We got up and met as a team. Youth Pastor Kevin led us in Scripture. I admitted where the weaknesses were in the trip. Some weaknesses were mine, some were in the AIM and local Pastoral leaders, and some were in the youth and adult leaders in the trip. But the bottom line was that we are in it together. And we had a job to do. To minister to the weak and poor in the barrio of Buenos Heights, Azua, Dominican Republic. Answers to prayers came in the complete healing of two out of three ladies while the third girl had manageable symptoms and there wasn’t need for further alarm. And morale was REJUVINATED! Praise God!

On this day and the next we realized the crux of our missionary efforts. Here is an excerpt from a newsletter article I wrote for FBC-Coldwater upon our return:

“Because we went on the trip the biggest financial thing that happened was that Adventures In Missions (A.I.M.) traded a roof job for the landlord of the church property for 12-15 months worth of rent for the church. We did some other miscellaneous labor either at the VBS location or at the Christian school which included pouring a concrete basketball pad, clearing land, leveling ground for a foundation, installing chain-link fence, and more! We also partnered with the church to put on a VBS that served about 100 kids by my count. On our last day we also visited the English class at the local university to help teach English in a small group setting. We went to two church services at two different churches which were quite a bit different than either the traditional or contemporary services at FBC.”

Journal entry quote: “Went to the ocean this afternoon on sabbatical. Monte Del Rio Playa. Water was perfect. Beautiful setting. Mountains wrapped around us on three sides. We were on a large bay but we could still see open water to the south. Fun watching the kids have a great time. Neat seeing the rain clouds being kept back by the powerful mountain/ocean boundary.”


This day had it’s share of problems for our group.

But it started with a sugary cup of coffee from a street vendor in the morning. Having a cup of coffee is so customary to me in my lifestyle. In the D.R., it is likely that those from the U.S. are rumored to have a sweet tooth for cappuccinos and sweet morning drinks, that the hosts from the D.R. were sugar-heavy in the drink that they gave to us. They were trying to be hospitable to anticipate our needs and we graciously accepted (even though I’m not sure we “liked” it but shhhh-don’t tell).

Journal entry quote: “Drove to worksite then walked about a half-mile to the school. Then walked about another half-mile to the church. It was hot on the walk and when we arrived at the church our hosts took us inside and turned on four ceiling fans that were U.S. oscillating fans fixed to the ceiling. They put huge smiles on their faces and we all sat in the church pews relishing the cool breeze. Our AIM music director Ryan pick up a guitar and led us in some worship songs that combined with the extent and challenges of our travels brought to me joyful and inexplicable tears. It was incredible feeling the presence of my loving and caring God so far from my home but knowing it wasn’t any travel at all for Him.”

This day had three of our ladies come down with illness and also had a group within our group have a social meltdown that brought us challenges. Further, there were leadership divides between the Michigan and Illinois group, too. There really was a huge challenge to a peace lover like me. I hunkered down in prayer, and lost sleep for the first time on the trip because of emotions, turned to my God and Savior, and asked for help. More to come….


Dominican time sets in. The day before we’d ask Pastor Raul what time church started and he said, “7:00pm.” At 7:00 and we hadn’t left our dorm one of our party asked Pastor Raul what would happen if he wasn’t there at 7 for church and he replied, “Well, they won’t start church without me.” LOL. But he was right. We arrived whatever time we arrived and church happened. That’s pretty much the example of time management that held true the rest of the week.

The AIM people asked us not to take pictures this day so I’m going entirely to my journal entry for today’s post.

Journal entry quote: “Went for a run this morning with Dalton. Our AIM hosts were a little whipped from yesterday’s run and stayed back. It was cool to be out on my own. The traffic and people in the main drag in Azua were very intense. Probably because it was Monday morning, a workday. We went to the site for our outreach ministry for the week. We leveled a lot of ground for pouring a foundation within an existing 5-room dwelling. So many rocks in the ground. Cleared brush and trash from the site. Poured a concrete pad for a neighborhood basketball hoop. The cistern pump went out at the house – showers were short lived. Flushing now requires buckets in lieu of water. We were there to work but in spite of this, we were calmly invited to watch the Brazil/Chili World Cup Soccer Match at Raul’s house. I stayed behind with a few people and ventured out to an ice cream street vendor and bought ice cream for the house. The Peso to Dollar conversion was an interesting process. I estimate based on the transaction I could have bought the entire cart for $20US. I took down huge pieces of trees with a machete, pulled a thorn out of my shoe that was long enough to stick through my sole, and had a long distance talk with Sara on the phone that was more valuable then any over the phone talk I’ve had in my life.”

We woke up which was distinctly like sleeping because of all of the various noises, smells, and heat to the climate. Dalton, Thomas, myself, and two of our AIM (Adventures In Missions) hosts went for a run. I’m out of shape but I was so proud of being in the minimal shape necessary to being able to go for a run in a 3rd world country. We visited the childhood church of Pastor Raul. They had live feed video for the overflow! Looked like a MediaShout type program for lyrics. The crowd participation was AWESOME! No offense to my Coldwater friends but they were soooo into the music! I was into the music with my limited understanding of the language!!!

We returned from church and packed up for the trip to the sea-side town of Azua. Azua? What about San Juan de la Maguana like the AIM group told us we’d be based out of? LOL. I guess things don’t always go as planned. However, the “dorm” in Azua did have some semblance of a U.S. structure. The water occasionally ran, electricity was 18/24 hours a day, and we had security and control of our own private space…. Whew.

We also met our translators and the group from Illinois that would be our teammates for the week. What was lacking in infrastructure was made up for in terrific relationships and a strengthening of a relationship with my loving and caring God! Then we went to church at Pastor Raul’s church in Azua and started building relationships even more.

Journal entry quote: “I joked about seeing pictures of a pick up truck overloaded with people when researching the D.R. before I left. But on the way to Pastor Raul’s church we loaded about 15 of us into a Datsun style truck to head to church. What an amazing ride. The streets got narrower and narrower and narrower while the houses got closer together, too. And then the homes were barely houses and more like shacks or piles of concrete. The road T’d and became the worst rut/rock road I’ve ever seen. If I had to get back to that place I’d say we turned right (derecho) where the three pigs were in the road and people actually understood! It was raining and kids were playing naked in the rain/runoff and sudzing up. We had a little excitement in the dark after church when our truck had a flat tire just before the three pigs but we all made it out safe.”

What a cool mission trip. Our trip started with a family dinner on a Friday night at the church. We left Coldwater about 2am and arrived in Santo Domingo about 2pm the next day-Saturday. We were surprised that our Dominican connections weren’t as prepared for us as we would have hoped. There was discussion at the airport along the lines of deciding whether we would stay at a hotel (which I’m picturing as being pretty “cheap”) or whether we would stay at a relative of the host pastor’s…. Tick-tock. U.S. time just wasn’t the same as Dominican time….

As I look back at that first night, though unscripted from our planning standards we have in the U.S., it was a really unique opportunity to see a working homestead in a destitute neighborhood within Santo Domingo. We actually had to go about 12 hours without access to reliable drinking water. It wasn’t that we couldn’t get bottled water, it was that it wasn’t easy to safely get bottled drinking water with such a large group in a 3rd world country. Along with challenges with the heat, food, and lack of hygiene/housing facilities that were anywhere close to U.S. standards that first night was a real challenge to our group.

Journal entry quote: “Spent the night in Santo Domingo at the property of Pastor Raul’s brother. We were in a concrete “attic” or rooftop room. It is customary to add to property as finances allowed, meaning a lot of property is in the state of constant renovation. The tin roof was in the process of repair as our van was pulling up out front. It was leaky, no screens on the property, pigeons were heard walking on the roof. Hot. Smelly. Family was up so late and were loud. Neighborhood dogs were very loud. Heard a motorcycle that sounded like it was racing between our room and the main house – amazing… Read aloud the story of Jonah to Dalton – very cool ministering experience.”

But our adventure was under way. There is so much to type about but I can’t. In fact, I’ve delayed too long to start this blog knowing that there is no way I can “blog” it and do it justice. But I can’t wait any longer. So the blog begins.

As I was putting Sara to bed tonight I had a flashback moment. A flashback to 1996 and a time when Marena was 2 or 3 years old. I was so impatient back then, at a young age. It would be my turn to put Marena to bed and I’d think how easy it would be. “Ok, Marena. Off to bed.” As if that was all it would take. I’d get her to bed and she’d say, “Dad, I want a drink of water… Dad, I have to go to the bathroom… Dad, I forgot to brush my teeth… Dad, I didn’t hug my momma.”

Then Sara showed up and I’m older and wiser. I never once put her to bed without those essentials being taken care of and putting Sara to bed was never a ‘task’ to be completed.

Dear daughters, I love you soooo much. It has been such a pleasure to know you, to raise you, to influence you, and to just simply hold and care for you.

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