Hola Amigo’s and Amiga’s!
It’s been a while so let’s get right into the latest happenings. Once again each day has brought with it new experiences, sights and even smells. Here’s a list of some of the best ‘new’ experiences this past month:
* Driving for the first time in the DR Soooooooooooooooooooooooooo absolutely cool! At first glance it looks like a mixture between NASCAR meets Speedy Gonzales meets AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! In reality, it’s a constant flow that actually works. Red lights? Optional. Right of way? Also optional. New brake pads and a working horn? Necissito! As nervous as I was at first, I am psyched to get behind the wheel each day. Very fun.
* Maneuvering in a Santiago traffic! All I can say is ‘Woooooooow!!!’. Imagine yourself on a two (and a bit) lane highway traveling in a busy traffic jam when you come upon one stalled vehicle and then 200 metres later, another stalled car. Generally speaking, put your blinker on and get yourself into the appropriate lane. In Santiago, that is also true…in a big, big way 🙂 This past Friday we saw what I’ve only imagined through movies thus far. Our two (and a bit) lanes turned into 7 lanes with motorcycle taxi’s (moto’s) weaving their way in and through the cars as their fares held on tight. Horns were a going, hands were a wavin, and drivers were a nudgin’ their way through.
For us it was both stressful and hilarious. My fingerprints are permanently embedded in the steering wheel. For the kids, they have dreams of grandeur hoping, and praying for another opportunity to experience the joy and bliss of this circus like moment in time again. From the back seats you could hear them saying, ‘look out dad, here comes a moto!’, ‘GO NOW dad…you can make it!’, and ‘this is awesome!!!!’. Personally, all I could recall being heard were my own thoughts repeating over and over again….”Jesus, take me now!”
* Getting integrated into a church When we arrived a we wondered how long it would take to slide into a church family where we not only fit, but where we could find the building 🙂 Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva (Church Baptist Life New…or New Life Baptist Church) has been a fabulous place for our family to jump into. Services are obviously in Spanish but they have ear phones you can wear that tap into an FM frequency where an english translator is sitting in the next room communicating everything in english. We are at the point now where though we don’t necessarily wear the headphones (nor do we necessarily know the language either). The people are wonderful, pastor John and his wife Kelly (missionaries from the U.S. who have been here over 10 years), are beautiful people. The greatest thing about Vida Nueva is how many community people have come to know Jesus through the ministry. Simply a God thing.
* Diving into biblical truth with teenagers Teaching 9th Grade Bible 1/4 time in a new culture has been challenging. What has worked very well though is ‘team’ based learning. The students are very community oriented and have a great time interacting. Below are two pictures of some activities we did in Bible Class – #1 Abraham’s Altar for Isaac #2 Old Testament Concho’s (i.e. taxi’s) #3 Visiting the Children’s Hospital
* Living it up at our first Dominican birthday parties. Carter and Amber have both now been to Bday parties for some new friends. Key words you need to know are ‘pool party’, ‘DJ’ and ‘End? It ends whenever’. This may not always be the case but we had this Blinding Flash of the Obvious when each party revolved around swimming. Of course it would! October 28th? No problem!! It’s still 30 degrees. Have at it kids!
* Celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving…without Turkey Had fun gathering together with the only other Canadian family at the school for mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and ‘chicken’? Yep, turkey comes out around American Thanksgiving here and WOW, is it pricey. Chicken can be found around every corner (literally). So, why not!
* Ocean swimming in Puerta Plata When we heard that good friends, the Vliek’s, were coming to Puerta Plata in October, it was a no brainer that we’d find a way to visit. Believe it or not, this was our first family trip to the beach since we moved here in July. Somethings just haven’t been a priority 🙂 Thank you so much June & Fred (and the rest of the crew) for a great day and blessing us huge with lunch!! It was such a treat in so many ways. Check out this picture of incredibly attractive people…oh..sorry…it’s just us.
* Old Fashioned Cattle Drive The picture says it all. Waited as we left school today as a local farmer brought his cows from one pasture to another. Ironically both pastures border the school property. Mooooooooooove over Houck’s, we’re comin thru!
*Harvest Time Having an Avocado tree beside your house makes one the envy of others. Not having a taste for Avocado and giving them to neighbours, teachers, and friends makes one popular. Mathematically speaking it’s a win-win situation. Count to date is over 50 Avocado’s + 30 new friends 🙂
* Merry Christmas Thanksgiving? Nope…not here. Harvest happens year-round. Hallowwhat? Nope. We don’t need a tacky holiday for an excuse to dress up and have a party. We have great parties all the time (please refer above). Christmas? Ya Sure You Betchya. Christmas decor was in full swing throughout stores and Christmas lights were turned on very early in October. We’re a little slow – no jokes please. Just getting into the spirit now.
* Colmado Life While 7-11 and Mac’s stores may dominate the landscape in North America, personally I’m liking “colmado’s”. These little corner stores are everywhere and anywhere. They carry the basic essentials and some even have home cooked empanada’s (fried pastries – yummmmmmy). Water out of the tap is not drinkable so these little stores are indispensable for large, water cooler sized water jugs. And go figure…they deliver!
* Basketball Carter is flying high after being the only 6th grader to make the Junior Varsity team. He’s competing against 7th, 8th & 9th graders. Our tall kid looks small amongst the trees. His first game? Two rebounds and one blocked shot on a 6 footer. That a boy!
Over and over again we are seeing God show up and challenge us in new ways. Learning how to communicate in a new language is enjoyable. It also opens up opportunity after opportunity to explain who we are and why we are here. We’ve never had so many opportunities to share about our faith in Christ in such simple, and unthreatening ways.
November is going to open our eyes even more. We plan on visiting a new girls school a 1/2 hour outside of Santiago where young ladies are being given chance for a new life and escape the potential of working the sex trade or being snared into human trafficking. I (Tim) am meeting with two local pastors to talk about offering youthworker training events (at no cost) for the volunteers here in Santiago and communities outside the city.
Tracey is heading to Manitoba around the American Thanksgiving holiday to visit her older sister Tana. Please pray for Tana, Marv and their family. Tana suffered a stroke mid-October and is recovering well. It was a total shocker to hear that someone that young would experience something so challenging. A very special THANK YOU to friends who offered to and purchased a round-trip plane ticket for Tracey to get this chance to see Tana. You are absolutely amazing people who continue to give and give some more in different ways. We are humbled by your gift.
Well, until next month I pray the Lord watches over ya’ll and that you will see God as He shows up in different ways in your life. Please continue to pray for the Houck crew. As ministry deepens in Tracey’s 3rd grade class and my 9th grade class, we are also wanting to move deeper into the life of our new city and see just how much our Lord will do.
Dios la Bendiga (God Bless You)
Tim…for the crew