Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crazy God Story!

So this week has been interesting. Over that past few weeks I have been kinda stressing out about the whole fundraising thing. I just feel clueless and I am not sure what direction to go with it. Anyways... so yesterday, I see this old, about 4'8guy sitting by himself in the dining commons. I went over to talk to him and came to find out that he was a missionary in Nigeria for 30 years. He had the most crazy, funny, random stories. Throughout the three hours that I stayed to talk to him, it was cool to see him interact with the people who filtered in and out sitting with us. He prayed for almost every single person, it was great. I also just asked him how he did the fundraising thing and such... anyway about 1 hour or so into the convo, he whips out a 100 bill and gives it to me for missions. Then, as I am sharing this story about lunch a couple of hours later, Jim Ralstin felt like God was calling him to give me $200 that afternoon... THEN... today someone anonymously put $500 in my mail box with an encouraging note... So yeah GOD IS AMAZING!!!! I was just reminded that God is completely in control.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Well, it looks like this is just the beginning of future blogs to come... well hopefully. I went back down and had my interview and everything went really great. I have not been "officially" accepted yet but it really looks I will go back to work in May. I will work alongside Raul (the boys sports site leader) for the summer and then as I build more relationships, try to pull away and start my own site in the fall!!! So, now this just the beginning of a whole new journey, finding support. Pray that God will provide guidance in this because this is something that I have a hard time with and really have no clue what I am doing. Any suggestions?

As I come back to "college" life, I am really nervous. I do not want to just jump back into things unchanged. However, I also want be able to live in the present and ENJOY life here. However, my heart is definitely in the DR and I am certain I will return. However, he also has a purpose in me being here. I am super pumped to assistant coach and spend more time with those girls. I just am having a hard time right now and I just feel I am in one world but my heart is in another.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Processing My Thoughts

Well, I just wanted to get some random thoughts out because I going through one of my mind racing thinking nights.  It's hard for me to explain.  I just feel like I just try to take in so much while I am here and when I finally lay down for bed is when I actually try to process it all.  So here it goes. This is me trying to process my thoughts in a little bit more organized manner. 

So if you didn't know, I am back in the DR.  During the last week of my internship, a job was offered/thought up of starting a girls sports ministry site.  This has been my dream ever since I went to Jamaica with the volleyball team my freshman year.  So when this came up, I totally was all about it.  Seriously, I cannot think of a better thing to do with my life.  I am not going to get into the details about the job, but basically I would start a girls sports site, with a volleyball focus.  

I felt today was one of the coolest days of my life... I know that sounds dramatic, but today was HUGE!  Okay, so first I got to go to the sports site which always makes a good day.   I feel like I am finally really getting to know the kids.  Now that I can understand their Spanish better, I am discovering their individual personalities and how super funny a lot of them are.  Secondly, I dominated at dominos twice in a row.  I know this may not seem like a big deal, hopefully Dave doesn't read this. But anyway, he and Moreno (17 year old Dominican that we have become great friends with) are real good at dominos.  Dominos are a big thing here and I feel like actually understanding the strategy of this game makes me a little bit more Dominican.  So THEN... after siesta we played a game.  The coolest part of the game was that a girl named Mira came toward the end.  She played on our team and I got to talk with her a lot.  She invited me to come to watch her softball game this next Sunday.  Then, her softball team came to practice at 3 (the truck to take us back comes at 3:20).  So she actually invited me to practice with her team.  So of course I agreed and had SOOOO much fun.  But then, the truck came.  And this is where I felt things really changed for me.  

I decided I wanted to stay because I knew Dave could come back and get me when we were going to play volleyball with some guys in Barrio Blanca (a nearby community that we play in every day from 4-6).  Anyways, staying at the field was a really different feeling.  I no longer had a site leader to fend for me, or even Dave to help fend of drunk Dominicans who decide they are in love with the Americana.  (funny story if you want to hear it some time).  Can you see what I mean now that my mind goes on random tangents.  It drives me crazy! It's not like I am even coming up with these great insights on my observations, I just try to make sense of it all.   Okay, back on track. So it felt weird when the truck pulled away.  I felt like I was finally fulling stepping into the culture.  I continued to practice with the team. We had batting practice and I tried to make sense of what the coach was trying to say to me.  I mingled with with the other players.  It's really hard for me to put words of how I felt.  It was just a very different feeling being on my own.  I did not have another intern to talk English with if I needed help saying something.  I did not have Raul or Amy as my "boss" there.  Its also a bit scarier when you are an American girl because its just inivatable that you will be starred at, hissed at or hit on. Although that it just something I have to not get so annoyed with because that is pretty typical here.  But it anyways, it was really fun.  I felt like it is actually becoming life.  I actually have friends that I would hang out with, just like I would friends back at home.  Moreno and Victor, who are friends from the baseball field stayed at the practice too.  They helped facilitate the practice.  I was fun having there to cheer me on as well as laugh at me when I messed up.  Once practice finished, it just seemed really comfortable to just go play dominos with those guys as we waited for the truck to come get me.  All I know... is I loved it! By the end of the practice, Mira invited me to play with her team next Sunday! And thankfully I can still play because church is in the afternoon here. 

But just wait, the fantastic day did not end there.  After practice, Dave and I went to Barrio Blanca to play volleyball.  All of the best players were there along with our other friends Christian and Inoel (Inoel is like five foot nothing but can hit better than anyone I have ever seen... yes ever).  So we just had a blast playing volleyball and even got to play some two-on-two at the end. I guess the others got tired or something... haha. I guess not everyone is as obsessed with volleyball as I am.  So then, Dioni who we play volleyball with invited me to come back tomorrow and put on a practice for some girls in the community.  Okay, I am going to try to sleep now. Thanks for listening!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Future Missionary?

Wow- I cannot believe this experience is coming to an end.  We are about to start my last two week outreach.  I really do not want to leave.  I feel like I am finally getting really connected with people.  For example, Dave and I found some Dominicans who play volleyball every day at four.  So last Friday, we went to play and got back at 6:05. Guess what time the banquet started? Oh, 6. Oops. We plan on going as much as we can these last few weeks.  I just wish I would have found this stuff out 8 weeks ago.  It was cool too because the guy who invited us, Dioni, asked if I could do a volleyball practice for the girls in the community.  I was like... OF COURSE!!!   The guys have really gotten into playing basketball with some guys in the community too.  So at least twice a week, we go and watch them play.  I feel like there are so many opportunites to connect to people here through sports especially.

I do not want to get my hopes too high, but I may have a future job opportunity here.  Some ideas are being thrown around about me coming back as a site leader for an additional sports site.  There are very little opportunities for girls to play sports here.  So the idea would be that I would work with Raul (the baseball site leader) for a while and build relationships with people in the community.  Eventually, we would set up another site where I could coach volleyball.  So yeah I would get to play sports all day in the Dominican Republic. How fun would that be!?! But like I said, this is still in the beginning stages.  I am going to be talking through more of the logistics with Nate and Lowell this week... but yeah.  Please pray for guidance.  I would obviously finish this last year of school but then after that, (as soon as I could raise enough support) I would come back an be a real live missionary!!!!  I am super pumped!  Every time I pray about it, I get more and more excited.  I feel as if so many of my life experiences have led up to this.  For example, playing softball growing up has helped me to get connected at the baseball site.  Volleyball is pretty much the second most popular site here after baseball.  Other missions trips have shown me my passion for using sports as missions.  Even more, I will be assistant coaching for Bethel which will give me valuable tools to coaching here on my own.  We will see.  Sorry I don't have any fun pics today.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

Experiencing Poverty

One of my goals in coming here this summer was to try gain a better understanding of poverty. I had hoped by being closer to poor people, I could somehow experience what they experience. However, the longer I am here, I realize how far I am from actually experiencing poverty. There is one specific instance that I can't seem to get out of my head. This past weekend, Hosea and Vanessa took us on a trip to visit Santo Domingo, the capital. At one point we were driving back to our hostel. It was nighttime and it was raining pretty hard. A woman stood outside our van. Her clothes were torn and she seemed to just be withering away in the rain. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did. No matter how hard I try to be immersed in this culture, I cannot even come close to experiencing poverty. Yes, I could still give up all I have and try to live on the streets , but it still would not be the same. I would always have my family to lean on. Because of my education and background, I will always be able to get a job and support myself. Yet, there are definitely people who are do not have this privilege. There are many that no matter how smart they are or how many good decisions they make, they cannot escape a life of poverty. So what now? I know I have a responsibility to live a frugal life and give to the poor. I just feel that can only go so far. So really, I feel like I have not come to any great conclusions and revelations. However, these have just been some things I have been reflecting on lately.

Anyways.... Like I mentioned before, we took a trip to Santo Domingo during our last weekend off. Hosea grew up in Santo Domingo, so he was able to show us around the city. Below is a picture of all of us interns. We had such a blast. I also had my first experience staying in a hostel in the city. We all crammed into one room and shared two bathrooms with the rest of the guests. Fun times.

The picture below is of part of the group that I took into town. We ate at Pico Pollo, a classic food of the Dominican Republic: Fried chicken and fried plantains. Yum! The one who is trying to look tough in the picture is Ryan. He says the funniest things. Probably the highlight of my week was when we were practicing for the volleyball outreach. As we were playing this game I invented he shouts out, "This is the most fun I've had with white people". Dave (the other intern helping with the volleyball outreach) and I just laughed so hard. High schoolers say some of the best stuff.
As far as the ministry goes, I can definitely tell I am getting tired. I love working with Amy and I love the kids at the PT site. However, some days I just feel exhausted and I do not have the patience. It's tough because I feel totally unqualified to do physical therapy and that frustrates me, a lot. But I am realizing that I do not have to be good at something for God to use me. It just gives me more of a reason to rely on God. This past group has been high schoolers, which has definitely been a change. I feel as if I am back at camp. As far as my role as an intern, I think I like having high schoolers better. Just like camp, I know that in order for them to be energetic, I have got to be SUPER energetic. If you have ever worked with high schoolers, you know what I am talking about. So I love it, but it is definitely even more draining. But that's what I am here for: To pour out, so that God can fill me back up again. God is good!
If you want to see more pics and don't have facebook... here ya go:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Leaving the Honeymoon Stage

I think I have officially left the honeymoon stage of being here and its starting to become life. I do not think I will become fully settled because I still know I am leaving. However, the "newness" of it all has definitely diminished. I have found that there are certain habits that I am developing. These habits are being developed not necessarily out of good practice, but because of immediate need.

New Habit #1: Cleaning Promptly
We have a kitchen and living room area that all of us interns share. If I leave behind even a crumb on the counter, within 20 minutes it be swarmed with ants. Because it is so hot and humid here, my clothes must be washed at least once a week. Also, because the plumbing system is poor here, we have to put our toilet paper in a trash. Thus, the whole packing trash cans to they are full (like I did at home) just does not fly here. ***Get it? "Fly here" haha.

New Habit #2: Self Defense Skills
As Sissy accurately put it the other day, PT stands for Physical Torture. The kids at Genesis School are so loving and affectionate. However, it's a good day when I only get in the face once or twice. God is definitely developing my patience. The other day, we were working with this boy Dani. He had managed to bend down and start drinking water from a muddy puddle. I lifted him just in time for him to turn and spit it right in my face. It was awesome. I do not share this story, but to give people a small glimpse of what these teachers have to deal with on a daily basis. I have grown to develop such an admiration and respect for people who work with special needs students. In addition, my reflex skills have dramatically quickened over the past few weeks. Although, sometimes the kids whip out moves that deem me defenseless. Below is a picture of Henny during our "field day". The school had a day where they made puppet horse heads and attached them to sticks. They had races around the school on their horses. It was so cute, all the kids dressed up for the occasion as well!
The 4 new interns have now joined us. It has been an fun transition. Brianne is my new roomie and we get along great. Thankfully, one of us farted the very first night (I wont say who), it totally broke the ice, and we have been great friends since. The other interns are awesome as well. Travis Gerig has joined me at the school and it has been fun to have another friend there. He has been working with one of the toughest kids at the school. During his spare time, he takes care of kids who get hurt. Below is a picture of Arhennis, the gatekeeper.
I have found my new favorite catch partner- Dave Adams. I don't know what my deal here is... but I cannot throw a baseball here for the life of me. Anyways, Dave is real tall and he used to play first base. So for the first time here is the DR, catch is somewhat enjoyable because I am not making the other person chase after my horrific throws. Also, the movie Nacho Libre holds a special part of my heart. Tyler and I are obsessed with this movie have tried to convince the rest of the world to feel the same way. It's the beeest! I looove it! All the interns have been such an encouragment to me. Their enthusiasm and desire to serve is such an inspiration. The only downfall of having such awesome interns, is that we all seem to stay up later now to play games. Oh and thanks to my amazing mom and sister's birthday package, I now have Settlers!For those of you who know me pretty well, you know I have a "sensitive" stomach. Well, here it is seriously taking a beating. Actually, the reason I have time to type this right now is because I was up all night with diarrhea. Sorry, if that grosses you out. But because it is so common here, I have become extremely comfortable with talking about bowel movements. :) Pray for the rest of the staff as well, a pretty bad stomach flu has been going around. I am not sure if I have what they have had. But within the past week, 7/8 interns have been sick with something (diarrhea or throwing up).

On a less "sensitive" note, I have had a blast here. I have completed over half of my time here and it has re-emphasized my desire to go into missions. I would love to come back and work with Students International. But I am still not certain that is what God's will is for me. I have fallen in love with the Spanish language and if I went to a Spanish-speaking country, I think I would want to go to language school and broaden my knowledge. I have been practicing a lot, but I still have so far to go. I want to go deeper with people and it is difficult when ability to carry conversation is limited. We get one day off per outreach and I have used it to go to the sports site. It is probably one of my favorite parts of the week. I absolutely love using sports to connect with people. So I am hoping God will open some opportunity to serve Him through sports. We'll see!!!! :) Below are some more pictures from this past outreach. The first is me at a house helping Miguelina (one of the teachers from the school) helping to make mangu. Mangu is basically smashed plantains, mixed with butter and other special Dominican ingredients.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Becoming Asian

Over these past few two weeks, I have experienced a lot of "firsts". So here they are in no specific order of importance.
First #1: Swimming Pool

Because of a national holiday, the school decided we were going to take the kids to the swimming pool. At first, this sound like a relaxing activity. However, it was definitely an adventure. Trying to keep 20 kids from drowning all at the same time is exciting. It was funny too because before we left, we all joked about who would get Henny. It is hard for me to descibe the entire being of Henny. She is one strong girl. She is very strong and just runs around like a monster. Anyways, I volunteered to swim with her first because I wanted the challenge. About two minutes into it, Amy warned me, "Jess, make sure she doesn't drink too much water or she will puke." Sweet. Luckily, her teacher was playing with her when she hit that limit. My respect and admiration for her teacher went to an all time high when Henny started to puke. Rather than push Henny away (the natural instinct), she held her close and caught most of the puke in her hand. Daily, I am blown away by the commitment and patience that these teachers have for the students.

First #2: Becoming Asian

One of the schools that came with this past outreach was Boston University. Many of them were Asian and I had the priviledge of hanging out with them this past week. Anya and Allison were two of them that were at my physical therapy site. And through much practice and training, by the end of the week, they concluded that I had become 1/4 Chinese and 1/4 Korean. The BU group added so much excitedment to the week. This included intense ping pong games, the dart game inhanced with the moose roll, rock/paper/scissor competitions to determine dishes for the at least 6 people. (which i dominated YJ multiple times). I had a blast with these guys and they gave me the priviledge of taking an "Asian" picture with them at the end of the week.

First #3: Repelling
All eight of us interns went repelling. We hiked along the Jiminoa river. We repelled down two walls, (one about 80 feet the second 100 feet). The second one was intense because it was right beside of a waterfall. Fun day!

First #4: Dominican driving
Now that we have the other four interns here, we sometimes have to take two cars. In other words, when Tyler isn't here, someone else needs to drive. So, yesterday I had my first experience driving in the Dominican. Driving here is interesting. Red lights serve more as yield signs, unmarked one way streets, and motorcycles that pass on the left hand side of you when you are turning left. Needless to say, it's quite an adventure.

Here is another pic of one of the girls from thes school. I love her smile especially.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Knowing My Role

Hi Friends!

Well, I have now been here in the DR for over two weeks. We have completed one full outreach of the Bethel Team and Providence College. I am starting to feel more comfortable and am more aware of my role as an intern. At the base, we are helping out with little things such as locking up stuff at night, orchestrating games (my favorite thing to do), preparing breakfast on some mornings, and just trying to help out the staff in any ways we can. Here is a picture of the other interns. It has seriously been such a blessing to work with these guys.

Beyond my responsibilities as an intern at the base, I still work at the Physical Therapy site with Amy Green. Amy is an occupational therapist but she also wears the hat of physical therapist for the kids. It has been fun as the week has progressed because she has given me more responsibility especially in the physical therapy realm. While she works with some kids inside doing occupational therapy stuff to improve fine motor skills, I work outside with kids to improve gross motor skills. It is actually really fun. I never realized how simple motions such as jumping with two feet or running could serve so many purposes. I have gained so much respect for therapists. Here is a picture of Amy and one of the girls that we see during the week called Rosa. Rosa has a cleft palate and is mostly deaf and blind due mostly due to malnutrition and neglect as a baby. It is sometimes difficult for me to not get angry at the parents. Maybe its a good thing that my Spanish is not good enough for me to speak my mind. No, but for real, its so discouraging to know that despite the work and love that Amy pours into these kids, they are getting zero follow-up at home.

Well, that's about all for now. I am actually pretty sick. I have had pretty bad diarrhea for the past couple of days. I thought at first it was just me reacting weirdly to the food here (which it does often). But, day and night of it is not normal. So yeah, pray that this will just pass because I really have not been able to leave my bed. It's annoying because this new group is really awesome. They are really active and it was fun playing games with them yesterday. However, today since all food/energy is depleted from my body I am not really able to do much. Well, adios mis amigos!!! Dios te bendiga! (God bless you)

Friday, May 9, 2008


Here are some pictures of some of the kids we have been hanging out with. :) From left to right are Vanessa, Leonela, Rances, Henny, y Franklin. In the right are two of the teachers at the school. I have so much respect for them. I don't think I could do this job for real. There will be more later. Pero, necisito dormir!

Finding a Christlike Attitude

I am struggling to find the right attitude with these kids. Like I mentioned before, I have been working with special needs kids. I am not sure what a Christ-like attitude looks like. It is hard for me to explain. But I am going to try so that if anyone has any advice, I would love to hear it. Okay, so here it goes. I don't know if it is okay to pity and feel sorry for these kids. At the same time, is it okay to laugh when they do funny things? For example, today a boy named Jeremy has legs that are somewhat inverted so he has a hard time walking. Anyway, he got going too fast running down a hill and wiped out. Is it okay that we laughed? They are just kids and we laugh when "normal" kids do funny things. I am trying to process all this and I have not really quite come to a great conclusion. I think its okay to laugh and just enjoy being with them.

Besides that, I am started to feel a little less overwhelmed. I still am unsure why God has placed me at the physical therapy site. I feel that my passions are sports and education so at first I was a little be frustrated that I wasn't at any of these sites. However, I am realizing that I still may be able to incorporate these at my site. I still feel pretty inadequate. One of the toughest parts is trying understand what these kids are saying. These kids already slur their words and do not speak clearly. It's hard enough trying to translate their Spanish. For example, today a boy took about ten minutes to explain a game to me. I sat there clueless until finally he tapped me and said, "topa" which means tag!

Well so far, a week has gone by and I am so glad I am staying here for 9 more weeks. I have already learned so much Spanish and I have many opportunities to continue practicing. I still need prayer for courage because I am still intimidated to practice with other adult Spanish speakers. It is easier to practice with kids. But I know the only way for me to really improve is to practice. Today, Amy gave us some more freedom. Knox and I were in charge of physical therapy with the kids and I really liked that. I feel like I am gaining the essential vocab needed at the site (follow me, don't hit me, come here, look here). Tomorrow we have our excursion day. I am going with a lot of the Bethel people to go white water rafting. Tough life I know. :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Learning how to serve

Well, this is my first official blog. I am currently serving as an intern for a missions organization called Students International. I am based in Dominican Republic in a city known as Jarabacoa. I hope to use this "blog" as way to share about my experiences. Plus, if I can figure it out... I hope to put up pictures as well. So here it goes!!! :)

My experience so far has been pretty easy going, which was a nice break since the last few weeks of school were crazy. The other interns are amazing. We made a "rules" video yesterday. My first appearance in film. If I can figure it out, I may try to see if I can post it here. It's pretty funny. The Bethel team is here now and I really have had a blast hanging out with them. Tonight we learned the Meringue!!! For the rest of the summer, I am going to be working at the Physical Therapy site. It is at a school for special needs children. I am really excited to work to with Amy Green (the woman in charge of PT and OT). She told me my resposibility is going to be doing more of the physical therapy side of stuff. I did not really understand when she told me this. She explained that physical therapy is helping them get to where they are going and occupational therapy (OT) is helping them do things when they get there. So, by doing PT, I will be doing different active things such as throwing/catching balls, making up obstacle courses, in order to use different muscle groups. I really do not have any idea what I am doing. But thats okay. I am excited to learn something new.

I have been learning a lot about what it means to really serve. One of the leaders gave a talk this morning about being a servant. She mentioned something by John Hayes from the book Submerge. I am not sure if this is the exact quote but I will give it my best shot. Hayes went on a missions trip to India. He said that he went to India to encounter poverty and he encountered poor people instead. I have found that I am guilty of approaching missions with that same original mindset. It is not about making memories, taking pictures or even feeling sorry for the people here. Instead, it is about relationships. I need to come not with the mentality of trying to make a difference, but to just love people. I need to learn their story instead of trying to create my own adventurous story. Gosh, this gets me excited that God has given me this opportunity to be here. I have learned so much already. Well, tomorrow is our first official day at our work sites. Hooray!