Dec 252014

RussParachuting2014

RussParachuting2014


This is set to Buffett and Whitesnake. Strange combo but both songs connected with me. With the kids getting older and into more of their own things and Tasha and her business so busy I had a little more time on my own. I tried to stay very busy and physically active and with the help of friends and family I had a fantastic year.

The two videos below are the same. Iphone users might not be able to download it – I’m working on converting the file. :(

If you’re on a pc or something other than a smartphone here is the link to the high quality file: Click Here.
If you’re on a smart phone this would be an easier link to click: Click Here.

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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….
Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone provided by Alltel

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.”


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.”

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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….

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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.”

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