How did we get here?

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As many of you know, Andrew and I made the decision to move our family to the Dominican Republic at the end of October 2016.  Then in early November, Andrew officially accepted a position as the director at Caribbean Mountain Academy in the Dominican Republic.

Prior to getting married in 2008, Andrew and I had a very frank conversation about where we felt that God was leading us.  We both had a heart for people, and knew we wanted to serve in a ministry capacity but we weren’t entirely sure what that would look like.  Both of us felt that we wanted to work with youth, and I specifically wanted to pursue counseling.  I remember very distinctly having a conversation with Andrew that went something like this,

Andrew: “Do you feel called to foreign missions at all?”

Erin: “No, I never have.  There are too many hurting people here! Do you?”

Andrew: “No, not at all.”

Erin: “Okay, that’s good.”

Shortly after this conversation Andrew began working at Lifeline Youth and Family Services at a residential boys home.  He loved it!  After we got married, I worked for a year at a crisis pregnancy center while I waited to turn 21.  Once I was 21 I applied, and soon after began working at Lifeline as well.  There we have remained until now.

For about a year prior to the Dominican Republic opportunity coming up, I had begun feeling a great deal of unrest where we were.  Some of that had to do with having divided interests with family rearing and continuing at Lifeline, but I really believe God was beginning to transition my heart away from Lifeline.  In May of 2016, Andrew forwarded me a job posting for the directors position.  I emailed back and said, “Nah, I don’t want to move to the Dominican Republic”.  A few weeks later he emailed me again and told me he talked to the hiring VP, and really wanted to apply.  We talked about it that night, and  I was hesitant on the timing because I was at that point 7 months pregnant with our fourth baby, and feeling a bit overwhelmed already.  I told him if he felt strongly about it, he should apply.  He did.  He felt the interview went really well.  We started really talking about what the move would mean for our family, and what we would need to do to get there.  I even felt a little bit of excitement, and then…. Nothing.

We assumed that the hiring VP had chosen someone else, and so we moved on in every way.  Naomi was born, I began a Masters program, Malachi was enrolled in preschool, and things were moving along smoothly.  Then Andrew called and told me he was asked if he was still interested in the position.  We both sat through a second interview, and were scheduled for a trip down to see the ministry in action.  The trip was a whole six weeks away, and it seemed like an eternity.  As we prayed about it, we knew that this was likely our next step, but meeting the staff and the clients and experiencing the impact being made really confirmed it.

So, here we are.

On the way home from Pennsylvania (where our kids had stayed with family while we were gone), we listened to a few songs on repeat that repeat this concept of walking on waves, like Peter did when Jesus was approaching the boat.  Peter asked if he could walk out to Jesus, but once his feet touched the water he took his eyes off of Jesus, and looked instead at the waves.  He was immediately terrified, and cried out to Jesus in fear because he was beginning to sink.  This concept has been powerful imagery for me as I consider all of the ramifications of moving not only myself, but my four small kiddos to a country that I do not know.  Where Andrew and I will need to learn a language that we do not understand.  And seek to understand and appreciate a culture that is not our own.  I won’t say that every day is awesome, and I only feel excited because that is far from the truth.  There have been many growing pains in the process.  However, in the last few years I have been challenged and stretched in some hugely impactful ways and I have learned some very important preparatory things.

 

1.) We do not want to waste our lives.  In 2014, I lost my Mom to cancer and she was only 56.  That was (and is) hard, but through her life and death, she taught me an important thing:  lives lived faithfully for Jesus make an eternal impact.  I want my legacy to be one that points others to my Savior.

2.) Home isn’t found in places or things, but in people, and ultimately in Jesus.  As we consider what things to keep or sell/give away I am learning that those things are not home!  I love my house, but it’s not my home.

3.)  Even if.  Habakkuk 3 talks about a list of terrible things happening, and through each of those things over and over it says, “even if”… “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in my God, my Savior.  The Sovereign LORD is my strength…”

So, Andrew and I will lift our eyes above those waves, and look to the author and perfecter of our faith.  Because these short lives we have been given, will be lived for Jesus alone.

 

6/8/2017

This might not be a typical, light-hearted, “look at some cool pictures” kind of post.  Those have their place, but let me tell you a secret in this whole blogging thing.  When I sit down to write out a post to update you, I just start writing.  At the end, I come back up here to the top and write this lame introductory paragraph.  I want to be okay living heart wide open with whatever that brings.  So while the fun stuff and pictures are fun to share, that isn’t what I feel led to share today, the following is what I did.

When I think back on this month the word that comes to mind is “good”.  The good I am talking about is not a passive, socially acceptable, generic “good”.  The good I want to share, is a wrestling, heart filling, peace experiencing, all-encompassing, God given good.

The work here is good.  The staff and families on this campus are committed, and full-hearted servants of the students here.  The love is tangible in conversations that you hear in the pavilion, in chapel services that truly communicate “come as you are”,  in bike rides, and in words of encouragement during a school day, or on a service project.  Most of the time, Andrew and I aren’t the ones on the front lines in these moments, but we get a front row seat in to the beautiful ways that God is at work in the staff, and in the students.

The community is good.  We haven’t been here that long, but the way that these people love and serve one another is beautiful.  God took a family through a difficult medical situation with their toddler a couple weeks ago and the ways that people jumped in to clean their home, fill the fridge, do laundry, and check in with them throughout the day was a real life picture of the body of Christ working together.  It’s not always sunshine and roses on this campus.  People don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, culture shock hits, discouragement engulfs, family struggles happen, God doesn’t look like we expect Him to and trusting Him is just plain hard.  Real life happens here.  The same real life stuff that we all live with no matter where on the globe God has us.

Our marriage is good and we are good (not perfect).  Last night, we were able to get away for the evening (in thanks to that community I was talking about, taking care of our kiddos).  We were able to celebrate Andrew’s birthday (June 5th) and our 9th wedding anniversary (June 6th) kid free (WHHAAAAAT?!).  As we sat on a balcony in Cabarete on the North Coast of this island-home, we were struck with such thankfulness for many things. God has grown us, and painfully removed so much selfishness and pride in these nine years through this union He designed.  We have had some really ugly spots in our marriage where sin was rampant, and yet here we are, wholly because of His grace, still crazy about each other, with a pretty cool crew of kids.  We never pictured the years we have lived together being what they have been.  Working with juvenile sex offenders isn’t usually on anyone’s bucket list, but that was our life for much of our marriage up until our international move (also not on our bucket list).  We just served where God had us, and were genuinely committed to whatever God called us to and have been changed in so many ways because of both of those GOOD experiences.

Alright, there was a lot of heavy stuff there, but it’s life.  It’s your lives too, I just changed some words and scenarios!

  • Maybe your marriage is not in a good place right now.
  • Maybe God is richly blessing your decision to obey and yield to Him.
  • Maybe you are facing the consequences of refusing to obey Him.
  • Maybe you have a kid who is out of control and you don’t know what to do.
  • Maybe today was the best day of your whole life.
  • Maybe you are obedient to Him, and He feels 100 miles away.
  • Maybe you need community.
  • Maybe you are so discouraged you feel swallowed by it.

Wherever you are.  Whatever the circumstance.  I have experienced this truth specifically:  God is good.  Not just a churchy, read your Bible, pray every day good… but good.  I just read Psalm 34 on Sunday morning, and it was incredibly encouraging as I had just poured my sinful, wandering heart out to Him.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Good is not always a perfect marriage.  Good is not necessarily a flawless, smooth ministry.  Good isn’t a sinless walk with Christ.  Good isn’t always what we are looking for, and try to fill up with.  Good is a relationship with a good Father who loves You tenderly, and whole heartedly in spite of your fleshly desires to run in the opposite direction.  He longs to be your refuge, and to pour out blessing of relationship and security in Himself on You.

He is good.

This living in the Dominican thing?  Also good.  With all the mess that comes with it.

If you are regularly praying for us:

Pray for unity and focus on this campus – Satan likes disunity when a ministry is effective and there is plenty of room for that to take us captive.

Pray for Andrew to continue seeking God’s heart for this campus, and to stay focused.

Pray for our Summer program students who arrive on June 16th (we only get 8 weeks- pray for them to be effective, spirit-filled weeks).

Pray for me as I am staying home with our kiddos full time and desiring to instill truth in their rebellious hearts – it’s exhausting.  I have never stayed home full time, and am thankful for the opportunity, but it is really hard, and quickly draws out much of that NOT good stuff in me.

Update 5/9/17

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Tomorrow will mark three weeks at Caribbean Mountain Academy.  What a blur this time has been.  I wanted to post some pictures and give a brief update, since it had been a couple weeks.  First of all, I wanted to share a photo of our vehicle!  During our last post, we shared that we were in full search of a vehicle to transport our family.  With the help of a staff member who had excellent connections within the community, we were able to locate and purchase a car with the help of this staff, and one of his Dominican friends (Carlos).  It is difficult to buy a car here for a reasonable price as an American, here if you are “white” you are “wealthy”, which means you should pay more. 🙂  The help of Carlos was invaluable to us as we feel we got a decent price, on a car that we hope will serve us faithfully during our time here.  It is a 2000 Toyota Prado, which has seating for 7, although that doesn’t matter much here… at least not officially! 🙂  Here is a picture of our green gift:

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We are so thankful!  I also posted this picture on facebook, but we are reminded over and over again how small the world is, when Andrew was handed the keys with this little carabiner.

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I shared that our bikes were lost in transit between Florida and here.  They never made it off of the plane in the Dominican Republic, and so they traveled to Haiti and the Panama Canal before finally arriving back here a couple weeks ago.  Funny enough, I was sitting outside of the Christian school here, that also uses MFI, and when the delivery staff took the tarp off the back of the truck I saw our bikes before they even made it to campus!  Andrew, especially, is happy to have the bikes here.

Our home is definitely beginning to feel like home.  We receive our first Amazon “orders” and mail through MFI on Friday.  Although, I will say I have been really pleased with the selection in the grocery stores, and with the stores in La Vega, which is a town about 30 minutes from Jarabacoa.  The prices fluctuate, so some things are much cheaper while others, like chocolate chips, are 400 pesos, or about $8.  Worth every peso…. 😉

I don’t have any pictures of stores so far because 1.) I don’t want to look like an American (because my very white skin doesn’t give it away), and 2.) I am too stressed finding what I need and computing pesos to dollars in my head.  Here is a canned picture of the nicest one though. 🙂

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Andrew is diving into work and already making a lot of decisions that have taken us to our knees on more than one occasion.  He’s very busy, but really enjoying the new challenges, and learning that is already coming with his new position.  We are slowly beginning to build relationships.  Andrew interacts with the staff here much more, and so he is building relationships quicker, which is great and needed.  My introverted self is enjoying gradually inviting people up to the house for more one-on-one time.  This is between bouts of sickness with the kiddos and with Andrew or I.  We look forward to ALL going to church again soon! 🙂

We have already hosted a missions team, and will have another one up tonight.  I enjoy hearing from each team why they are here, and it’s also good pressure to learn to bake with the ingredients I can get here (surprisingly most things).

Thanks for following, and thanks for praying.

Andrew and I concluded that culture shock must hit so hard at 3 and 6 months because people don’t pray as much.  We are in a really good place, and definitely feel that we are being prayed for regularly.  Thank you!

Here is our mailing address for Missionary Flights International:

Andrew and Erin Stroup – Caribbean Mountain Academy

Unit 3039 CMADR

3170 Airmans Drive Fort Pierce, FL 34946

Please note that we are charged $2 per pound for each package (paper mail is free), so let us know if you want to send something!

We are also on Skype, What’s App, Facebook, and Google Hangouts.  We would love to connect with you!

Send us an email and we will figure something out: stroupswalkingonwaves@gmail.com

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We have arrived!

We officially arrived at Caribbean Mountain Academy around 3:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday.  After a hiccup with my Aunt Nancy’s flight, we weren’t sure we were going to have her help on the flight.  Thankfully, she was able to get to Chicago, and Andrew and his Dad picked her up and got back to South Bend around 1:30 AM.  It made for a short night of sleep (we got up at 3:30 AM), but we got to the airport, and really had a smooth day of flights.  All of our luggage also arrived, which is a miracle in and of itself.  With not even one thing broken.  With 18 bags, that’s truly amazing!  We were also able to get through customs smoothly.  God was gracious to us!  Thank you to those of you who were praying for that trip.

The last couple days have been a blur of unpacking, and getting settled.  We have had a couple trips into town to exchange money, and get groceries with the help of the staff here.

It has been a crazy few months, but God’s presence in this process has been undeniable.

Keep praying for us!  Naomi is not feeling well, after being diagnosed with an ear infection on Saturday morning.  She just isn’t herself, and has been really fussy and clinging, which is stressful when there is much to do.  Also, a good reminder that it’s okay to take a break here and there to snuggle.

Also pray in the next few weeks as we begin actively looking for a car.  It’s a “big” thing to us, but we know God has it figured out.

Thank you for your prayers, I’ll post some pictures soon!

Only Seven More “Sleeps”!

We are one week away from flying to the Dominican Republic.  Whaaaaattttt???

About three weeks ago I was getting weary of the kiddos (let’s be real, mostly Malachi) constantly asking me when we were going to move to “the Island”, and so on a whim I whipped together a paper ring countdown, that had 23 rings on it.  It looked like a ton, even to me!  Each day, right after breakfast, the boys have taken turns tearing off one ring, and then counting the remaining rings on the chain.  It has carried a lot of excitement and anticipation for them, and they have gone from saying “that’s still a lot of ‘sleeps'”, to “only 7 more days!”.  With that, comes the reality sinking in that all we have been preparing for, and working towards is coming like a freight train… too strong?  Um, we can keep with the analogy… like a big, fat wave. 😉  Ready or not.

I am a mixed bag of emotions.  I am excited.  I am eager for the ways God is going to grow and stretch me, and look back in wonder at the many ways He already has.  I am excited to be able to see a ministry that is close to my heart (troubled youth), carried out in a new context.  I am excited for the ways God is going to equip, and stretch, and impact my children through this experience.  Finally, I am eager to watch Andrew in his new position.  I know God is going to smooth some rough edges, and use this big-hearted, bold and courageous man of mine to do some powerful things for His kingdom.  He already has, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in this new ministry.

I am grieving.

Grieving the many rich friendships God has blessed us with.  I have a unique group of women that have been right behind us, cheering us on through these last six months, and long before that.  They are not the gossiping type of women, but worn knee type women, and they inspire and bless me with the opportunity to call each of them my friends.

I am grieving co-workers who have become this weird, tightly bonded, family.  We have fought for kids, loved on kids, and put every part of ourselves out there in hopes that God would bring about a lasting change.  Sometimes He has, a lot of times He hasn’t, but those people keep clocking in day in and day out, fighting for a generation that desperately needs Jesus.

I am grieving a family of believers that we have known, and who we have gotten to know during this process.  These are individuals that love us deeply.  They have at times been our backbone when the waves have crashed hard against us.  They have given godly counsel, put a roof over our heads (literally), brought meals with smiling faces, and been a source of companionship in life, and in mission.

I am grieving our literal family.  As I have driven away from visits that were far too short, and have watched many vehicles full of my brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews, and parents drive away, I have realized even more deeply, the incredible blessing of real, blood family that we have been given.  Who support us full heartedly, and understand what we are doing, and why we are doing it.  You guys, that is so rare, and until we got here, I didn’t stop and breathe in these things.

Can I be perfectly honest here?  I am terrified.  Sure, that’s not “churchy”, but God doesn’t really call us to things that leave us comfortable all the time.  Do I trust Him?  Absolutely. But, these last six months have changed us.  They have purged us of our love of stuff, they have pushed hard against our American ideas of “self-sufficiency”.  We have seen God, undeniably confirm that this is our next step.  It’s been incredible.  It’s also been really painful at times.  God is refining us, and will continue that work once we have moved.  Fear aside, with hearts wide open, we are eager to step out and allow God to wreck us, and show Himself powerful in our weakness; because that’s what He does best.  We are nothing but clay pots.

Thank you for being a part of this journey.  I look forward to sharing all of the things God is going to do in the next three years.

We love each of you.

Stay tuned. 😉

Update 3/29/2017

Hopefully, you have now received our Spring newsletter, and have been updated on the last four months of our lives give or take a little bit.  The Crosswinds team does a fantastic job putting our content into those letters, and getting them out promptly.  We are so grateful for the effort and time that goes into those!  If you are not on our mailing list yet, feel free to send Andrew or I a quick email or phone call, and we would be happy to add you to the list!

A few weeks ago we had our Culver’s fundraiser, and we felt that it was a huge success!  We raised around $500 in about 3, crazy hours!  We also felt it was a success because of the amount of love and support that was shown through many of you showing up, eating, and talking with us.  Thank you!  We were also overwhelmed by the number of individuals who jumped in and volunteered to serve food, and clean tables.  It was humbling and encouraging to see a large group of our support in one place.  Overwhelming is the best word.  What an army God has put behind us!

Finally, an update on finances.  I feel like I get that question asked regularly but it’s tricky to answer.  So, I will say this.  We officially have $1,820 of our monthly support pledged, with people actively signed up, or regularly sending in their support amounts each month!

We have another $635 verbally pledged, with a church vote pending for April on a portion of that.  However, we cannot rely on those funds until they are coming in, as budgets change, and best intentions don’t equal groceries in the cart.

So, we are still at least $245, (or $880 without verbal pledges) away from our ideal monthly support of $2,700 which would allow us to send kiddos to school and also save funds for deputation so we can come see you all next year!

With all of that being said, we have purchased our plane tickets to leave on April 19th.  

If you have given an amount, and haven’t signed up, please do so as we will be leaving in April, and will need the support funds to begin by May 1st!

If God has laid it on your heart to be a part of His ministry in the Dominican Republic, click here to be directed to our donation page.  Just look for our picture on the staff page!

We love you all, and are so thankful for your prayers and encouragement these last several months.  Truly, God has used you in powerful ways in our lives.  Thank you!

Slow and Steady

Andrew and I have taken a necessary step back from actively fundraising as we begin to prep for an international move and finish getting our house ready for renters in May.  God provided renters for our house only a few days after we made the decision to rent instead of sell.  We are excited as those details have very quickly, and seamlessly fallen into place.  This has nothing to do with these rookie landlords, but everything to do with a gracious God Who is consistently demonstrating His faithfulness as we step out into a whole sea of unknowns.

We have also gotten encouragement in the financial steps we are making.  We have done a couple small fundraisers, and are preparing for a Culver’s fundraiser at the Warsaw, IN Culver’s tomorrow night (You should come!).  These are a lot of fun, and kind of a side hobby as we prepare to move, but the richest blessing has been in watching God slowly work in hearts.  He isn’t in any hurry to dump the funds we need in our lap to give us a false sense of peace in dollars.  Rather, He is doing His thing, one heart at a time.  I am thankful He keeps us in a place of reliance on Him.  I told Andrew way back in October, when sitting in the living area of our apartment in the Dominican Republic, that God would confirm this decision in my heart by providing our funding to go.  Here we are not even six months later, and He has so beautifully done so much confirmation, far beyond the funding.

So, where are we?  Well, you’ll just have to wait on our newsletter, which we just approved to be mailed out!

If you aren’t on our mailing list (aka you haven’t received a letter either in the mail or via email), let me know and I will add you to that list!

There will also be letters available tomorrow night at Culver’s.  You will have first dibs on our financial update, and some cute pictures from our travels! 🙂STROUP-SCHILDROTH_PRINT-9

 

 

Culver’s Night Fundraiser

We are very close to reaching our fundraising goals.

Please join us on Tuesday, March 14th from 5-8 PM at Culver’s in Warsaw!  10% of the proceeds during those hours will go to fund Andrew and I as we prepare to leave on April 19th!

Eat some good food, and help us get to the DR.  Woo hoo!