Hello everyone! We pray that this update finds you doing well. The last couple of months have been a whirlwind for us here in the DR. January was busy with two groups. First we hosted Rockhurst University who returned to our program after several years off. It was SO GOOD to see them again! The group was a wonderful blend of personalities and servant hearts. We appreciated their time and talent immensely. Up next was the St. Catherine of Sienna group of 27. With so many volunteers the week looked drastically different from our normal volunteer program. This large group stayed at a retreat center in Las Matas and we had a group of returning volunteers assist us as Work Site Leaders. The week was PHENOMENAL and we accomplished SO MUCH together! So far in February we have only hosted one group -- and they were from our hometown! The St. Mary Pinckney group is always a pleasure to have here. And as a special treat, my mom came as the group leader. It was a phenomenal experience and the kids also LOVED being able to see Grandma.
This semester Jessica has been teaching in El Chivo as we transition into a Montessori school. It has been a challenge to say the least but the children have adapted very well. We start the day off with more traditional oral teaching and book work, followed by the Montessori work trays focusing on fine/gross motor skills, pre-writing skills and hand-eye coordination. Please keep the school in your prayers! We have 42 kids who come from challenging backgrounds.... which can make the school day challenging as well. This program is 100% funded privately by BBOH donors - thank you to those who have donated to this school year!
The construction of our new medical clinic in Rosa la Piedra is underway! We broke ground in December and have continued steadily. Our initial funds (roughly $20,000) have been spent on the land study, excavation of the land, rebar and pouring of the cement footings. Construction is currently at a stop while we raise the next chunk of funds. We have reached out to Cross Catholic International (the same org that partnered with us for a vehicle for El Chivo Preschool) and with the Knights of Columbus at Kailey's home parish (St. Pius X in Grandville). We will be reaching out to more K of C groups soon and asking for matching funds to further multiply the work of the KofC group from St. Pius X. If you or someone you know is a Knight and would like more info, please let us know!
All in all, we are doing well -- thanks be to God! The next month will be spent with our spring break program (St. Mary Student Parish at the Univ. of MI and Aquinas College), followed by preparations for summer internships and work teams. Never a dull moment around here! Thank you to everyone who has donated to our family, to the mission and to the many projects that we have running. We wouldn't be able to do with without you! Please keep the steady stream of prayers coming as well.... they sustain us! And please be assured of our prayers for you as well.
--For our children as they continue to adjust to life in the DR. Emy loves spending time with her friends here but it has been harder for Ben to make solid friendships. He is participating in a karate class, hoping to make some friends. Please pray that the Lord sends him a kind friend and eases his loneliness.
--Please pray for balance within our household as we continue to navigate homeschooling, family time, teaching in El Chivo, administrative duties, the new clinic, etc.
--For someone we can trust to help with the care of our children during the work day. We were blessed for 6 weeks with two different people (shoutout to you Olivia and Katelyn!!) who came to help us with our children. But we don't have anyone here right now and still don't have a long term plan in place.
--That as a team the leadership of FUMSIL and BBOH can remain focused on the tasks the Lord has assigned us.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We are so excited to be back in the Dominican Republic. We arrived back on Dec 9, 2018. Our first few days were spent getting re-acquainted with town and seeing old friends. The kids had a few teary moments as the reality of living here in the DR became tangible. Please continue to pray for their little hearts, that they can re-establish stability after the craziness of the last 12 months. Thankfully, after a few holiday parties with friends and visits to their favorite park, they have become more settled into life here in the Dominican Republic.
Our medical coordinator, Kailey, arrived the next week and we hit the ground running with meetings and preparations for the new medical clinic in Rosa la Piedra/Calimete region. One of the most important meetings was with the Bishop of our Diocese, Monsignor Jose Grullon. He is a very kind man with a great sense of humor. I always go into meetings like this one super nervous but then I am put at ease by his gentleness and ability to make us smile. With Bishop Grullon's blessing we are moving forward with the new medical clinic! We are BLOWN AWAY by the support for this project. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to hear our hearts for this area, donated to the cause and encouraged us to push forward. The fundraising event in Grand Rapids in November was hugely successful. In the end, we've raised roughly $20,000 for the clinic so far! With this first installment of funds we are preparing the land, laying the foundation and raising some walls. We are reaching out to other organizations and researching grant opportunities to find a matching grant to cover the remaining funds needed. If anyone has any leads on grants or private donors who would be interested in this type of thing, please reach out to us!
On December 20 we celebrated Christmas with our preschool in El Chivo. This was a joy and super fun occasion for our family. Ben and Emily loved being in the school and we enjoyed seeing everyone again. Starting next month (Jan 7), Jessica will be teaching in El Chivo and helping with the transition to a Montessori-style preschool curriculum. We are blessed to have Olivia who will be here for 2 weeks and Katelyn who will be here for 3 weeks to help us with the kids. This will be particularly helpful as Jessica will be at the preschool most days while Kailey and Adam will be at the construction site frequently. Eventually, our vision is for Ben to accompany Jess at the school several days a week so that he can practice Spanish.
Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very different from years past. We obviously missed being with family but also tried to make the best of it. On Christmas Day we invited other missionaries in San Juan de la Maguana to come over to watch the Polar Express. It was special to feel so warmly received by the other missionaries here. Their presence in our lives has helped our family's transition tremendously.
On January 5 we begin one of our busiest seasons with volunteers. Please keep us in your prayers! We have Rockhurst University in January, then the St. Catherine of Sienna Academy. In February and March we will host St. Mary in Pinckney, Aquinas College and St. Mary Student Parish of Univ. of MI.
During this time of volunteer programs, construction and family transitions we invite you to follow our Facebook page (click here to see it!) so that you can see photos and updates in real time. We will continue to update the blog monthly as well.
We are grateful for the support team that has joined us on this journey which allows our service in the Dominican Republic to be possible. You have stood by our side as we struggled in the States over the last 12 months and have been such a source of encouragement. Thank you so very much! We sincerely could not do this without you!
-For our family as we re-establish stability for our children, for our new homeschooling journey, and for even more transition in January when Jessica begins helping in El Chivo preschool.
-In thanksgiving for two friends who are coming in January to help us with the kids!! And that God would send the perfect person to continue helping us for the following months.
-For favor and blessings on the new construction project, especially for the ability to complete the budget and therefore build the WHOLE clinic at the same time.
-For greater patience and understanding of ourselves, our children and one another as we continue to walk this journey of mission.
It has been whirlwind of a month. We DID make it to the Dominican Republic! Thank you for all of your prayers! We had a great day of travel with zero complications and all the travel blessings imaginable. The night before our flight we specifically prayed for our connecting flight to be close to our first flight's gate so that we would be able to get lunch during our tight layover. Boy did God ever deliver on that one! Our flight from Detroit to Atlanta came in at gate 32 and our next flight to Santo Domingo was leaving from gate 33. If you travel with connections often, you know how RARE this is! We were awestruck and thankful at this little sign of God's hand over our travels. It was also one of the first tangible answers to prayer for Ben, his eyes lit up when he realized that our prayer had been answered so directly!
Once we got into Santo Domingo we were greeted by Kailey, Dr. Angel and Robinson. SO many tears of happiness and tight "squeezer hugs", as the kids like to call them. It was a truely joyful moment! We packed up and made our way to San Juan where our family rents a home. Over the last year our housing has shifted a lot due to our prolonged time in the States. So when we finally arrived in San Juan it was the FIRST time that Adam and the kids had seen the new house. Kailey was gracious enough to move all of our belongings into the new place when we were still in the States (with help from Courtney, shoutout to you amiga!). But Kailey took it even a step further and UNPACKED the basics so that when we opened the door for the first time it truly felt like home. Our living room was all there, the kitchen was set up and our beds were ready for us to fall into them. This was a HUGE labor of love that still makes me tear up when I think about it. The new place is a second story apartment right in front of a park (for those of you who have been to the DR, it is 2 doors down from Dr. Angel's house, in front of the same park). Neighborhoods in the DR often have a very urban feel to them with homes very close to one another which restricts air flow (we still joke about a previous rental house where our living room window was the recipient of a local business' hot air exhaust, haha!). Having the open space of the park right in front of the house makes for nice breezes and a good view of the neighborhood. Like all Dominican houses, it isn't without it's quirks. A big section of tile in the living room had to be replaced and we will likely have to replace more in the future. Perhaps the best part of this house is that Ben and Emily are finally in their own room! They each have their own bed in the room next to ours. I'm not sure who was more excited about them having their own space, the kids or us (spoiler alert: Me. Definitely me. I was the most excited by far!). We brought a few things from the States like familiar bed sheets and blankets to make it feel like home. Within a few nights they were completely transitioned into their own room!
Over the course of the following weeks we settled back into life in the Dominican. We re-connected with friends, colleagues and co-workers. We got caught up to speed on each of the projects that we are concurrently operating (preschool, med clinics, volunteer program, etc.) and prepared for the Aquinas College group to come work with us. We were surprised by a visit from Carl, the owner of the Mission House that we rent for our volunteers. He is a YWAM missionary who lived in the area for many years. It was a blessing to spend several days visiting with him. Once AQ arrived we were going nonstop. As a team we worked in the preschool and mobile medical clinics (over 150 patients and 300 children received care thanks to the group!). It was a pleasure to have them working with us!
In the interest of transparency, we don't want to paint a completely rose-colored-lens picture either. There were also challenges to our visit. We saw firsthand how our time away had made it hard on our co-workers and how we had dropped the ball repeatedly by not being present over the last 11 months. We love the work of BBOH/FUMSIL and the people in the communities where we operate. So the idea that we've hindered or hurt the program(s) isn't an easy one to swallow. But, once we know better we can do better. And thanks be to God we are in a position to DO better, to roll up our sleeves and get to work. So, back to work we go, more dedicated and motivated than before to "stumble toward heaven" (shoutout to Padre Dan!) and bring as many people with us as we can.
--For the success of the upcoming Clinic of Hope Gala in Grand Rapids, MI. Funds raised will allow us to build a permanent clinic in a desperate region. A few prayers for our nervous jitters about public speaking would be great too! More info about the event here.
--For BBOH and FUMSIL leadership, that we remain grounded by the call of God to work in this area of the world and are guided by the Holy Spirit as we plan the details.
-- In thanksgiving for all that God has provided for our family: safe housing and the ability to serve thanks to our committed sponsorship team.
Well folks.... we had a flight itinerary and a concrete plan for when we would be returning to the Dominican Republic. Our flight schedule had us departing Detroit last week at 6 am (waking up at 3:30 am!) and arriving in Santo Domingo at 1:17 pm. The day before our arrival Kailey and Dr. Angel had driven our vehicle to the capital to be at the airport to pick up our little family circus. Ya'll... I was EXCITED. Just hours away from landing on Dominican soil... the feelings were something comparable to the first day of school jitters mixed with the excitement of Christmas morning, topped off with a sprinkle of anxiety about traveling with 3 small kids. So many things all rolled into one.
And then 1:00 AM hit. Our sweet, sparkly eyed Emily woke up out of a deep sleep sicker than I have ever seen her. Everything she had eaten that day came back up and then some. Adam is still in one of the various stages of shock. The human body is amazing. That's all I can really say.
So we called Delta Airlines in the middle of the night, explained the situation and they were more than accommodating, waiving some of the fees/restrictions. #deltaforthewin
We will now be leaving for the Dominican Republic TOMORROW MORNING. As I type this, all three of the kids are tucked into bed sound asleep. All of our bags are packed and loaded into the vehicles. It almost feels too good to be true.
Please continue to wrap our family in prayer over the coming weeks! We will be updating soon with how the adventure (and God's grace!) unfolds. Thank you for your support!
-For our transition back to the DR, smooth travels, calm children and content hearts as we re-establish life in a place that we love dearly but haven't been to in almost a year.
-That we may keep our eyes focused on Christ and on the mission that He has placed on our hearts. That we may accept the things that have changed while we were gone and for the grace to move forward as a unified team.
-That God would provide a solution to our need for childcare in the Dominican, providing someone trustworthy who can love on our kids while we are at work.
Happy Friday everyone! We hope that this update finds you doing well and enjoying this late summer/early fall weather. We are SO EXCITED to share that our health concerns on all fronts are MUCH BETTER!
Adam is completely healed from surgery. His stitches are gone and the hole on the bottom of his foot is completely healed up. Jessica is also feeling much better after her surgery, back to being mobile and picking up the kids! We feel so encouraged by these major improvements We are hopeful that we will be able to return to the Dominican Republic the first week of October. This trip would only be 4 weeks or so because we have a wedding and our annual BBOH auction that will be held in November. We feel that starting off with a shorter trip is a smart move so that we can ensure our health problems are resolved for the long haul. We have 3 mission teams coming down to work in October (the busiest Oct we have ever had!), so if we are able to travel it will be a blessing to be there during that time.
Since we have been Stateside, we have been brainstorming some new ways to expand the blog and create content that illustrates our mission well. One of the ways that we want to bring you "inside" the mission is by inviting former volunteers, local staff and friends to do a Guest Post. Our guests will share about their experience with a particular part or aspect of the BBOH/FUMSIL mission.
Our first Guest Post is written by Rachel Hay. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the experience of a BBOH volunteer and the ways that God can move through short term missions.
Guest Post # 1 -- By Rachel Hay
"My first international mission trip was an opportunity so intricately put together that it is almost impossible to not see God’s hand in it. He has been working on my heart and breaking down my walls for years in preparation for this experience. I used to be afraid to ever leave my small hometown. I lived a convenient life just within the tiny parameters of my comfort zone. If you would have told me three years ago that I would be doing missions in a third world country, I would have thought you were crazy! I could not have planned this on my own; God was in each step, guiding my heart and feet. He is able to do immeasurably more than anything we could ask or imagine if you will let Him.
Through Building Bridges of Hope, we have the opportunity to serve remote villages that do not have any access to medical care. I knew that I would see people who were suffering, sick, neglected, and hungry. I knew that this would be difficult to see. However, what I didn’t know is the imprint that it would leave on my heart. Never again will I be able to casually walk by a situation of suffering without part of my heart breaking. But in exchange, I can step into the Father’s heart and be a vessel of His love for those around me.
At one of our clinics, I stood off to the side watching the children get weighed. After one little girl stepped off the scale, her eyes locked with mine. The child walked up to me and held out her tiny arms. I knelt down to her and she instantly wrapped her arms around me. I held her there in my lap for an hour. I felt Jesus in that moment. This was not just a stranger; she was a daughter of the King. Not a word was said but at that moment, two of His daughters from completely different worlds connected. My heart was overflowing, and it changed me. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that little girl.
How is it possible to have such a connection with people in another country that you’ve never met and don’t even speak your language? We are connected because we are a part of the same creation. We connect on the one thing that every person was created to need – to be loved. Love speaks every language.
I think that anyone can be kind to a stranger. But what about loving a stranger? That is something that cannot be done passively. We can choose to live in our comfort zone and only make efforts when it is convenient. We can just love people who are easy to love, such as our close friends and family. But God has called us to a much higher and greater purpose than loving only those that love you back. If Jesus fully emptied himself to you, what’s keeping us from fully emptying ourselves to others?"
It has been about 10 months since I have stepped “foot” back home in the Dominican Republic.
Jessica spent about three weeks in June down to support our AMAZING Medical Staff Coordinator Kailey Stutzky, RN (read about her trip here). Jessica was also able to move our home into a cheaper accommodation from the house that we were renting since our lease was up. We’ve had more volunteer groups this year than ever before and I feel absolutely terrible I have not been able to do more to assist in the mission God has called us to do. Like a slug, I lay around for months hoping to have a hole heal in the left foot that developed my last trip home (November 2017). The wound became infected. The infection eventually reached the bone, then completely disintegrated the metatarsal joint rendering it useless with fractures throughout the metatarsal. After MONTHS of high powered antibiotics, we concluded that it needed to be removed to be able to heal fully.
One of the hardest decisions one could ever make would be to amputate a body part. Albeit, and thankfully, “just” a toe that is not of major significance to balance and walking. Finally, August 10th, I went in for that outpatient surgery. It was successful and pretty painless. In the days after I had some swelling and discomfort, however, far less than I anticipated. I had an appointment 5 days after to have the dressing changed for the first time seeing it uncovered. I’m not going to lie, it was absolutely horrific. It was far worse looking than I had anticipated or imagined it to be. The good side of this is, I can still hobble on it because I don’t have stitches on the bottom (just the top). Now when I put a little pressure on it I notice an incredible difference. The joint no longer is swollen and protruding through the top part of my foot with excruciating pain. Because, well, it’s not there anymore. The toe is no longer dislocated from the joint and fractured because it also is not there anymore. However, I am left with the reminder that some people have to have far worse amputations and difficult decisions to make in their lives. A lot of times in service to their country, a service member may lose a limb or worse in combat situations. I have a lot to be thankful for.
I have had an incredible support network over the last 10 months. Countless people laying hands on me and praying for a healing. This was not Gods will. However, it IS Gods will for people to offer their prayers to be combined with mine. We don’t always know the reasons why God allows some things and heals other things. It’s not a reflection of our lack of faith, but a testament to what we’re willing to suffer for in our faith. We have the choice to offer our suffering up to God for what ever we choose. For me, it’s to all of our brave men and women who have been horrifically disfigured from war while protecting our freedoms we enjoy every day. My issues don’t even begin to compare, but I feel it was appropriate given how I feel about my situation. I encourage all if you in times of suffering to pray about and choose what to offer your suffering up for. I promise there is great benefits linked to that choice and action.
Please continue to keep us in prayer this month as Jessica is getting her surgery done on August 23rd to have her gallbladder and appendix removed. Double whammy! We’re a #hotmess. We need prayers!
I also want to send a special THANK YOU out to our support team that has continued to faithfully give to our family during these last 10 months. We are so grateful for your support in many forms: financial, emotional and spiritual.
Thank you all and God bless!!
Hello everyone! I am excited to share this update about our family and the mission!
Adam's feet are still... yes, still.... recovering. At the end of May we had to make a hard decision and we opted for Jess to travel to the DR alone to receive the Ladywood High School Mission Team, the Aquinas College group and to do some training with our NEW long-term volunteers. While this was a hard decision to have to make, we are so thankful for the support of family and friends who helped with the kids and allowed our family to be temporarily separated so that we could keep a handle on all of our responsibilities in the DR. Most notably, Deb Coffelt deserves a huge gold star award for her daily help with the kids. THANK YOU!!!
Some snapshots of Jessica's time in the Dominican Republic
In the midst of receiving nearly 50 volunteers in two weeks, Jess and Kailey also moved our family home from the house we had been renting for 2+ years into an apartment in the same neighborhood. The reasons for this move were many, but most notably to reduce costs while we are in the States. The MVP award here goes to Kailey who spent countless hours looking at houses with us AND on our behalf while we were away. It feels good to know that our personal items are at a secure apartment complex while we are so far away. This is about as close as we could get to the American storage unit concept!
Just a couple days before Jess was set to fly back to the States she started experiencing some severe pain. Long story short, she went to a Dominican emergency room, got a magic shot of something (no joke, we're still not 100% sure what it was!) and flew back to MI. We went straight to an American ER once she landed in Detroit and she was diagnosed with appendicitis. Though she hasn't had the appendix taken out yet, soon she will be scheduling surgery to remove her appendix and gall bladder at the same time. Prayers please!
All in all, it's been a chaotic 6 weeks or so. With both Adam and Jess facing possible surgeries, it doesn't seem that the chaos will be letting up anytime soon.
As the old saying goes... "when it rains, it pours".... so we're learning how to dance in the rain. <3
-For impending surgeries, quick recoveries and peaceful hearts about outcomes beyond our control.
-In thanksgiving for our family, friends and supporters who have kept us laughing and feeling encouraged.
-For our children who are very flexible with changing circumstances but also craving stability at the same time.
-For guidance as we discern the best schooling option(s) for Benjamin.
Last weekend we had the honor of speaking at St. Mary in Pinckney as the official Diocese of Lansing Mission Appeal for 2018. Before the first mass, emotions were running high. Anxiety. Fear. I'm not a fan of public speaking to begin with.... throw in the fact that I was going to mention Papito AND explain how being a self-supported missionary works. I was a nervous wreck. #hotmess
It also happened to be Pentecost. AKA the perfect moment ever for us to talk. And the perfect day for me to be reminded that I'm not doing the speech, or anything else for that matter, by my merits alone. That in addition to the first two persons of the trinity I have the Holy Spirit to rely on if I would just remember to ask. This powerful person of the trinity that will assist with anything, big or small, by strengthening the gifts of the spirit and leading us. **Cue Taylor Swift's song "Jesus Take the Wheel"**
I know that God is with us. I know that Jesus is walking alongside us, or better yet carrying us, through this season of health issues and stress. But why-oh-why do I forget that fact precisely in the moments when I need to remember it the most? Here's to making a conscious effort to live more in the spirit and less in the worries, stress and frustrations of the flesh.
Today, three days AFTER the mission appeal, I am STILL blown away by the show of support for our family and for Building Bridges of Hope. The kind words, hugs and encouragement that followed each of the masses touched my heart in a way that, to be honest, I really needed. To know that people believe in us, recognize this calling, validate it and are praying that we continue to follow the Lord's leading.... WOW. It is precisely what this weary heart needed to hear. I feel more supported than ever before. And I feel empowered. In this season of what feel stagnant, God used each of your expressions of support as a confirmation that we are moving forward in right direction. That are worthy. That He will provide.
I always knew in my heart that we aren't meant to go it alone. We are made for community.
And I am so grateful that you are part of mine.
Last week we also had the blessing of visiting Beulahland Retreats in Beulah, Michigan (near Sleeping Bear Dunes). It is a small housing unit available to pastors and missionaries for retreats. The faithful family who built the apartment are pastors at a local church and felt God tell him to minister to Christian leaders, regardless of denomination. What a beautiful ministry! We are so grateful that they responded to the call and accepted our family as visitors. We truly appreciated the opportunity to rest, pray and take in the beauty of Michigan.
Adam and I went to the Sleeping Bear Dunes on our honeymoon so we knew that we wanted to take the kids there while we were so close by. It was just as beautiful as I remembered.
During the retreat God spoke to me about roots. He clearly said, "Stay rooted in Me" while I was admiring the beauty of the immense trees surrounding the retreat house. While I reflected on that phrase it became clear that I hadn't been focused on my roots. Lately, I've been distracted by all of the wind tossing our branches and leaves. I've literally felt uprooted and out of place, weakened by the storms of stress and anxiety. But to weather a storm any tree must have deep roots which keep it upright and strong regardless of the powerful wind above ground. What a beautiful reminder. We are rooted in Jesus, come what may, nothing will change that.
I also want to give a shoutout to Deb Read, a good friend of ours and a long-time supporter of the mission. She helped us design our family mission cards and recently gave them a facelift with our updated family photo. She also designed one for Kailey, our Medical Coordinator. THANK YOU DEB! We appreciate your time & talent!!
While we've been focused on healing, participated in the retreat and did the mission appeal at St. Mary, life has gone on as normal in the Dominican. Kailey is there, continuing to be a rockstar. We hope that you enjoy these pictures of the BBOH Ambassador group that worked with us last week (Shoutout to you Rhonda, Kathie, Karen and others that visited and worked tirelessly!!)
-Healing in Adam's feet, that we are all able to return to the DR on June 6.
-For Divine inspiration and guidance as we continue to fundraise for the Calimete Medical Center
-For our kiddos as we make a transition back to the DR, at this point they are very accustomed to life in MI and I anticipate some transition pains.
-For peace, strength and good health.
Trusting that God has our best interests at heart.
Well everyone... we're still in Michigan.
One of the toughest times of our lives has been over the last 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, we’re INCREDIBLY blessed. Many other families have much tougher times than we have experienced. It has not been tough based on the fact that we personally are struggling, but the fact that we have so many needs to attend to in the Dominican Republic that have fallen on Kailey, our INCREDIBLE Medical Coordinator. She not only has been coordinating all things medical, but also pulling triple duty as “director” of programs as well as "volunteer coordinator" in our absence. We truly are 1000000% blessed that God has put it on her heart to help this people group through BBOH & FUMSIL.
When God makes you lay down in green pastures to hear His still small voice, you often feel lazy, unproductive and worthless. We’re not though. It takes an INCREDIBLE amount of self discipline to cast our own ideas of what we expect or want for our lives to instead hear what God actually wants. Personally, as per my last blog post, you all know that I have struggled with this myself. As a husband, man, father and son, we place, sometimes albeit unfair expectations on ourselves. The drive, need and desire to hunt and gather for our families. It is sort of built into our DNA the same way Jessica packed the nursery with shredded newspaper and clumps of cotton and old hair....
Okay.... so maybe that’s a mama raccoon... but Jess nested in her own way and I think it’s normal for expecting mothers to "nest". Same is true for husbands/fathers taking care of their family. To deny this internal drive is very difficult and takes discipline. Listening to God’s still small voice takes an immense amount of energy. Most of the time I get it wrong. This time? I believe I got it right. We weren’t supposed to go back to the DR in February. I discussed this in my last post. However, new information has come out since then that has shaped my opinion further.
We found out that on April 20th, the Direction Of General Immigration in the Dominican Republic has changed some laws that affect us as long term missionaries. It’s still to be determined as to how it will affect us, but long story short, we may need a more formal visa or residency in order to stay in the DR for long periods of time. I won’t go into boring details about that. This does not affect others as much as ourselves in the country due to our large family and circumstances. We are in the process of investigating how as an NGO we can obtain missionary visas from the consulate and to be able to obtain them for our long term volunteers as well. God always provides when your working His mission. I believe this is part of why we are still here. The story on this is still unfolding and we'll be sure to update when we know more.
A quick update on my health. Things are much better. Right foot is completely healed while the left has a slight hole still which is also getting better. We hope to be back down in the DR by June. It really is a lesson in trusting the plan. We trust that God wants what’s best for us, we accept our circumstances on blind faith. As always keep us in your prayers!! We always need them!!
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
November of 2017, Jessica, Ben, Emily and I traveled back to Michigan to anxiously await the arrival of Nicholas. He was due some time in December of 2017. Turns out the 6th which is St. Nick's feast day. This trip home would turn into something that no one would have ever predicted.
Sometimes we have a plan. We set that plan in place and then a meteor comes and blows it to smithereens. Even after we pray about that plan and believe in good faith that it was Gods will. Even, sometimes, it WAS in Gods will. If there’s anything my adulthood has taught me about being a child of the Lord most high is that He can choose to change that plan. At any moment. Regardless of what “I” think to be in my own best interest.
Our plan was to come home November 4th, spend a month preparing for the new addition, enjoy Thanksgiving with our families, have a baby. Well, that happened as planned. We had planned on enjoying Christmas with new baby and family, spending January raising support for us as a family since we’re only half way to our monthly support goal, then leave February 3rd back home to the DR. This was the part that God had other plans for.
Instead, around November 20th, a blister I from hiking and walking the last two weeks we were in the DR turned into a diabetic ulcer. At the same time I came down with what I suspected as the real respiratory flu. The left foot became infected and I ended up at UofM with a small hole in my foot. I was given a days worth of IV antibiotics and sent home with oral. I was told to wear a walking cam boot. Stay off of it as much as possible and pack it with gauze. Throughout December I wore this boot. The entire time, I was creating another issue. It made me walk unnaturally on my right foot.....causing a blister to form unbeknownst to me. Well, after Christmas and into the new year, I developed a more severe infection than I had on my left foot, but this time, on the right foot. It swelled up and turned an angry shade of red and moved up my leg. On the 3rd of January, I ended up back at UofM. This time, they gave me IV antibiotics and sent me home with a different oral than before. I ended up back there two days later with a much worse and more swollen foot. I stayed there for about 6 days with IV’s and was released. Monitoring this healing process throughout January and into February with my team of infectious disease and podiatry doctors, they weren’t happy with my progress. So they decided to do an MRI. It turned out, the infection had reached the bone. Very surface level and preliminarily, however, it still needed to be dealt with. The doctors decided surgery was called for and I went under the knife to have it cleaned out. The worry was, I may lose the middle toe. So I agreed to have this done quickly and while we were in Michigan with good medical care vs. in the Dominican Republic with less access to health care. The surgery was successful in saving my toe. Obviously, our tentative departure of February 3rd was pushed back indefinitely. Here it is, April 4. I still have a small hole about the size of a pencil lead. Coming from a hole about the size of the eraser that went from the bottom through the top, it’s come a long way. I’ve been on more antibiotics than I can count and I’m still packing this dressing every day, but we have spent a lot of good time with family celebrating holidays, most recently Easter. My white blood cell count is still slightly elevated, I am still on antibiotics and we still don’t have a definite return date. We hope it will be mid April, but could be longer depending on the status of this whole deal. So as they say, time will tell.
The whole reason for this blog post is this:
No matter what our plan is, we need to always be flexible. Trust the plan given to us. Trust the burdens we are supposed to carry.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I had trusted in the fact that I would be able to come back to Michigan and earn extra money by working. I trusted on my own abilities to supplement our income in a time where we needed it most; the arrival of another child. I trusted that I would be provided opportunities to work as a man. Instead of trusting the Lord and His plan. Subconsciously, I didn’t realize I was not doing that. But what His plan was for me was this:
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:2.
He wanted me to sit still and enjoy His plan. Which was, not worrying about tomorrow. Or, worrying about how we were going to support a third child financially. He had many things He wanted me to see, to hear and to investigate from the peaceful shore of still waters. From the silent meadow or green grass (or cold snow flakes) swaying gently in the breeze.
There literally was not anything that would’ve kept us home during this time other than a medical issue of some sort. And so, His plan was enacted to make that happen. If I have to be the recipient of those medical problems than so be it! I’d gladly take all of those versus one of our children or my wife. Through Him, even negatives equal positive. Sometimes we need something to remind us of that.
Please keep us in your prayers!!! We have so much work to complete that we’ve been called to! We’re halfway to our monthly sponsorship support!! We cannot do this without all of you! We do not collect a salary, all of our work is done through our supporters graciously donating their resources and prayers. With that support, it allows us to serve over 20,000 people in need along the border. Implement real change that is sustainable, lower the infant mortality rate from 25% and educate people out of poverty. We love you all!! You’re all in our prayers as well!!
We are Catholic lay missionaries serving along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
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