My last few posts have been pretty devoid of pictures so I wanted to post some of what a regular day looks like around here. We start up our ministries next week, but this is what our day will still look like all be it a little busier.
It started, kids needing help with their homework. I was sitting at the table with our biological children helping them with their homeschool work when a couple kids started showing up. The first kid showed up asked for help, but really he just needed a dictionary. He is probably one of my favorite kids in the neighborhood so I let him look up words on my kindle. Five minutes later another kid showed up. Here is a snippet of our conversation.
Emilie: Miguel are you going to do your homework?
Emilie: Do you have homework?
Emilie: If you aren’t going to do your homework, go home
Five minutes later another kids showed up for help on his homework. He is in fifth grade and doing pretty simple division. He had no idea what he was doing. Teaching these kids the level of math they are in is like trying to build a house with no foundation. You keep building on top, but it keeps falling down because nothing is there to support it.
Here is an example of our conversation:
Emilie: Ok Danaline, how many subtract 112-42. What is it?
Emilie: No, if you have 112 pieces of candy and I take away 42 pieces, will you have more candy than you started with?
We figure out that one and onto the next
Emilie: Ok Danaline how many times does 16 go into 16
Emilie: Aye yai yai Danaline, I don’t even know what to say.
We are faced with an uphill battle trying to get these kids to have basic skills in order to survive. They need these skills to get a job someday. They have to know how to read, write, and do math.
Here is another conversation I was faced with, a young boy who didn’t go to school last year and is almost 10 and in the second grade, yesterday as I walked out my door:
Emilie: Jeter! Why aren’t you in school!?!?!?
Jeter: I was tired so I decided not to go.
Emilie: Jeter, you HAVE to go to school. You are so behind, you HAVE to be at school every day! Do you know how to read yet?
Emilie: Jeter we are going to work very hard over the next few months to get you reading. Do you want to pass to 3rd grade with all your friends
Emilie: Then you have to work hard
I want to give everyone an idea about the need for what we are doing in our neighborhood. We really really love these kids that are in and out of our house every day. We want them to succeed so so bad. Last year as I was reading this verse in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 I was struck but how much these words portrayed my heart for these kids.
“8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
We have let these kids into our hearts and homes. Randy and I labor over them, we talk about how we can better serve them. Even when they drive us crazy we take them with us places and to church every week. Sometimes this is by coming a long side them encouraging them and sometimes it is through tough love and having to say no. We want them to succeed in their studies, but what we really want for them is to know Jesus. We want to build relationships with them and their parents so that they will know Jesus.
Next week are going to be starting up our Homework help program. Pray for us as we seek to accomplish these goals
Coming back to the Dominican Republic has been so good. We have been welcomed by our church family and neighbors in a way I couldn’t have imagined. When we pulled up our home and saw our patio filled with neighbor kids, I couldn’t help but hold back tears.
Our time in the states as many of you know was rough. Although we are so incredibly thankful for the encouragement of so many friends it was still hard. Right before we left I was filled with so much anxiety about our return. I was scared that our return to the Dominican Republic would be so different than what I imagined. I was scared about our lost support, and I had begun to doubt ourselves and our ministry in the Dominican Republic.
The week before leaving I was texting with a dear dear friend who is the wife of the pastor of one of the church’s that supports us and expressing to her many of my fears and doubts. She began to share with me Romans 8:31:37:
“31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
She told me to really meditate and give myself over to these verses. Over the next week as I thought over these verses, not only did I feel comfort but I felt conviction. I realized that if I truly believe this I will be ready to do whatever he asks me to do even when it puts me way out of my comfort zone. I will do things knowing that if God is for me, who can be against me?
This is a side note to let me tell you something about myself, I am incredibly passive. Some people marvel at this quality that I am able to stay calm in many crazy circumstances (this was probably why I was able to stay sane when I had 4 kids in 5 years). Messes don’t really bother me, screaming kids don’t bother me, and with most things I am left wondering why people are freeking out. I am constantly saying, “C’mon guys, It’s not really that big of a deal.”
However, to those closest to me this can be very frustrating. I will tell someone a hundred times I will get something done and never get it done. I forget things all the time. I will let time pass by without even realizing it routinely show up 15-30 minutes late because I wasn’t paying attention (which is totally acceptable here in the Dominican Republic-PTL). I leave the oven on, I spill things and forget to clean them, and burn things when I am cooking. When it comes to ministry, I tend to let things come to me instead of making things happen. This also makes it so that I don’t make it a big deal about the fact that, I am a huge scaredy cat and have a major fear of people complex. I like to keep things easy.
As I meditated on these verses and what it looks like to really believe that God is for me, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me, “Emilie, you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and act to accomplish the things I have for you in your neighborhood. It’s not going to come to you.” (this is not a direct quote but what was impressed on my heart). If God is for me, what in the world do I have to be afraid of? Men’s opinion? NO! Rejection? NO! People not liking you? NO!
So last Wednesday as I was sitting on my neighbor’s porch and chatting, I was completely happy and content to talk about the normal shallow things like kids and the weather. We began to talk about a church that is being started in our neighborhood, and I began to feel this prompting in my heart to ask her if she wanted to start a bible study with me. I was able to ignore it a couple minutes but knew I had to say something. To my amazement she said yes!
We set the day for Friday and Friday I showed up on her porch. This part for me was harder than asking to do the bible study. Nothing is formal here in the DR so it is hard to know how to implement things. I showed up and her son was blasting music out of the house and so was the neighbor boy. When I say blasting, I need to put this in the right frame of mind. Imagine you are standing in front of a speaker at a rap concert. Now imagine there are two rap concerts happening at once, 10 feet from each other, and competing who can be the loudest. This by the the way is no exaggeration. I sat on my friend’s porch and tried to talk to her and really I was just trying to read her lips. Trying to do this in English is difficult, but in Spanish it is near impossible ( I have gotten really good though at pretending I know what people are saying when I just have the gist of it). I sat there praying for the boys to turn the music off…about two hours later they did.
Then came the time of saying, “Do you still want to study the bible with me?” Thankfully she did. We sat on her porch and I read to her Ephesians 1:3-6 and we talked about our standing in Christ. She looked on in amazement as I shared with her all that God has done for us. I then gave her a brief synopsis of redemptive history. She told me over and over again, “I have never head this before.” We are doing ministry in a country where everyone knows a handful about the bible. But in this, works salvation is the norm. What they know of the bible is a long list of don’ts and by the way Christ died on the cross too. I shared with her the great gifts that God has given us and said because of all this we choose to serve him and I saw her face light up. I don’t know if my friend is a believer, but please pray for her. I want her desperately to understand that God did all the work for us, all she has to do is believe.
I have been struggling all week because let me tell ya… teaching a bible study in Spanish is HARD WORK. I am teaching through Ephesians 1 which I feel I know fairly well but as I try to teach it in Spanish it feels like it is a completely new passage. I start thinking surely someone else would be better at this. But then then I remember God has put me here, in her life, in this neighborhood, and at this very moment. Thankfully God uses us daily in our weaknesses and that in him we are more than conquerors. Can Spanish as your second Language be against you? NO! I may mess up, I may be out of my league, but thankfully God is so much bigger than my abilities.
I am so thankful as well that we serve a God who has paid the price for us all and because of his Jesus’ work on the cross we are more than conquerers. Please pray for our little bible study that it will continue to grow. Please pray that I will find time to study in Spanish and that I will have the words that I need. Please pray for me that I will remember constantly that if God is for me, who can be against me?