Hey Everyone,

We are approaching the halfway mark of our trip and I would love to fill you in on how things are going.  Our team is ministering in two communities, El Montana and Los Higos.  We have served in several capacities including: painting two houses, laying down a paved entranced into the EL Montana church, enlarging and replacing church windows for better security, going on three days of sports ministry outreach, youth rallies and preaching at two different churches.  We have lead worship in Spanish, performed two different dramas at church and several from our team have already shared their testimonies.   All of this in just the first 6 days.

Recently we re-calibrated ourselves at Los Calabazos.  Los Calabazos is this beautiful mountain river community nestled in a valley in between the mountains of Jarabacoa.  It was steep climb in and out of this tucked away hideout.  We came to Los Calabazos to intentionally connect with God.  Even Jesus pulled away from ministry to connect with the Father, how important than for us to do so also.  The team was instructed to find a spot along the river to pray, read, draw, meditate, speak to, listen in to what God was speaking to them.  They did this individually.  Our desire is that all ministry flows out and through our relationship with Christ, abiding in Him is key.

Prayer requests:

Pray for our health as some have been feeling sick lately.  We also are very active at the work sites, sports ministry camps and youth rallies so prayer for endurance and good sleep.

Pray for team cohesiveness as it will be tested

Pray for those preaching at the youth rallies and churches, drama presentations

Pray for the Spirit to do a work in our hearts and that God would ultimately receive the glory!

Pastor John

 

        Los Calabazos

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Hello, my name is Hannah Eide. This morning we got in the vans to head to Los Calabazos. I got in the van dedicated to silence, we called it the “quiet van”. We have been around our team the whole time and need time to process what we have gotten to see and do. We went to Los Calabazos to reflect and refuel ourselves with Christ. John made a point to check ourselves that we are giving the glory to God, it is easy to feel that we our the great ones and not give the glory to God like we should. Los Calabazos is in the mountains and we had an amazing view of the valley. We hiked down lots of stairs to get to the river. John and Rick gave us guides to follow during quiet time. Then we all got to find a beautiful spot in the woods by the river and strengthen our relationship with God. I prayed and journaled then finally got to a point I wanted to recommit my life to Christ. We then rejoined in the gazebo and sang a couple worship songs in English and Spanish. There was an amazing lunch waiting for us at Los Calabazos. We then got to swim in the river under a long swinging bridge. We jumped off a rock that was probably around 16 feet. We all had an amazing time jumping off it together, doing flips, and belly flopping. Today was a meaningful time with God and a time to continue building relationships with other on our team.

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Hello! My name is Megan Jensen, I am 16 years old. Today was a full day I woke up and went on a run, which I recommend never to do, I was super sore! Right after breakfast we all got into our vans, I ride in the Juan party bus. We arrived late because we were exchanging money, so when we got there we only had an hour and a half to finish painting the house. After we finished that we came back to the camp to get lunch, we came late so we didn’t have that much time. We were off to our sports camps, today I played kickball and volleyball. I got to hear Isaiah’s testimony, which was amazing. Rick had asked one of the Dominican’s to share their story, after a moment of silence this boy, I would say around 19, talked about his life. Both of his parents are not Christians but at the age of 10 he heard the lord talk to him at a youth group he was invited to, he also said how he has to fight for his faith everyday but he wouldn’t have it any other way, that Jesus was worth it. I think it’s so incredible to see such strength and humbleness come from this man. It’s so easy to forget that we worship the same holy God, that we are all a giant family. When the sports camp was done we headed home for dinner, and was delighted when they said we could go for ice cream! We are still bouncing from the sugar. We had a major dance party, where I got to learn how to dance from our Dominican translators, which weird enough was on my bucket list. CHECK!!!! I can’t wait to see how the Lord will work in all of us during the next 10 days.

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On the first full day in the Dominican Republic, we met our translators, and prayed over each team serving in Los Higos and El Montana.

Caught in between excitement and scared,  in between feeling prepared and expecting to be caught of guard, in between trusting in the Lord and tentative for what lies ahead.  It’s a wide range of emotions and thoughts flooding those of us readying ourselves to go to the Dominican Republic.  For each individual its a different process, a different struggle and a different level of anticipation for whats in store.  But God…  you throw in those two words into any situation and it changes…well… everything!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” – Ephesians 2:1,4-5

In any circumstance, in any situation in life, whatever may come our way you can never underestimate those words…but God…because He is greater than anything, even death itself, how much more will the power of God work in us through His resurrecting power!

It is with great excitement and holy fear that our team is traveling to the Dominican Republic.  We have spent months prepping, praying and gathering support and now the day approaches nearer still.  We are blessed that you are traveling with us as you follow along with our blog, may it bless and encourage you because you’re apart of our team too.  You’re support has been such an encouragement to us all, we appreciate your ongoing prayers.  May our stories in life reflect the…but God… moments that inspire others and glorify His name.

Yours in Christ,

2017 Dominican Republic Team

We have a little more than 24 hours before we start heading back home.  I will not miss the roosters crowing all throughout the early morning, but I will miss the our time together as a team.  Throughout the trip I’ve been able to observe student after student step out of their comfort zone and serve the Lord.  I’ve seen students doubt their abilities to teach only to see them pray all the more for His strength and then hear them deliver a great message and come back and tell me they like to teach again.  There have been a few students who have had to gather their composure before sharing their testimonies, stepped outside and prayed or had another student pray over them, come back into the church and share their story like they’ve shared it 100 times before.  And to see the smile on their faces and our team come around them in support has been priceless.  It’s a small glimpse into the working of the Spirit in their lives when we are serving in circumstances that create the opportunity to rely upon Him, more than ourselves.

There have also been some deep conversations.  Conversations that just don’t happen in everyday life but the kind of talks that only happen when you trust someone to share what’s going on beneath the surface.  Struggles have been shared, tears were shed, and relationships strengthen.  I’ve seen, heard and have experience a number of deeper conversations taking place in our team.  Some of the best ones I’ve seen have come during our quiet time.  Twice on this trip we went to scenic locations and spent time in prayer, one on one with God.  As I walked to find my own spot to pray, I could see our team having conversations with God.  Many quietly journaling or prostrate in prayer.  Others crying out to God over the rush of the river.

It has also been a blessing to see change taking place in the Dominicans as well.  While we were here each team held three youth rallies in their communities.  The youth don’t generally attend church so this is a huge deal.  At the end of each rally we would break up into small groups, guys and girls, and ask questions.  It has been encouraging to hear the level of engagement back from the Dominican teens and even seeing them in church the next day.  I ask that you continue to pray for them, pray for the youth of El Montana and Buenos Aires.  Pray for mentors and discipleship to take place.  Pray for a strong teen leader in each community to lead and encourage the other youth.

Lastly I will leave you with some pictures from yesterday.  We spent a good portion of the day at Los Calabaozos, a beautiful little town up the mountain tucked away near a river.  As the team was spending some quiet time with the Lord, a student felt the Lord tugging on her heart.  She shared her story with me and her desire to be baptized in the river.  She then approached another student and in sharing with him was likewise led.  It was moment of celebration with our team, no… our family… as brothers and sisters in Christ celebrated the baptism of Dara and Carter.  I will miss the Dominican Republic that’s for sure, but I am looking forward to what God is stirring beneath the surface in the lives of our students and our leaders.  Thank you all for your prayers!

 

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Caleb Kopp: 

Hello! I just wanted to hop on here real quick and say a few words about the Dominican Republic, so sorry in advanced for any spelling or grammar errors. It’s my second time here and I don’t there are enough words in the human language to accurately describe all that I’ve felt while down here. First of all, seeing everyone grow together as a group and band together to do God’s work is seriously a blessing. Participating in His plan is even more cool. Every day has presented a new experience and challenge for us as a team. Whether that be sickly teammates, busted foreheads, flat tires, or broken schedules. Things might not always start the way we want them to, but I think so far they’ve ended the way God wanted it to.

Moving into something more personal, God has very much been moving and changing me for the better on this trip. Going in, I had so many worries and aches about life back home. It was difficult to focus on his plan and doing his works. However, in my weakness and unwillingness God is strong. From that point on, he has carried me and sustained me. The wonderful little moments I’ve shared with children, teenagers, and adults down here have been purely by God’s grace. Walking around with the word of God in my heart, but the words of English in my mouth can be discouraging at times, but our interpreters have been absolutely wonderful for us. Our friends Oscar, Darena, Arlette, Rovian, Elena, Jennifer, Ben, and Daniel have been very patient and willing and helpful to interpret our sermons, testimonies, and day to day conversations.

Now back about two weeks ago, John had released the team lists and put me down as a guitarist. This was a surprise at the time, and I felt very unprepared and unworthy to carry out such a weighty responsibility. I don’t consider myself very good at singing or leading guitar, much less doing the former in a language I’m not familiar with. However this is another testament to God’s grace and power. Not only has this trip been a growing experience for me personally in my faith, but also in cultivating the gifts that I only have in Christ. Having the opportunity to lead worship is another animal entirely than only being a participant on stage on Sundays. However God is the same as he was, is, and will be. And God is the same all throughout the world. His presence takes control, everyone gets singing and it’s absolutely wonderful. Everyone here worships with their whole hearts and whole voices, because God is worth every once of our being. Even if my Spanish is sub par, even if my guitar playing is perfect, even if our words on screens don’t always match up, it’s worship; it’s beautiful and pure worship.

I guess if there were something that I wanted to highlight as a challenge would be identity in Christ. Not necessarily mine, but the identity of the Dominicans. See as we drive through the streets here, the biggest vehicle gets the right of way. As we walk through the streets here, we can wave to people, but even with a translator communication is difficult and connotations are sometimes lost in translation. So because of this, it was and still is difficult to see the people down here as…people. They are all 100% human as much as I am. They have dreams, aspirations, goals, family, and friends. They have worries, pleasures, emotions, and thoughts. However for some reason fully grasping this concept is so very difficult. Every single person down here is a creation and image bearer of God. Even if they live different, think different, and act different, that’s all that it is: different. “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.” – Rick Macky, 2015 (and like every year).

Thanks for reading, and please continue to pray for our team as we hit these last two days. It’s the home stretch, everyone’s exhausted, but God is sufficient. Pray we finish out the trip strong!

Hey everybody, Joey and Michaela here! I (Joey) will be writing about my experience first. I have been having an amazing experience here in the Dominican Republic. Through working with the kids at VBS and hanging out with friends at the beach, God has shown me His love and faithfulness. I have made so many new relationships with the awesome people on my team and have strengthened the relationships with friends already. God has put on my heart this trip to talk about and make strong relationships.

I preached to the youth in El Montana on Monday night at the youth rally about how to have a stronger relationship with Christ. God calmed me down when I was up there because I was so nervous. I felt like I wouldn’t do the sermon justice and that I wouldn’t be a good enough speaker. But, when I was alone in the church of El Montana, I felt God’s presence in the room and I realized that it doesn’t matter if the sermon isn’t perfect. I’m being an ambassador of Christ and that God was proud of me for stepping out of my comfort zone and preaching to the youth. I was so relieved once it was over and I had a great conversation with some of the guys and my fellow teammate Carter about how to strengthen your relationship with Christ. I think (but only God knows their hearts) that some of the guys either reestablished their faith in God or accepted God into their life. I was filled with joy that I was able to spread God’s Word to these guys and that they took it seriously.

On Tuesday, we went to a small town called Boma. We got out and went on a beautiful walk to get to the church of Boma. WOW! Was that ever amazing to see God’s creation by seeing all the mountains and rivers that were seen on the walk. Once we got there, we met a man named Antonio (also known as Valle). He is a man who probably has never heard of Iphones or Xboxes, but he knows who his Creator is. Rick Mackey told us that Valle goes all over through the mountains to spread God’s Word and that was a real eye opener for me. A man who did not have electricity all his life til three years ago, was so full of life and happiness because of God. God was all he needed, and I know I don’t always think that. We left the church and walked back and the youth leaders told us to just take our time and connect to God through prayer on the way back. That was such a great time, just being able to walk in peace and quiet with no demanding schedule that I had to keep up with and I could just have time with God. I saw one of friends Dara sitting by the river and she looked troubled. I felt God telling me to go over there and pray for her, and I’m so glad I did. We started talking for a good half hour about life until we had to keep walking to keep up with the group. God helped me strengthen my relationship with Him and now really good friend.

After we got back to camp, I left to go paint Maria’s, a 92 year old Dominican in El Montana, house. She is one of the strongest people I know and has an amazing relationship with Christ. She has been a Christian since the 60’s. Another favorite memory I have made on this trip so far was when we went to the ocean on Friday. I got to go snorkeling and see all these beautiful tropical fish and hang out with my friends. We got to go banana boating, a tube that looks like a banana pulled behind a boat, and then we were able to have fun in the ocean. I have to preach at Buenos Aires this afternoon at their church service and then tomorrow night I am giving my testimony to the youth. I’m so excited for the rest of the trip and I hope everybody will be safe and that I will be able to strengthen my relationships with God, my teammates, and the Dominicans. Thanks for reading about my experience! & Happy Late Birthday to my brother, Jason! I have a special surprise for you once I get back! 😉

Hola from the DR!

Michaela speaking.. and first and foremost, I would like to say hello to my dad. I miss him so much & I wish he was here with us. But I have made so many special connections on this trip that I will never forget. We are having so much fun down here and the people here are amazing! Here is an update on our busy weekend–

On Friday, we enjoyed a beautiful day on the beach. Waking up at 6am was not everyone’s favorite but it was definitely worth it. After, a three hour bus ride, it was time for some fun in the sun. Swimming, Snorkeling, Banana Boating and Shopping– what could be better than that. We then, ended the day with some good ol’ Pizza Hut. Definitely one of the best days!

On Saturday, we had a huge youth rally at our camp, La Salle. Youth from the communities of El Montana and Buenos Aires joined us for some games, worships, sermons and water balloon fights. The youth here are very enthusiastic and fun to hang out with. I’m so glad that I got to meet these wonderful people and make connections with them. After a long day of play, we enjoyed some yummy fro-yo. and by the way, Dominican fro-yo is WAY BETTER than Minnesotan fro-yo. and Joey agrees with me.

Today, we split into our respective groups and went to two seperate churches. My group went to Ivan’s church. We enjoyed some spanish worship, a testimony from Rose Doda and a sermon from Mitchell. Tonight, we will be going to our respective communities to worship with them. God has certainly changed my perspective on the world here. I cant wait to be back and share with all of you what has happened here in the Dominican Republic.

Adios from Michaela and Joey!!