Tis the Season to…figure out Christmas in the DR

So, we’re here in the Dominican and plan to be over the Christmas holidays.  The challenge, we’re discovering, is to figure out what Christmas looks like without snow.  Strange as it sounds, it is a real mind-bender getting into the Christmas spirit, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and sing songs like “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  The last thing we need in our house is something to make it warmer.

Now, before you go hatin’ on me for struggling with palm trees and fresh picked fruit in December, please believe me when I say, we’re all a little homesick this year.  We are so thankful for our families, their love and support in this venture which makes us want to be with them even more.

So…what does a person do for Christmas in the Dominican?  Apparently, much of the same as in Canada or the United States.  People are busy making homemade decorations.  Those who can afford it, buy lights and put them up.  Our kids noticed that outdoor decorations are less but indoor decorations are more common.  Stores have been into Christmas since the beginning of October.  It gets me excited to see what foods show up.

Speaking of food…pork, not turkey is the big delicacy for the holidays.  From all accounts, the seasoning used here mixed with how they roast it makes your mouth water simply from the anticipation of sinking your teeth into it.  We’ve also been told the Dominican Hot Cocoa is second to none.  After I got over the shock of having such a hot drink in a hot climate, I’ve been told once I taste it, I’ll never go back.  Some of the teachers even put on a ‘Christmas Cookie Exchange’ last night at their apartment.  Sooooooooo good.  Sugar rush last night meets the lack of energy downer today 🙂

Here are some picks of our very modest, first Christmas in the DR.

Feliz Navidad Stockings

Homemade Paper Chains &     Christmas Lights

Homemade Paper Snowflakes by Amber and Carter & a SnowDrew

Our Christmas Tree (...thanx Grandma Erickson)

Mom (Tracey) went to Canada/U.S. to visit her sister Tana, and also met up with great friends and extended family late November.  After a big scare, we’re very thankful Tana is recovering well from a stroke.  Chatted with her husband Marv and it sounds like she is a feisty as ever.  Oh man…Marv, was that public information?  We were humbled by a special gift (i.e. plane ticket) from special friends to make this possible.  Thank you so much.   As an added bonus, we arrived in Puerta Plata a few hours before Tracey’s flight and had some fun as a family crashing the waves and catching some rays before saying good-bye.

Sosua Beach (10 minutes from Puerta Plata Airport)

From the kids point of view, being with dad & his cooking brought dread, stress, and the potential need for counseling.  It did, however, lead to the discovery of our new friday night tradition, “Capricho’s”.  Simply, picture a ball of fresh cheese wrapped in a mixture of garlic mashed potatoe and deep fried.  It’s about the size of a small softball and lands in your stomach with the same punch.  Every calorie is worth it!  We also tackled roadside hot dogs with teacher friend Mr. Drew, and Empanada’s with another teacher friend Ms. Branch.  God has truly provided us with great friends to hang out and minister with.

Empanada's with Ms. Branch

Mom’s absence also brought an unsettled feeling across the Dominican.  Actually, a wrecked road, broken promises and the need to get something done brought our local community unsettledness.  While we were in no danger whatsoever, the local barrio around the school we teach at saw the need to take road repair matters into their own hands.  The result was 2 extra days off school, a trench dug across the only road into the school, angry protesters, a couple burning tires, and let’s not forget, fully armed military police to keep things under control (see pictures below).  Officially, this was a strike or “HUELGA”.

It was another example for us of how human need and emotion can bubble up into frustration when political promises (i.e. to pave a 15 km key stretch of road) goes undone.  A large part of my heart sympathizes for these neighbours who have little and receive little respect.  Many staff at the school have begun to talk and pray more about how to build solid relationships with the community and be the light of Christ to their families.  For my little part, walking down to the ‘Colmado’ and picking up a Gatorade once in a while has produced some funny conversations, not to mention alot of stares.  I can only imagine what people are thinking/saying…”Is he lost?”, “Wow, is he pale”, and “What is that glare coming off the top of his head?….Oh, he’s going bald”.

*All pictures taken by other school staff and myself.

Huelga #1 - Military Police







Huelga #2 - Protesters







Huelga #3 - Keeping the Calm

As for the month that was, it rushed by and December is doing the same.  Looking forward, three sets of plans are in motion for some very fun ministry.

City Wide Youth Leader Training (January or February 2012) – In conjunction with Pastors John and Edwin and Vida Nueva Church here in Santiago, we are into the detail stages of providing a multi-church youthworker training night with all the bells and whistles they deserve.  Thanx to Pastor Tom Castor of Grant Memorial Church in Winnipeg, Canada for gifting us with a Spanish copy of “Simple Truths for the New Believer” to pass out to every worker that attends.  For Vida Nueva Church in Santiago for offering their facilities for the event.  For Truth Matters Ministries Canada allowing us to use professionally created graphics to promote the event.  Did I mention, all of these have been given ‘GRATIS’ or FREE?  Thank you so much.

I cannot wait to update you with pictures from what the Lord pulls off!  Please pray for youthworkers to come, my preparations and direction to biblically solid and culturally relevant content, and God to lead in the hearts, minds and motivations.

Speaking Tour (February 2012)   First full week of February I will be traveling to Southern Manitoba, Canada to speak at various venues as well as Grand Forks, North Dakota to challenge a few hundred students at “The Foundry” city-wide gathering.  I’m pumped…and already shaking from the cold 🙂  I would love your prayers for the details to come together and funds to cover the costs.  I’m going on faith and we’ll see what God provides.

Love Month (February 2012)     For chapels and mentor groups throughout the month of February, a couple of teachers and myself will be putting together an emphasis on the true love of Christ and Relationships.  I will be speaking at some chapels and our hope is to prepare a biblically accurate, very real and down to earth discussion where the teenagers of the school can understand Godly love, ask questions, and establish their romantic lives in a holy and pure love.

Look for a little Christmas Video coming at Christmas from our family to yours.  You never know what our goofy clan will put together to make your festive holidays even brighter.

Please continues to pray for our health (colds, etc. have been coming on more and more), safety as we drive (been hit twice already :)…no injuries – thank you Lord), and our mission.

Finally…a couple more pictures for your entertainment pleasure.  Love you all.

Dios La Bendiga!!!

Moto’s of the DR:    Fruit…good – Truck…not so much

Not-So-Mobile Fresh Fruit Stand

Things That Make You Go, “HUH?”  makes a return this month.  While driving home from church we passed this little beauty coming up out a manhole.  Yep…it’s a tree!

"Urban Manhole Tree"


3 thoughts on “Tis the Season to…figure out Christmas in the DR

  1. Thanks for the update! Sounds eventful. I love your tree and I’m excited for you Houcks to experience a hot Christmas! Maybe someday I will too!



  2. great update!! It was nice to get to spend a few minutes with Tracey when she was in town and hear about some of the family experiences. Enjoy your hot Christmas!! Hopefully we’ll catch up with you on Skype sometime soon.

    All the best,

  3. Thanks for the update, Tim! It is always so great to not only hear, but also see a little bit of what life is like for you guys. We need to catch Tracey on skype again one of these days as it has been a while. We are all really going to miss your clan at Christmas. Love you guys.

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