All Aboard the Gringo Express!

Yup…there done be lots of dem there gringo’s around Santiago recently.  From in-laws to mission teams, we’ve been hosting lots of’m 🙂  So many in fact that I didn’t even realize March was just about over until I woke up this Easter Weekend morning.  So many cool stories and God sightings to share with you.

But first….the new “Hay Bale Haulin Moto”

Hay Bale Haulin Moto

Grace Adult Mission Team          A crew of x5 adults trekked their way here to the DR early in February.  Not a big stretch when you consider the snow storm they left behind in North Dakota/Minnesota.  I’m guessing a couple of lovely wives graciously made up a “guest bed” for them in the living room upon their return 🙂  The four men and one woman team rocked Primera Iglesia Bautista de Santiago (1st Baptist Church of Santiago).

Grace Adult Team 2013

Pastor Pedro Juan loves this children.  A local boy who went on to become a fully trained Medical Doctor, he runs his practice out of his church office where he also pastors.  He mentors, he gives and he has a passion for his local neighbourhood.  In my eyes, the dude is a ministry rock star.

The kitchen…right…that was the original goal.  However, one major challenge lay in front of the team.  Electricity.  The building was around 15 years old and had no lights on the main level and one outlet.  How could they run a kitchen without proper electrical?  How could they build a kitchen without knowing where they electrical would run?  Pastor asked in a gentle way if there was anyone on the team who knew electrical?  God Sighting!!  Not only did the team have a contractor and two farm boys who knew their way around plugs and wires, one gentlemen was a supervisor at an electrical cooperative in the U.S.  Talk about amazing!!

In 3 days the team ran wires to classrooms, meeting rooms, and storage areas, connect a junction box that could serve the existing and future construction, “lit” up classrooms and provided more electrical outlets than I have ever seen in my life (x13 in the main meeting room alone).  Remember, this is all done on, in and through concrete block construction.  Thank you Lord for this amazing blessing.

Grace workin amongst kidsBut now what to do?  The team had planned on this project taking 5 days.  They had two days left.

Pastor Pedro Juan told us of a church plant in a community called Villa Progresso he was working on that also needed electrical.  The area had been ravaged by flood waters a while back and people were resettling into life.  With no Christian Church in the area, Pedro Juan challenged his local church to be missionaries among their own people and plant this new work.  They did and God has been supplying ever since.   And being it wasn’t all that far away & the team jumped at the chance.

I have to tell you that while I know this group was exhausted by the end of the week, the work that they did for the kingdom while they were here is nothing less than HUGE!  The after/before school program is truckin along and the church at Villa Progresso is now operating and hosting children’s ministry as well as church services.  Thank you Grace Baptist for your hearts and your commitment!  God’s richest blessings on you!

 

“The Outlaws In-Laws Are Here!”  February also brought a much-anticipated visit from Grandma & Grandpa Erickson.  The kids were pretty stoked as was Tracey, to see them.  Different from their first visit, we spent a lot of time on campus at Santiago Christian School where they were able to get a full taste of a day in our lives.

GrandParents Day with Drew 2013Drew was pumped that he actually had grand-parents with him for “Grand-Parents Day” at school.  Carter & Amber introduced them to “Monchi’s Pizza” and “Yaway Subs”, two family favourites and the time spent was truly a lot of fun.  Tracey loved late night hot chocolates with ‘dad’, shopping with ‘mom’ and just being together with family. Thanx Grandma & Grandpa for making the long trek down and lovin on the DR Houck’s!

 

Independence Day here in the DR is February 27th.  Different from American and Canadian Independence celebrations, this takes on a double twist.  Many years ago, Haiti used to control most of the Island and Spain still carried a fair influence within local governmental affairs (Spain established the DR using slaves and Christopher Columbus literally wiped out many of the original native people in the name of settlement).  Dominicans literally had two groups ruling over them.  In a relatively short period of time farmers and military officials near what is now the Haitian border revolted and took their independence.

At the same time some of those loyal to the old Spanish guard sent word back to Spain that they wanted help.  When the Spanish arrived they were too held off and the beginnings of the independent Dominican Republic were under way.  There is a long, long road ahead of the DR.  Political and Police Corruption are significant and runs deep.  The drug trade continues to increase through the DR.   The national debt is crazy high…to the point where the DR is attempting to pay off its fuel debts to Argentina through the payment of thousands of pounds of “beans” annually.

American & Canadian companies pretty much run the electrical & mining companies around the island and have taken advantage of the fractured political structures to make a mint ($$) while (in my opinion) holding off positive advancement for the people.  For example, solar energy products would make natural sense in a Caribbean climate.  However, that means a lot less $$ for the electrical companies.  I’ll let you do the math 🙂

We’re excited and honoured to live in the DR and love on the these beautiful people!

Amber - Independence Day 2013

Check out the BLOND DOMINICAN GRINGO in the middle 🙂

Above:  Amber dancin’ in the Independence Day Program at our school.

Below: Colour Guard march to wrap up our Independence Day Program.

Independence Day 2013 Colour Guard

 

“Soles for Souls” FLIP FLOP DRIVE kicked off and ran throughout March at SCS (Santiago Christian School).  Initiated by the 4th grade classes they were stunned when a special guest Pastor from a local Haitian community shared their needs with them and a huge thank you for the donations of food they received last November.  It showed the deeply rooted contrast and isolation that some Dominicans live with in relationship to what is happening all around them.  Dominicans with wealth are generally a small group of families that have tight circles of friendships and limited experiences with much of the country.  Some of this is for safety reasons (i.e. they are at a much higher risk of being robbed or kidnapped).  Some of this is simply from segregating.Soles for Souls Flip Flops

“Soles for Souls” had a goal of collecting one new pair of flip-flops from every student and staff member which would then be delivered to the Haitian community as a gift.  To date we have collected 400+ pairs of flip-flops and I am feeling blessed to be able to take these students on a field trip to hand deliver them in person.  So humbling.

Please know, this is more significant than footwear.  This crosses cultural and racial divides as well as Dominicans and Haitians come together in this way and share both a common goal and friendship.  Scenes like this are not that common but we’re praying they will be :

Drew's Bday Breakfast!!

Drew’s Bday Breakfast!!

Drew’s 6th Birthday!  As we anticipated Drew was excited, thrilled, hyper, and wound up like a gecko on a sugar high for his 6th birthday.  Gifts were unwrapped with lightning speed, food was consumed and for his birthday gift, we went to the beach..his Bday was on a Saturday conveniently 🙂  I was preaching at an English church that Sunday and the wonderful lady running the service that day promised Drew she’d make him an ice cream cake.  Blown away, we watched as she invited the whole church to celebrate Drew’s special day and brought out ice cream cake for everyone.  Uber awesome birthday bash for a great kid.

 

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO, HUH?

Cock Fighting Ring in Los Cosos

Official Cock Fighting Ring in mountain Community…they are legit here in the DR.

NEW FEATURE THIS MONTH:  “Buses are for Wimps “SCS Student Haulin

On our way into the mountains while chaperoning an 8th grade trip a few weeks ago, the leader (no, it wasn’t me :), realized at the base that our bus probably wasn’t going to make it…so, we improvised.  Nothing a Dihatsu Truck with cattle bars couldn’t fix

 

.Wheaton College Football Team vs. Tracey Houck P.E. Class  

Mid-March we hosted Wheaton P.E. Classes15 college football guys from the Wheaton College (Illinois) Football Team.  What a kick it was watching the very big and very “blanco” (white) dudes walk around campus.  Outside of navigating around the crushes some of the middle school girls had on them, the guys were here for a purpose.

Wheaton & SCS Varsity

Annually the team goes, in our case comes, overseas to serve and share their faith in Christ.  A couple of the guys shared their testimonies in chapel, Tracey loaded the day full of P.E. classes for all ages for the guys to teach, and I hosted them for a pick up basketball game with our Varsity guys.  Half-time was a more testimony time with our guys.  All in all a good experience for our students.  Lord willing and eternal one as well.

 

Velocidad 2013 – Dominican Youth Workers Conference!  

Velocidad 2013 bannerThere are a thousand things I would love to say about this first real community wide attempt at drawing youth leaders together for worship, biblical training and networking.  My dreams were lofty and various potholes surprised me and truthfully had me pretty bummed out by the end of January.  I was wondering if the Lord really wanted this to happen or not.

Other ministries in the local area began to promote events they were running on the same day which was challenging.  I have no desire to compete with anyone but still this was hard to swallow.  Our church, Vida Nueva with Pastor John & Kelly Webb were and are a spiritual inspiration to us.  They dove in with both feet, helped with volunteers and offered the facility to use.  Amazing friends and relatives in Canada and the U.S. donated funds to cover expenses and food at the event.  And it was all worth it.

Over 50 youth leaders from around Santiago, including 4 who bused their way up from Santo Domingo (2 hours away) gathered.  As the music started the sense of worry washed away.  The only one stressing about the “details” was me.  Everyone else was stoked and couldn’t wait to participate.

Carlitos is a young adult from our church who took on the MC’ing role…something he had never done before.  He excelled!  Gregory put together a top end worship band with a mixed crew from various churches and rocked the place (in a holy way of course:).  Harold blew me away with the graphics work he did.  Franklin led his first workshop titled “Using Sports to Reach Youth”.  Franklin was being eyed by various MLB teams including the Yankee’s and gave it up to pursue Christ and a ministry to youth using baseball as a tool.  Sid Koop drove the challenge home of building Jesus Centred Student Ministry & How to Communicate Truth to Teenagers.  Gery was an organizing machine with the lunch team volunteers.  The Castillo’s and Morino were golden welcoming everyone.  Alfredo kept everything sound & audio movin’ and shakin’ throughout the day.  Johnathan, Natalie & Katie we’re indispensible as translators and preparing translated materials.  The ladies & their husbands who took friday night to decorate and set things up did an awesome job!

God has gifted us with something that looks like it will only grow from here.  The opportunities are expanding.  The doors are opening.  The most common question we heard was, “When is the next one?  Our church needs this.” I’m terrified and humbled all in one.

Please pray for us in April as we begin planning for Velocidad 2014.

So you can enjoy some of the ministry and fun we had together, here is a little video for you created by my buddy Harold Rodriguez.

CLICK Link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6Uy7Ei_6Cg

Youtube: “Velocidad 2013: The Making Of”

—–

That’s it for this update!  We’re praying for you and ask that you continue to pray for us.  Our God is greater than any challenges and more compassionate than we can imagine.  Stay strong in Him and be thrilled this Easter season that our saviour is alive!!

3 Amigo's

See ya next update!!!

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