It has been a few months since our last update, partially because it’s been so busy, and partially because this summer was kind of strange here at CMA and frankly, I didn’t really know HOW to summarize it for you. Last summer was full of excitement as Andrew supervised the preparation and execution of a very successful, and encouraging summer program. Which was a much needed spiritual, emotional, and mental win for the body of staff here at the time. It was incredibly unifying as we welcomed six students who left the program with clear, positive steps as they transitioned back home.
This summer was just different, from the opening program, until the final closing ceremony words were uttered. I suppose, it was good in a different way. The dynamics in the long-term student houses were much different. The higher level students this Summer lacked the maturity of those who led the previous Summer vibe. We accepted eight summer program students, and welcomed several new staff and summer interns in the span of two weeks. This changed the “doing life” feel, and the “house life” feel all at the same time. In the period of a few weeks, the staff excitement at the beginning of the summer began to transition to exhaustion as they grew together as a staff body, and learned together how to engage a difficult student body with love and grace.
I will pause this synopsis, to admit that one of my greater challenges as the directors wife, and as someone with a great deal of residential treatment experience, was that it was really difficult to lean into my family, while I watched my friends here wrestle through things so familiar to my own ups in downs in caregiving. I could offer daily prayer, a listening ear, and words of encouragement, but I wasn’t on the “front lines”, and in many ways felt “helpless”. This is where God taught me the most. With all of my concern for the spiritual health of the campus, all of my desire for continued unity, all of my longing for growth, I was left feeling helpless, when in fact, God had a very important role for me to play. I felt side-lined, but really, I was given the role that I so frequently call on those of you back home to play. I could pray, and I learned a lot about prayer in the process. This summer, because I wasn’t working, I was given time. Time to seek the Lord, who gave me the right words to say. Time to listen and watch, to know what to pray for. At dinner, whose body language was off? Which student was mumbling things under their breath? Which students were refusing to stand during worship at church? Which staff didn’t bother showing up to church because they couldn’t work up the energy to get out of bed? Whose comments were full of negativity? Listen. Watch. Pray. I learned what it means to be completely helpless to “do anything”. What was encouraging was watching some of the staff not only discern that the struggle was largely spiritual, but to then watch many of them actively pursue Christ together. There were several spontaneous prayer meetings planned, for the sole purpose of calling on the Holy Spirit to refresh our perspectives, and to give us the energy, love, and vision that He had for each of the students we were serving. Instead of falling victim to weariness, many accurately identified the struggles and leaned in. Regardless of how weary they were feeling. Prayer warriors from literally around the world were called upon to pray for us to have spiritual eyes and discernment. To know what to say, to know when to say it, and to KEEP GOING.
All of that sounds exhausting, and to be honest, it was. When the van door was finally closed as we said goodbye at the end of the closing ceremony, there was a sense of relief. As well as confusion. Why was this summer so different? Did we make an impact? There are many objective reasons one could point to as to why the summer program was more difficult. Ultimately, I think God took us all through a spiritual, and emotional low. We were weary. But we were dependent.
Somehow, it is when we are weary, and in need of help, that we most earnestly lift our eyes to the hills, with expectation of help. So, why, as human beings do we want to be relieved of that discipline as quickly as possible? It is then that we learn how to push through the burning lungs, and aching muscles, so that we can run our race well. May we not be people who turn back to camp, rather than pushing to finish the race.
This summer brought some new challenges for our family. We aren’t the new kids on the block anymore, and with that came a lot of serving through taking people to the grocery store, setting up new apartments, setting up “bank accounts”, and so on and so forth. How in the world, am I the one who is supposed to know what I am doing here?
In addition to the summer pace, as we entered year two we noticed that the Dominican Republic has begun to lose it’s new, shiny, excitement. It has felt like home, but now it feels like HOME. The honeymoon is over, and we have welcomed relational challenges, work/life balancing, figuring out a budget, and how to do life in such a small community of believers. Real life stuff. Not, sweet, perfect new ministry stuff. 🙂
To bring in additional language help, and to help maintain my sanity as I am now homeschooling three, we hired a house helper from a local community who comes in Monday-Friday and helps me keep up with the house, and watches the children when I have other things going on. We also hired her in hopes that the children and I would begin to pick up additional Spanish, and it has helped me a great deal! However, I would say that I still waffle between feeling like I am making great strides, and feeling like I. know. absolutely. nothing. Thankfully, Clara is very gracious with me, and having to practice has been beneficial to our whole family.
We also continue our Spanish lessons with Pilar, while Daniel plays with the kids. They have become dear friends, and although they still don’t know Christ, we have conversations with them regularly about our faith and ministry. Daniel’s English is improving as our Spanish improves. This Summer we were able to go to the beach with them, which was a blast. Please, continue to pray for them to come to a saving relationship with Christ.
Our family with Daniel and Pilar
The beach with Daniel and Pilar
Andrew has done a good job digging in and finding healthy things to clear his head as he is currently hard at work digging in to prepare us for three separate accreditations. He regularly goes mountain biking, and will soon begin his weekly soccer night. I don’t understand, but he is in a much better place when he takes the time to get out. It also offers him time to build relationships with some of the other men on campus. I’ve also seen a great deal of growth as we learn together how to parent our crew. He has been intentional in taking the kids on hikes, playing soccer in the front yard, and including them in projects around the house.
Andrew’s biker gang
Malachi, Levi and Selah began school in the middle of July. Malachi is in 1st Grade, Levi is in Kindergarten, and Selah is in Pre-school. The beginning weeks were difficult, but I think we have finally figured out a good school-work groove. Clara playing with Naomi has been phenomenal! Naomi surprises me all the time with random Spanish words. 🙂 The other day, she waved me outside to show me something well yelling loudly, “Vamanos, Mama!”.
This coming week I will have my first meeting for a ladies Bible study going through the book, “Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation” by Elysa Fitzpatrick. I felt that the Lord was impressing on my heart that I do this specific study, as it rocked my world this summer when I went through it by myself. I was really encouraged by the interest, and even more encouraged by conversations with the ladies who will be involved, as many of them have voiced struggling in the same areas that this study speak towards. I am so humbled that our Papa meets us each where we are, and I am praying that God will do personalized work as these women commit themselves to learning more about Him.
Overall, we have been really stretched, and tired this summer, but the discipline of the Lord is a gift (Hebrews 12), and I can say with all my heart that we wouldn’t trade the growth for the ability to kick back, and have smooth sailing. What is kicking back, anyhow?
Highs and Lows:
High – Having Michael and Alyssa Lopez (our interim chaplain and his wife)! It was an answer to prayer to have the Chaplain position so quickly, and smoothly filled by the Lord.
Low – Andrew took the kids to Upper Jimenoa, a large waterfall about 30 minutes from campus. While there, he and the other Andrew (Stuck) were climbing under a large rock in order to find a good jumping spot at which time they were ambushed by a few hundred wasps. Andrew walked away with about 10 stings. Not his favorite day.
I’m sorry about this one…
High – Hiking the mountain behind our house, and watching the meteor shower with a group of staff.
Low – That I cannot find cottage cheese in this country anymore! It’s the small things folks!
High – Going to Upper Jimenoa (a waterfall) with the Stuck’s, and building a giant castle.
Low – Not getting to go to “girl parties” this Summer (There were two little girl birthday parties that Selah was invited to, but not the boys).
High – Poppy sent us cars and jelly beans with Daddy! (Andrew spent this last week in New York at a Therapeutic Crisis Intervention recertification training.
Low – That I got in trouble yesterday.
High – Getting invited to the girls student house, and getting to eat lunch with them with Naomi!
Low – That Layla isn’t here anymore.
High – I am learning new words every day in both English and Spanish!
Low – Mom and Dad still don’t understand what I am saying most of the time.
Spiritual growth on the campus – this is a heavy burden on my heart.
Unity of staff – there are a lot of staffing changes happening.
For our family to stay encouraged, and faithful in serving.
For the students – many of them are really wrestling against spiritual and personal growth.
For several new staff members as they continue transitioning in, and moving down here permanently.
Kid sleepover at the Pulley’s!
Layla and Levi at the coffee tour.
Barefoot Beach Pad in Cabarete.
Erin teaching Sunday School
This summer we enjoyed sharing our ministry with the Pulley family from our home church in Indiana. Matt came down to fill in for Andrew, the head teacher in the school. You will notice some pictures of them throughout this post. It was fun to have someone here with a full context of where we have come from and where we are, and the kids LOVED being together. If you ever want to encourage a missionary you support. Seeing their world and ministry is significant.