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Archive for the '2019 Feb Mission of Hope DR' Category

What the Lord Brought Together

The final day of our DR trip was amazing!

After a nice morning breakfast by the water and some good prayer and prep time, we visited two New Life school campuses, which serve kiddos ranging in age from 4 to 15. We performed mini-dramas sharing our brokenness and Jesus’ saving grace… and we played games too. It was such a gift seeing these awesome children respond to us. They were open to hugs, discussions about their hearts, and some soccer fun. The children were amazing!

To see each team member using their spiritual gifts and sharing the Gospel was so encouraging too (I Peter 4:10). Praise the Lord! There were tears as we left each campus – but joy as well, because we know the strong Christian leaders the Lord is providing them within the village community. It’s clear by the intentionality and care seen that the Lord loves them so much and is with them (1 Samuel 2:8-9).

We wrapped up our very special final evening with group time spent praising the Lord and challenging one another to be intentional with the Gospel in uncomfortable opportunities. We also focused on slowing down to build deeper relationships when we get home. Finally, we shared words of encouragement to one another. It was humbling to see and hear others share challenges that led to a deeper dependency on the Lord, and how Jesus was seen in each and every imperfect person within our group. It was such a testament to God’s faithfulness, the work he continues to do in our hearts, and the Holy Spirit’s powerful guidance (Hebrews 10:24-25). I’m so thankful for this family the Lord brought together for a truly unforgettable mission.

Here we go! Next stop Dallas, Texas (Acts 1:8).

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Reflections from Day 4

On Day four of our trip to the Dominican Republic, I was so blessed to be able to step into the lives of five Residents and Fellows, eight fellow adult travelers, and seven kiddos as we work on mission with the Lord. The funny thing is, one of the messages I’ve heard and learned from this trip is that we will be served and grow more from this trip than we will be serving. We’ve also heard that our long-term mission is at our home, where we are living and serving others for the Lord.

On Sunday, we went to a wonderful Creole Haitian church, filled with God’s people. I am reminded indeed that God is a Savior to all! He prefers no race, no color, no gender, and He is calling all people to Himself (Revelation 7:9). I loved the singing in Creole and fellowshipping with some of the people afterwards.

We also had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with the missionary couple Jody & Perla, seeing the culture and rich heritage of the people of DR. We even learned about the original Tainese people who became extinct because of man’s greed for wealth.

We learned through our training class that no matter how short or long it has been since we were saved, we still have brokenness. God, however, in his mercy, continually restores us to Himself through the cross of Jesus Christ! That is for all people! What a beautiful thing!

Lastly, when the evening came, though we were exhausted, we had a great devotional led by Chris. It reminded us of our brokenness and constant struggle against the flesh. The battle is real people, but our God is more than powerful to help us overcome! (I Corinthians 10:13)

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Training & Fruit

Today was a joy!

Waking to the sound of birds singing and meeting for breakfast by the ocean, I relished in the fact that after meeting with Jody and Pearla, a missionary couple who have been here for 10 years, the same God is a work here in the DR. He is raising up pastors to shepherd the body here, just as Brad and Vanessa do so well at Mission of Hope in Haiti.

One if the men they work with is a dear friend from youth ministry days in Nashville. What a joy to reconnect with Brad on this new mission field, where he and his wife Brooke have invested the last 15 years with “Until They Know,” fighting corrupt orphanages and being put in jail for defending the rights of orphans and women who are trafficked, while raising up leaders for the church. It is so good to see his faith still vibrant and growing.

As we packed up for a day of adventure with this delightful team, the excitement was contagious! One of my favorite parts of our family trips is sitting by someone new on each bus ride. As we departed the hotel, I sat by Sheelu, my new friend who was raised in an orthodox Christian church. She told me how her faith had been so strong early in her life and even led her to seek out a “true believer” within her denomination to marry, which meant she waited much longer to marry than anyone else in her family and had to trust God’s perfect timing before He brought her husband to her in a most “unorthodox” way. We connected on how a house full of children can dull your spiritual disciplines and how Equipped Disciple brought them back to life. Now she is leading a group of ladies in her own home through Equipped Disciple 1.

After our visit, we had the best training I’ve received on a mission trip with Noah Joyner. He and his wife Steph and their 5 kiddos live here and train pastors. He taught us the “4-1-1 method” of sharing our faith, worked through the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, shared discipleship from 2 Tim 2:2, and brilliantly guided us through 2 Cor 5:17-21, carefully spelling out how the Lord entrusted the gospel to us and committed to us the message of reconciliation. Our team ranges from ages 10 to 57, with every decade represented in between, and our teacher connected with everyone! We left his home equipped with a straightforward way to enter a home with a prayer of peace, share our story of faith in 15 seconds, and then explain the gospel in a simple illustration that quickly let us see where the person stood in their journey of faith. It was so encouraging to stop and practice every tool he gave us, while being reminded that “the best tool is the one you use.”

After we trained, we had lunch and headed to the villages. We met with Haitians whose families had come to work on sugar plantations -but when they were shut down, they were left with no jobs in a country that does not want them. After singing “Amazing Grace” in Creole and English and praying outside the small church in the center of the village, we went house-to-house, guided by our translators who work in this village. We sat with a blind man who lost his sight to diabetes, women washing their clothes by hand, an older couple shelling beans, a young girl who felt unaccepted by the Lord because she loves to dance… all ashamed to go to church because they were not “ready” to walk with Jesus. (This shame comes from the common belief by works-oriented churches who teach a false gospel…they believe they must have the right clothes or their life in order to come to fellowship.) It was a joy to share the hope that “there was a time when each of us were desperate, hopeless and broken but then made Jesus the King of our life and then became content, full of purpose and joy and whole.” Noah gave each of us a Bible in their language to leave with these new friends. We left sure that folks had heard the good news and would be followed up with by these pastors in their village.

The next few bus rides were spent hearing Chris’s story of redemption through re:generation, from a life of performing and achieving to escape the pain of his abusive childhood and broken marriage.

We were able to wash away the weariness of the day in the ocean and enjoy the sunset, while Austin unfolded the story of Mission of Hope in the DR. This was followed by a great dinner, relishing in stories of the joys and trials of raising “little women” along the path of faith back in Dallas. To close the day, John led us in more fun games we could use with the children we met, and we literally fell asleep listening to stories of how God had worked in and through us this day. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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A Significant Sunday

After breakfast by the ocean, our team took a bus to Pastor Thomás’s church in Puerto Plata to decorate in preparation for a pastoral graduation. While driving through this beautiful but impoverished country, our new friends Sheelu and Julia Matthews started the day off with the singing of the National Anthem beautifully. They were appointed to sing due to their tardiness getting to the bus… but soon the whole team then joined in.

Arriving and getting to work, we were brought back to memories of elementary school days while using streamers, balloons, and all sorts of graduation decorations to decorate the small yet beautiful church led by Pastor Thomás, who graciously donated the space for this incredible event.

After filling the church with bright color, we drove back to our temporary home for personal time and lunch, then dressed up in our Sunday best to join Pastor Noah Joyner and his wife Stephanie for a precious and sentimental event. Noah, alongside Elmond and many others, began an amazing pastoral college in 2015 after seeing a need for equipping Haitian pastors who live in the Dominican Republic. That journey began with 30 men in the program, and after 4 long and hard years, today 9 men became the first graduating class ever from Noah’s seminary program.

Eventually locals filled up every seat in the church to celebrate the graduation in a hot and steamy – but beautiful and tear-filled – three-and-a-half-hour ceremony. We celebrated these 9 pastors, who committed themselves to bring the truth of God’s work and the Gospel to their local communities. One of the nine to graduate was Lucemane, who was actually conferred his degree posthumously, because he passed away one week before the group’s final class. It was a sorrowful yet special time as his son received his father’s diploma and we all prayed over their family. This community is filled with such beautiful children and families, who yesterday came together to celebrate these strong, brave men, their willingness to serve, and all that God has done in their lives. Words of encouragement and prayer never ceased.

We then headed back for team bonding and dinner. We sang and debriefed from the day, then Jonathan & Zoe Roberts taught a group devotional on Philippians 1:12-26 about advancing the gospel and being on earth for a purpose – to share the story of the Bible. Even though we are now getting comfortable here in the DR, we were challenged not to go home and revert to comfort. Instead, we should often be uncomfortable back home, as with boldness we will share what we have learned, our stories and testimonies, and the Gospel in our own backyard.

The singing and dancing continued as we started learning how to two-step from seemingly professional teacher John Bundren. Kids, MOH leaders and interns, and Watermark Residents and Fellows showed off the impressive dance moves they had just learned.

As part of our debrief, we reflected on the fact that not only have we been able to serve others and share the gospel, the Dominicans have truly served us as well and given us so much. We have learned multitudes in the past three days together. This learning has come from the local pastors and other residents – these brave strong people who show joy and perseverance throughout the hardest of circumstances.

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