Hello friends and family. It’s hard to believe that we have been in the Dominican for over a year and a half. This past year and a half I have experienced so many things. I have met many new people, learned a lot of things about the Dominican culture and people, struggled to learn the language, been homesick, shared Jesus’ love with people and so on. To be completely honest with you, I had a completely different idea of what mission work looked like before we moved here. I was very naïve to believe that if our family was here doing the work God called us to do we would be good and not experience hardship. I never even considered preparing or praying against spiritual warfare. But when satan feels like things are going way to good he is going to strike for sure. He did just that with our family.
First, he decided to strike with my health. After only three weeks of being here Nicholas and I both contracted chikungunya. Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by mosquitos. The initial symptoms of headache, fever, nausea, etc typically lasts about a week. However, it may also come with joint pain that is comparable to arthritis. A person can suffer for months if not years with this residual joint pain. Fortunately Nick did not suffer from the joint issues too bad. But my joint pain lingered and lingered for months. Some days the pain was so bad I couldn’t get out of bed to walk. I thought how can I share Jesus or show people Jesus’ love when I can’t even walk. I was frustrated and confused. Thankful after prayer and the help of one of our awesome supporters I was able to obtain natural supplements from the U.S. that helped control the pain. With this out of the way, we began to experience conflict among our team. I will spare you all the details because they are not necessary. The stress from this conflict and dealing with the aftermath of chikunguyna left me needing a cardiologist. I now needed medication to control the rhythm of my heart. A few months later Nick and I decided that it was best that we leave the ministry we moved to the Dominican to serve with. It was a very hard and heartbreaking decision. We loved the people in this ministry and the community we worked in. Nevertheless we were now in a foreign country without a ministry to work with. It is so hard to actually type how I was feeling. I was heartbroken, devastated, mad and many other things. I was mad at God. I didn’t understand how God could call us to a country to do his work and then allow us to go through everything we were going through. I withdrew from relationships including Nick and tried to throw myself into learning Spanish at my Spanish school. For the next few months my relationship with God suffered, my relationship with Nick and my girls suffered. I was determined I was just going to be mad. To be honest, I wanted to run away from everything on this island. I wanted to go home back to the U.S. But Nick looked me in the face and said “We are not running from what God called us to do. I will not take our family outside of God’s will”. At the time, that just made me angrier. Now I am thankful for my husband’s wisdom.
Shortly after we made the decision to leave the ministry we were working with, we were given another opportunity to work in a mountain community just outside of Santiago. I remember telling God that I would never work in the mountains. I have always been more of a city or beach girl. I have also always been passionate about working with children. So I also told God that I was not going to work with teenagers. Well God has a funny way of working things out when you tell him what you are going to do and what you are not going to do. The pastor of the mountain community asked us to teach English in their community and to whom? You guessed it: Teenagers! So the two things I said I would not do I was being asked to do. Work in the mountains with teenagers. Nick said by teaching English we can also share the gospel with these teenagers/adults. For the next month or so I grumbled and complained a lot about the task I was asked to do. I just wanted to work with kids. I decided to agree to teach English but I wasn’t overly excited about it. In the back of my mind I hoped for another opportunity. After we started teaching English I still wasn’t’ sold on the task but continued to go and teach. This was pushing me way out of my comfort zone. I had to teach the students English in Spanish. For those of you who know me well know I have really struggled with speaking Spanish. I have learned a ton of Spanish but actually speaking it I clam up and don’t want to try. So now, I was teaching English in a language I don’t speak exceptionally well. Thankfully our students offer me a lot of grace and help me out a lot. Teaching English has actually helped me with speaking more Spanish.
After English class and lunch in the mountains I usually return home to Santiago to be with the girls while Nick stays to teach a discipleship class for the men in the community. After returning home one afternoon, he told me he had a conversation with the Pastor we work with in the community. He said the Pastor shared with him that he had prayed for a long time for someone to be willing to travel to their community and teach English and work the men, women, and youth who live there. The parents really want their children to have the opportunity to learn English but there was no way they could afford to pay for the classes and to send them to Santiago. It finally hit me! God used what Nick and I went through to answer a prayer for someone else. I strongly believe that Nick and I may not have moved to this country without the help of our last ministry. They were instrumental in us getting here, and God used them in a big way. Some of the trials that we went through were to get us to where God needed us. Today, as I reflect back on the last year and a half I am thankful for the opportunities God has provided us to do His work. I am now not dreading the opportunity to teach English to teenagers on a mountain but looking forward to how I can teach English and be a Godly example to them. I am thankful for the opportunity of being able to speak more Spanish and to build new relationships with these beautiful people. My eyes have been opened once again to all the Christ followers in the bible who were beheaded, stoned, hung on a cross upside down just for their faith. Many days, but especially with today being Good Friday, I am reminded of Christ’s love for us as he suffered a humiliating death for us. If I have to suffer some health setbacks and conflict I think I can do so with the reminder of why God created me, to further his kingdom.
I am not writing all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me but for you to be reminded that spiritual warfare is real and that God always has a plan for our lives. It may not look anything like the plan we had in our minds but it’s His plan. Putting complete trust in God has not always come easy for me. I know that is not a very missionary thing to say but it is me being transparent. I have found when I put my trust in God and not in myself it always works out better for me. I am reminded of a song we used to sing in church growing up Trust and Obey: “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way; while we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”. Since putting my whole trust back in God, new doors have been opened for our family to serve. Recently, we were given the opportunity to work with children at a local orphanage. Now we are splitting our time between working in the mountains and helping out where we can at the orphanage. My heart is full and I thank God for the opportunity to serve. My prayer today is that I always trust and obey what direction God is leading me in whether I think it is a good idea or not. Spiritual warfare is present and real whether we want to acknowledge it or not. The awesome thing is that God doesn’t ask us to walk through it alone. He is there to guide us through, and although things may not make sense to us, God always sees the whole picture.