Sufficient Grace

19 Jun

Kevin wrote this for the worship team, but it’s a great word for us all, especially as we head to the Dominican Republic.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
In about 16 hours I will be on a plane headed to the Dominican Republic.  This past week for me has been filled with lots of “to-do” type of tasks and tons of things I feel I have to get done before I leave.  I’ll admit that I’ve felt inadequate, under-prepared, and even overwhelmed at times.

That’s why this verse is so important to me right now.  It has little to do with Sunday’s music, but it has a lot to do with what I’ve been experiencing.  And I hope in some small way it encourages you—whether you’re going on the trip or not.  God doesn’t want you to be perfect and have it all together; it’s okay to feel weak, stressed, and overwhelmed.  Because then when God does His work it will be all about Him and have very little to do with you.  That’s the beauty of all this: Christ’s strength is so much better than our own.  Rest in that truth this week; wherever this week may take you.

Kevin

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No Expectations

16 Jun

By Tracie Wyche Shoote

As I’ve been trying to prepare myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the upcoming trip to Barahona, Dominican Republic, God keeps putting into my mind “no expectations”. I think it’s such a good word. I’m not asking myself the usual questions that I would before a trip. (I’m not even going to mention what I would normally be thinking about because then I’d be thinking about them!) I’m just asking God to prepare my heart for whatever it is He has for me in the days ahead.
In April, if you would have told me I’d be going on this trip, I would have laughed.  There was not even an inkling of an idea to go.  They were having a luncheon at church to introduce the team, for each one to share why they were going and how we could pray for them.  I decided to attend as this was a wonderful experience for me last year in preparing for my mission trip to Mexico.  At the end of the luncheon, Pastor Phil mentioned they still had open spots available if anyone else wanted to go on the trip.  INSTANTLY, I felt lead to go.  Of course I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to due to three obstacles: funding, time off work, and a place for my kids to stay.  Within 24 hours God had provided full funding, the blessing of my boss to take the time off of work and I’d been told this was the exact time my kids would be going to camp.  I guess God really wanted me to go on this trip because the doors were open WIDE.  What I couldn’t figure out was why, but I didn’t question it.
As the time is getting closer , people keep asking me how I feel about going, and I keep answering. “I have no expectations.” I am so happy to say this because I have a tendency to build up my expectations of how things will go and then be let down.  I have a feeling that God has great things in store and I don’t want to get in the way.  I just want to be available to be present in each moment and take in whatever it is He has for me.  It is an exciting time. He has even given me a small picture as to why I’m going but I will share that later…

A lot of Time to Think

26 Jul

By Angie

The thing about being a teacher is you have the whole summer off.  And if you’re remotely introspective, that’s a lot time to think.  It’s been a thought provoking first month, for sure.

I’ve shared before, that the second I got on the plane to come back from the D.R. last August, I knew I needed to go back.  And the amazing thing about trusting God is that he totally made it happen and in less than a year.  I thought that my motivation for going back was to continue relationships with friends and kids, I’d made on that first trip, which was a worthy motivation.  So, I spent a good chunk of that 10 months learning more Spanish, praying a lot, and trying to allow that first trip to continue to impact my life.

It’s funny how we do these things with God’s plans.  We try to make it all logical and box it up nice and pretty.  Stick a bow on top and say, “Look what God did!  Ta Da!!”  The thing is, though, God isn’t ever done.  That bow on top, it’s not going to get tied until He decides it.   I can look back on this trip and then look back to 15 years ago and realize that if the thing that happened 15 years ago hadn’t happened, this part of my life could have looked completely different.  So, God’s plan, His eternal plan, definitely includes these collective few weeks I’ve now spent in the D.R., but He’s not finished and these two trips, they are stepping stones in our eternal story.

I turned 36 a few days ago.  And that’s weird.  I’d swear I was just 25 last year.  So according to the American Dream, I’m supposed to have the house, the car, the career, and a life of ease by now.  And honestly, all the boxes are checked and have been for quite a while now.  Can I just say that it’s a crummy place to be?  So now I’m in some sort of holding pattern.  I’m supposed to work for 30 more years so I can retire and buy one of those RV’s that used to be a bus.   Um, no.

The Dominican Republic?  I didn’t even know where it was.  I had to look it up on a map.  The first trip, I saw the poverty.  Actually, I was overwhelmed by the poverty and at the same time, this light.  Jesus.  I think it’s easier to see a glimpse of light when physical darkness is so prevalent.  It’s hard to convince Americans that we need Jesus.  In the third world, Jesus is all they have.  Looking back on that first trip, I feel like I mostly just floated through it, absorbing it with every sense, but not really acting on it.  Not knowing how to react to it.

It wasn’t until this most recent trip that I realized that, though.  My mind and heart were prepared to be overwhelmed again.  And I was, but on a different scale.  I was moved to act; moved to use the gifts I use here in a different context; moved to create more relationships, and deepen the ones that I already had.  There was no hesitance to dive in and my heart was full!  I can’t pinpoint one particular moment of this trip and say, “Look what God did!”  If I could paint a picture of emotion, it would have an awful lot of joy in it.

It’s never easy to say goodbye, but there were no regrets, no feelings of sadness for not doing enough, or seeing enough, or being enough, or leaving things unsaid or undone.   The poverty is still there.   I’m still here.  I’m still not sure what the proper response to knowing that kind of poverty exists is.  But, my eyes are open; my heart is open, to the possibilities of playing a larger role in spreading the light of Jesus to people in poverty.

I have no idea how long my earthly story is going to be.  It is forever changed by the dancing, singing, smiles, hugs, prayers, and genuine joy of the Dominican people.  I do know that life is not a bunch of buildup that leads to a 30-year holding pattern.  I’m in this for the long haul, however long that may be.   I have no idea what that looks like.  I don’t think it’s a neatly wrapped box with a bow, though.  I’m praying for God to show me what is next.  I’m so thankful to serve a God who is not a God of logic and checked boxes.  I continue to be surprised at the things I get to do for HIM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a man – by Tom

25 Jul

I am just a man.  I have been blessed by God with many things and a pretty good life.   God has been faithful to me my entire life answering prayers for Wife, Kids, Employment, Home, Possessions,  as well as having a life full of wonderful memories and experiences.  At this time I find myself out of work and doubting my own self worth.  I think it’s normal for many people to get their sense of self worth from the job that they do and how well they do it.  I have always considered myself valuable to every employer I have worked for and have always performed well.  During this time of unemployment I have applied for hundreds of jobs hoping to get an opportunity to get an interview or job offer, but to no avail.  I had worked in manufacturing my entire life and had great successes and very few failures.  Now I felt unwanted and not needed.  At this point I am feeling worthless.  The Dominican Republic Missions trip with Compassion International was coming up and I have always either sent my kids or donated money to the mission’s trips at our church.  Usually I am too busy at work and can’t get the time off to participate on these kinds of trips.  This time I had the time and not the money.  For my 50th birthday I told my family and friends to contribute to the mission’s trip so I could go.  God provided.  Friends and family donated all the necessary funding for my trip.  God provided side jobs to pay for immunizations and miscellaneous things I needed and my primary doctor didn’t charge me for my visit to get prescriptions.  God Provided.  So off we go on June 21.  I am at the airport with people from church I only see on Sundays and with worship team.  I actually know very little about them and they know even less about me, more than likely.  I had no idea what to really expect.  The first service we experienced was amazing.  These people face 65% unemployment, Poverty, Physical disabilities, and a very tough day to day living situation.  The local men and women and children praising God and singing, even people with physical disabilities were dancing to worship him. They were expressing so much Joy and faith in God to provide.  I was inspired, convicted and humbled by what I saw.

What kind of man am I?  I live fairly well even though I am unemployed.  I have a nice home and more than enough food, clothes, toys, and trinkets.  Yet I am battling depression, scared, nervous and feeling self pity about my current state.  (These people are expressing so much joy).  Needless to say I was an emotional basket case most the time I was there.  I was working hard one minute and stepping away sobbing the next.  I chose to work on the construction of a wall for most all the time we were there.  It would provide safety and security for the Children and the facilities.  It was one of the most fulfilling jobs in my life.  I got to work with the other team members kids and parents alike as well as with the local workers.  Communicating with about a dozen words of Spanish, I formed a terrific relationship with our Maestro / Journeyman Mason Fernando and his workers Francisco and Popi.  It seems like such a little thing to build a wall but it took teamwork, cooperation, and patience.  Our Youth were impressive.  They are maturing into fine young adults that will serve the Lord the rest of their lives, I believe.  We all worked hard, either with the children in VBS, (hundreds of children) or the wall.  The relationships we created with the people there were so special it is very hard to put into words.  The last day we were there the maestro was finishing his work on the wall and as a gesture wrote my name in the wall.  What’s with that I thought?  There is the name TOMAS in 3 foot tall letters.   Why? I didn’t really know at first.  In the same way we served in the Dominican Republic by building a wall, teaching and loving the children and the people, God used us to show them they are worth something and they are loved.  Through them God showed me I am worth something and He loves me too.  Every day we live is a gift of God and we as children should not take God for granted.  We get so comfortable in our lives and desire so much that when we don’t get it we have a pity party and complain.  Leaving there was gut wrenching.  Leaving people we have truly bonded with behind and knowing how hard the days ahead of them will be.  Then there is the wall.  That wall is the most meaningful paycheck of self worth from God or anyone I have ever received.  God loves me unconditionally.  He is faithful to me.  I am worth something, and I need to serve him more.  I am leaning on Jeremiah 29: 11-14 at this time in my life.  There is so much more I could say about this trip and the way God used it.  Feel free to ask if you see me.  God bless you.

Thanks for listening,

Tom Hoffman

Prayer Heard

16 Jul

By Peggy

Was is really just 12 days ago that we were “debriefing” at poolside in Atlanta GA? I remember sharing how much I wanted to guard against what I experienced last year in returning from the DR….David’s accident, surgeries, his being unable to work, being distracted by all of life’s issues, feeling like the joy and memories of the trip were too soon forgotten.

So, this year, I tell myself…”Won’t let THAT happen again”…and then, life just HITS all of us, hard! We’ve barely had time to catch our breath….some of you are off to Tygh Valley to experience God once again in an exciting week of youth camp. Barely 24 hours later, we’re holding on to one another, trying to make sense of a tragic accident that claimed two young lives. Grief….overwhelming, to say the least, bringing back the awful memories of having lost my own brother in a drowning accident when I was 15 years old, his body never recovered, remembering my momma’s pain.

Then last night….as if there was not already enough to contend with! A knock on our front door about 7:30pm…on my porch is a disheveled woman, with 4 straggily looking kids, ranging in age from less than a year old up to about 5, one child dressed in just a diaper. She’s hysterical, says she’s been abused, threatened by someone in her home, begging for me to take her in…..without time to think, I drag her inside, shut and lock our front door and find myself up to my eyeballs in dealing with a total stranger who is clearly, how could I say, “unbalanced”?? I don’t know who she is….she tells me she lives somewhere “up the street”. It takes nearly a half-hour, but I get her to calm down, get a phone number to call her Mom in Roseburg OR….her mom calls a 911 dispatch down there and they notify Clark County Sheriff’s department. After what seemed like the longest wait of my life, in walks Deputy Dunham…awesome man, cool, calm, in charge!!! He tries to talk to this woman….she’s incredibly fearful, not making a whole lot of sense…..deputy is in and out of our kitchen, calling for backup! Within an hour, we have THREE patrol cars in front of our house…..in comes a “crisis negotiator” and we are living in the midst of what felt like a poorly-made TV action movie! I’m holding this woman’s children, changing diapers, feeding them bananas and peanut butter sandwiches, rubbing her back and drying her tears…we get her Aunt here about 10pm to help care for the kids, within about 30 more minutes, the mom is off to the hospital and the children are in protective custody!

All this to say…….PRAISE GOD!!! My prayer, in leaving the Domincan Republic, had been to ask the Lord to please keep me always reminded of how He is (and always will be) in control of ALL circumstances in our lives and that He keep me ready & willing to serve Him, right HERE, right now!

Prayer heard….and answered! Joy as not been stolen away, as I feared…..it has been magnified, many times over. God presented us with challenges in which we could take no other path, but to respond with trusting Him to get us thru incredible turmoil and pain!!!

God’s Faithfulness

16 Jul

God’s Faithfulness – By Chelsea

I was so blessed with the opportunity to go back to the Dominican Republic this year. I saw and learned so many things. God truly revealed Himself to me, and I learned how to love others the way Christ loved us. One thing in particular that struck me again this year was the genuine joy that the people have, despite their impoverished conditions. They are so willing to surrender themselves to God. In spite of the fact that some families do not know whether they will be able to afford their next meal, they rejoice because they know that God will provide and that His will is completely sovereign. They know that this Earth is merely temporary, and they look forward to what is to come. This just moved me and made me ask myself: What is holding me back from completely giving myself to God? Why can’t I be like these people? I have everything I could possibly need, yet I still complain. These people have absolutely nothing, yet they’re so grateful for the lives they’ve been given.
The answer came. Recently, I went to ETV, a Christian camp in Oregon. In a very unfortunate turn of events, one student and one counselor tragically drowned, despite many bystanders’ efforts to save them. It was a total shock to all of us. However, God used this experience to help me and several others realize that life is short, and that God wants each and every one of us to use the lives we’ve been so graciously given to glorify Him. It finally hit home with me, so I got down on my knees and just surrendered myself to God. It was so neat to see how God used the lives of those two men to encourage and inspire us to live better lives to the glory of His name. It was so neat to see how the body of Christ came together and supported each other during this time. It was a beautiful thing. Because of these two experiences, I understand that God is faithful through both the good times and the bad. He is always there when we need Him, and we just have to trust that He will come through. God is good!

The Chance of a Lifetime

8 Jul

The Chance of a Lifetime – by Daniel Schmidt

                  Last year I was deeply impacted by the amount of poverty I saw, and it left me feeling like I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the kids in the DR.  God prompted me to sponsor a child through Compassion.  After I returned home from the trip last year, I just collected all the brochures, magazines, emails, and media that Compassion sends you after becoming a sponsor, but I hadn’t really grasped the significance of what my money was being used for.  I knew how important letters meant to the sponsored kids after last year’s visits and stories.  But God knew that I needed a reminder of just how important all this was in the life of each of those kids.

After almost a year of sponsoring Daniel Borges, I got to do something that only 1% of all sponsors get to do – visit my sponsor child face to face.  I can’t even begin to describe the joy of that moment when I first saw him.  I was able to see him for two of the days while we were in Barahona which was amazing.  During those two days I spent with him, I saw joy in its purest form.  On the first day with my sponsor child, I asked Ryan if I could present to him his bag of gifts.  Ryan said to wait until there weren’t so many kids around, but I could present to him one “icebreaker” gift of my choice.  I chose to give him the green Frisbee ring flyer so that we could play and spend some time doing something together.  I have never seen anyone play with a Frisbee so happily.

Daniel is not a part of DR-800, the project where we were serving.  He lives in Barahona, but he is from project DR-455.  In order to be there at the project to see me, he had to be driven across town on a moped by his tutor, Carlos.  Carlos could not stop thanking me for changing Daniel’s life and kept telling me that he would be praying for me and my family to keep strong in the Lord.  I was taken aback.  How often have I prayed for my child?  Carlos just met me and here he is ready and committed to praying for me daily.

This year I got to see firsthand how that connection between the sponsor and the child is WAY more than just that $38 check every month.  I have now committed to writing Daniel frequently and praying for him daily.  No longer will I look at that $38 check the same way.  The sponsorship is not only something that gives him food and clothing, which are all worldly comforts and easily bought with a few bucks.  It is an ongoing relationship that gives him eternal hope, love, and most importantly, Christ.