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.

 

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August 26, 2018 Update

Ministry Update:

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.

Family Update:

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.

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Our family with Daniel and Pilar

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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.

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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:

Andrew 

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.

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I’m sorry about this one…

Erin

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!

Malachi

High – Going to Upper Jimenoa (a waterfall) with the Stuck’s, and building a giant castle.

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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).

Levi

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.

Selah

High – Getting invited to the girls student house, and getting to eat lunch with them with Naomi!

Low – That Layla isn’t here anymore.

Naomi

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.

 

Prayer Requests:

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.

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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.

June 2018

Hello!

Last time I updated our blog, we were anticipating our trip back to the United States, and now we have been back in the Dominican Republic for a little over 3 weeks.  Our time in the U.S. was good.  Almost everything went according to plan.  Our flight into Miami went perfectly, and we got through the airport and to our rental car with our kids and our luggage pretty well.  We drove to Missionary Flights International to pick up our personal van, and our brakes locked up, and almost caught on fire.  Thankfully, I grew up with a Dad who taught me to drive and ride in vehicles while paying attention to weird smells, sounds, and sights coming from the car.  I smelled the burning brakes about 2 blocks before I was able to discern if the smell was coming from me, or an old beater pick up in front of me.  I pulled over, and sure enough, the brake was smoking.  This little hiccup, delayed our travels a little bit, but overall, God just used it as one more way to show us His tender care and concern for our lives.  He provided us housing, and a mechanic through his people at Missionary Flights, and we were on the road by 2 PM the next day.  After that, our van drove well, and we made the remaining 60 hours of driving without so much as a hiccup.  Our flights home also went smoothly, and we were so excited to sleep in our own beds and be with our people here.

During our time in the States, we were able to spend time with many of our friends and family and catch up on their lives, as well as share about what God has done in the last year (albeit a very brief narrative).  We also got to pass out some goodies to share just a little bit of the Dominican Republic with many of you who stand behind us in many different ways.  We enjoyed our time in each place that we stayed, and flew home encouraged and ready for year two.  🙂

Since we have been back, we have watched many summer and long term staff arrive who we have been praying for for the last six months (or more!).  It’s always exciting to welcome new people to campus, in this case there are 11 new faces, just since we got back at the end of May!  That brings in a LOT of change, and in some ways we (Erin especially) are still trying to figure out where to dive in on a campus that looks very different.

In addition to new staff, we have welcomed 8 new summer program students into our program.  We are so excited to see what God has in store for the rest of this Summer!

We will also say goodbye to Jon and Angie Leyse, who fly home on Sunday.  Jon has been serving as the campus chaplain for two years.  Please pray for this family as they transition home, and figure out all of the obvious things like work, and housing, as well as all the less obvious things like counter-culture shock, and readjusting to life in the States.  They will be dearly missed!

Andrew and I were also able to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary at the beginning of June.  What a crazy 10 years it has been!  It was good to take a few days to remember all the ways that God has moved in our lives both individually, and as a couple.  We never would have guessed that we would be living on a caribbean island, or trying to learn a new language, but here we are.  🙂

This is obviously a very abbreviated summary of the last few months, but we are excited to be back, and eager to see what this year will hold.  Thank you for being a part of the journey with us!

 

March Update

The last six weeks or so have been really full.  We have hosted many missions teams, had several new students arrive, and are preparing to welcome several more.

If you have ever wondered about what the missions teams do during their time at CMA, then I will share in detail what some of the teams have been working on the last couple months.  The missions staff who plan these trips for you pay close attention to the strengths of the team you are bringing down, and work hard to work with you on specific projects your team is interested in working on.

There was a large team from a University, who did a ton of work on campus and were the hands and feet in preparing a third group home that we then opened in mid-March (because we are reaching full capacity!).  That team also moved our business offices up into some vacant space in lower campus, and made that space pretty and welcoming for visitors.  Our administrative ladies are so excited!  This also offered much needed office space for several new positions, and made room for one more apartment for family visits/vision trips.  This team also got their hands dirty working on a house in Majaguita, a community you have heard, and will hear me talk about frequently.  We also hosted an education team who had a full week teaching English in a low-income school in the community.  They also led the children through art and gardening projects.  Another team was a youth group of 29 students who partnered with a youth group from Pastor André’s church, a pastor who we frequently come alongside.  These youth groups worked together with the help of translators, and also worshipped, and enjoyed fun times together during the week.

This is such an incredibly abbreviated summary of what has been done, and I didn’t even touch on every team, or every project worked on in the last 8 weeks.  This campus is always hopping, and we would love for any of you to come down and experience it for yourselves!  Our missions staff are amazing people and want to put you in a project to fit the skills and heart of your team.  They are top notch folks, and you should come on a trip just to meet them.  😉

The campus is also undergoing a great deal of work as the funds from the Faith to Move Our Mountain campaign get put to good use.  The landscape work in lower campus is underway, and the apartment addition for a married couple (Nick and Melyssa Geever) who work as the Lead House Staff for the boys house, and the Case Manager for the campus is just about complete after many, many months of work from many teams.  We also just added a second new van to our ranks in preparation for a full Summer of teams and summer program students.

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We are also well underway with interviews of potential applicants to fill several intern and house staff positions in the coming months as preparations for the Summer program continue.

In those positions, we are also looking for a campus chaplain.  Our current chaplain and his family will be moving back to the United States in June, and with that news, the interviews are well underway for his replacement.  Although, all of us at CMA know that a position replacement will not replace the blessing that Jon and Angie Leyse have been to CMA.  We are so sad to see them go, but are also excited for what God has in store for them as they transition home.  Please pray for them and their girls as they prepare to leave, and all the emotions, pressure, and decisions that are involved in that process.

Andrew and I have talked frequently about how God does the work, and what an insignificant part we have in that.  Sure, Andrew has the title of “Director” and certainly works hard and faithfully, but we are floored time and time again how God’s blessing is so clearly on this ministry and the people here.  We are confident that He is going to bring the right people to this campus, and we are so excited for yet another full, and busy summer.  Let us know if one of those people might be you! 😉

We are also in full-on prep mode for our trip back to the United States in May.  We have a lot planned, and the pressure is high as we try to fit as many people as possible into our short time home.  A month sounds like a long time until you begin to plot it out.  Please pray for our stamina as we travel more than 50 hours in the car with four small kids.  We are confident God will carry us through it, and we are excited to be back with all of you who have been behind us during our first year at CMA.  April 19th will mark a full year in the Dominican Republic.  It doesn’t even seem possible.

Andrew High – Finally getting the large trees ripped out of lower campus.  God directing us to a second van, and providing the funding for that van!

Andrew Low – It’s been raining too much to play soccer as much as I would like to.  On a positive note, I have a group of guys to play with when it’s sunny, and I am picking up some Spanish in the process.

Erin High – We are on track to wrap up our first year of homeschooling a week before we fly home.  This is something the kids and I have worked hard to accomplish, so it is exciting to be so close!

Erin Low – It’s been really exhausting prepping to come home.  It’s been really distracting, and so I am glad to have a lot of that work behind me!

Malachi High – we got donuts at the grocery store today!

Malachi Low – that the spider fly that kept flying up my shirt flew away (no idea what he is talking about).

Levi High – Tomorrow is Saturday (he already has it down that no-school days on Saturday are the best).

Levi Low – We didn’t get to eat any donuts before bed.

Selah High – Pedo (the cat) likes me now.

Selah Low – I wanted to a donut before bed.

Naomi High – We are going to the United States!

Naomi Low – I have no idea what the United States is!

We’re Coming to the United States!

Hello Everyone!

Andrew and I are deep into preparations for our trip to the United States scheduled for most of the month of May.  This post will be less of a ministry update, and more of a schedule idea in the event that you can make it to an open house.  Our schedule is pretty tight, so at this point we are doing all we can to avoid driving to you, but if you happen to be close to where we will be we would love to see you!

Here’s the plan:

May 1st- May 10th- Fly from Santiago to Miami Florida, pick up our van (remember the free storage God provided through Missionary Flights International?!), and begin our drive to Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.  We will arrive there on the 3rd, and will leave on May 10th.  We do have a ministry update and some ice cream thank you time scheduled for May 6th.  That begins at 6:00 PM, and will be held at Calvary Baptist Church of Jersey Shore.  Where my brother is an associate Pastor, and Andrew’s parents currently live.

May 10th-11th – we will be driving towards Indiana with several scheduled stops along the way.  (We have a stop in Ohio and Indianapolis on this trip).

May 11th-21st – We will be in Warsaw, Indiana throughout this time, with a brief trip North to Michigan (18th-19th) to see some friends and family there.  We have two “events” in Warsaw.  1.) Thank You Supper on Tuesday, May 15th at 6:00 PM, and then an official ministry update during the morning service at our home church on Sunday, May 20th at 10:30 AM.  Both of these events will be at Calvary Baptist Church of Oswego.

May 21st-May 28th we will be in Iowa.  We have a Thank You dinner in Grundy Center, Iowa on Wednesday, May 23rd at 6:30 PM.  This will be held at First Baptist Church of Grundy Center.  We then head south to Pella, Iowa for some time with family, and for my brother Michael’s High School Graduation.

Then off to Chicago, and we fly back to the D.R. on May 29th.

We would love to see as many of you as possible, but need to be a bit protective of our time that is not set for a Thank You dinner or ministry update.  So, if you can make a scheduled event work in your area, please do!  If not, feel free to reach out, and we will try and find a time, but please don’t be offended if we aren’t able to make it work.  We WANT to see you!

You can contact us on Facebook messenger

Via Email: erin.stroup@crosswinds.org or andrew.stroup@crosswinds.org

Call or Text: via the What’s App application on your smart phone at: 809-754-7505 (A) or 809-654-4519 (E)

We are all very excited to come back and see all of you who have been praying for us or financially contributing to our ministry here in the Dominican Republic.

Thank you and see you soon!

MINISTRY UPDATES:

MAY 6, 2018 – Ministry Update and Ice Cream Thank You 6:30 PM @ Calvary Baptist Church, Jersey Shore, PA.

May 15, 2018 – Ministry Update Thank You Supper – 6:00 PM @ Calvary Baptist Church, Oswego, IN.

May 20, 2018 – Ministry Update at Calvary Baptist Church, Oswego, IN at 10:30 AM.

May 23, 2018 – Ministry Update at First Baptist Church, Grundy Center, IA at 6:30 PM.

 

February Update

Hola!

This month has been a full one, and we write with full hearts, and full schedules looking into the rest of February!

Ministry Update:

I dropped off last month with the  team from Huntington University who did an amazing job taking a lot of footage of the campus, the staff, the service projects, the beauty of this country, and the town of Jarabacoa.  This team did a phenomenal job, and a few may even be spending their Summer with us in the hot Caribbean sun!

Next up, we had a visit from the stateside board of directors for Crosswinds.  Andrew and I enjoyed a date night before picking them up at the airport in the new van.  Nothing like taking the CEO on a cat litter run into the city…  We were also able to host a time for the staff and board to meet each other at our house.  There were around 40 people there, and it seemed to go very well!  It was really cool to see the board meet the faces that they have loved and served for many years.  While they were here they were also able to meet with the Dominican advisory board, participate in service projects, and participate in the dedication of a house that we just completed in Majaguita (a community about 20 minutes away from campus where CMA has been doing projects for the entirety of it’s time here).  It was a very full, very good week!

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The following week was the Superbowl, and so we invited the staff up for appetizers and the game.  We didn’t think about the fact that the commercials would be different, so unfortunately we missed the best part (in my opinion!).  The food was on point however.

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Beginning in early February we had one of the first teams from a large group in Goshen who have been serving on this campus for many, many years.  They are an encouragement to the staff and students as they come ready to dig in wherever needed.  The first group has come and gone, and new faces keep coming down from this group, and will continue through the end of the month.  Even today, they were working on pouring beams for an addition on a staff apartment.  This group is also so generous with the goodies they bring along with them.  I have kitchen towels and Peanut Butter M&M’s! 🙂  Next weekend (February 23rd-24th), one of the lead ladies from this group will be hosting a women’s retreat for the staff, and for the women in other ministries in the community.  Pray for a time of encouragement in our faith during that time!

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We have also had some new faces join our group this month.  Max Harris just joined the CMA staff community towards the beginning of February, and has been a great addition!  He will be working as a house staff with the boys house.  We have also welcomed three new students, and the referrals continue to roll in with new families to serve, and new staff jumping on board!  We are feeling so encouraged!  Please continue to pray for the students joining the program each month.  As excited as we are that they are here, it is such a difficult step for them, and for their families.

Family Update (No Highs and Lows this month):

Malachi is close to losing his first teeth.  This has him wholly and entirely terrified, but I think we have also talked it up enough that his horror is mixed with excitement!  He loves being here on campus, and is starting to pick up some Spanish, but lacks confidence.  He has befriended Maribel (the business administrator extraordinare… seriously this woman is a blessing to our whole family), and Areilles, one of the women who cooks in the kitchen.  He cannot talk to Areilles very much, but she has encouraged him to learn because he wants to tell her about his life, but she does not speak English.

Levi is also doing well.  He is trying to earn a bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s for himself by no longer sucking his thumb, but it’s hard work.  He really enjoys his friends on campus, and can usually be found swinging as high as possible at the playground, or eating way too much jello at the pavilion.  He too, loves Maribel, and regularly visits her office to have her print pictures of whatever random thing he is interested with that day.  He is so excited about coming to the United States and asks me every so often if I think there will be snow there when we visit (Please, Lord No!).

Selah is a diva.  She makes sure that her brothers stay in line, and keeps up with them pretty well in their shenanigans.  She loves to play with her friends, and gives flowers to anyone and everyone she thinks could use them at any given moment.  She is very perceptive to when a student or staff is having a bad day, and often asks me if people are ok, because they look sad.  She LOVES the cats, and often scoops the litter boxes when I am not looking.  She does a pretty good job, actually, but I won’t let her know that.  😉  Selah is NOT looking forward to coming back to the United States, but I think that is mostly related to the airplane. 🙂  Selah is also consistently found in Maribel’s office.

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Naomi is beginning to say more and more.  She understands some Spanish, and even responds in Spanish occasionally.  “Mas” (more) is a favorite, as she LOVES food.  SO. MUCH.   She loves books, and mud puddles, and swinging on her belly.  She enjoys stealing markers and crayons during school, and regularly terrorizes the kittens.  Mogote bops her on the head every now and then to remind her he’s in charge.  They’re still working that out.  Her favorite people are Julie, (one of the house staff), Oliver (one of the staff kids) and Daniel.

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Andrew and I are also doing well.  I feel like each month it begins to feel more and more like home.  We don’t really think about living here that much, it’s just kind of life.  Spanish is going well, just slower than we want.  The struggles of working with American’s in a Spanish speaking country!  I was able to sneak away for a girls weekend to the beach last week, so I am still feeling refreshed.  Andrew is also feeling refreshed because he was able to use that weekend to catch up on work thanks to Sarah and Andrew Stuck taking all FOUR of our kids overnight.  What a gift that was for Andrew and I!  He is all caught up, and feeling on top of things, and I got some time with the ocean.  I continue to be amazed by the community here.

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Ways you can pray:

We are making decisions about the children’s schooling next year.  We have several options and just need prayer for wisdom and discernment.

Please pray for us to find renters for our home in Warsaw.  Our tenants are moving out at the end of April, and we are looking for someone to begin renting in May 2018.

Unity on campus.  There are some underlying things that could go either direction.  Pray for grace and peace within the members of the body serving here.

Thank you friends!

 

 

January Update

Our last blog post dropped off right before Christmas.

The day before Christmas Eve my Dad, step Mom Vicki, and my brother Michael arrived for a week long stay.  We spent Christmas Eve showing them around campus and resting.  On Christmas Eve, we had a Christmas Eve service in the chapel with Christmas carols, a Christmas choir, a short kids presentation, and a service.  There was also some Christmas trivia thrown in for some fun.  It was a really neat night, and it was well done.  After the Christmas Eve service we had the female students and the staff who were working, up for Dominican Hot Chocolate and a birthday cake for Jesus.  A tradition we started with our kids a couple of years ago.  We then went up on the roof and looked at the stars.  It was a perfectly clear night and the stars were beautiful.

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The night ended with Andrew surprising me with a kitten.  For the entire time we have lived here there have been various litters of kittens on campus.  Any girl who grows up on a farm with kittens every Spring and Fall knows that those seasons are “kitten season” involving a whole lot of hunting, catching and loving on all the babies.  Because of that I have often asked Andrew for a cat, and he has been adamant that we were not getting one.  I had kind of given up.  Then, bam, cat.  Many a friend had taken a scratch for me, and I had even been to the house of the person who was keeping the kitten for me and heard a strange yowling, but attributed it to being one of their cats having a bad day.  Fun times.

Christmas Day was pretty low key.  We had a late breakfast, and the hosted the male students and the staff.  We had hot chocolate and cake again, and then watched a movie.

The remainder of my family’s visit was good.  We snuck up to the beach for an overnight stay and went to an aquarium in Santo Domingo.  The kids traveled well, despite being in close proximity to one another for many hours in the car.

We had two missions team here the week after Christmas and into New Years who did a lot of work on landscaping work on the lower campus.  On New Years Eve there was a large bonfire, and fireworks over Jarabacoa, but we went to bed around 10 like true New Years scrooges.  You can’t miss midnight here with the fireworks, so I did look out the window, and woke Andrew up enough to give him a New Years kiss. 🙂

The following weekend, we were able to drive to the North Coast and see some Warsaw friends who were visiting the Island.  It was fun to have some familiar faces.  And even more fun that we understood a lot of what their Spanish speaking house help said. 🙂26219600_10154913358212691_1722305911835577562_n

We also had another team here the last two weeks from Huntington University doing a lot of work recording video and taking a lot of pictures to update our marketing resources.  They worked so hard, and we are excited to see the updated content.

Family life has returned to normal, and we now have two kittens…. Probably why Andrew didn’t want to get the first one.  Their names are Mogote (pronounced Muh-go-tay after a mountain here), also sometimes lovingly referred to as Pedo (fart in Spanish) and Gerard (named by the one and only Melyssa Geever).

Andrew

High:  Having family here for Christmas and being able to show them what we’re doing here.

Low:  The cats.  The adjustment phase with them has been a bit rough as they have gotten used to us, and to each other.  We’re getting past that now.

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He is a liar. – Erin

Erin 

High:  Having family here.  Also, mi gatos.  They’re awesome.  It has also been really meaningful that many friends and families thoughts of us during the holidays and sent some goodies our way.  It reminded the kids (and Andrew and I) of all the people they miss!20180107_142612

Low:  This month has been pretty swell, other than feeling like we had a newborn when Gerard joined the family.  He was sick, and in a funk at first.

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High: Opening presents with Vicki.

Low:  I had a stuffy nose for seven days.

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High: Playing with the kittens.

Low: When I don’t get to play on my Kindle because I disobey.

Selah

High:  Reading lots of books and playing with Daniel (the kids Spanish tutor/babysitter while we have our Spanish lessons).

Low: When I had 100 ants crawl into my pants to bite me very hard!

Naomi

High:  We got these fluffy new creatures that I love to chase and squish.  Also, I can climb up on the counter now.  There is no limit to my destructive abilities now.

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Low:  The new creatures look so snuggly, but they are super pokey and make me cry. “Cats are mystical creatures, they’re like a teddy bear who mated with a cactus.”

Remembering

Every month on the 15th I have a calendar reminder to look back over the previous month and put together a blog post by the 20th of the month.  More on that in a minute.

In early December I finished a very slow, full year plodding through the book of Psalms.  When I started out last January, I wanted to be intentional about prayerfully and thoughtfully reading the Bible.  No agenda or big plan, just reading and allowing God to impress things on my heart through it.  There are a lot of things I could communicate about how much value there was in moving slowly, and reflectively through scripture, but I wanted to highlight to ideas that are very redundant throughout the Psalms, and I am finding more and more, that they are redundant throughout the whole of scripture.  First, I was floored by how often God communicates His steadfast love.  It certainly wasn’t an accident when I chose to read through Psalms, or that God would take the one thing that I struggle to wholly take in and accept willingly from anyone (including Him), and just pour it over me for 365 days.

The other idea God continually has reiterated to me is this concept of looking back and remembering.  Israel was strongly encouraged to remember their heritage.  To remember God’s “steadfast love” throughout the generations, to carry on the legacy of faith.  As I have begun reading through Genesis we see this over and over, even in the early generations.  Setting up pillars of stone, recounting the history to one another to remind one another of what God had done.  The reminders weren’t ever the first time these stories were recounted either.  They were stories that were known and shared again and again to remember identity, purpose, all things given by God.

Psalm 136 is a great example of both ideas in one chapter.

It’s not ironic that I began reading through the Old Testament in December and into January either.  A time when our thoughts are already drawn reflectively backwards and forwards in anticipation of the beginning of a New Year.  So as we looked back on 2017, and recounted to one another all that God has done, I did so with a greater understanding of the need to remember to pass on the stories, and the legacy of faith to my own family.  I want my kids to get sick of hearing the same stories, until one day those stories come alive as they face giants, or need God to provide.  God is present.  God can be heard and known.  God desires relationship.  God has a deep, unwavering, enduring, steadfast love for His people.

Back to that calendar reminder… As Andrew and I talk about what we want to share in our blogs each month, I want to thank you for giving us a reason to regularly look back on these months, and to really soak in the value of remembering all that God has done.

Looking back, maybe 2017 was a really painful year for you.  Maybe it was awesome.  It doesn’t really matter.  Take time to look back and reflect.  Set up some pillars of remembrance, maybe even some pillars of sorrowful memoriam.  Do you have some stuff that needs to be buried and left behind with no looking back?  Take care of it.

Now, I’m off to write our actual update for the month. 🙂