CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

I remember when I was child. Although my children think that is was a very long time ago, the vivid memories still live in my mind.
Just as I can easily recall the early years of my life, so will the children of our center one day. The day will come when they are adults. What will they have to say about us then? Will they look back in joy at their childhood because others from afar cared for them?
God has a dream for each of them. His dream was embedded upon their lives at conception. His dreams are not limited to our environments, yet we live without even knowing what they are at times.
We don’t want that to happen to the children at the Cien Fuegos HOPE Center! It is our desire to see each one of them walk out God’s design for their lives. Thus, it is imperative that we all stand for them. Let’s continue this great work in transforming lives. Let’s link arms for the sake of these blessings in Cien Fuegos. They are worth every effort.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

A Pathway to H.O.P.E

She awakened to the rooster crowing once again. The cold morning air was a bit too much for her today, would her mom every buy blankets? The wet mattress that she shared with her siblings was a little too much today. The cold outside air kept her shivering as she awakened her little sister to get her dried up before mom caught her wet in the bed once again. Why couldn’t her bladder hold out until morning? She lowered a bucket into the large barrel that stood outside her house, she only needed a small amount of water to boil for a bath. She would share a bath with her sister. They would stand together on the small patch of cement out back and pour water all over their naked bodies. Just a little water, there was no soap today. As she raised the bucket into the barrel, it was empty. “Not again”, she thought. Not today, today she was turning 13. Today she wanted a bath. But there was no bath. She crept into the living area of their shack and fished through the piles of dirty laundry. She just had to find something for her younger sister to wear, something that didn’t smell like urine. Then she remembered the small bag of clothes that her little sister received at the Center yesterday. She searched for the bag, hoping that her mom didn’t sell the new clothes for today’s meal. Happily she found the pink dress and panties and carefully changed her little sister’s clothes. Her other 4 siblings were up by now. Everyone searching for something to eat, but there was nothing to be found. Nothing. They didn’t even have any drinking water. Mom was up too. She tried her best to smile as mom gave her a birthday hug and told her that she loved her. She still didn’t understand love, she was hungry. As she walked her siblings to school that morning she was approached by a handsome man in the neighborhood. He had a house not far from hers. She heard that at his house, she could find food, blankets and water. He gave her a birthday hug that made her feel special inside. He asked her out for a date that night. He was 23, she was 13. She went out with him that night. He said that he loved her and she now believed that she knew what love was. She moved out of her house a few weeks later to become his live in girlfriend. Within a few months, she was pregnant. Within the year, he was beating her and bringing other women into the home. She endured, where else would she go? After a few years, he kicked her out, she wasn’t pretty enough for him anymore. She became a prostitute. She sold herself to feed her children. She didn’t know what else to do. She didn’t know where else to go. Her children ended up at the Center, they now have a meal each day and she gets the help that she needs to stay off the street.

SPONSOR A CHILD TODAY AND BECOME A PATHWAY TO H.O.P.E.

THIS STORY IS A COMBINATION OF STORIES OF DIFFERENT FAMILIES AT OUR CENTER, IT IS NOT A TRUE VERSION OF ONE PERSON. 

Unheard Voices

Most of us live each day expressing our hearts or our needs knowing that they will be fulfilled. Basic needs like a safe home or clean water for bathing, drinking and cooking. Have you lived a lifetime not really knowing where your next meal would come from? Do your children wander the streets barefoot while you search day and night for work, just to return empty handed?

Each time I walk into our children’s center in Cien Fuegos I hear voices that the world never hears. Voices like little Carlos that begged me for a piece of bread because he was too hungry to wait for lunch. I also heard beautiful sounds from innocent children who sang with all of their hearts to God. Such a lovely rendition of His work, but the world did not hear.

These precious lives have voices that must be heard. They cry out for understanding, but no one hears. The plead for justice, did they ask to be born into poverty?

What will we do with these voices? We can not stand by and just let them shout alone. We know that they are there, but we close our ears.

These children need you. It doesn’t take much to ensure that Carlos gets a meal each day. It only takes $30/month to make their voices heard. 

Please sponsor a child today! Your sponsorship will save their lives and create better opportunities for the next generation.

Sponsor a Child

I was astonished once again as we drove through Cien Fuegos.The dirt roads and pot holes had already blown me away! Some houses were wooden, some were made of a tin material. Most of these homes do not have bathrooms nor running water.

Some children in this sector of Santiago, Dominican Republic dig through the garbage dump for scrap metal to sell for food. Many of these precious ones don’t go to school.

I am amazed each time I take the 20 minute drive to the place that is translated “100 Fires”. Sometimes I wonder how those precious children and my sweet children share this island, yet their lives are so distinct. “We must do something about this,” were the words of one of my sons, “we can’t keep allowing those children to suffer that way.”

So we did! We provide spiritual growth, education and meals to these lovely children Monday-Thursday. Join us as we embrace the lives of these children and their families. Sponsor a child today for only $30/month and change a life forever!

Love Never Fails

IMG_20160225_073638It was a lovely day on HOPE Mountain. The birds were chirping, the trees swayed in the wind, the weather was perfect-not too hot with just the right breeze. It was quiet. No one was here except for my girls and they were busy with their own activities.

Since today is Holy Saturday, the government blessed us with electricity all day! This meant that I could use my Keurig as much as I wanted because I wouldn’t drain our battery operated inverter. This means all types of coffee all day…what a happy day!

With coffee in hand, I sat on my balcony and enjoyed the view. I never tire of watching God’s amazing creation. So, I sat there for hours. I caught up with friends on Facetime. I watched episodes of my favorite reality TV show, Mary Mary. I laughed with my girls when they’d peek outside to check on me. I cried as I watched and read testimonies of how God worked on the hearts of people who’ve spent time up here.

As you can probably see, I was having a great day!

As I enjoyed my day, I saw my housekeeper talking on the phone. She sat on a lounge chair by the pool with her shoulders slumped over and her head in her hands. I knew that she would interrupt my sweet happy place when her call ended, so I tried hard to forget that she was there.

I know, the missionary who is supposed to always walk in love wasn’t feeling it at the moment! You see, I was tired! Life has been non-stop and I was so glad to have a day all to myself. It was all about me. So I glued my eyes to my Ipad screen as Erica and Tina had it out on Mary Mary while my hurting housekeeper stood at the screen door waiting for me to acknowledge her. I mean, today was all about me…right?

I guess not!

I pushed pause and invited her into my space.

She and I have had many intimate conversations before, but I’ve never seen her this distraught. Never this overwhelmed!

She began to divulge the details of her phone call. It was sad. The result of a lifetime of choices that just seem right at the moment, but you never stopped to ask for advice nor to consider the consequences.

Well now, she has to face those consequences. And it’s not easy.

Though her intentions have been pure from the beginning, they’ve been misunderstood. That misunderstanding is causing her pain today.

So what would one do in that situation?

Most would rise up to defend themselves. That’s what she wanted to do. Truthfully, her defense would make sense-to her anyway.

The sad reality is that most people choose to hold on to bitterness, no matter how hard you try to make things right. I’ve been there…on both sides.

So I listened. As I listened, I prayed to God for forgiveness for my selfishness as she spoke. Conviction hit me right smack dab in the heart. How could I so badly want today to be all about me when one is hurting right next to me?

As she spoke, I thought about my own bitterness.

I thought about my own sin of holding on to pain. 

I thought about my own sin of wanting to defend myself.

I thought about my own sin of wanting everyone to understand me.

I thought about my own sin of waiting to see those who’ve hurt me suffer.

Yes, I saw my own evil heart in her story!

When she finished speaking, she looked at me with those same searching eyes that I’ve seen so many times before. She needed HOPE and she figured I could fulfill that need.

So, I asked God to forgive me again. This time for the sins of my heart. Then I asked Him for words for her.

I opened my mouth and these words came out, “Love never fails.”

I talked to her about love. I told her that her only recourse was to love that person because it’s the only thing that works. No other way works. No other risk is worth taking.

There is no trying so hard to make the other understand when we love.

There is no fighting to get my own way when we love.

There is no double mindness when we love.

There is no getting the other person back when we love.

Love hurts. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes it takes all you’ve got. Sometimes it leaves you breathless. Sometimes it drains you. Sometimes it pierces your very heart.

Love makes hard choices.

Love reacts with love.

Love chooses to move forward when everything around you says to stop.

Love decides to forget.

Love starts anew.

Love is an action that is reserved for the mighty. You can’t be weak and call yourself a lover.

Love pursues.

Love continues.

Love persists.

Love gets back up each time it’s knocked down.

Love can’t stay down.

As I finished my discourse, she wept. So did I.

Her problems shone a light on my problems. The answer to her pain is the same answer to mine. Love never fails for God is love and God will never fail.

So I guess today really was for me after all. God reminded me of who I am today. I am loved by Him and filled with His Spirit, thus positioned and able to love all.

As we carry on in our quest called life, let’s love. Though it may sometimes tear us apart, let’s trust that our God will put us back together and keep us in tact.

As I continue to enjoy the beauty of HOPE Mountain, I will keep myself willing and available to all God brings my way.

 

 

 

HOPE Mountain is More than a Mountain

IMG_9237-573The buses rolled in through the gate as we quickly gathered the few items on the clotheslines. Loads of people unloaded each bus with excitement. They were familiar with the atmosphere. Some ran towards the hammocks to swing and to rest. Others to the river for a quick dip. Some to the lounge chairs that line the wrap around porch. Some stood around the pool to gaze at the beautiful mountains, while others headed to the pavilion for shade.

Everyone had a place. This is their home away from home.

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People were everywhere. Every visible part of HOPE Mountain enjoyed this invasion. This place was meant for them. God created our planet for people. God adjusted the atmosphere for people. God sent His only Son to die and to rise for people.

Yes, for people who were once dead, God brings life.

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Lives that were once broken and lost have found HOPE on this mountain. Lives that had no peace and no joy are alive now. This mountain has united our IEVC churches. It’s a place of HOPE for our ministry leaders.

This mountain is more than a mountain.

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It’s a place of refuge. It’s a dream restorer. It’s a faith lifter. It’s a HOPE rebuilder. All of this for people. For people like you and me. For children who cry at night and long to be wrapped in loving arms. For women who don’t know how valuable they are. For men who don’t know what it truly means to lead. For teens who search for love in the wrong places.

All of the above have found answers here on this mountain. My own frazzled life has found peace here. HOPE Mountain lives up to its name every day!

As the lovely people from our churches enjoy a meal together, laughter exuded in our midst. Happy faces enjoyed the moro and stewed pork. This is the food that warms their hearts. This is the moment that will create a special memory.

After our meal, we were ushered to the pavilion to worship our Savior together. Brothers and sisters from four different parts of the Dominican Republic together under one roof worshiping God. The God who created all of this. The God who made it all for people. Yes, for these people.

He provided a ransom for them. He gives HOPE to them. And He let us be a part of the process. He’s allowed you and me to watch the people transformation come to life. It’s amazing.

 

One such transformation is of a precious young lady who came to me a few years ago asking for prayer. She said she had grown up in church, but left home and the church to move in with her boyfriend. At that point, they had one child and very little income. I prayed for her and asked her to return to Christ, but she refused. She didn’t want a relationship with Christ to interfere with her boyfriend. My heart was saddened for her, but I kept praying. I encouraged her every time I saw her and made it a habit to invite her to church.

After experiencing difficulties after the birth of her second child. she began to attend our Los Cerritos church. She began to remember the joys of a life with Christ. She was ripe. She was ready.

Under our pavilion, with those from all of our churches surrounding her, she gave her life to Christ. Our lovely Angela Weir led her to the Lord that day. My heart was overwhelmed with joy and reminded of why we can’t give up on anyone.

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As the buses rolled away that day, my heart was full. There is nothing like being involved in a life transformation. I’m so honored that God has allowed me to join Him in this process. Thank you for your support in allowing us to make this happen.

 

Rebuild the City!

Isaiah 61:4 Then they will rebuild cities that have been in ruins for many generations. Contemporary English Version

I remember the dirt roads and the dirt floor homes made out of cardboard or cheap tin. I remember when Cien Fuegos was a place where no one wanted to be, day or night. Every crime imaginable existed there. Education wasn’t an option. Churches were hard to find.

That was a long time ago. Ruben and I were dating back then. We would sometimes venture out to visit people who were special to Ruben. I tagged along because I was young and in love and wanted to spend every waking moment with him. Little did I know that many years later, we’d make a change there.

Many of those dirt roads are now paved. Those cardboard homes are now wood or concrete.

Yet, the city still seemed ruined. The sins of the past lingered into today. Drugs, prostitution, incest, no education and a plethora of other abuses exist. It’s like a reminder of yesterday. A stronghold that won’t let go.

In the midst of poverty, dissapointment and despair rests a center of hope.

God has given us the grand opportunity to reach deeply into the lives of one hundred children who otherwise would be ruined. We have the chance to rebuild the ruins of yesterday in order to bring strength and hope tomorrow.

Today is our day to change lives.

As we are persistent in tearing down strongholds, God is faithful to give us the victory.

Little girls at our center are not suffering abuse any longer. They are safe. They understand their rights. Their parents have been made aware of ways to protect their children. But most of all, they know that they are loved.

Little boys at our center have opportunities that didn’t exist before. They are dreaming of careers other than selling drugs or pimping. They have hope. They know that they are loved.

We’ve all played a part in this rebuilding of a city. You send in donations. We use them to pay our teachers and director, feed the children and provide a safe environment for them.

We still need your help.

These children’s lives will only continue to get better if we keep our doors open.

Please give today.  $2500/month would make this center all of what we dream it to be. We need 50 peope to give $50 each month to make that dream a reality.

A changed life. Hope for tomorrow. A secure place in heaven. All of the above and more in exchange for $50.

Just like those dirt roads became pavement, these lives will become prominent leaders for Christ in their city.

Thanks for giving today!

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To My Missionary Friends

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My heart is connected to the hearts of missionaries everywhere. We embarked upon a journey that truly threw us for a loop. We learned a few things prior to our venture. We even interviewed others who went before us. We took vision trips to our far-a-way land. We fasted and we prayed. We educated ourselves of the basic laws of that land. We studied the scriptures and the lives of the missionary monarchs.

We packed our belongings and let go of the things we cherished. We “burned our bridges” so we thought and “packed our coffins” as we were told. We told our children that this would be an amazing adventure and left our homelands bright eyed and excited to share the gospel.

We moved with the momentum that fueled us. This was it. We made it!

All of that preparation. All of that asking. All of that praying. To get us here. We made it!

Our children who once had comfortable beds now sleep on floors and combat mosquitos throughout the night. Our children used to be happy, now they cry throughout the night because they miss their family and their friends back home. They miss the normalcy of life, like running water all the time.

There was a time when we could run to a fast food place when mom didn’t feel like cooking. That life is over!

And it hurts!

Little things hurt.

Like switching on the light switch to no avail. Like trying your best to tell your neighbor the truth of why you are here just to have them stare you blankly in the face because they can’t understand your broken language!

Like disagreeing with your spouse. Oh, how the fights escalate on the field.

Like wondering why you ever came here in the first place.

Am I being too real for you missionary friend?

Just let yourself go there for a minute.

Most of us would agree that we weren’t prepared for most of what we’ve faced here.

Sure, we know the bible. We’ve got evangelism techniques down packed. We have great book knowledge of cross cultural living, but only living it could actually give us the knowledge we need to thrive.

Lets face it. Its a hard life. So hard that so many end up going back home. Don’t feel bad if you do. You’ve got to do what is best for you.

The sad truth is that the friends and family we left behind don’t really get it. I mean, they can take our “whining” for a while, but give it some time and they are ready to withdraw their support and tell us to come back home.

That was my life. We lived that way for a long time. Behind the apparent successes in ministry were tears of agony, lack of funds, bickering and disillusion.

So to you, the new one on the field, or the veteran who just never wanted to be vulnerable. Stop for a second. Okay, for more than a second and take these steps.

  1. Re-evaluate yourself. Do this before God. Allow Him to search your heart. Let Him deal with what really shouldn’t be there. I’ve realized that opening myself up to Him first makes way for others to pour into my life. Take the time everyday to let Him uproot the roots of pain that leaving home caused. Most times, missionary work will bring out the worse in us. I believe that God allows this in order to get to the best in us. We cannot continue to serve with sinful, hurting and broken hearts. We must take the time to allow God to heal us. So stop each day and get on your healing journey with God.
  2. Thank God for the small things. It’s so important to thank Him everyday for everything. Your children need to see you do this. Thank Him for water and for electricity. Thank Him for meals, no matter how small they may be. Thank Him for blankets if you sleep on the floor. Thank Him for limbs if you have to walk because you don’t have a car. Turn your griping into gratefulness. Many times our grateful hearts usher in God’s provision. Don’t do it just because you want Him to provide, but know that provision comes slower to those who complain. So learn to focus on what you do have and give Him thanks for it!
  3. Sanctify your marriage. Sanctify simply means to set apart. Your marriage is important. It really should be your priority. I know that life changes on the field. Our lives become open books to strangers around us because we have to live with our doors open (its hot in my country)! Our homes soon become a place of refuge for so many others. Mission groups from the states swarm our abode and supporters consistently want to know what’s going on. Our children get sick and many spend days at a time in the hospital. Plus, we spend most of our days together so we think that we had quality time. NOT! Go on dates. If you have no money, so what! Take a walk together while holding hands. Sit on the porch together and talk. Watch movies on youtube at home. Read a book together. Just do something of quality together with out distractions each week. I know its hard, but don’t talk about ministry. Don’t talk about the kids. Don’t talk about family and friends back home. Encourage one another. Find little things about one another that’s uplifting. Hey, in the worse situation you could possible face as a couple, know that keeping what you have as a couple is of utmost importance; so try hard to find something good to say about one another. Make yourselves remember why you became a couple in the first place and build upon that. Let everyone in your life know that this relationship is of utmost priority by separating a special time for this each week.
  4. Get help when you need it. Let yourself be vulnerable. Its not easy to let people in on what’s really going on in your life, but its necessary if you want to thrive on the field. Listen friends, if you need help, please ask for help! Stop thinking that you can do this alone because you can’t. You will only turn into a bitter and unapproachable human being that on one will want to be around. So you embarked upon missionary life to be alone? Thats senseless. Accountability is of utmost importance, especially when you are out there on your own. Try counseling, your pastor from back home, other missionaries on the field, an old friend, something! Just don’t fool yourself by thinking that you can do it alone because you can’t. And this is coming from a controlling introvert who prefers to be alone and to handle life all by myself in my sweet little house on my mountain! So, if I can do it, I know you can.
  5. Do whatever it takes to show your children they are loved and treasured by you. In the midst of reaching the lost, learning a new language, adjusting to a new life, trying to truly stretch a buck and all of the in between-our children oftentimes get lost. I’ve come to realize that they have their own struggles with this new life that we overlook because we’re so caught up in our own. Our witness to the communities we serve would carry much more weight if they could see us truly loving our children. So you’ll have to sanctify this relationship too. Each child will need time with you. For me, that’s eight! It doesn’t matter if you have one child or 21 like Mrs. Duggar, each will need you. They will always be your mission, even when they leave home! Do what you must for them. Start today!

Missionary friends, I’ve been there. I’ve been on that down side of fright and sadness. The neat thing about suffering is that our correct reaction only ushers in our Savior. He is a pro at grand entrances.

His grand entrance into my circumstances didn’t always come the way I wanted or expected, but he always showed up! And He always will.

Even after making countless mistakes in each of the above areas, He was faithful to come through for me.

There is good news for you too. Yes, that same Good News for which you gave it all up to shake your life by moving overseas is yours. John 3:16, the simple scripture we teach our three year olds and pray they take hold of in life. The same verse that we memorized in our new foreign tongue to share with those around us. Yes, it belongs to you right now, right where you are. God so loved you that He gave you His only begotten Son, so if you believe in Him, that He is with you right now, you won’t perish in this current situation, your eternal life begins today. That’s my version. I’m no bible scholar, but I am a student of my Father. He overcomes in my life everyday. He shines His light in every dark place and brings HOPE even when I can’t seem to grasp it. Take hold of Him today my friend. He hasn’t forgotten you.

Christmas Joy

It took me an entire day to put up our Christmas decorations. I was a little frazzled as we carefully moved around the covered living room floor. Bows, ribbons, lights, ornaments, tree branches and glitter was everywhere!  I hurried to get the tree done, put up two wreaths, two stockings, then I packed up the rest and hid it all in the garage!

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It’s nice to sit in a well ordered living room again, but I keep thinking about the boxes in the garage! The windows could use some wreaths and the outside bushes would look nice if I put those lights on them. The staircase could take some ribbons and our family of 10 is missing the other 8 stockings!

My mind and my heart battle over this. I really don’t feel like doing it, yet the memories of these little things live on in the minds of my children for years to come. For them, its worth it. 

A small thing that seems so insignificant to me or to my older children means everything to the little ones we still have running around this house. Thinking of my own children oftentimes causes me to think of the children at our centers.

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Most of them can’t afford decorations for their homes, so we’ve gone to great lengths to keep the centers decorated for Christmas. Many of them won’t receive a gift for Christmas, so we try our best to give them a present each year.

Christmastime is a joyous occasion. Let’s share that joy with these children.

Please take a minute to stop what you are doing right now to give a donation towards the Christmas of the children at our centers. You can CLICK HERE right now to make Christmas special to a child who more than likely won’t receive a gift if we don’t provide it.

You have been so good at providing for our children, please continue to do the same. MAKE YOUR DONATION TODAY AND MAKE A CHILD SMILE.

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A Face of Change

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Faces surround us. Expressions of despair, joy, compassion, fear and a vast array of other emotions are on display everywhere. The face-the outward-of what is in us. It serves as a mask and as a gateway to our hearts.

Faces like Carlitos. He’s precious. We found ourselves in need of more help on HOPE Mountain and this cherished face came to mind.

Some warned, “Be careful, there have been rumors of him stealing.”

We listened to the warnings, but our hearts sang a different tune, “He needs to know that he’s loved.”

So we took a chance. We went out on a limb and hired him. We are so glad we did. He and Ruben spend a few minutes talking about life every day, “Everyone has to make a choice Carlitos.” I can hear Ruben say as his student carefully listens, “Wrong choices are all around us. Choose to do what’s right. I believe you can.”

It’s interesting how such simple words transform lives.

Because Ruben believed, Carlitos changed.

He saw this belief wasn’t just words, it was displayed every time we left him alone on HOPE Mountain with all of our belongings.

One of our visiting teams gave him a bible and he reads it every day. Some evenings, he sits at our massive table to tell  us the stories he’s learning in that grand black book.

I won’t forget the day he came running to me with a five hundred peso bill in hand, “Vicki, I found this at the gate. I think someone dropped it.” He didn’t keep it for himself.

“Vicki, my little sisters need school supplies. Can you help them?” It was my pleasure. He didn’t help himself, he knows where we keep the school supplies.

This is just one face of the many we’ve seen transform while in the Dominican Republic. A special face that takes our breath away-every day. His life will never be the same again, simply because someone believed in him. And because you believed in us, we can share in his metamorphosis together.