Sunday, August 23, 2015

Re-Entering Our Old Lives

We've been home for a little more than two weeks and many things still feel very surreal to us.

  • It doesn't seem possible that we were actually gone for almost a year. 
  • It doesn't seem possible that just 18 days ago we were with our Dominican friends.
  • It doesn't seem possible that we learned how to speak and understand Spanish.
  • It doesn't seem possible that our children are now 13 and (almost) 11 years old.
  • It doesn't seem possible that our mission in the Dominican Republic is over.

And yet, all of those things are true and are real.

We get asked all the time about how the transition back to life in America has been.
Are we settled in yet?
Are we used to the pace here?
Do we feel at home yet?

The answer to all of those questions is a confident, "I don't know." Coming back home after serving in the Dominican Republic for almost a year has given us some emotional turbulence.

On the one hand, we're excited to be back home. On the other hand, we really miss the people in the DR.
One the one hand, we're looking forward to what's next. On the other hand, it feels strange not being part of what was happening for the past year.
On the one hand, we're American and we belong here. On the other hand, we became part of the community in our little town of Guanabano.

We haven't felt a huge amount of culture shock after being away for a year. We still feel like we understand the U.S. culture and we were prepared for the differences before we got here. The bigger adjustment has been the pace and rhythm of our lives. We were busy and active during our year in the Dominican Republic. However, much of the activity was ministry-based. Now that we're back home and in a transition period, we're still very busy and active, but most of what we're doing is not ministry-focused. Most of it is social or personal activity. That may not seem like a huge difference, but it sure feels huge to us!

During our first few weeks home we've also encountered some of the realities of life in a more affluent society. Many things are much more expensive here, and we've been hit with some hefty unexpected expenses. We trust God to provide for all of our needs - He always has - but finances can cause a lot of stress.

Our bodies are still adjusting to the changes as well. Our diet has changed dramatically, and for the most part we haven't had many problems. Some foods, however, have not agreed with our stomachs and have caused some problems. This past week we ended up in the Emergency Room where we found out Katie has a kidney stone. We think the stone has already passed (praise God) but that was a traumatic experience for her and for all of us. Not to mention the cost of visiting an Emergency Room in this country! (We made one ER visit in the Dominican Republic and it cost about $15)

We're very appreciative and thankful for all of you and the support you've poured into our lives this past year. We cherish your prayers and your encouragement. So, we're going to make one more request of our Hands & Feet Support Team. Would you please pray for us in the following ways?

  • Spiritual renewal. Moving from a season of so much purpose into a season designed for us to take a break has been difficult. Many times we feel spiritually dry and without purpose. We know this time is important and we want to soak up everything our Heavenly Father has for us.
  • Freedom from worry. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the worries of life, especially when you're feeling spiritually dry. We want to hand over all our anxieties to God and trust Him with each day.
  • Protection from spiritual attack. When we're tired, anxious, down or bored we become an easy target for the enemy. We want to keep our guard up, but also to be confident that the battle belongs to the Lord!

Thank you so much for your prayers! We've also got a couple physical needs we'd like to share with you. We're not necessarily looking for any of you to meet these needs (unless God leads you in that direction), but we would love for you to ask around your circle of family, friends and acquaintances:

1. We need a used, reliable, cheap car. Dan starts work with Transformation Ministries on September 8 and will need a vehicle. We're in the market for something in the $1,000-1,500 range. (I wasn't kidding when I said cheap!)

2. We want to find a new home for our cat. Jack is a gentle, cuddly cat. He loves to be both inside and outside. We've learned that we aren't really cat people and we're slightly allergic. We hope we can find him a good home with people who love him.

Please let us know if you've got any leads on either of these two things. As always, we love you all very much and we're so thankful for all of you!

Friday, August 21, 2015

It's Good to be Home!

Pool party and cookout with some friends and family just a few days after arriving home.

We've been home for two weeks and it has been a pleasure reconnecting with many friends and family members. There are still many people we haven't seen or talked to, but it will happen eventually.

So far, the transition home has been fairly smooth. We're missing our friends back in the Dominican Republic, but we're starting to feel at home again here in Indiana. We haven't dealt with too much culture shock after a year away from the United States. A few things have taken some getting used to, but mostly we're happy to be home and we're settling in pretty well.

We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported us throughout the year. Many of you were supporting us even before we left for the Dominican Republic last August. We are still amazed at your generosity, kindness and love. We never doubted that we had a faithful army of supporters back home while we were away. You made it easy for us to serve the Dominican people without worrying about the details of life and the prayer support needed to meet all the challenges we faced.

This is probably true for many missionaries, but we honestly feel like we learned far more from our time in the DR than we taught. The people we lived and worked with there are so kind, generous, compassionate and selfless. Most of all, though, they have a real passion for serving God and telling others about Him.

The biggest lessons we learned from our time in the Dominican Republic are:

1. Always, always say YES to God. No matter what He calls you to do, say YES! You can trust His plan for your life.

2. Live for eternity. Our lives here on earth are short and one day we will all stand before God in heaven to give an account of what we did or didn't do. Let's make the most of every day we have and spend all we have on things that make an eternal difference.

As we continue in this time of transition, we're also preparing for the next steps. Katie and the kids will start the next year of homeschooling in a few weeks. Dan will start working full-time with Transformation Ministries after Labor Day. We're excited to live out the callings of God in our lives and to put into practice the lessons we learned from our year in the Dominican Republic.

We pray that you will also be learning from God how He wants to use you to make an eternal impact. We pray that you'll be ready and willing to say YES, no matter where or what He calls you to!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Home in 3 Days!

We can't wait to see all of you back home in Indiana. Thanks for your continued prayers and support as we enter this time of transition. It hasn't been easy saying goodbye to our new family here in the Dominican Republic. And we know there may be some difficulties as we re-enter the U.S. culture. But we're so thankful for all of you and can't wait to see you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Next Step

Ever since we first started this journey in 2011, God has faithfully guided us by giving us next steps. He has never given us a clear vision for the next two, three or four years, but He has always provided clarity when the time came to take the next step.

As we started to formulate the plan for our time here in the Dominican Republic, we left the plan open-ended because we hadn't yet received the next step from God. We wanted to keep our hearts open to whatever He had next for us. Therefore, the plan was to stay here for a year and wait for God to guide us from there - whether that meant continuing our mission here in the DR or anywhere else He wanted to send us.

We are happy to tell you we have received yet another next step from our Heavenly Father! Beginning after Labor Day, Dan will be a full-time member of the Transformation Ministries staff serving the Keller Park area of South Bend, Ind.

Dan and Katie helped Kory and Ali Lantz lead the 2011 
Nappanee Missionary Church Summer IMPACT Team
to the Dominican Republic.
While the official call came quite recently, the seed of this next step was planted in the summer of 2010 when Dan first participated in the Keller Park Basketball Camp. Dan knew of Transformation Ministries Director Kory Lantz, but they weren't really friends yet. We had recently moved to Mishawaka and Dan was looking for ways to get involved in ministry opportunities close to home. The Keller Park Basketball Camp seemed like a great fit and it turns out that God has used those few days in July of 2010 to grow in us a passion for serving the Lord wherever He calls.

Dan and Kory Lantz (center) became friends
in 2010 at Keller Park Basketball Camp and 
have since worked closely together both in 
Indiana and in the Dominican Republic. 
In September they will be full-time ministry 
partners at Transformation Ministries in 
South Bend, Ind.
By the end of KP Camp, Kory and Dan had become better friends and later that year we were asked to help Kory and his wife Ali lead a group of students on a Summer IMPACT mission trip to the Dominican Republic! Throughout the last five years, Dan has continued to participate in KP Camp when possible and play basketball with Kory at Keller Park Church whenever he can. Many times during those encounters, they would joke about Dan someday being a more official part of Transformation Ministries. The jokes have now become a reality and we are very excited!

This is new territory both for us and for Transformation. Dan will be the first full-time staff other than Kory and they will work together to figure out exactly what the position looks like. One thing we do know, however, is that working with Transformation will give our family the opportunity to grow and build upon many of the lessons we've learned during our time in the Dominican Republic. We were somewhat surprised to see many similarities between the Dominican culture and the urban culture where Transformation does its work.

We are excited and thankful for the opportunity to continue doing relational ministry, and to do it with a great team. 

To our financial supporters:
First of all, we want to thank you for faithfully supporting us throughout our time in the Dominican Republic. Your generosity and obedience to God's call has allowed us to fully invest this year of our lives in an incredible life-changing ministry. We've learned a great deal about ourselves but also about God's desire to use each and every one of us to bring people to Himself.

We'd like to give you the opportunity to continue supporting us as we take the next step and go full-time with Transformation Ministries. Of course, you're under no obligation, but we'd love for you to pray about it and continue to obey the Lord however He leads.

If you're a regular monthly supporter and you want to continue supporting us, all you have to do is change the designation of your monthly donation to "Transformation Ministries."

If you'd like to end your monthly support when we complete our time in the Dominican Republic, you can simply stop making donations.

If you'd like to give a one-time or less frequent gift to support us at Transformation Ministries, you can always to to this page and donate online.

As always, we want to thank all of you who have given us love and encouragement throughout our time in the Dominican Republic. We're very excited to follow the Lord in this next step. We appreciate your prayers as we make the move back home to Indiana and prepare to dive into a new ministry opportunity in South Bend. We love you all!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Finishing Well

Exactly four weeks from today (August 6) we will be back in the United States! We are all very excited to be reunited with friends and family in Indiana, but we're also recognizing how difficult it will be to say goodbye to the new friends and family we have here in the Dominican Republic.

Our main goal in these last four weeks is to finish well. For us, finishing well means several things:

1. Spending quality time with people.
2. Taking advantage of every opportunity God gives us to serve.
3. Tying up any loose ends with ministry, relationships, financial matters.
4. Saying goodbye well.

We have been studying the way the Apostle Paul said goodbye to the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. We want to use this as a model of how we can finish well and move forward in a spirituallly healthy way.

Several things stick out about the way Paul left his friends in Ephesus:

1. He reviewed his time with them. In verse 18 Paul said, "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you ..." We plan to review our time here with Pastor Quina and the church leaders. It is important that we all recognize what has been done so we can all thank God for His faithfulness.

2. He told them where he was going. In verse 22 Paul said, "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem ..." It was important not only that Paul gave them his next destination but also reminded them that he was following the Holy Spirit's leading. That's what we want to do as well. We've been given clear direction from God and we'll share that with our friends here - and all of you - soon!

3. He encouraged them. In verse 28 Paul said, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." Paul knew that the work was not finished when he left. There was still a flock of believers in Ephesus that needed care. Not that we played the same role as Paul here in the Dominican Republic, but we want to encourage our church here to continue the work God has been doing through all of us together!

4. He released them. In verse 32 Paul said, "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace ..." While it is going to be very difficult to say goodbye we know that God is in control and, just like so many things in life, we have to trust His plan for all of our friends and family here.

These last four weeks are surely going to go by very quickly. Will you consider praying for us as we navigate this exciting, yet difficult, time? We want very badly to finish well, leave a positive las impression and move back home knowing we did everything God called us to do here in the Dominican Republic.

Thank you very much. We love you all and we can't wait to see you soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Harvest is Plentiful

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”- Matthew 9:35-38

As we get closer and closer to the end of our time here in the Dominican Republic, sometimes we look back over this past year and wonder if we've completed the mission God has given us. Since our mission was simply to serve, it's difficult to actually measure how well we've done that.

When we look back we can see many doors that were opened during our time here. We can also see many relationships built and messages given. We have completed several projects. But, like anybody in a ministry position, our hope is always to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ and grow in their discipleship.

The Nappanee Missionary Church Summer IMPACT Team
singing worship songs in a church service in Guanabano.
We're happy to share with you that we just completed a week full of spiritual fruit! We were privileged to help Pastor Quina host the Nappanee Missionary Church Summer IMPACT Team. Many such teams spend their time planting seeds, but this most recent team was blessed to be part of the harvest!

At some point we lost count of the people who gave their lives to Jesus Christ. We held the first ever Vacation Bible School in the public gymnasium in Guanabano. We did VBS at the church in Hoya Grande. We visited church members in Guanabano and Hoya Grande. We went door-to-door in Guanabano, Picacho and Hoya Grande. We visited the local women's jail. We visited a hospital in Moca. We performed dramas and shared testimonies in the park in Guanabano.

Each event and location produced new believers and/or opportunities to encourage those already following Jesus.

The partnership between Nappanee Missionary Church and Pastor Quina goes back to the first team in 2006. Seeds have been continually planted throughout the years. To see so much fruit in the span of one week has encouraged us, Pastor Quina and the members of the church in Guanabano.

Here are a few specific stories from the IMPACT team:

The public gymnasium here in Guanabano is called the Multiuso. This was the first time we've ever done VBS in the Multiuso. Pastor Quina encouraged us to move VBS out into the community where the kids are already spending much of their time, rather than trying to get them to come to the church. We partnered with an amazing man named Victor who serves the young people of Guanabano as a basketball coach and tutor.

The first ever VBS at the Multiuso in Guanabano was
an incredible opportunity for the IMPACT team to reach
the young people of the town in a setting they're comfortable
with. It was an incredible four days of ministry and many
young people gave their lives to Jesus Christ!
Through this new venture, many children and young people participated in VBS where they heard Bible stories, memorized Joshua 1:9, heard many testimonies and the Gospel.

On the final day of VBS at the Multiuso, more than 15 teenage boys gave their lives to Jesus Christ!

Women's Jail
Since March, we and members of the church in Guanabano have been making regular visits to the women's jail in town. Several girls from the Nappanee team went to visit the jail one afternoon. While there, each girl was able to share a testimony or a word of encouragement. One girl shared the Gospel and three women gave their lives to Jesus Christ!

After this visit, the girls took Bibles to the women and we've been told that they are reading their Bibles together every day in the jail.

One afternoon while we were eating lunch at the church in Guanabano, two older men from town came to ask that we pay a visit to a man in the hospital in Moca. We were told he had a broken leg and had no way to pay for the surgery needed to fix it. He also had no family to visit him and no friends who had the means to help him.

The next day a small group from the IMPACT team went to visit this man. They discovered that his name is Wilson and he had been in the hospital 17 days waiting for help. He suffered the broken leg when he was attacked and robbed.

After praying with Wilson we began to explore our options for helping him. We discovered that an orthopaedic surgeon lived one block away from Pastor Quina and he was willing to do the surgery for around $400. The Nappanee students who felt led, generously contributed and we collected the exact amount needed to pay for Wilson's surgery.

As of today (June 2) Wilson is recovering from his surgery. We don't know how much longer he'll be in the hospital, but we do know that he's on his way back to health. Wilson is a believer and he's spending much of his time reading his Bible.

There are so many stories of new believers from this past week that it's impossible to recount them all. But it's safe to say that this IMPACT team was blessed to see more salvations than any other team. Pastor Quina even commented that she feels the town of Guanabano is ready to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a new way.

All this excitement makes us a little sad to leave in about a month, but we trust that God is carrying out His perfect plan for this town. And we have faith that it won't stop with this town, but will spread to the surrounding communities and even into the whole country!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Breaking New Ground

The Bethel Baseball Team conducted several clinics with the youth
of Guanabano, and each time shared a message about God's love.

One of the privileges we've enjoyed during our 10 months here in the Dominican Republic is watching God open new doors for ministry. Whether it's because we're Americans, because we're part of Pastor Quina's church or because we have hosted several groups, the people here have shown us favor and have welcomed us with open arms.

This past week yet another door was opened when several members of the Bethel College Baseball Team came for a missions trip. Bethel College is already a recognized name as the basketball team has made a few trips over the last few years. But this was the first time the baseball team - led by Coach Seth Zartman and his family - visited the Moca area.

The baseball team took on the difficult task of digging a
9-foot square hole by hand. The dirt was hard and difficult
to dig, but they worked very hard and made great progress.
The team came to serve in several ways - baseball clinics, work projects and blessing others with their testimonies. They went above and beyond in all categories and have left a lasting mark among the youth and many adults. 

Six players from Bethel College took on some large tasks during their time here. They conducted several baseball clinics, played a few softball games and one baseball game, built and sanded bookshelves for a local school and dug a nine-foot square hole so a family in Moca could have a septic tank installed.

Needless to say, there were some long days and the team was very tired much of the time, but they put forth an amazing effort. They were very flexible as the original plans didn't always work out. They showed a real willingness to learn about and adapt to the culture. They loved with their actions. They shared some amazing testimonies and messages. They blessed the people in many, many ways.

We were also blessed to be able to host this team. It was really fun to watch God open doors for a new avenue of ministry. We are physically exhausted, but spiritually refreshed.

Now we have less than two weeks to prepare for the arrival of the next group - another group of high school students from Nappanee Missionary Church. We appreciate your prayers over this youth group and its leaders. Thank you for your continued support and love!