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We hit the ground running in 2018 and thought we'd give you a quick update on what we've been up to for the past two months.
Dustin started an online MBA program at Temple University, kicking it off with a one-week residency in Philadelphia.
Emily went back to work at the Park Care Center two days a week. Under her new title as "Teacher Coordinator," she is leading twice weekly professional development workshops for the teaching staff. This is a really exciting opportunity for growth toward academic excellence for the school!
The 8th annual Christian Surfers Dominican Republic surf contest happened at our local beach, with over 80 competitors.
Pictured here with Dennis Leon, three surfers from Latin America arrived in Costa Rica for the annual Spanish-speaking Christian Surfers Internship! They are learning about the foundations of Christian Surfers in a hands-on ministry context to prepare them to be Christian Surfers leaders in their own countries.
We participated in a training led by several Kids Alive Guatemala staff on Trauma Competent Caregiving. Trauma competency is an area that Kids Alive DR is just beginning to focus on, but it's a critical area for us as nearly all the 2000 children we work with have experienced complex trauma. We look forward to more extensive training in the next few months.
After almost 10 years of living in the DR and 3 years of bureaucracy, we finally received our government ID cards and temporary residency cards here in the DR!
Dustin was confirmed as an elder at New Life Church. So now we all have to listen to him preach more often... but we are excited for this opportunity for him to serve the church in a new way.
The Spanish Surfers' Bibles are finally arriving across 16 countries, and we picked up a carful (literally) of them last week! Thank you to everyone who gave and prayed for this project. We hope to see many surfers encounter God through these Bibles.
Brennan turned 6 months old in February and continues to steal everyone's hearts. We love being parents and are so thankful for him!
Hey guys! I’d like to share with you and invite you to participate in something exciting coming up! I have such a heart for surfers around the world that I am going to run a 100 KILOMETER race June 14-18! I’m doing this to raise funds to put on the Americas Conference for all of our Latin American Christian Surfers leaders. Christian Surfers exists so that every surfer in every surfing community would have opportunity to know and follow Jesus. Christian Surfers has ministries in 38 countries worldwide and 15 of them are in Latin America. The conference will train and inspire our volunteer leaders to achieve the Christian Surfers vision in their local communities.
One of the leaders who will be going to the conference is my good friend Nelson from right here in the Dominican Republic. Before Nelson got involved with Christian Surfers, he was struggling greatly with alcohol and drug abuse. Because of his addictions he was kicked out of most of the places he lived and went homeless on many occasions. When he started a relationship with Christ, he was able to overcome his addictions, and everyone in the surf community who knew him is still astonished that Nelson is now celebrating 6 years clean. Nelson currently leads our local bible study for Christian Surfers here at Encuentro Beach, and this will be his first Christian Surfers conference.
Will you help me empower more people like Nelson to have an impact on their community? Will you partner with me in this race in order to see more lives changed like Nelson’s? My challenge to you is to sponsor me for at least $1 dollar per kilometer.
For every $100 dollars that you give before June 10, I will video myself thanking you at the kilometer of your choice.
Thank you videos at kilometer 99 cost $200.
All special requests such as me singing a song or wearing something silly will be considered if the price is right!
All videos will be posted on this Facebook page and I will tag you in the video - https://www.facebook.com/groups/167961090394748/
All donations can be made here - www.christiansurfersna.org/pre-donation - put “100k” in the description. All donations are tax deductible.
Here is the link for the race I will be running - 100kmdelcaribe.com/en/
Stay table (noun): the table where missionaries without departure dates sit to eat lunch after church
Go table (noun): the table you get sent to once you have a departure date
The table analogy is a light-hearted way to explain some deep emotions and coping strategies that we have developed. Our lives as missionaries are in constant transition. People come for a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime. Those of us who are "long-term" tend to stick together so that we have some stability in our social lives. Once someone decides to leave the country, relationships start to shift as everyone prepares for emotional detaching and the "leaver" prepares for re-entry. Once you leave the stay table, you lose friendships. Whether it should work that way or not, that's how it works.
So when we thought God was calling us to move back to the US, I was terrified of leaving the stay table.
This spring, a ministry opportunity came up for Dustin that, if we pursued it, would require us to move to the US later this year. And we thought that God might be calling us to go. If I'm honest, Dustin thought God might be calling us, and although I was pretty sure He wasn't, I was willing to follow my husband's lead as he heard from God. We wrestled with the question of pursuing or not pursuing this ministry opportunity for a few weeks, and ultimately felt that God was calling us to stay here in the DR in our current ministry roles.
In the best part of my heart, my sadness over leaving the stay table reminded me of how important my community here is to me. Moving to the US would mean not being able to share the next years of our lives with my boss and coworkers, with our church family, with my students, or with our friends here in the DR. But there was more. Part of my heart takes pride in being a long-term missionary. Even though my staying here in the DR has everything to do with God's calling and nothing to do with my own ability, I get prideful about it. There is an unspoken, not-so-healthy hierarchy in the missions world, and my sin nature likes being at the stay table.
In those weeks of uncertainty, God also showed me that I was holding onto my dreams too tightly. Even my best dreams, dreams that are from God, need to be held with open hands so that I am willing to let God change them or break them. When I hold too tightly to my dreams, I close my ears to the Holy Spirit and I miss out on what God is trying to do in my heart.
I also rediscovered the power of silence in that time.While we were praying for wisdom to discern God's will, Dustin and I shared our decision with just a few mentors. Practicing silence kept us from being swayed by other people's feelings - trust me, we had enough feelings of our own and didn't need anyone else's! Practicing silence also spared those around us from the emotional turmoil of not knowing whether we would stay or go. Big decisions are for God, Dustin, and me to sort out, and silence helped us do that.
When I arrived at the point when I could say, "Ok, if God is telling you that we should go, then I believe you are listening to God, and I will go," I thought that would be it. But no. That was just the start of a minute-by-minute battle between wanting God's will, but also wanting what I wanted. It can be difficult to untangle my emotions and God's will, constantly asking whether a feeling is just a feeling or if it's God speaking to me. It's hard work to hold my feelings alongside my desire to obey God.
Finally, God reaffirmed our calling to this place, at this time, with these ministries. He renewed my joy in our daily life, my appreciation for Kids Alive, and my awareness of the privilege of serving in Caraballo. He reminded us of how much we love the cross-cultural nature of both of our jobs, and the travel and international friendships of Dustin's job. I got much-needed refreshment on how much I love New Life Church, living in Sosua, and the people we have become and get to be because we live here. As we look at what the next year holds for us, I am so thankful to be called to stay here. If God says go, we will go, and I know He will provide for our every need. But for now, we sit at the stay table, sorting through these lessons and remembering that even those weeks of uncertainty were for God's glory.