the programs. I'll tell you more about my kiddos in a later post. I originally planned not to sponsor any children but ended up coming home having created a family of four for myself. It's difficult to ignore how wonderful each of the kids in the program are. I wish I could have done more.

So that's a bit of the history of what's going on down there. It is a bit of a dry entry to read I know but I think it's an important piece of framework for what is going on with the program and where it originated.

Let's get back to the heart stuff now.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tune Tuesday - there's no going back

I don't care who you are - you can't go to an impoverished country and not change.  Sara Groves wrote this song after a visit to Rwanda where she saw what I did that has forever changed me - joy in the midst of nothingness. 

What right do I have to not be full of joy?  What right do I have to not give everything?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Glove story

As most of you know I'm an avid baseball fan, not the I play everyday or wish I was sort of fan, playing isn't a common desire of mine because I'm not very good although that might partially be because I haven't done much of it, but the kind of fan who lives for the Majors.  I love the business of professional baseball.  I love the skill required to play and the memories I have of going to games with friends and family and in particular my great grandpa James.  The love of this silly game is partially what lead McCayla to think of me for the DR trip.  Take my (previously unrealized) passion for ministry through sports and add in the sport that gives me the most joy and you've got a winning combination for me.  It was with great joy that I pulled my mitt off the shelf and put it into my suitcase, figuring I wouldn't really use it but that it was on the list of things to bring and since I had one I might as well take it.

Now let me tell you about this mitt.  It has never been used.  I know, it's a shame.  What else is a mitt for except to be used?  Ten years ago my parents gave it to me as a graduation from law school gift.  That mitt, along with a wonderful letter written by my dad was a very moving and important gift to me.  The mitt isn't one of those inexpensive ones either.  I was asked about it by one of the guys while I was in the DR and I realized it probably cost more than three months wages in a Barahona sugarcane field. 

I've always been aware of the monetary value of the mitt and the sentimentality behind it and I've treated it as the treasure it is based on that.

But in the Barahona sugarcane field, turned baseball field, my idea of what treating it as a treasure meant, changed completely.

When I first started playing with it it was so stiff it was difficult to use.  Joel teased me about it and kept taking it from me and putting his hand in it which was appalling to me.  I was shocked that he didn't realize I wanted it to fit MY hand.  It reminded me of the story my parents tucked into the album they gave me with the mitt at graduation. 
Glove Story

It's a relationship that can last a lifetime and if you handle it right, sometimes longer.

It happens every year.  In the first day of spring, when baseball's stallions gather in Florida and Arizona to shake off their winter slumber, a sweet ritual takes place.  The young millionaires will be relaxing in the clubhouse before practice one morning, when a fellow from an overnight delivery service appears at the door bearing a pile of boxes.  Suddenly the room's aloof bravado evaporates and the heroes become nine-year-olds at Christmas.  Boxes burst open. Plastic bags litter the floor and soon all you hear are the sounds of big fists pounding leather.

The new gloves have arrived!

Aroma experts and saddle-sniffing cowboys would agree - something about the smell of new leather beckons.  Like Little-League dads at a sporting-goods store, big leaguers will plunge their fingers into the new mitts, tug on the stiff lacing a bit and then, helpless before eons of instinct, bury their noses deep in the pockets and inhale, eyes closed.  New cowhide brings back memories of unspoiled things, patient dads and boundless potential.

Deep in the Missouri Ozarks near the Arkansas border, is a busy blue-collar village called Ava.  Here in a one-story red-brick factory, the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company makes gloves for the best players on the planet.

Rawlings has been manufacturing gloves since 1888.  At Ava, Rawlings makes gloves that come from what it calls Heart of the Hide leather, a fine grade usually from Black Angus steers.  These animals have no brands or barbed-wire scratches.  One mitt needs six square feet of leather.  For Rawlings best gloves, only Black Angus steers, not cows, will do.  When cows carry calves, their hides usually become too thin or wrinkled, making their leather more suitable for cheaper gloves.

The 35-step process is labor-intensive.  First the hides are graded for thickness - the thickest ones go to catchers' and first baseman's mitts, which take the most pounding.  Using hydraulic presses, the workers punch out the leather outlines of the palm, back, fingers and linings, plus a dozen smaller pieces, and then emboss all the parts with numbers and names, and sew everything together wrong-side-out to hide the stitching.  About a third of the way through, the unwieldy five-fingered monster must be turned right side out, akin to putting a queen sheet on a king-size mattress.  You can't even fit your fingers into a newly sewn glove because the inner leather linings are bunched so tightly.  Workers then heat up over sized aluminum "hands" to 250 degrees and slide each finger of the glove over the hot metal prongs.  They sew in dense gray-felt padding, lace in the all-important webbing and fingers, give it a final inspection, and it's ready for the big time.

If you ever go to spring training camp in Scottsdale, AZ, to interview players this is one question I'd avoid: May I try on your glove? "My fingers better be the only ones that go into this," says Barry Bonds a ball-crushing left fielder.  There is no deeper relationship between athletes and inanimate object than there is between a major leaguer and his glove.  "It's like the girl you marry," says Giants second baseman Jeff Kent.  "I could be blindfolded and have a hundred gloves in front of me and I would know mine."  Major leaguers play lots of practical jokes on each other, but it's just understood that you never mess around with a guy's glove.

Unlike a bat or ball, a leather glove actually retains the shape of the athlete's body - in this case the most important tools in baseball, the hands - so it's perfectly reasonable that actor Billy Crystal paid $239,000 at Sotheby's auction for a Rawlings glove worn by his childhood hero, Mickey Mantle.  After being pounded by hundreds of thousands of balls, the Mick's, near petrified glove, is now perfectly frozen in time, molded to the calluses and bent knuckles of one man.

No doubt my 11-year-old son will one day feel similarly moved to preserve one of my own error-prone mitts.  But for now I'll settle for the occasional moment when he enters my office to search for my Rawlings.  Thick and smooth like a saddle, the black-and-brown glove consumes his left hand as he slided his short fingers into the long, cool tunnels of supple leather.  Invariably, he summons all the humbleness he can muster and asks, "Dad, can I have this someday?"  Then, in a sweet little ritual between aging father and Little-League son, I repeat the pledge I've made to him many times before: "Over my cold lifeless body."
Hey, we're talking about my glove here.
My mom added some words of wisdom at the end of the story that I think are appropriate to share here:
Dear Kristin - We know how much you love baseball.  We thought you would enjoy this quality Rawlings mitt - made from the finest Black Angus steer leather.

Like this mitt - you are one-of a kind - a quality person - made of the right stuff.  Similar to a baseball player forming his glove to fit his own hand, you have worked hard to form your life to date with Christian principles, sound ethics, loyalty, hard work, healthy fun, quality friendships, integrity and self respect - never settling for less or taking the easy way.

We know that you will not compromise your quality of life.  Because, like this glove, "once a Rawlings - always a Rawlings".

As you form your career - shaping it with your own hand, it will be a life that no other can emulate.  It will be distinctly yours.  You have begun your career with a quality product - "YOU".  Continue on this same path and your life will fit God's purpose.
A perfect fit.

We love you, Mom and Dad
It was with this story in my head that I chastised Joel when he wanted to use my glove to help me break it in.  I was happy to do the breaking in thank you very much.  On our third day in Los Robles though all things changed.  The young man who was playing catcher walked over to me very shyly and motioned to my mitt.  I handed it to him and his face lit up in a way I hadn't seen - even with all of the spilling over joy moments I had seen throughout the week.  He was probably a 15 year old boy, tall and skinny and covered in dust and dirt.  He was incredibly quiet and shy.  I really wish I had a picture of him and maybe one will surface as pictures are continued to be passed around from the team but for now, picture a very dark skinned boy, probably of Haitian descent, with knobby knees holding something I could tell he recognized as the treasure it has always been to me.  He put the mitt on his hand and squeezed it together and then looked at me and rolled his eyes.  "I know," I told him, "it isn't broken in."  I showed him the blister I had developed on my left thumb as I had worked with it throughout the week and he grinned again and gestured to his position as catcher to ask if he could use it.  "Go ahead," I told him with no hesitation.  It was the first time in the week I had so willingly given it up and it pained me that I had held it so close throughout the time there up until then.

He took the mitt and began pantomiming catching balls from the ground behind the plate, pounding his fist into the palm of the mitt and pantomiming a throw to first.  Then he began to work the glove.  First it was the thumb.  He bent the thumb of the mitt open and closed about 50 times, between each pitch, after each throw.  Then he expertly moved on to the fingers on the mitt.  Where I, in my inexperience would have worked the fingers inwardly, he began to work them backward and downward.  After working a section of the mitt he would again pantomime catching and throwing and gripping the ball, pounding his fist in a well rehearsed way into the pocket.  After the first inning he handed it back to me so I could play right field and he could bat.  It already felt better.  It was covered in dirt from his hands but the glove had a different life to it and when a pop fly came my way it was far easier to catch the ball and keep it in the pocket.

When I trotted back in from right field my new friend was there waiting for me.  He grinned and took the mitt and the process began again.  Soon, the other boys noticed the mitt and wanted me to pass it around.  He allowed me to do so but as soon as I placed it back into his hands he protected it like it was the treasure I had always seen it as.  The other boys were rough with the mitt.  Dragging it in the dirt and hitting one another with it.  My catcher friend treated the mitt with gentle hands.  He protected it from the other boys when they wanted to abuse it.

I split the right field duties with Joanna that game so every other inning I hung out with my girl from Los Robles.  I am now on her sponsorship team and I'm so excited to get to stay in touch with her and spend more time with her as she grows up.  I taught her the "running man" (haha) as well as how to chant at the boys - here batta batta! Swing batta.  She and I had a blast.  She took her time using my mitt as well.

At the end of the game we gave the boys who played in Los Robles a bag of old used mitts.  The older boys who had enjoyed my mitt came up to me and took my mitt and assumed it was going to be one we donated to them.  My friend, the catcher, immediately stepped in and in the most authoritative way I'd seen him for three days demanded the mitt back.  The other boys became sheepish under his authority and returned it to him immediately.  He then walked over to me and gently placed it in my hands with his big smile and walked away.  I was incredibly thankful he walked away when he did because as I looked at the mitt, all dusty and now much more broken in and loved, I started to cry.  They weren't the quiet I can hold these in tears either.  They were the type that left long trails of mud down my face from my time in the blowing dust and hot sun.  He treated me with quiet respect and love and I can only assume from his actions that he knew how much that mitt meant to me and that he was being given a temporary gift that we will now forever share.

Since being home I've thought often about my Los Robles Catcher.  I wish I had his name but maybe in a way it's better that what I know about him is his big grin and protection of me and my gift to him that afternoon.  I know it's only a "thing" but the intimate act of placing our hands into a shared, enclosed space brought me closer to him.  The joy and love he showed directly to me, in the midst of a baseball field littered with glass and animal droppings, exemplifies why I love the people in the Dominican Republic and why I can't wait to go back there.

Every time I look at and put on my mitt now I see his smile and feel the love that was shown to me that day.  I pray that he feels my prayers for him from half a world away.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A bigger adventure than I ever imagined

The US team and some of the Dominican COTN staff just before we left Barahona
I have so much to say about my trip to The Dominican Republic that I don't actually know how to start.  Conversations since I have come back have run the spectrum from giving details about our activities to conversations about the loud call I'm hearing to be more involved down there, to a conversation that included tears on both my part and the part of the person I was talking to that started with what I saw and experienced and ended with Paul and his letters to the Corinthians. 

Just as the conversations have been varied my mental state has been equally varied.  I've been sad and impatient, joyus and encouraged, determined and energized, overwhelmed and frustrated, inspired and driven, introspective and talkative. When I first walked into my house on Sunday I wanted to start packing boxes to be sold so I could relocate my life full time to The DR.  My more rational side kicked in before anything was boxed up (I think looking at Moxie and seeing how hot she was in 75 degree weather gave me a bit of a reality check) but my frustration at my life situation vs the conditions I saw on my trip didn't subside.  Today as I was walking into the office I couldn't help but think of the interaction Jesus had with the rich man in Mark 10:
17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’

” 20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” 28Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
I'm not "rich" by American standards but I live like a queen by Dominican standards.  I was venting my frustration about this to Francis, one of our interpreters, on Thursday.  My life is too comfortable.  Before I left my prayer was that I would be uncomfortable while I was in the Dominican Republic and I was in some ways, for example I never got used to not flushing toilet paper (sorry if that's TMI) and my Malaria meds made me nauseous on a pretty regular basis, but mostly I found myself uncomfortable about what I have at home.  I struggled with how a good God allows me to have SO much simply because I was born on the United States of America side of the line.  Even poverty in the US is relative.  It made me feel like something in me and in this world was broken.  It was the first time I have felt that so acutely.

I finally realized my passion in ministry is through sports.  It makes my love of coaching and especially coaching for Upward make so much more sense.  I never knew that was what God was calling me to, I just did it automatically.  Now that I've finally opened my eyes to it I can't ignore it.

I've heard God's voice calling me very loudly and unignorably back the the Dominican Republic and specifically Barahona.  There are things to be done here - a long list of them that I have started working on - and there are things I'm still in conversation with God about as far as what going back looks like but I know I'll be back and I'm fairly certain I'll be back this year.

I want to lead a team down there next year on a Venture trip like the one I just went on.  There are a few names that God is literally screaming at me so watch out; if you are one of those names I'm going to be relentless. 

I'll get down to some details in the next couple of weeks about what we did down there.  I'm still gathering pictures from other team members and doing a little bit of processing before I can dive in.  Be prepared - these entries are going to be wordy.  I hope you don't mind the sharing.

Thanks for your prayers while I was gone and I would appreciate continued prayer as I work through figuring out how this trip has modified my dream/call. 

It was a journey.  It's the start of a new adventure.  I hope you are up for the going along on the ride.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Tune Tuesday - Worship in Barahona

It isn't a long clip but it's better than anything I have.  The worship service in Barahona on Sunday morning was loud, long, hot and so full of joy it almost burst out the top of the church.

What a blessing to be able to take part in the celebration.

Worship in Barahona

The clip is part of a blog one of the members of the other team we were paired with created and updated while we were there.  His blog is full of great pictures and if you are dying for a touch of what went on there and can't wait for me to get to some posts he will give you a bit of a flavor.