Well Done

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Imagine the scene. Friends and family meeting us at the airport while the morning was still dark to bid final farewells. Dad being pushed by mom through the airport in a wheel chair. He broke his Achilles tendon at our going away party. Eight kids in tow, each loaded down with carry on bags, blankets and pillows for the trip.

Or was it a journey? Perhaps a quest?

Yes, a quest into a dream that was beginning to take form.

We were on our way to live in the Caribbean. We were on a mission to bring the HOPE of Christ to our precious Dominicans.

To those who shared the same birthplace as my husband. To those whose blood runs through my children’s veins. Dominicans.

Smack dab in between Cuba and Puerto Rico. On the same island as Hispaniola, shared with Haiti. In the very midst of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

To a place far away from what was the norm for us, yet close, so close to the heart of God.

He called dad. Like Esther, it was for such a time as this. His call to dad reached into the hearts of our clan. We all gathered around him and willingly followed. He didn’t force us. “We won’t go if its just one who says that they aren’t willing,” he would say while we prepared to leave. Our love and trust for him outweighed our jitters. We were willing to take a chance on his dream.

Then, God moved on our hearts.

I remember filming our first fundraising video. The laughter that day will never be forgotten. The soul searching that went on was real. The inward questioning of our own reasons for doing this permeated the air. If we made this quest all about dad, we would’ve failed. 

We let God show us that we were also a part of this plan.

So like a bunch of awkward looking folks, we boarded that plane into the unknown.

Sure, we’d been to the Dominican Republic before. We also spoke Spanish fluently. We were accustomed to the food. We were familiar with the culture. We had family there. 

Yet, it seemed so foreign at first. 

I remember our first home there. No toilet seats. Freezing cold water. Unstable electricity. Mosquitos that devoured every inch of our skin. Loud music outside each night. The clanging sound of Spanish in our ears over and over again.

The loneliness.

Sleeping on the floor.

The tears.

The questioning.

Realizing that we weren’t as familiar with the culture as we thought was enough to make us want to pack it all up and go home. Noticing that there were all types of Dominican foods we knew nothing about kept us in a state of despair.

Oh, and the ache in our hearts when we learned that the land we went there to purchase was not for sale. The disappointment we faced felt tragic.

It seemed as if we would never get ahead.

Setbacks seemed to be the norm that first year. It was hard.

Yet, in the midst of the hard, God shed His HOPE upon us. We were there to give HOPE, but we needed it ourselves. 

God proved faithful. We learned that we can’t give what we didn’t posses.

HOPE became our song in the night. We wouldn’t loosen our grip on HOPE. It was like walking uphill during a mudslide. But you know, we made it up that hill.

Some of our clan is living in the states now, but they still are a part of this quest. They support in huge ways. They suffered the discomfort so that others today can find comfort. They set the trail ablaze so that others could clearly see in the dark.

Sometimes we just have to make ourselves remember. We can’t forget how hard it was to reach today. We must force ourselves to acknowledge what others did to make our lives a little better. In doing so, we will live in a hopeful state of mind.

HOPE becomes a domino effect when we cling to its message. Christ is our HOPE.

We are still on our quest. We’re simply further ahead than before. We will continue to travel this road and bring as many people as possible with us.

We will arrive and when we do, our Savior will be staring us in the eyes with His arms wide open and proclaiming, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…well done.”

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Anxiety flees…Peace arrives

My head rested comfortably on my special “flight pillow” as the plane ascended. Here I am, once again on a flight back to the USA.

A few years ago, I would’ve jumped with joy at the chance to take a trip back home. Its funny how I’ve changed. Now, a trip back home is flying back to the Dominican Republic and driving up my mountain. Yes, HOPE Mountain is home to me these days.

Anxiety holds me tight as I freeze under a blanket and wrapped in my grandmother’s sweater. I can’t relax, even though I got no sleep last night. Just worry. Fear. Wonder of what happens tomorrow.

I’ve known for years that my legal immigration status in the Dominican Republic needed to be corrected. So many of us foreigners lived without worry because we knew that we could just pay a tax when leaving, thus the process of becoming a resident didn’t weigh us down. My situation was even better. As a missionary, I was exempt from that tax, so I could stay there as long as I wanted without a worry.

But like an unwanted rodent in the night, the law changed. It changed and we weren’t even notified! We found out when it seemed to be too late.

So now, here I go, back to the USA to work out our Dominican residency issues. Away from home. The DR law requires us to obtain our Dominican residency in our country of citizenship. I have to work out these immigration issues at a Dominican consulate in the states.

It seems so not right. So untimely. So unfortunate. 

The ladies on my mountain were finally opening up to me. Our churches are finally seeing the numeric and the spiritual growth we’ve longed to see. We are experiencing salvations and baptisms almost every week!

Our property is as peaceful as ever. Our children centers have the order we’ve longed for and HOPE sings in the air! All while I’m sitting on an airplane!

My heart cries for the our ministry in the DR, not for DR consul in DC!

And the anxiety! It won’t let me go. I prayed all day yesterday-even throughout the night. Why so much fear?

Perhaps I’m afraid of our supporters. What will they think of me when they see me in the states once again? Why does that thought make me tense?

Perhaps the ladies won’t open up any more? Or the churches will become desolate or the property may turn into a non-cared for jungle again or the centers will become chaotic or HOPE’s melody will cease.

Oh, and there is always a need for money! Children won’t eat at the centers if there is no money. Our teacher’s won’t get paid without money. The church’s rent, the musicians, the projects, nothing would happen without money!

I can’t understand. Worry is really trying its best to grip me.

I’ve begun a new prayer journey. My prayers have become more direct and written out with scriptures attached. They’ve been effective. Straight forward. Hitting its target. Serious. Forceful. Meaningful. That’s what my prayers have been lately.

Perhaps the anxiety, fear and worry is a counter attack.

Perhaps the enemy wants me to focus on my false reality and not on my true reality, who is a Person, Christ Jesus!

So, to remain consistent with my prayer journey, I pray, “Why so downcast Oh my soul, put your HOPE in God. And Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” I fight back and I win.

My hope rests in my God.

He drew the ladies, not me.

He grew the churches, not me.

He brought the order to the centers, not me.

He brought the tranquility and peace, He is the HOPE that is proclaimed in the atmosphere, not me.

And He provides, not humans. He has never, ever let me down. He won’t stop now.

So I choose to fear Him, not man. Not any man.

He sees my insanity and He provides clear direction. He forgives my iniquities. He is full of grace. His grace is poured out upon me now.

So, I’ll drink my watered down American coffee on this flight; just to keep warm. I’ll snuggle up in my grandmother’s sweater and blanket and lay my weary head on my pillow. He knows what tomorrow holds. My life and HOPE Dominican Republic is in His loving and faithful hands.

Reach Out and Believe…He’s Passing By

As I sit on my favorite chair in my special spot on our massive wrap around porch, I can’t help but rejoice in the sounds outside my gate. Little girls running and laughing and not far behind them, I hear their mom. She’s laughing too.

The mom who no one believed in. The mom who simply yearned for someone to tell her that she was valuable.

She stood at my gate a few days ago and called. My heart leaped to see that it was her. This one. The one who has been extremely unapproachable. The one who wasn’t interested in looking me in my eye. The one who walked by and never said, “Hello.” She was at my side gate calling me. “Vicki, thank you for helping my son. Thank you for teaching him what’s right and what’s wrong.” She held her head up,  “And thank you for helping me to be different, for teaching me that I’m a treasure. I’m not the same anymore. You told me I have value and I believe you.”

My eyes welled up in tears. She believes me.

I remember her walking pass my gate in the past and yelling at her girls the entire walk to their small house which sits hidden within our sweet Dominican jungle. I remember how she spent her days doing nothing as life continued and her children roamed. I remember how the neighbors talked and talked and talked about her infidelities, “She’ll do anything for money,” they’d say.  Not anymore.

Simply because she believed me.

Like the woman at the well. She believed. She believed that she could be different. She believed that this man could give her living water. She believed and her belief caused many to come to the loving arms of Our Savior. What if Jesus hadn’t passed through Samaria that day?

Like the woman with the issue of blood. She believed too. Her belief caused power to flow from our Savior. Her faith made her well. What if He didn’t choose to go with Jairus to heal his daughter that day?

The passing by of our Savior brings life. He brings HOPE. He brings change.

What if I hadn’t come to live on this mountain? In this jungle? What if I had chosen to stay put and comfortable?

For that mom’s sake and for my own-I’m so overjoyed that I made the right choice.

What about you? Where do you see Him passing by in your life? Grab on to where He is and don’t let go. His presence brings transformation which yields a metamorphosis of ashes to beauty in the lives of everyone around you.

What should you believe right now?

Your shift in your convictions will cause the trajectory of so many lives to alter. Make the hard choice today to believe that His HOPE is evident and available to you at this very moment. Do it now. Don’t wait. He’s passing by, reach out and believe.

One Mom’s Legacy

You’ll find me at our mountain community’s “Mother’s Club” each Tuesday teaching a class. I’m teaching the moms about their value as woman and practical ways to teach these concepts to their daughters, granddaughter, nieces, etc.

The ladies have responded extremely well to my class. Throughout the week they ask me if I’m teaching the next week and their faces light up when I tell them that I will.

Some pull me aside to tell me about how this class is changing their lives.

Every one of their lives matter. Each story gives me the push I need to keep going back each week. Each lady is absolutely precious. But there is one who takes me breath away.

One sweet thirty something year old woman who has cancer. A quiet gem who attends each week. She listens, she participates, she even takes notes!

So many other women  don’t come yet are physically able, but this lady walks each week to hear me say that she is valuable. She walks every week to hear me say that she can leave her children a legacy.

She wants to teach her children what she wasn’t taught. According to her doctors, she doesn’t have much time left. Everyone in the community talks about how she is a walking miracle. The doctor that lives up here can’t understand why she is able to walk. “Her numbers show that she should be on her death bed,” he says. “Yet she is up every day. I don’t understand why.”

This is the woman who never ceases to ask for prayer and who takes out her worn bible when we go to her house to pray. This is the woman who cries in God’s presence and is willing to accept whatever He allows in her life. This young woman of small children wants to leave them a legacy of truth.

She listens in order to speak. She learns in order to teach. She is unique. She fights to live each day. I’m thrilled that H.O.P.E Dominican Republic reached her before it was too late.

Every Tuesday afternoon our mountain school room is full of heroes called Mom. It’s an honor to serve them.

The Calm During and After the Storm

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There were strong winds beating down on H.O.P.E Mountain last night. The mighty gusts caused me to ponder on the power of the God who controlled the storm. His presence was in the midst of each heavy breeze. I could hear Him say, “I’m here. I’m in this tempest just as I’m in the whirlwinds of your life and others.”

The drum beats on my tin roof, the melody of the howling wind and the racket of loose objects bashing upon my windows didn’t stir me.  I was actually grateful for the rain. It was nice to hear the flow of the river once again.  Despite the furor outside, there was peace in our home.

We ate snacks, watched movies, caught up on the presidential debates, drank tea and laughed with one another. It didn’t feel like a storm on the inside.

God kept us calm. He is our peace in every situation.

Those strong winds definitely reminded me of the battles I’ve faced in life. I’ve often looked at myself in the mirror just to say, “Had it not been for God, where would I be?” He is always forever faithful in every cyclone of life.

Then I contemplated the lives of those God has given me the grand honor to serve in the Dominican Republic. Some like the little boy who lived alone and ate scraps from trash was able to reconnect with his mom because of our center. Or like the teenaged girls who have a safe place and are not pressured to move in with adult men, simply because we are there. Or like the women who live on my mountain whose lives are being changed just because they are now learning about how valuable they are.

There was also the single man who longed to marry a godly woman and the single woman who longed to marry a godly man who found one another at our church! There was also a woman who never thought she could leave the clutches of adultery until God sent us to her.

Like the young man who knew he was called to pastor, but had no one to support him until we came along. Or like the other young man who everyone knew was called, yet ran from his assignment until we stepped in. Or like the family who had no place to call home until we arrived.

The list goes on and on.

God was in their storm. God didn’t let the tempest take them away. He sent them help at the right time. He is there in the midst of torment. He is also there when life is calm.

I woke up this morning to the same birds chirping as always. I heard the same rooster I hear every day. I saw the same sun shining that brings radiance each morning. The storm didn’t take away the calm for the calm was in the storm.

There really is no need to fear. Regardless of what we face, He is there. Trust Him.

It Wasn’t Too Late

The sun beat down on us as we trekked through our small village of Juan Lopez in Moca to pray for the neighbors around our church. We divided ourselves into groups of two. Both groups were a mixture of Dominicans, Americans and children eager to share the love of Christ.

Every household we approached was accommodating and thrilled to have us pray for them. They offered us chairs and some even awakened from their afternoon siestas to join us. It was a pleasant experience.

As we walked I marveled in God’s goodness and faithfulness for I remembered when this very village was a dirt road lined with shanty homes. I remember when it rained how the gushing water would actually knock down wobbly homes. I remembered how flies would invade our existence to the point that we covered our mouths while we spoke.

To God’s glory, it is now a new place! The road is paved. New sturdy homes have been constructed. Flies are still there, but nothing like before. Most of all, the people were receptive to our message of truth. There was a time when no one wanted Christians there!

As we advanced upon a humble home, a sweet young lady asked us to pray for her ailing grandmother. We walked into the room and I remembered my grandmother on her death bed. The precious lady told us that she was alive, but she sees death. She was frail and too weak to lift her head.

We prayed for her.

As we prayed I could hear God say that we were there to lead her to Him. He wanted her to spend eternity with Him. So I talked with her about Christ. I shared the gospel with hope knowing that she would respond positively. She did! She gave her life to Christ and her countenance changed. I knew that she was sure of what she did and I’m confident that I will one day see her in glory.

As we walked away for her house, I couldn’t complain about that stinging sun any longer. It was worth every burn! A life now belongs to Him and there is no greater joy for me than to see the lost come to know our everlasting God!

The day served as a testimony to the Dominicans, Americans and children in our groups to know and to see that it wasn’t too late for any of the ones we ministered to that day. God is an on time God and we must trust in that truth. He will accomplish everything that He promises to do.

Uncontrollables

A beetle buzzed around us as we talked in the pavilion tonight. A bat or two swarmed out in the dark in search for fruit. Freshly picked bananas rested on a dish in our midst and a crisp cool breeze graced us with refreshment as we shared from our hearts.

We discussed the stretching involved in missions. The disappointment in plans that change because of things we can’t control. The letdown in adjustments to schedules can not only be discouraging, but downright depressing as well.

Things happen on the field that don’t make sense to our American minds. Things like having to cancel family camp because the town decided to shut off the water for the entire day. Things like having to conform to habits and attitudes that are completely distinct to your own. Things like the bus breaking down on the way to an activity and sitting in the hot sun until help is found. Things like eating the same food every day in different ways. Things like constructing new edifices with two or three workers at a time and mixing cement by hand! Things like clearing grass with machetes. Things like living in a small house with a few twenty something year olds for the entire summer and just wishing that the giggling would end!

I could go on and on. The list really is long.

As one of our guests swatted the beetle, I pondered on how that beetle and all of the things that don’t remain the same in my life have changed me.

The unknowns have caused me to trust God like never before. Watching Him move in a life because I chose to not let these uncontrollable changes drive me insane keeps me going. It takes our willingness to be uncomfortable in order for God to do the miraculous in the lives of others and our own.

As the bats hunted for fruit, I was reminded of my own quest for enrichment. God fills me more and more with His presence as I take the time to seek Him.

Those bananas prompted me to remember God’s faithfulness. He provided for this land that already had those banana trees here. He will continue to provide for He is faithful.

The breeze was a simple indication of His presence. He is always here. He is always near.

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H.O.P.E moves forward!

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Now that we are property owners, its of great importance for us to obtain the title of the land. The government currently recognizes our ministry as the land owners, but the title will ensure the security of the property for future generations. Our H.O.P.E is that the seed we currently plant into the lives of children and teens will grow into mature trees of God’s servants. These strong trees would eventually be branches of H.O.P.E throughout the Dominican Republic way after we are gone.

We were blessed with the ability to pay half of the title costs, which included the legal fees, surveying and transportation costs.

We still need $5,000 to finalize the process. The $5,000 is a government fee that would issue the title since the preliminary work has already been done.

Will you please become a part of the process of building H.O.P.E for the next generation? This property will soon become the home for needy children. It will continue to be a place of refuge for troubled families, children and youth. It will also be a training ground for pastors and ministry leaders. You will be a seed planter for future trees that yield H.O.P.E to the hopeless.

Christmas for Cien Fuegos

christmas3Sweet little faces represent the joy found behind the doors of Centro de Esperanza de Cien Fuegos. These lovely faces will more than likely see Christmas come and go without experiencing the happiness of the season if we don’t act now!10534552_10204136160265166_8507192425244290770_n

Remember that these precious ones live at the city’s trash dump. Their parents make very little money. They live under tin roofs with holes which cause rain to pour into their homes. The meal they eat at our center is the only meal that most of them will eat for the day. They bathe in a filthy river that is riddled with trash. The lives of these children are at risk just because they are poor.

But you can make a difference in their lives by a simple act of giving. A donation of $20 will give one child a gift and Christmas dinner for their family.

christmas1Twenty dollars transforms into smiles of joy. Twenty dollars transcends the unworthy mindset and lifts the child into the truth of who they truly are, children of the Most High God. Twenty dollars doesn’t seem like it’s so much when you know that H.O.P.E is attached to it. This H.O.P.E speaks into their destiny and tells them that really are loved. It tells them that they really are deserving of what is best and lovely.

Please click here to give today!

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Our daughter Starr loving on a child at the center

H.O.P.E for Cien Fuegos

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Dirt roads ridden with potholes, a filthy river overcome with trash, no clean drinking water, prostitution, drug dealers, severe fungal infections, hunger and desperation are a few descriptions of Cien Fuegos.

10446514_10203923695073669_2533769362125263708_nDriving to church from Cien Fuegos

We drove some visiting pastors from the states through this territory a few weeks ago and my heart ached once again for the people who dwell there. The children were playing and bathing in the same river where others were throwing their trash.

We stopped by the house of a family that is a part of our center. The mom called her children in from the river where they were bathing. Their clothes were filthy! My heart sank.

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Since God has wondrously provided for us to purchase H.O.P.E Mountain, we were able to host various camps this summer for the children in our center. It was a joy to see them play in a clean river and a clean swimming pool. They laughed, prayed, learned English and most importantly experienced the love of our Heavenly Father!

10488308_10203980879023232_2305594565270336982_nMeal line at H.O.P.E Mountain

As this new year begins, please continue to give towards the Cien Fuegos H.O.P.E Center. We have over 90 children enrolled this year, classes began this week. We always need school supplies, white t-shirts for their uniforms, Spanish bibles and lots of prayer!

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This year will be the first year that we’ve demanded the parent’s participation. We are doing this in hopes to bring transformation to the entire family. Thus, Sunday morning church services begin at our center very soon and the Saturday evening bible study will continue. Parent’s have also been encouraged to work at the center during school hours during the week. Please pray for this new initiative as we aim to bring H.O.P.E to a place where much H.O.P.E is needed.

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