Friday, November 22, 2013

Good Time

Well if you don’t know already, I’m back in the land of the free and home of the brave. That’s right, every brave person has been a product of the United States or is currently living here… But I will let you all know what has happened the last month before I got home.

The last month went well. We were really busy and I am thankful for that. I worked along side Alejandro and Juan Luis everyday and worked on a lot of different things: responding to problems with systems, helping people in the communities learn more about W@W, helping with water house construction, travelling to all of the different sites and trying to have a more regular presence in all the locations with systems (there are about 17 of them). We want to show the people in the communities that we are there for them and care. I have seen many examples of mission groups that have come to the DR for a week and have given poor, uneducated people a complex water system and then never come back ever again. Even though the intentions were great, it ends up not helping anyone because the systems end up being broken for years until someone finds it again. So, we are really trying to teach a few different people in each community how to use the systems and check up on them regularly so that these things won’t happen again.

It was exciting for me the last month getting to see Alejandro and Juan Luis take more of a leadership role as their new jobs develop and to start making more decisions. It’s great to see this because W@W’s goal is not to see Americans running the show in country all of the time. They would love to see more Dominicans leading the ministry in country because honestly, it is about the Dominicans when you get down to it. It was hard to say goodbye to all of the people I met down there and especially hard saying goodbye to Juan Luis. We are the same age; we did everything together; and were always cracking each other up. We have become great friends. But even though I had to say goodbye for now, I don’t feel like it is forever. Who knows, I might go back in the future to work with W@W more! When I flew back to the U.S., I stayed in Atlanta for a few days for a mini-retreat for W@W. I am really thankful for all of the people from W@W. They are doing a great job and are trying to seek the Lord in all they are doing. They are all great examples for me.

I have learned so much since I have been gone. Wow, so much. One thing that has stuck out to me the most though, and I don’t really know why this one thing has been the biggest. But, I am learning that I have to do whatever it is that God wants me to do. Period. I feel like God has spoken that to me the whole time I was there. I would talk to people and this topic would keep coming up, or read a verse and it would seem God was saying that to me, or I would hear “Gods will has to be done,” etc. I couldn’t get away from it! But I know that God has been telling me that. So often I am trying to go my own way and pull away from him but he keeps pulling me back. But I am thankful that as messed up as I am, God still invites me back to him by his grace and mercy. It’s like that Hillsong song, “A thousand times I’ve failed still your mercy remains. Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace.” It really is an amazing love.

I am so thankful for all of you that have supported and prayed for me during this time. I didn’t deserve to go on a great trip and serve along side the people there. God, friends and family have been so good to me. I know I am back but if ya’ll still want to say some more prayers, here is a few: that God would bless W@W’s efforts while most of us our back in the U.S. right now, and that God would show me where to go next because I don’t know where to go exactly! But the mystery is exciting.



We had a big water-opening in La Ramana. 



These kids look chubby but it's just do to malnutrition. The water they are drinking there is so dirty! But thankful a new water house was complete there last week.  



This kid was so funny. He would follow me around everywhere and always wanted to help me with work. That's him drinking water from our water system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

boom boom boom


Alrighty… Many things have happened since I have written last. I have been all over the island many times this last month and it has been a whirlwind. We (the Water@Work team) have been installing systems and have started to put in a lot of new reverse osmosis systems. We have run into many, many, many problems while trying to install “high-tech” machinery into these poorer, underdeveloped areas. But, even though we have faced a lot of challenges in that regard, it’s honestly fun trying to problem solve and figure out why this or that isn’t working. Often, we will have to sit around for hours, or show up at night sometime in hopes that the power will come on so that we can run these systems for the first time. So, many challenges at first with the technical side, but we are ironing out a lot of those problems.

We have done a lot of installation work lately but I’m getting more excited about our next focus. We (Juan Luis and I) are going to start working with the churches and the people in the community more and start helping them with selling and the marketing of the water, and start talking about ways that we can evangelize through all of this. I mentioned Juan Luis above; he is the new in country community support guy. He is a local Dominican and his dad is a pastor here on the island. I live with him and we are the same age, so it has been fun to get to work along side of him. 


I have been seeing a lot of poverty since I have been here and it has been very eye opening. But for the first time in my life, I was completely in awe of the living conditions of a barrio I visited the other day. The name of the community is called Duquesa. It is located just off of the capitals trash dump. There is SO MUCH TRASH in the community. It amazed me. The people there make a living digging through the trash and selling plastics, metals, and other valuables they find. W@W wants to do a project in this community. There are pictures below.

Getting to intern with the organization has helped me so much because it has helped me realize that there are bigger problems than all of the ones that have to do with me (which seem endless). It’s so easy for me to think about myself all of the time. Thankfully this internship has been forcing me to think about and pray for other people more. It’s almost like God has been inviting me to move away from all of these problems I create in my mind all the time and has been telling me, “Open your eyes and look! It’s not all about you. Now chill…”  


Prayers:
1.     That the communities and churches receiving these water houses for the first time would take ownership of them
2.     That bringing people to Christ would be the main motive of the ministry. More than just giving people clean water and an economy.
3.     That I would want to seek God more and more.
 These are pics from Duquesa 

 The people find plastic and clean it so that they can sell it to Chinese factories 



 Cleanin' the tank

The water house at Villa Hermosa  

Cute kids in Batey 9

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard.


Ay Mi Madre (my favorite saying)

Let’s see… I haven’t been staying at the orphanage as much I was before. I have been in a few other cities helping with water house construction. This last week, two new water houses have been finished and are ready for water systems to be installed. We have to wait for the systems to be shipped to the DR. They should be here any day now! It’s exciting to see and talk to the people in the communities while the water houses are being built. In these two new locations (San Rafael and Villa Hermosa), the pastors seem excited to get the water systems in so that they can help out the community and use it as an evangelism tool for the church. This last week, an area that is shared by San Rafael, had a large Cholera out-break. I’m glad that another system will be installed in that area soon so that the people will have another location to get clean water.

Water@Work just hired two new local Dominicans to work for them full time in country. This is going to be very helpful for the people here and for W@W. I’m really excited to get to work with these two guys.

 
Me thinking a lot

I really enjoy the way of life here. For a lot of different reasons: nobody seems to be in a big rush; people take a lot of time to be with family and friends; I don’t see this “chase” to get more and more money and to be more and more successful; many people seem content with the little amount they have. Even when I go to the poorest areas I have seen in my life, the people there seem so happy even though they have no food, clean water, electricity, AC, computers, or material possessions at all. Of course, they have bad days and they aren’t always happy (just like everyone else), but when I spend time with them they’re never talking about how they are upset to be poor or about how hard it is to live the way they do. They are happy with what they have! Most of the time, it seems that they are helping me more than I could ever help them. They have been teaching me so much!

In the United States, God forbid that my iPhone screen cracks or that there is no more hot water for a shower! It makes me laugh sometimes to think about the difference in mindsets. Not many people live like us. And when I say, “live like us,” I’m not saying it in a way like, “Oh my gosh we are so fortunate and blessed to have all of this money and all of these nice things!” More like, “Not many people live like us… where we have so many things and money to go after that we can easily forget about what is important in our life.” And if we are being real, like really real, the only things that are important are loving God and loving others. Spending time with family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for all of the nice things that we have in the U.S. but at times I know that we are a little dramatic. I’m not guilt tripping or saying that is wrong to have nice things, just giving some prospective.

A pastor here named Pedro asked me how I was the other day and I responded with “Good. How are you?” He said, “Why are you only good? And not super good?” I said, “Well… I don’t know. I’m just good!” He laughed and said, “Listen. You are healthy, you have a family that loves you, you have a girl friend (correction: a beautiful girlfriend ;) ), you have a job, we are feeding you all the time, you’re in the Dominican Republic, and you know the Lord. What else do you what?” I didn’t know what to say! He made a good point.

If the people here can be content with very little, then I should hopefully be able to be content with a lot! I love the first verse of Psalm 23- “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” I don’t need to be “wanting” more and more. The Lord will give me what I need each day. I just need to be more thankful with where I am today, like so many of the people I have met here. I don’t need to be wishing I was somewhere, or that I had this or that, or thinking that something else will make me happier. The Lord will give me what I need next, but for today, I might as well be happy with what I have. If I’m not, I’m just going to be wasting my time.

Now, I just need to remember this next time I’m whining…

I’m getting off my soapbox. More like I would probably be slipping off my soapbox. Who would make a box out of soap?

Please pray for direction each day here and with Water@Work, for these new water projects to make a “splash” in the community, and for us all to delight in what we have each day and the Lord.

My internet is too slow to load pictures right now. Sorry!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Otro!


Just to get a picture of “poor” here in the DR
Often, you will see a person in the Bateys sitting around under a tree or on their porch “just shooting the breeze.” At first I didn’t understand why they weren’t off working. Most people in the bateys work for the sugar cane company here in Barahona but they only are able to work for 6 months in the year for the sugar cane season. The bateys are literally in the middle of nowhere, and a good half hour to an hour away from the closest city. They people with jobs only make about $3.50 a day working in these sugar cane fields. Often, the father will be the only one working because they have so many children and the mom needs to take care of them. I have even heard of one woman in a batey that has 20 kids! So after crunching some numbers, a family’s monthly budget is about 50 dollars a month, or 10 to 15 dollars a week (I converted all the money to $U.S. but they use Dominican pesos). And prices are not much cheaper here either; it cost $3 just to get to the closest city with public transportation, and gas is over $5 a gallon. The people in the bateys will often eat one meal a day at 2 in the afternoon, often rice or bread because they don’t have money to eat more.

In places without water systems, the people will drink from a common tap that comes from the city water. City water here is nothing like city water in the United States; nobody drinks water from the tap plain here or without filtering it first. I’ve been finding out that the people in bateys will fill buckets with tap water and then pour a cup of bleach in it to clean it. I was shocked! Then for the younger children, they will buy 5-gallon jugs of clean filtered water from water trucks that visit the bateys for just around a 1 dollar. One dollar doesn’t sound like a lot but when your budget is $10-15 a week, its expensive.

So how does Water@Work plan to help?
The vision is pretty cool. They initially try to give a water system to a church in community that is in need. They build a “water house” to put the water system in for security, and so that they can sell the water from the building. They will charge the people only 10 to 25 cents for their 5-gallon jugs, and the money goes to the maintenance of the water system (like filters, repairs, etc.) and the left over money goes to the church overseeing the water system and the community. They will hire a local person from the community to work the water house as well. Most of the water systems will mostly be on the churches property so people from the community will be going to and from the church often so that it can be a helpful evangelism tool. So, the plan is to help the community become more self-sufficient, create jobs, improve health, and point people towards Christ.

What’s been happening with me?
I have been in a couple different places this month. I spent a week or more in Bani helping out with an American team that came down to build a water house for a community. I had a good time talking with all of the people that week. I felt like I learned a lot from all of the people that came down. I got to have a lot of really good conversations with most of them and I loved hearing all of their stories and how God has put them where they are today.

Now, I am in Barahona again. It has been nice because I have been able to go to a lot of different areas this last week and see the status of communities and how the water systems are doing. Some are doing great and others are not doing great, but I’m glad that I am able to talk to the people in the communities and see why some are successful and why others are not; this will help out a lot in the future and planning other water systems.

Cosas que estoy aprendiendo (things I’m learning)
I’m pretty sure I’ve learned close to a million things since I wrote last (give or take a million) but just one thing from Psalm 138. I like the whole chapter but specifically verse 8:
           
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.”

This is such a great verse for me because I find myself worrying so often about dumb stuff and it gets really tiring. But, I am thankful that if I live my life abandoned to the Lord then he will fulfill his purpose for me; whatever the purpose may be. I have no idea where he is going to take me but the mystery is exciting! I’m thankful for his promise to me that he won’t forget me, the work of his hands. 

Pray
That God would just tell me where to go each day and for organization down here so that I can help more effectively. 
This is the water house the team was helping a few weeks ago. The roof and everything is on it now and it's almost complete. 

Looks like a fat cigar but it's just sugar cane. It's everywhere here! It's growing on me. 

This is a water system in batey Algedon that has been very successful at selling water. This pastor has put a lot of work in it and getting the community to use to water. 

I've been loving the rides to the bateys everyday. Island beauty. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yip!


I’m nearing a month of being in the DR. It’s gone by faster than I could have ever imagined. It feels like I just arrived! The experiences and relationships that I have been gaining down here have sped up the time some… or a lot.

The last two weeks or so I have been spending almost everyday in Batey 7 and 9. I have been doing a lot of random things: I have been helping the clinic organize all of there medical donations; working with some people in Batey 7 on an agriculture project so that they can grow their own food; and this last week I have been getting to go to a couple other bateys with existing water systems. John Bearden and I have been working out some of the kinks with a few systems here. Like the system in Batey 9, it has been down for some time and it should be up and running again in the next week or two, hopefully. In batey Alta Gracia, the people just don’t like the taste of the water so they are only using it for bathing right now. Even though they are only using the water to bathe, it is still helpful because it improves hygiene. Many people bathe in really dirty streams that flow through the bateys (see pic below). In this next month, a reverse osmosis system will be added in Alta Gracia so that the people will enjoy the taste more. I drank the water though and it tasted just like water, so they must have some unique taste buds!

I am noticing more and more here how much people value relationships and talking. Even when we just visit a water system, the people seem thankful for the fact that we haven’t forgot about them and that we are keeping up with them. I hope that I will be able to visit all of the bateys more often and get to talk with the people there so that they will know and trust Water@Work more.

A verse that I’ve really been diggin’:

yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Gal. 2:16 (NET)

I forget so often that Christ has given us an amazing gift; that we are justified by believing in Him and not by works. That we can truly rest in the fact that “Jesus paid it all, (and) all to him I owe.” We don’t have to try to impress him by doing more “things” or try harder to get on his good side, because we already are.

Prayer requests:

1.     That relationships with people in the communities would grow
2.     Patience with not getting to do things as efficiently as I would like because of many different reasons (culture, communication, transportation, supplies, etc.) 

 An artist was here this week and painted this water house!

Adults and kids will bath in these dirty streams all the time.

Working with some people in Batey 7 (agriculture)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Getting Started


I made it! I arrived here in the Dominican Republic last Tuesday. I flew into the capital and was picked up by American missionaries that live here in DR (The Beardens). The Bearden’s also help out with the Water@Work ministry from time to time. I spent the first few days in the town of Bani with them at their home, which is a camp for a church here called Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana (IED). Churches come and visit the camp for retreats and getaways. The summer is a busy time at the camp and people are constantly coming and going on mission trips.
            The first few days were nice because I got to sit and talk with the Bearden’s a lot about living down here in the DR and their transition from the United States. People always tell you that travelling to another countries is a “culture shock” and it is, but it seems like it’s more of  “culture confusion” for me most of the time. I am constantly laughing to myself when I notice the differences between here and the U.S. And sometimes I am thinking in my head, “What!?” It’s funny because I know that the Dominicans are thinking the same about me at times and laugh at the things I do differently than them as well.
            After a few days in Bani, I got on a bus with a guy named Freddy and travelled to Barahona. I will be in the Barahona region for most of my stay and living in an orphanage for boys. The orphanage shares a property with a school, church, and missionary house. It’s a large property in the middle of the city. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to live here. It’s been great getting to meet and hangout with all of the orphans that live here and all of the people that are constantly coming and going. Some of you might be asking yourself, “Does he speak Spanish?” and the answer is: not a lot. But it has been really fun speaking spanglish with everyone and trying to communicate. The boys are constantly teaching me Spanish and making fun of me as I try to speak.
            This week has been a transition week and I am still learning the ropes. I’m learning how to get around the town, meeting a ton of people, and scheduling out my weeks to come so I can start working efficiently. This week I have gone to different bateys each day with the Beardens and different teams to meet people, play with the kids, and to see the condition of the water. For those that don’t know, Bateys are villages outside of the city that are extremely poor. They are often full of Haitian people that have left Haiti to come and work in the sugar cane fields here in the DR. I will be spending a lot of time next week in Batey 7 working in the clinic, gathering data for Water@Work, and building relationships with the people there. I will explain more of what I will be doing in Batey 7 in another blog, after I have been there for a week or so.
            God has been teaching me so much already while I have been down here. But one verse I have been thinking most about is John 15:12- “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” I just forget how amazing and freeing life can being when my heart is full of the love that Christ offers. His love just relieves me of so much and makes life more colorful when it seems grey. I’m thankful for his sacrifice because “I’m free to love once in for all!”

 
I've been getting to hang out with Leo, Edwin, and Leslie each day in Batey 7. They're cool cats!