Changes (lots of pictures)

We have now called the Dominican Republic our home for 2 and a half years. I often think about all the changes our family has experienced over the last few years, some are big and some are small. Some are funny, and some have been hard learned. I thought today I would stop for a second and share a few.

First, is the way we dress.  When we came down here I had tried to by some nice clothes knowing that Dominicans tend to dress nicer than americans. What I quickly found was that my nicest clothes were basically rags. I had lots of pants and nice cotton shirts, and I lived in my rainbow flip flops. Normal clothes right? Not so much. I was consistently embarrassed by how casual I was compared to every one else.  I have had to do a complete wardrobe overhaul and I am still working on it. Thankfully second hand stores are on every corner and I have found a love of digging through piles until I find the perfect item, and almost everything here costs 2.00.  Now lets talk about high heels. I owned exactly ZERO high heels moving down here. I even returned a pair of heels to Nordstroms that I had worn once before we moved thinking I was never going to wear them. I now own 6! Who am I? I wear heals to church almost every Sunday, and even wear them for casual trips to the grocery store (What heals to the grocery store? Yes it is a thing).  I also wear jewelry of all sorts, almost every time I leave the house. Before moving here I think I had worn earrings 10 times in about 15 years, and every time it had to with being in a wedding. This change of clothing doesn’t just apply to me. The more drastic change is Randy. Randy dresses really nice almost every time he leaves the house. He brings all his clothes to the tailor to get them tailored to his exact size (It costs $1 an item). He will even tell me that I should probably go change every time I try and wear my flip flops out of the house.

Second, I have become accustomed to bugs. I especially noticed this when I didn’t jump up and try and kill the cockroach that ran across the floor this morning as I was reading my bible. I know that there will always be ants in my house. There will always be at least one line of ants crawling and creeping up the wall. It is normal to pick ants off my skin during the course of the day. I did spray some ant killer last weekend when they were starting to take over the kitchen. The first night we arrived 2.5 I saw lizards, cockroaches, frogs, and ants in our house and I was pretty freaked out. Now, I see those things as fairly normal.

Third, I am used to being sweaty. Being a sweaty is a part of life. I wear long sleeves and jeans when it is hot out because that is way more acceptable here then shorts and a tank top.

One of my favorite changes is that it is totally okay to stop by someone’s house uninvited. I love that that social norm has been done away with. I love that sometimes we will be eating dinner and a friend will stop by just because. I love that if I am by a friend’s house I can stop in and chat for a bit. I love the casualness of the culture, and I love that we found this as normal.

Here is list of changes that take less explaining; Randy and I both workout almost every day, we eat our biggest meal at lunch (which all Dominicans do), crazy driving barely makes us bat an eye, we are used to everyone singing and loudly at church, rain has become a welcomed relief, plantains are a normal part of our diet, power outages are normal, beautiful tropical beaches are 2 hours away. I am sure there a lot more but you get the idea.

There has also been more profound changes. Things like our family dynamic. Before becoming missionaries Randy was at work during the day doing his thing, and the kids and I were at home doing our thing.  Now we are all together all the time. Which means Randy is way more involved in parenting and we are more of a team. Randy and I have become closer because we are ministry partners. We work together, eat together, plan together, and sleep together. There are very few things that we ever do separate, we really are together all the time. I am so thankful for these things in that they bring a closeness to our family that is such an amazing blessings. This year we have also started homeschooling the kids again which has been such a blessing. I love having the kids with us and involved in our ministry.

Our support system has changed. It is amazing to see the people who reach out and encourage when you are far away, and the people who seek to know you. There is a group of people that have been so encouraging to us ever since we left. They have sought to know us and be there for us. I am so thankful for each of these people, but a lot of them are different then who I thought they would be when we left. We also have an amazing church body down here that has really embraced us and encouraged us in so many ways.

Our ideas of ministry have changed. We came down here with a certain idea of what we would do including Haitian schools and baseball. We have now decided that our ministry is our neighborhood and the people we live around. We play with kids and that includes baseball, invite people into our home, make cookies for birthdays, have started a program to helps kids with their homework, we sit on porches for hours, take people to the hospital when needed. The list goes on an on, but we have changed our perspective dramatically on what ministry looks like, and what it looks like to be intimately involved in the every day of the people’s lives around us. We are committed to be constantly looking for new ways to get to reach the people in our neighborhood for Christ.

One more is that I have become a lot more introverted. I used to be able to be with people non stop and feel completely filled when I came home. I have come to discover that I LOVE being at home. I still like to be around people, but I much more prefer the quietness of being at home. I am still trying to figure out now how to be an introvert next to a couple very extroverted children. “Mommy, will you take us to play?” is a question I am asked every day, even after working with kids all day long.

I was also impressed the other day in even how some things that used to be easy for us are now hard for us. For example, in the last month Randy has preached in Spanish twice. I was thinking about how for Randy teaching is one of the easiest things in this world. However, teaching in Spanish has made teaching super hard for him. Yikes!

Throughout the big changes and the small changes I am so thankful for the peace and security with have in the Lord. Sometimes it feels like the changes in our lives could be listed forever, but I am so thankful that we serve a God who endures forever.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalms 136:1

God has given us so much and throughout all the changes in our lives he continues to love us. Thank you Jesus!

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These are some of our favorite neighbors. I love hanging out on their porch.

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The kids and I made cookies for an event at our church. Not many people here bake, so although I am not a good baker, I have become super baker here. I just keep telling people the secret is butter. If you stop using margarine and use butter everything will taste better.

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Addie in her Easter dress. They don’t celebrate Easter here because they see it as a Catholic Holiday, but we still try and do little things to celebrate. As part of homeschooling we also did a full Passover meal. It was a lot of fun.

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This is Gordy. I forgot his birthday on Sunday. I felt so so bad, so we had a little impromptu party for him in the Sala de Tarea on Tuesday.

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Randy has recently built an aquaponics system. The basic idea is that we have huge buckets of fish that feed the rocks where plants grow. We planted seeds 6 days ago and we have REALLY big sprouts coming up. Addie and Gibson love watching the snail that crawls around the top.

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Our two sweet sweet girls

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This is Autry and his friend Estarlin. This kid comes with us to church every time we go. It has been a blessing to see.

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A birthday party for my friend at our home group.

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This little boy makes us smile every day!

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The whole family. I have realized that Randy is normally the one taking pictures so there are very few pictures with him in it. Here is us last Sunday before church at a place where the whole family can get a huge cookie for $2. We were also taking advantage of the air conditioning.

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A funny tradition is to get people wet on their birthday. All the neighbor kids were waiting for Randy with buckets of water when he came home from the bank on his birthday. Thankfully I knew what they were planning and I was able to give him some warning, so he left his wallet and cell phone in the car.

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Once a month we go to Santiago to go grocery shopping. We come back with bags and bags of groceries filled with oatmeal, rice, beans, olive oil and the like. Plus we have found its the only store we know of that sells kale. 🙂 The store also has a huge indoor playground and an awesome pet store, so the kids like going as well.

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Our kids are way more advanced educationally than any of the other kids in the neighborhood. Autry’s best friend Jitter doesn’t know how to read and barely knows math. Autry is so patient helping his friend with his homework, he helps him during our homework help program, and has been reading with him so he can learn how to read. I love seeing my boy grow up in to such a big hearted kid.

 

Marriage and 3 Ounces of Coffee

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About 14 years ago a young Randy was sitting in the library of Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary pretending to study while a young Emilie was walking through the same library looking to find someone she knew. Awkward compliments were paid, inexperienced flirting issued, and a “get together” was set to see a movie with a third friend so as to not call it a date, but this fake date turned into a real date to see a movie the next day. The movie: M Night Shyamalan’s Signs.

The plot of this movie is unimportant; however, almost prophetic was that a little girl in the movie always left nearly empty glasses of water all over the house. What began as a minor nuisance rose to an annoyance, only to be (SPOILER ALERT) the thing that saved the day in the end.  After watching this movie and spending the subsequent hours sitting in his 1985 Toyota Corola talking about this and that, Randy told Emilie he was going to marry her someday.

If this story were a movie from the 1980s, this would be the end. Two young fools look into each other’s eyes as a soft rock ballad starts to play, one of them says a memorable line and the ballad starts to crescendo, the other responds to the line with a humorous line of their own, the two share a kiss while the music blasts and the credits roll. This, though, is not how life works. Life is full of mugs with 3 ounces of coffee.

I suppose I should explain.

Just like the movie, Emilie often (awf-tuhn, noun: kind word that basically means EVERY SINGLE DAY!) leaves her coffee mug with about 3 ounces of coffee leftover. When Randy asks about the coffee or dumps it out, Emilie swears she was just about to drink it. When the milk in the coffee curdles because it’s been there for 8 days, Emilie smiles and delightfully washes it out saying how happy she is to have her favorite mug back. Again, just like the movie, this was a minor idiosyncrasy that grew into an irritation but has in recent years become a reality check in our marriage.

Does the daily…I mean often left 3 ounces of coffee bother me and do I wish it didn’t happen? You betcha. But I have realized that a marriage is comprised of two specifically flawed people. Two selfish, covetous, prideful sinners who when left on their own would end up hating each other for the sin they see in the other. Biblically speaking, a marriage is made up of two sinners who have decided to come together as a physical example of Christ and the Church. Is Emilie sinning in leaving her coffee out? Of course not, but it is certainly is a good reminder that unlike the sappy 80s movies, a biblical Christian is to, as JI Packer put it:
“Look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, then to proceed with God’s help to do just that”
In other words, a biblical marriage is not based on how your partner makes you feel, but rather your spouse is a physical reminder to maturity and an aid in your sanctification to be slowly transformed into the image of Christ.

All of us who are married are distinctly aware of our spouse’s 3 ounces of spoiled coffee that is left to rot on a table somewhere, but we must not forget our biblical mandate to be imitators of God, as beloved children and to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2). I don’t know what’s going to happen with the 3 ounces of coffee. I’m fairly sure it’s not going to be the secret to stop a race of invading aliens, but it might just help me to be more like Jesus. And in the end, this is the goal of a biblical marriage. 

 

 

 

Our God, the Faithful and Just One

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If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

~1 John 1:9

Our family tries to do nightly family bible time. It doesn’t happen every night and we often get out of the habit of doing it, but our goal is to gather as a family and spend some time in God’s word at the end of each day. The way we do it is pretty simple. We chose a book of the Bible and read a chapter each night, dad asks questions to the kids about that chapter, then the kids ask mom and dad questions about the same chapter trying to stump us. These are wonderful times, but we as parents know that the children are getting different things out of family bible time. Autry (10) can remember yesterday’s chapter, can follow not only the flow of the chapter, but also the author’s argument thought the book. This is vastly different to Gibson (5) who is simply trying to sit still long enough so he can throw out a list of people, “Jesus!? God!? Man!?” or bible words “Sin!? Love!? Grace!?” I think he probably knows the difference between God and Man or Sin and Love, but in the moment his mouth is going faster than his brain.

I wonder if we don’t do similar things when we read the Bible. When we read that we should present our bodies as living sacrifices in Romans 12 and Paul writes we should present them “holy and acceptable,” do we make distinction between those words or do we just read them quickly and mentally toss them into a general category of “good things?” Are there distinctions between Holy and Acceptable? Is there a reason Paul didn’t say Good and Acceptable or Holy and Sufficient?

If we believe the biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit (by God himself), that in the bible we can find the very Words of God, and if these Words have proved to be reliable, we probably should pay much closer attention lest we drift (Hebrews 2) from the meaning of the words God intended.

In John’s first epistle, John writes:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is an “If, Then” format which the bible is full of. The second part, our sins being forgiven and our unrighteousness being cleansed, is dependent on the first part, if we confess our sins. Or in other words, there is no forgiveness without repentance.

This then is a very basic gospel presentation: Repent and be forgiven. Both liberal and conservative Christians believe this. The breaking point comes in why God will forgive our sins if we repent. John says God forgives when we repent because he is Faithful and Just. Don’t steamroll past these two precious terms. These words are jammed with meaning and significance that, when understood, can give joy, confidence, and hope to a believer and can bring even the most harden sinner to his knees.

Faithful

The fact that God is faithful isn’t terribly difficult for us to understand. If God is good than he would not lie and if he does not lie he will be faithful to do what he has said he will do. But in what way is God faithful? The problem with our understanding of God’s faithfulness seems to be in the extent or duration of the faithfulness. I would hope most people know that God will accept the long lost sinner, but what about a normal sinner sinning for the umpteenth time? How many of us wrestle with an unbiblical lie that God is somehow surprised with our sin? How many of us have been sold a bill of goods that God rewards us for our good works or how much faith we have or how much money we give, only to punish us when we sin? This is not the God of the bible. The God of the bible allows the sacrifice of his son to pay for the sins of humans so that we can be adopted as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Once sons, that same God is not looking to find reasons why he made a bad choice. He is a faithful father who will always be so.

Just

Justness and fairness are closely tied together when properly understood, though the word Fair has been hijacked by children. In grade school the rule was, if you want to bring something to share with kids in the class you have to bring enough for everyone. This is not the fairness or justness that John the Apostle is ascribing to God. John is saying that God is Just in a legal sense. God is just (think justice) in that he will always render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury (Romans 2:6-8). This is very, very bad news.
The good news though is that Jesus was made to be sin though he knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:25). God’s wrath has been satisfied against those who believe and follow Jesus. God’s justness comes into play here in that, since his wrath has been satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice, he will never again bring those crimes agains us. Our sin is paid for. Our account is void of the debt we owe and that debt has been replaced with the credit Jesus earned with his perfect life.

What else could we do but to respond to these two gloriously rich words that the Holy Spirit penned through the direct will of Himself and the Apostle John, but to praise our Just and Faithful God, in whose presence we have access to by Jesus Christ our Lord?

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

Jude 24-25

 

 

 

 

 

Our friend Jiiter

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This is Jitter.

Jitter is 9 years old and lives next door to us with his Dad, Grandma, his sister, his uncle, his cousin and a handful of other adults in a small house without running water or a bathroom. Those names are not necessarily factually correct, but just what Jitter calls those people. In reality, the “dad” is really his grandma’s boyfriend, the “grandma” is really his great great (or great great great) grandma, his “sister” is probably a half sister or aunt or niece or third cousin, the uncle is probably a cousin to one of the other adults that he lives with, and the cousins are probably somehow related to him or at least have a connection with his family tree in some way, shape, or form.

Confused yet? Let me try to help: Think of Jitter’s family like the guests on the old Jerry Springer show, they’re all related, though no one knows exactly how, and disfunction reigns supreme.

As far as we can figure out, Jitter’s real mom was pretty young with she had him and no one knows who that real dad is. We don’t know exactly how young his birth mother is, but his grandmother is maybe 40 and we’re not sure if the lady he calls his grandmother is his grandmother or his grandmother’s grandmother. This lady, the grandmother’s grandmother, is seemingly the only stable person who could take care of Jitter. Of course, when I say “take care of,” what I mean is that it’s in her house that Jitter sleeps and she is ultimately in charge of his well being.

Jitter is in second grade. He can’t read, write, or do math and he misses school all the time because he sleeps in. But this year he’s in school; that’s a big from last year. Last year, his parents pulled him out of school to get back at the school and his teacher. The school, because his dad (step grandfather) is a painter and the school hired someone else to paint the school after hearing what the dad (step grandfather) was going to charge them. The teacher because, and I swear I’m not making this up, his second grade teacher last year was supposedly trying to steal Jitter’s aunt’s boyfriend from her so the aunt stabbed her in the back. That’s not an idiom or play on words. The aunt heard the teacher was trying to steal her man so she took a kitchen knife, walked to the school, and stabbed the teacher as she was running away. After that happened, the family took Jitter out of school as a way to get even.

Jitter’s life is complicated.

Though through all this, Jitter is a sweet little boy. Yes, he gets angry and fights with kids, it’s true he not a very motivated worker, and he’s not very smart, but Jitter is a nice boy. In our neighborhood there are not very many nice boys. It is palpable how much Jitter longs for a normal family. He’s always at the house helping Emilie with something or hanging out with Autry or tagging along with Randy when he does stuff. He will do absolutely anything if asked.

“Hey Jitter, take these 10 pesos and go to the store and buy us some toilet paper.”
“Right away!”
“Hey Jitter, I forget my keys, will you climb up over the gate and open it from the inside?”
“Of course!”
“Hey Jitter, can you stack the chairs the rest of the kids forgot to do before they left.”
“Anything for you!”

Randy and Jitter have a pretty special relationship. Jitter adores Randy. Maybe it’s because Randy is the adult male in Jitter’s life that cares for him, maybe it’s because Randy talks through with Jitter the eventual effects of Jitter’s poor decision making instead of just hitting him, or maybe it’s simply because Jitter is faking it because he thinks he will eventually get something out of the relationship, Jitter is constantly looking for affection and affirmation from Randy. Luckily for Jitter, Randy has enough to go around.

We desperately want Jitter to be saved from his sins through the hearing of the biblical, grace centered Gospel of Jesus. We drag him to church every Sunday and he hears the Gospel every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at our after school program. We want to see Jitter rise above his family and make mature decisions after having been discipled. We want to someday hear that Jitter is happily married to a godly woman and working hard at some job somewhere. But we know this will not happen apart from the sovereign plan of God.

Honestly, we are not sure how this works, but the bible seems pretty clear that God is sovereign in all things and that he commands his people to pray. We don’t tell you Jitter’s story to make you feel bad or to have you give us money so we can buy Jitter a bunch of stuff that moth and rust can destroy. We are telling you this story to ask you to pray that Jitter’s life will be transformed. That his eyes would be opened, so that he may turn from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). That he would reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). That he would be delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). That he would confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9) That he, who is currently far off, will be brought near by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:13).

Please pray for Jitter and pray also for us, that we would be bold to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).

Snapshots of the Day

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.

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The day Must start with Coffee. I make our coffee out to of this little contraption every morning and drink out of this exact mug. I have had had this mug for about 12 years. I had one that was the same but a different color, but I dropped it our first couple months in the Dominican. #BESTMUGEVER 

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Most days this is where Gibson is during school. He is on the floor playing legos. He participates when it is his time to participate but he also plays a lot of legos. Kindergarten math and reading don’t take quite as long as the subjects for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. 

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Here’s our school center. Most of the time this table is completely covered by books by the end of the day. I think I must have just had them clear it. 

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Here is Randy changing a light bulb in our backyard. Yes, we actually have two lightbulbs up in our huge mango tree. If you look at the trunk you will see the leg of his little helper. 

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Bikes our a big part of kid life here in our neighborhood. Everyone wants a bike and rides all day long up and down the streets. Its kind of like camping watching the kids go around and around the loop.  Having a bike pump is very useful, but if you have one expect it to be borrowed pretty consistently. 

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Here’s the beginning of lunch. It will eventually be a mixture of rice, beans, and meat. I like to put lots of veggies in too. I make my own version of dominican food. 

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Here’s Addie on our balcony. In the afternoon it is completely shaded and a nice breeze is always blowing. Its the best place to be in the afternoon and our kids play on it all the time

School, to do or not to do, that is the question…

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?

Miguel: No

Emilie: Do you have homework?

Miguel: Yes

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?

Danaline: 135

Emilie: No, if you have 112 pieces of candy and I take away 42 pieces, will you have more candy than you started with?

Danaline: Yes?

We figure out that one and onto the next

Emilie: Ok Danaline how many times does 16 go into 16

Danaline: 4?

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?

Jeter: No

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

Jeter: Yes

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

 

 

If God is for us, who can be against us?

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.

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Me (Emilie) with some of the kids who were there to welcome us back

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?