Saying Good-bye to a Wonderful Young Woman

You may have heard by now about the difficult events of this past week. We were surprised and pleased to hear this made the news in cities across Canada and in the United States. The city of Philadelphia in particular.

Somewhere between 10 – 11 pm last Tuesday evening (May 14th), one of the most gregarious teachers you would ever have the priviledge to meet, Ms. Megan Garven, died in a car accident.  Megan was special in many ways.  Specifically, she was Amber’s 3rd grade teacher and Carter’s YoungLife leader.

NBC Philadelphia News Cast Report:http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Accident-Kills-Philly-Born-Teacher-at-Dominican-School–207568191.html

Amber with Ms. Garven the afternoon of the accident

Amber with Ms. Garven for birthday ice cream the after school before the accident

Two passengers traveling with Megan, Audrey Hickman (1st grade teacher at SCS), and Gabriella Suriel (High School student – 11th grade) remain in the hospital as I write this and are recovering.  Audrey has a broken clavical, fractured pelvis and ribs and will be mostly immobile as she heals up.  Gabriella has a fractured vertabrae in her neck and remains in ICU under careful watch though is expected to heal.

They ladies were dropping friends off after enjoying some late evening ice cream following Fine Arts Night on our campus.  Megan, was the life of every party and passioante about two things…”Loving Jesus and Having Fun” 🙂  She was 24 years old.

I’d like to ask you to pray for Megan’s parents, Cam & Mary, and her three brothers.  Cam pastored 23 years in the same church and Mary has taught for many years and was an inspiration to Megan.  Her oldest brother is getting married in August, youngest brother graduates high school in a few weeks, and middle brother is wrapping up his 2nd year at the same college Megan attended.

Cam & Mary are so proud of their daughter and have no regrets of her coming to the DR to teach and live Jesus out loud.  Our loss is heaven’s gain.  The road ahead is going to be bumpy for many staff and students as they grieve but the legacy Megan created in her short time here is one we will remember for years to come.

Love you Megan!

"The World wants you to be a hero...but I want you to be a hero of God"   Megan's moto to class 3B

“The World wants you to be a hero…but I want you to be a hero of God”                                                                                                                                    Megan’s moto to class 3B

 

 

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Expect the Unexpected

It was the craziest experience.  One that I doubt I would have absorbed the way I did had I not been there in person.  We loaded 50 some rowdy 2nd graders on two buses and traveled to Primera Iglesia Bautista Central de Santiago (Central 1st Baptist Church of Santiago).  This is the same church where the Grace Mission team in February installed electricity through the church’s school.  FYI Grace Mission team…the kids sent out a huge cheer for you!!

Luggin them flip flops!

Luggin them flip flops!

We came loaded with 3 stuffed garbage bags filled with new flip flops.  The students actually brought in over 400 pair during the drive and we brought 100 new pairs to Primera Iglesia. Shouts, hoots, hollars and lots of jumping and clapping from our new friends filled the air.  But that wasn’t the crazy part.

Two different worlds meet

Two different world’s meet

What was crazy about this?

That some of the poorest children in the country were sitting with and beside some of the wealthiest kids in the country.

In the DR…that just doesn’t happen too often.  God brought two groups of kids together using something as simple as a pair of flip flops. It was beautiful, eye-opening, and for some students the first time each had met and spent time with other kids their own age from a completely different economic level.  We’re praying and working toward this becoming an everyday reality.  Diversity in the kingdom of Christ instead of economic division.                                                         Sweet!!

Oh, yeah…I’m pretty sure they were stoked to receive their new shoes 🙂

Didn’t See This One Coming!       These are priceless moments you just don’t forget.  Much like another recent event.  Our staff at Santiago Christian School (SCS) is what you would call a Mosaic.  A little of this and a little of that and whalla!  Students see Dominicans, Haitians, Americans & Canadians teaching & sharing Jesus with them and think, yep…that’s what they’re supposed to do.  Their contact with office staff is often limited to an “I need” basis.

Sandra is one of the backbones of our ministry here.  Born and raised in the DR she and her family are mainstays at SCS.  Students see her around.  Parents connect with her for various logistical questions.  Staff know she hands out the cheques 🙂  What many were not aware of though certainly are know is the rich and dramatic family legacy she comes from.

Sandra Perdomo sharing her life & testimony

Sandra sharing her life & testimony with 200 students.

Her 7 uncles along with her mother were imprisoned under suspicion of involvement in the assisination of the former DR Dictator “Trujillo” in 1961.  Her mother, while imprisoned heard her brothers being tortured and eventually 6 of them being killed.  The link below details some of the assisination story from a first-hand account of one man who went into hiding to save his own life.    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13560512 Her mother, came to know and follow Jesus when Sandra was young.  Bible studies were held at her home and she quickly began hearing about and watching what a changed life in Jesus is all about.  After she married, she asked Jesus to be her Lord and it has transformed her life, marriage and work/ministry.  It’s a humbling priviledge to work alongside such a gracious and amazing woman. Things That Make You Go, Huh?

Siberian Husky Club of the DR?

Siberian Husky Club of the DR?

PRAYER’s rising around the campus!

I believe I shared with you earlier that one of our 11th grade students, Daniel Blanco is currently living in New York city waiting for a heart transplant.  He and his mother are living in an apartment lent to them by a very generous family.  After multiple ACL surgeries and pneumonia over the past couple of years Daniel’s body is already pretty weak.  His heart problems are nothing new however the severity of his need has elevated to fairly critical.

Daniel will be living in New York until a donor can be found.  He’ll then be there for approximately one more year after that to ensure his body accepts the new organ and that he is healthy enought to travel & return home.  Fundraisers like bake sales, “jean” days on campus (i.e. getting to wear jeans to school is a really, really big deal here), and even a number of students and staff running in a 10K race around the city of Santiago are ongoing.

So to add to this scenario, Daniel’s younger brother Jose (8th grade) found himself in the hospital 6 weeks ago after breaking his femur bone close to the hip joint.  He is recovering very well.  We’ve been taking middle school students to his apartment daily at lunch to visit and pray for him.  I’m guessing he’s not so pumped about the homework we bring him though 🙂

High School praying for Daniel - so awesome!
High School praying for Daniel – so awesome!

All of this has brought a new sense of urgency to the prayer life of our campus.  Kids who could have cared less about praying…and trust me, there are many of them…are asking questions and willing to take some “spiritual risks”.  We are able to talk even more openly about the perfect hand of God navigating us through life’s ups & downs, ultimately to himself.

“Pigging Out” in the DR

Don't knock it 'til you try it!

DEEP WATER Baptism Late March brought a chance to do something we rarely get to do…spend time with extended family.  Marv & Tana Janzen (Tracey’s sister) & their family trekked to the DR and it was awesome hanging out with them.   Beach time, traveling through the mountains and showing them some of life here in the DR was so fun.  We’re so thankful for the effort they made to come and the time we could spend.  The cousins picked up where they left off last summer.  And even though everyone is getting older & taller (well, the kids are at least), cousins will be cousins and the rukus was a kick. It was also a honour to be able to be part of our oldest nephew’s baptism.  Thomas, soon to graduate from high school in Brandon, Manitoba, and I (Tim) walked into the Caribbean ocean and after some brief reflection proceeded to baptize him.  Now, I have to tell you, Thomas is probably the beefiest (i.e. strong) dude I’ve ever baptized.  That mixed with the cool scenary and ocean waves make it an experience never to forget. Good on you Thomas!  We’re so proud of you and cannot wait to be at your graduation this June!  You rock!!

MOTO’s of the DR

Burned out car at Police Station

Burned out car at Police Station

MLB player or "don't ask"

MLB player or “don’t ask”

Pictures Say a Thousand Words…Here are a few family pics to give you an insider’s look into the “Houck Family Adventure” this past month.   As things go we are thanking the Lord for the fact that in the almost 2 years we’ve been here not one of us has needed to see a doctor or visit a hospital.  The odd stomach flu, viruses, colds (yep…we get them), and migranes flow through but nothing serious. Tracey & the kids are doing very well.  School year here wraps up June 5th and then another Grace Mission Team arrives from Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Roadside Shoppin

Roadside Shoppin

Sea Monster? of Las Terranas Beach

Sea Monster? of Las Terranas Beach

LEGO my GECKO (found in Amber & Drew's room)

LEGO my GECKO (in Amber & Drew’s room)

Rrrrrrrgh!  We're da "Houck Pirates of the Caribbean" matey's!

Rrrrrrrgh! We’re da “Houck Pirates of the Caribbean” matey’s!

Love ya’ll!  Blessings until next update 🙂

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!!!

IRONIC – 2013 part #2

Hey!  Good to be back and connecting with you 🙂  Last update I brought you up to speed with family happenings.  And now, if you can indulge me, I’d like to catch you up on some of the ministry and broader life happenings around here.

Things That Make You Go, Huh?    For those of you who tire of the shoveling and the bundling up for winter, I thought I’d slip in a subtle reminder of summer.  It is true the weather is warmer here (that’s a BFOBlinding Flash of the Obvious).  With warmer weather come trips to the beach, t-shirts instead of wool sweaters, and open windows.  It also brings bugs!  You remember bugs, right?  You know, those pesky little things that crawl, wiggle, and sometimes fly?  Say, why don’t I show you a picture…of the swarm of bee’s that landed on the computer table during chapel at the school.

Bee's!!

BEE careful

Enter our defender…Ninja Drew!

Bring it on!

Tracey continues to absolutely love what she does and breathes that same excitement into her students.  The Santiago Christian School approached me recently and said, “Do you know what a great teacher she is?  I learn so much from her.”  I know he was refering to both her P.E. classes and ministry heart as she teaches.

Playing "Battleship" in P.E. Class

Playing “Battleship” in P.E. Class

Capturing Culture!

All three of the kids are doing amazing making friends and crossing into the cultural unknowns.  Our campus is a collection of Dominicans, Haitians, Americans, Canadians, Hondurans, Mexicans, Koreans, Spanish, Dutch,  and more nationalities I’m sure I’m not aware of.

The North Americans are always looked at with curiousity.  Some of that inquisitive nature comes from wondering if “they will like or insult” our country and traditions.  Talk about huge responsibility.  The most difficult thing to do is not compare.   “Why don’t they just do it like we do?”   “Don’t they have ______?”  “Well, back in _______________ we do it this way.”

Few ever intend to lay out an offensive shot or hurt someone but wow, you might be shocked how easy it is to cross that line without even realizing it.

Carter, Amber & Drew are becoming our culture transition experts.

“Play dates” or better known has having friends over is not necessarily a normal thing to do here.  Especially with younger children.  Sleep overs?  Very uncommon.  Trust and security issues have plagued the country and families for years which has developed a sense of protection and hesitation.

For their part, our kids haven’t and I highly doubt ever will let that hold them back 🙂  They have been persistent in inviting friends over…and, ah…inviting themselves over to other families homes (oops).

Amber’s quiet nature has taken a background to her desire to build friendships.  I am not sure she is even aware of how God is using her to break down walls and create ‘new’ traditions for others.  She has a little crew of friends that resembles the United Nations and spend her social animal day last weekend hanging out with one of her favourite friends (Emily) at her house clear across the city.  Thank you Lord for using our kids to make a spiritual and personal difference in someone’s life.

Amber hangin with Emily, her sister and Zoe!

Amber hangin with Emily, her sister and Zoe!

NEW Venture!

A while back I mentioned we were working on attempting the first city-wide youth worker training event here in Santiago. It has and continues to be a personal and spiritual wrestling match at times to see it come to fruition.  The cool thing is, God isn’t finished with us or the conference yet.

We pause this blog for an educational moment.

Fruition – “attainment of anything desired; realization; accomplishment”

Back to Velocidad.  We are inviting over a dozen churches plus para-church ministries to bring their dominican and haitian volunteer and paid youth leaders. Our local church is opening its doors, translators sought, volunteers are getting organized and the trainer is booked (Sid Koop – http://www.truthmatters.ca).

The Dominican is most certainly a developing nation.  Internet, cell coverage and product availability are increasing in quality.  Other things we take for granted in the industrialized world when your planning to gather people together are not so easy or convenient.  Not the least of which is actually getting to the event.

The vast majority of youth leaders are volunteer.  The greatest number of them do not have a vehicle.  Jobs themselves are hard to come by.   So, to bring over 100 youth leaders requires easy & very cheap access.  A main city concho route makes all the difference in the world for someone who may spend their lunch money (literally) on a ride to an event.  Mix that with the sacrifice of taking a saturday away from a possible day’s work (the DR is a 6 day-a-week work culture), and what is offered at Velocidad needs to be worth the prayer and the effort.

We need you to pray for the word to get out and the support to be ready.  Our Facebook page titled VELOCIDAD CONFERENCE is up and being updated regularly.

 

MOTOS of the DR Contrast Edition!!

Ferrari sport coupe...I don't even want to know how he affords it.

Ferrari sport coupe…I don’t even want to know how he affords it.

Now...that's what I'm talkin about!  (yes, it runs)

Now…that’s what I’m talkin about! (yes, it runs)

Ride'm Concho Cowboy!

Ride’m Concho Cowboy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up & Coming that Needs Your Prayers!

February 3rd                   Visiting San Fransisco (DR) church with plans to develop ministry with students and mentoring youth leaders.

February 17-23rd          We’re hosting a work team from Grace Baptist Church,  Grand Forks, North Dakota.  The 5 member team is connecting with a local church and building a kitchen for a poor, barrio school that is just months old but already has 80+ students and a feeding program.

February 19th                 Tracey’s parents arrive for a week of visiting and experiencing life & ministry in the DR.

March 10th                       Tim is preaching at New Life Church in Sosua.

March 23rd                       VELOCIDAD Conference

March 24th                      Self-induced sleeping coma 🙂

We love you all and thank you so much for who you are and how you care for our family!  God’s blessings on you.

Tim for the Houck Crew.

2013 Part #1

Welcome to 2013!

Tonnes of news to share with you so I’m dividing this update into two parts.

Part #1 is family focused.

Part #2 next weekend will include ministry, prayer needs and more Moto’s of the DR 🙂

Riddle Me This… What happens when you mix northern culture kids raised with the winter season that have a two week Christmas break, boundless late night energy, a garbage bag filled with styrofoam peanuts, and a mother who unleashes her inner child?

An impromptu snowball fight and snow angels that’s what!!

Home-made snow and snow angels!

Home-made snow and snow angels!

In addition to this life altering moment were candle light services, family gatherings and School Programs.  Santiago, DR is no different.  In fact, when it comes to celebrations I really believe Latin culture hits the nail on the head.  We anglo-saxon, european background types (aka North Americans) are real dud’s in comparison.

All three kids dove into their class programs.  Watching your children rub shoulders with different other children from around the world is beautiful.  Knowing that your kids are missionaries themselves in their classrooms as humbling.  We’re so proud of them and keep praying for their hearts to be soft toward what God has in store from them.

Carter singin' like a bird with his Middle School buddies.

Carter singin’ like a bird with his Middle School buddies.

Amber standing tall in her Christmas Program

Amber standing tall in her Christmas Program

Drew singin' with his peeps

Drew singin’ with his peeps

After a pretty low key few days leading up to Christmas that included one beach trip and an ol’ fashioned carol sing with North American families all stuffed into our school director’s home…of which I would have given my left arm to watch the expressions of the local Dominican neighbors while the gringo’s belted out old English tunes.  Priceless!!!

Music here is moving and shaken as our church Christmas Eve service proved.  Loud, passionate, drum solo’s, the works!  And what service would be complete without a shot gun blast just across the street.  I know!  Utilizing my gift of “Ush” I was already positioned at the door greeting families and friends to our ethnically & economically diverse little church.  The music was movin’, voices were worshipping and a twelve guage was going off.

My “Ush” buddy and I walked outside to check things out and discovered three “watchies” (security guards) at the Shell gas station reveling in the Christmas spirit…and other spirits.  Shut gun in hand, they saw us, we saw them.  A friendly wave and good ol’ fashioned fist pump to each other and all was good in Santiago once more.  Chances are that’s a new experience for you too 🙂

Vida Nueva (New Life) - not Christmas Eve but it gives you a cool visual of our church.

Vida Nueva (New Life) – not Christmas Eve but it gives you a cool visual of our church.

Home-made Holiday Decor – It is amazing what crazy, creative ideas you can come up with when you try.  Christmas decorations are genuinely very expensive here (i.e. a string of little LED light bulbs is close to x2 the price of Canada & the U.S.).  So what’s a family to do?

Use a shriveling palm tree skin, grab a can of white spray paint, and load it up with christmas tree ornaments graciously given to you by a missionary family that moved out of country last summer ofcourse.

Dried palm tree skin we found

Dried palm tree skin we found

Post spray painting

Post spray painting

Finished product!

Finished product!

The break was a great time to settle in with some family time after some very, very busy months.  Local missionaries Sonia and Barry Burnett (now good friends) clued us in early on that it takes a year or two to get past the “deer in the headlights” feelings. Learning language, customs, new foods, temperatures and even not experiencing seasonal snowfalls (I’m not kidding) all take their mental, emotional and especially spiritual and physical toll.

Now, I don’t doubt the content of the advice they were passing on but I also can’t say I was as disciple of their teaching at that particular moment.  Eighteen months the wiser I more than see their wisdom.  By the time Christmas rolled around we were tired, fried, baked, pooped…use whatever term fits best.  Different from year one, it wasn’t just physical and mental.  Spiritually we were gettin’ a bit dry and dusty.  You could sense that things were off.  For example, you know our crew is not itself when it is unanimous to not go out and socialize or invite people over.  If it were just me (Tim) saying that I doubt anyone would think twice :). But for the other social animals in our family this was a good a sign as any that we needed to recharge our personal and spiritual batteries.

Enter the mountian air and peacefulness off Constanza, Dominican Republic. Located an hour and a half south east of Santiago we found our ‘happy place’.  Internet access? Nope. Quiet and restful? Yep.  Needless to say the four days we spent there playing board games, laughing, and wrapped up in blankets in the cool mountain morning mist were incredibly therapeutic.  We all genuinely thanked the Lord for the chance to decompress, get some real down time and re-gage long quiet times of reading scripture.  It was such a blessing.

Lord willing you celebrated the birth of Jesus less than a month ago.  Nothing quite compares to knowing where you come from, who created you and that He has you completely in His Hands as life rolls on.  Please receive the love and prayers from our family to yours.  We’re pretty excited about continuing what is already in motion here.  And we’re also exciting about you being a part of it.

Until next time!  Blessings.

"Chillin" at Constanza

“Chillin” at Constanza

Squishing mom in the hammock

Squishing mom in the hammock

Don't ask :)

Don’t ask 🙂

Ride'm Dominican Cowgirl!

Ride’m Dominican Cowgirl!

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunset

Sunset

American Thanksgiving in Haiti

Hi, this is Carter and this is my first time helping with the family adventure blog.

I am going to tell you about our trip to Ouanaminthe, Haiti.   This town is on the border of the Dominican Rebublic.  At first I was very excited.  First we went to Dajabon, Dominican Republic which is at the border we were going to cross.  We stayed at a hotel the night before we crossed.  Dad and I went to the border crossing to check it out.  A Hatian government official showed us around the crossing point.  When we went back to our car it was weird.The man stood beside dad’s car door.  He wouldn’t move until dad gave him some money.  What a first experience!

The next morning we went to meet a missionary at another hotel called the “Massacre Hotel” named after a really bad event that happened in that area years and years ago.  I was like, “okay” when I heard that name.

Nice name, eh!

Then we walked to the border where Jen, the missionary helped us cross.  It was confusing because there weren’t any signs to tell you where to go or who to talk to.  The border was only a big blue gate on a bridge with a couple of guys with machine guns checking your stuff.  If you don’t need it big and fancy, why bother.

This is us standing at the “Massacre River”. Seems pretty calm. Our friends Mrs. Phares and Miss Brekhus from school came with us.

 

With UN Peace Keepers from Uraguay

It was a very long wait at the border. When we crossed we took a tour around town

Riding in the back of a pick up…like a boss!

 

One of the nasty roads we used. They are fixing the sidewalks and the curbs but still have a little bit of work to do on the road.

the marketplace where people buy what they need…

Jen calls this the Haitian Walmart…I understand now.

the local airport (*FYI – call ahead as they have to move the cows and goats out of the way before you land)…

Looks like Grandpa Erickson’s driveway 🙂

and we were a little nervous (Amber, Drew and I) when we visited the “Bon Samaritan” (Good Samaritan) Sr.’s Home.

Mom & Drew walking from the Orphanage. The road wasn’t very good.

 

A nice man at the Sr.’s Home. We bought some of the baskets he was making.

 

These grandma’s and grandpa’s are rockin! 🙂

we even saw the big Police Station!

It was really big!

and Prison!!

It is getting fixed up while they still use it.

After the tour we went to my favourite places on the trip – the Boys and Girls Orphanages.  The kids were very nice to us when we first came. And they also looked a little surprised when we pulled up.  They don’t see “Blanco’s” alot.  That is what they call white people.  They aren’t being mean.  They just don’t have another word to use to describe us.

Meeting our new friends

Pastor Samuel is an awesome driver! He can get through any mud hole.

Girls Orphanage has a school, a kitchen, sleeping rooms a really big garden with Plantanes, Mango’s, and other plants.  They even had chickens and goats! One of the foods they eat alot are Avocado’s.  Jen, the missionary took us to a 3 acre garden and showed us how to plant Avocado seeds.  They will grow up and help feed the kids.  That was so cool.

Avocado seeds are huge!!

For American Thanksgiving dinner we had rice, beans and for the first time we tried goat meat. Amber and Drew didn’t try the goat meat but I (Carter) did.  It tasted like beef and it was chewy.  My favourite food was the tostones which are made from Plantanes and looked like fried smashed piece of banana.  Amber says they taste like ‘heaven’.

We had alot of fun with the boys and girls at both Orphanages.  There are about 54 girls at the one ophanage, and 23 boys at the new boys orphanage that started in August.  Amber and mom made crafts with the girls.  Drew, dad and I went to the boys orphanage and played soccer with the new balls we gave them.  Everybody loves soccer there.

The boys loved the soccer balls.

Super cute kids

One game I tried to teach them was “taps”.  That is when you pass the ball back and forth but you have to jump everytime you catch the ball and throw it back before you land.  It was funny trying to teach them without knowing how to speak Creole.  But we had alot of fun playing it.

Me with Donise

 

Drew with his new buddies

Amber playing soccer with Wonder and Pastor Samuel

Dad & Drew surrounded

Wonder (yep, that is his name) was so fun.  He smiled all the time and wanted to help with everything.  Donise was only 18 months old.  His mom left him at the river and some nuns found him.  He is soooo cute!

Watch out…I think Mrs. Phares might try to sneak Donise home with her

Leaving the orphans was really hard to do.  Even though I couldn’t communicate verbally they were awesome friends.  We got to play games and hang out with them.  I hope we get to visit them again…and again….and again…x 57

Heading back across the border to the Dominican

God showed me and taught me (us) alot of things on our trip.  I found out that even the poorest of people could be happy.  They might not have much but they are thankful for the things they do have.  I’m happy we had this trip on thanksgiving.  Now I am thankful for everything I have.  And the orphans are probably some of the nicest kids I have ever met.

Between now and Christmas to be ask thankful as you can.  Think of the orphans in Haiti and any other country because they don’t have much but they are still happy for what they have.

Well, that’s all from me.  We’ll see you next time on the Houck Family Adventure blog.

Carter…peace out!

 

 

 

 

Baptism, Donations and Photo Bombs

After a lengthy array of conversations, applications and reading we are now able to receive donations for the ministry work here in the Dominican.

RCE (Resourcing Christian Education) ready to be our filter for those wishing to help provide for the various projects we’re a part of.  The process is simple, easy to use, and proven by a number of international missionaries.  RCE accepts online donations through credit card.  If you wish to send a donation by check, the physical address is available for you as well.

Unfortunately we are still unable to provide tax receipts for Canadian donors.  You can still donate through RCE and note that you are a Canadian resident if you wish.  We have learned a great deal over the past year about how complicated receiving funds from Canada truly is.  RCE is in the process of obtaining status within Canada.  Work continues on that however nothing is available currently.

Steps to follow:   

  1. Go to www.rce-international.org
  2. Scroll on to the “Donate” tab but don’t click right away.
  3. Click on “Support a Missionary”
  4. Fill in the required information.  When it comes to the section “Missionaries”, scroll down until you find “Houck, Tim & Tracey 30903”
  5. Click “Review & Submit” when ready.
  6. Done!

Thanx so much for all of your prayers and support.  We’ve been diving into alot of familiar and new adventures over the past month. Here is a little photo journal and let the pictures communicate the message.

DANILO gets Baptized!

Danilo, a super young high school student we work with chose to receive Christ recently and jumped in (literally) to being Baptized a couple weeks ago. Amen!

JESUS Week 2012 at Santiago Christian School

Rockin the gym with a few hundred amazing kids during Jesus Week.

MOTO’s of the DR

Have construction material and no straps…will use people as they are heavier and enjoy driving 80 kms per hour in the open air.

Christopher Columbus was “aqui” (here).

Only 20 minutes out of town is Santos Cerro, the historical location where explorer Christopher Columbus & his crew supposedly received a visit from the Virgin Mary. Not sure about the story, but the view is amazing!

Cross That Didn’t Burn?

Beautiful church was built on the spot a cross was alleged to have been built by Columbus and his Spaniard crew. A fenced area within the church encircles the whole where the cross is believed to have been. The cross was set on fire by the farmer’s Columbus was attempting to take over however it never actually burned down. It just….well, burned with flames and stayed where it was. Anthropologists believe the cross was actually carved out of a live tree with roots still intact (not uncommon in that time apparently) and thus the reason for it not burning.

So, as brief updates go, this be it 🙂

In our next update we’ll drop some pics of the Family Day Events.

Blessings on you and yours from us and ours.

Tim (for the Houck Crew(