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Beautiful. So many pics like this to choose from.

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Photos
Top Left – Me over a small portion of Lake Mead that we went swimming in.
Bottom Left – Me sporting a goatee and the face of Hoover Dam in the background. Right – Looking north to the mouth of Lake Mead.

This was a neat day. The high temp reached 113 degrees. That is a record for me. You could actually feel your skin “changing” like you were in an oven. We went for a swim in Lake Mead because it was sooo hot. After we saw Hoover Dam and hung out we went back to the air conditioning of Las Vegas. I’m frustrated with the number of great pics of the terrain on this trip and knowing I can’t show them all. However, I have to get over it and post something as a glimpse of this great trip.

Coming Into Vegas

Coming Into Vegas

Whew!

The time from the morning of July 2nd to the evening of July 4th, 2010, is my personal record for miles traveled and work accomplished. We left the Dominican, came home and I had to work at the church while Tasha ran our clothes through the laundry (while very sick…). Then we loaded up back to the airport for the 2nd part of our “vacation.”

4,000 miles give or take. That is what we did. It was awesome. But it was worth every mile.

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The emotions on the van ride from Azua back to Santo Domingo were amazing. I kept thinking how happy I was to know that my worst problems in my USA life are so much better then the “best” life in the D.R. I also couldn’t ignore the open reliance the people from the church that we were serving had on God – my God, their God, our God. They had such a hard life but they were so comfortable knowing that their loving and caring God would provide their basic needs.

The other real world challenge I know I’m going to face is how relaxed the church/worship time was. They had some technology but they seemed grateful if it worked as opposed to disappointed when it didn’t. So the challenge for me as a church tech guy is to realize that technology and entertainment aren’t required to reach people for Christ, but the locality where I attend church sets a higher expectation in order to be more effective reaching people for Christ. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Before we went to the airport we had an opportunity to sight-see the area where Christopher Columbus first settled the Americas and we also had an opportunity to souvenir shop at the very large local market. Its the only market I’ve ever been to where you NEVER pay sticker price. It was also fun to have one of the interpreters take me to the non-tourist location for money exchange to get the best rate. I even had to haggle with the guy and we were operating out of his van on some side street. Too much fun – but I got a good deal….
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RussTasha16Years

This day actually started at about day two in the trip. Knowing my 16 year wedding anniversary was going to occur on this trip, I asked Pastor Raul where I could pick up some pretty local flowers. This is when Pastor Raul educated me that it is too hot locally to keep prepared flowers on hand for such gifts. I asked what the customary gift to a 16 year bride would be and Pastor Raul laughed – a little. I asked him what he would do for his bride. Pastor Raul suggested he would take his lady to a nice local restaurant. So I boldly asked, “Can you help make that possible as a surprise for Tasha?” To which he graciously applied in the affirmative. Then he went above and beyond over the week. He took me to the only florist (in my opinion) that must be around. The lady had a very secure residence with a roof-top cooler/freezer that given the heat around us must have been nearly literally to die for. I picked out a beautiful floral arrangement and we left together and I had no idea what it would cost. LOL (but it turned out to be cheap by U.S. standards). The visit with the florist was actually very peaceful given the other excitement/drama we had experienced on the trip.

On the big evening, Pastor Raul “sneaked” us away from the rest of the group much to the surprise of Tasha. He took us to a restaurant named Maisson Suisse or something like that. He escorted us in and asked us to be seated in the VIP room. We were the only ones seated in what looked like a bridal reception room for about 50 people. Raul left and we were alone with Spanish speaking only waiter. We had our translating books and a couple of years of high school Spanish between us and we had a great time. The first thing they did was turn up the air conditioner and after DAYS without it what an awesome new appreciation I have for air conditioning. Tasha and I had a great evening stumbling through the menu and reminiscing on years and years of marriage, two kids, several pets, etcetera etcetera. There were a couple of other stories about our venture on our own in to the non-English speaking dinner trip into the heart of Azua, Dominican Republic, but I’d risk going on and on…

When the dinner came to an end we walked out to wait for our ride. We had trouble communicating with the restaurant host to explain we wanted to wait for a ride. He seemed eager to make us leave. But our ride wasn’t there. We didn’t know where on earth we were!! Luckily, I had the cell phone number of a contact and we were able to get a Spanish speaking representative on the phone and we were allowed to wait. But while this was happening, a man reeking of vodka, carrying a very long/large shotgun was wandering the street towards us! Turns out he was the hired guard that would stand behind us as we sat and waited for our ride!! Too wild. What a fun anniversary dinner for a couple of corn field kids like us.


This day was all about building relationships with the local people – especially the children. We worked, we played, we “talked” the best we could without speaking each other’s language – and the talk was remarkably good! I had a talk with Pastor Raul about his ministry needs in Azua. Here is a summary of the talk that I posted on my Facebook picture page: “As my meeting with Pastor Raul approached and the question I needed to pose was, “What kind of financial assistance do you most immediately need?” I was worried for the answer. Expecting to hear $200k for a building or some such extravagant answer as is customary in the U.S. But instead he informed me he needed 50ft of chain-link fence, a gate for the courtyard, a new reinforced door for the Christian school, and 2 toilets for the latrine. About $600 U.S. dollars. So we are going to challenge our community to raise the funds needed and Pastor Raul will send pictures of the completed project. How cool is that – a practical mission endeavor – stress practical.”

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