What felt like deja vu was in fact reality. Two weeks ago school here in the Dominican Republic kicked off. Churches are back in season with their activities. And mission teams have arrived and left providing a large number of blessings to families here. “630″ plus students have descended on our campus along with numerous teachers, administration, staff. Even our small, hairy friends returned from their summer hiatus ready for the day-to-day grind. Let me introduce you to “Mr. T”.
Amber jumped in to 3rd grade with both feet by handing out roses to mothers as they dropped their children off for the first day of school. Reuniting with her friends Lucia, Abigail & Yumin, they’ve now added a ‘new recruit’ from Texas to their friendship bond. Halle is the daughter of a new staff family here. The two girls have hit it off! You can probably notice from the photo above how Amber (left) and Halle (right) are similar even in looks. I’m thinking she may be challenging her older brother for the Houck family social animal! 🙂
Some amazing news came out her class just this week when Amber’s teacher informed us how 11 (eleven) of her classmates responded to their teacher and made decisions to accept Jesus as their Lord & saviour. This is simply incredible, especially right as the school year begins. Bibles are being given out, and the children now have an entire school year to ask questions, find answers, and get a handle on their new lives in Christ.
Carter (7th grade) is off to a rockin’ start! Our oldest has entered the world of ‘official teenager’. The same fun-loving kid is growing up before our eyes. Early morning risings (6am) are still a struggle but priorities are moving away from food (only in the mornings though), to hygiene and hair gel.
Carter and his good friend Isaiah continue to gather new and old friends around them. Following an all-day middle school retreat, the two wild men were once again together for Isaiah’s birthday party complete with BBQ, pop, cake, ice cream, swimming and double digit numbers of highly active, pre-adolescent boys. Ah, the tastes & the smells 🙂
Drew (Kindergarten) is as ready as a 5 year old can be for school. First day, he was also the first one up, first one dressed, first one trying to get out of the apartment, and the first one to bed that same night. He has latched on to his teacher Ms. S. and is thriving as the teacher’s helper. Our backpack carrying, homework toting boy is now just like his big brother and sister.
Tracey (Full day Phys. Ed. teacher) is back where she loves to be…spending her days with close to 400 children, including all three of her own this year, teaching P.E. and taking every opportunity to seize a teachable moment. Students love her and teachers know her heart. And as you can see by her picture above at her friend’s Ruthie & Leury’s combined baby shower last week, she has made great friends with global heritage.
Tim (Chaplain, Varsity Basketball Coach) is settling in to his new roles and new office (i.e. wherever an empty flat surface with some form of chair, bench or box can be found). Being that Chaplain is a new position I am renaming my position as ‘the gatherer’. It’s a bit like herding cats or ants at the moment but I’m confident the Lord will bring all things together for the purpose of his will.
MOTO OF THE DR Sighting!
I saw this little antique beauty while I was walking downtown Santiago. It’s remarkable the things you walk up upon and discover when you least expect it. The decorative explosion of colour from an artists hand on a painted wall in a poverty stricken barrio (burrough). The creative sounds resounding from a piano, a guitar, a voice that caught you by surprise. The character of a person, who you barely know but shows you grace and care, you are humbled to receive. These are those things, of whose value, cannot be calculated with numbers or dollars. They are calculated in ways that that only God knows.
This 2nd year of serving here in the Dominican is one that allows us the comfort of knowing enough Spanish (i.e. Spanglish) to fumble around for groceries, fuel, and even ministry. Just knowing even small phrases helps to ask the right questions and dive deeper into understanding the heart, mind and will of people.
One of those ‘people’ or better expressed, families were the Lee’s. The Lee family immigrated here to the Dominican from Korea a number of years ago and quickly established ministry with Haitian refugee’s. Our city is filled with many Haitian families looking for work and food. They live in conditions, that at times, are exactly what your mind imagines them to be. Mr. Lee and his family committed their lives to reaching the physical and spiritual needs of the beautiful Haitian community.
For her role, Tracey had their oldest son, Young Sun in her 3rd grade class last school year. He is very bright, polite and had Tracey on the ropes a few times as they matched humour and whits, all in fun.
Then, one week ago, ironically on the stormy, windy Friday night in Santiago, while Hurricane Isaac was breaching land on the south part of the Dominican, we received word that Mr. Lee, while leaving church he loved, was shot and rushed to the hospital. By Saturday evening teachers and staff from our school who matched his blood-type were racing to the hospital to donate (there is no formal blood donation service or storage in the DR). It was a short time later we were told the Mr. Lee’s injuries were too severe and he had passed away.
As a community, families and people from Korea, Dominican, Haiti, Canada, the States, etc., etc., came together just yesterday (Friday) to remember Mr. Lee and continue praying as well as caring for his family. The boys (4th & 2nd grade) have been at school all week and want to be there. It gives them something ‘normal’ to be part of and trust me they are surrounded by love and secure arms of friends and staff.
What does this all mean? I wish I had the answers. I would love to be able to explain why the Lord allowed Mr. Lee to head to heaven yet leave his family here. I would love to know ‘why him’? I would like to ask the Lord myself, what is in store for his family, the Haitian church he poured heart & soul into? Simply answered, I just don’t know. Nor am I sure we will ever really understand.
We are thankful for the everything God has and is providing. Students & staff raised near RD$80,000 pesos on Friday through a ‘wear your jeans day’ donations. The Korean community is incredible. The family is and will have what they need. It really is our role to be ready, be available and for certain to not give up praying for what comes next.
Please keep praying for our family as well! The loopy crew is excited for the next adventure. We love and miss ya’ll!
And for an update farewell, enjoy a pic from the family day we spent downtown Toronto at the BlueJays game back in July. One of the Jays players (Edwin Encarnacion) plays for the Santiago Aguila’s in the Dominican winter league. Every time he came up to bat the stadium played a very popular Latin tune that our kids know well. You had to be there when the gringo trio stood up and started dancin’ the “Merengue” with each Encarnacion at bat :).
Until next time…blessings from the Houck crew!