“Here We Go Again” :)

Image

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.

1st Day of school 2012!

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 with the ladies at Ruthie & Leury's baby shower.

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!

Saw this antique beauty while walking downtown Santiago

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!

At the BlueJay’s game while in Toronto visiting family (July

Advertisements

Where’s Waldo?

Image

“It’s been 3 months since my last confession blog!”

Couldn’t believe my eyes when I went to do this update and realized it has been 3 months since I sat down and jotted out the life & ministry happenings of the Houck crew.  I would love to blame it on age, bad rice, even the language barrier would sound pretty convincing (if this was written in Spanish).  But alas, it is all for not.  For family this has probably been like searching the nooks and crannies of a “Where’s Waldo” cartoon.

So…let’s not waste time.  Let’s get at’r!!

March went out & April came in with a bang.  Well, actually more life a 24/7 caffeine fix.  Our friend Sarah Stewart flew down from Winnipeg and spent a couple weeks experiencing life and ministry with us.  Did I mention she manages a Starbucks…Insomnia WIN! Week one was life – it was Spring Break and we were ready for a little R&R.  After picking Sarah up at the Puerto Plata airport we spent a couple days taking in the rays at what is becoming our favourite getaway – Cabarete Beach.  Once we had our fill of salt air we trekked back to Santiago via a beautiful mountain road with such memorable sights as donkeys tied to trees, ‘laundry day’, and lest we forget, the “Lost Gringo Saloon”.

Sending Sarah home in Puerto Plata!

While in Santiago Sarah experienced the ins and outs of Santiago Christian School, and the New Hope Girls Academy, grocery shopping in a foreign language, and put on an all-staff coffee night at our home.  Thanx Sarah for the fun and treats!  Our family and our ability to stay alert via Starbucks  beverages the harsh during winter months in the Dominican thank you 🙂

Teaching Floor Hockey in 90+ degrees

April & May were also months filled with athletic ventures.  The Lord has really used Tracey to make an impact in the lives of so many children through her P.E. classes.  Now, I’m the first one to raise an eyebrow at something Phys. Ed. Class = Spiritual Growth, but I am impressed.  To see how much time, energy and prayer she puts into creating a whole person experience is only overshadowed by the opportunity she takes to grab on to a teachable moment with an encouragement or lesson from the Bible.  It’s crazy and awesome to think she has a captive audience multiple times a day and is intentionally looking for those opportunities.  Her impact, through her faith in Christ, is seen and has been noted by students, staff and parents alike.      You go girl!  Give’m heaven!!

This was the first year in many that I was back on the bench coaching basketball.  The rust was evident but the guys were great to work with.  Myself and the assistant coach, Matt Vryhoff are both ‘blue collar’ type players.  Outside of never hearing that term before, the guys definitely had a different approach.  You could almost hear the sound of 747’s flying overhead as 3-point shot after 3-point shot was put up.  It took alot of wrestling internally for us as a group to shift our style.  In the end, it was a very cool transition to be part of.

Decision day…yes or no to the toupee?

The guys themselves became a crew that we as a family grew to love.  A couple of the guys are deeply imbedded in their faith in Christ.  And others are asking good, challenging questions along the way.  Spending the amount of time together that we did provided a transparent mirror image of our real hearts and motivations.  Some, I am thankful for.  Others, I’ve apologized to team.  In all, I am very much looking forward to coaching next season and watching these young men transform personally, athletically, and spiritually.

2012 Eagle Invitational Champs

Our most memorable athletic highlight was hosting the Quisqueya Christian School basketball team from Port-au-Prince, Haiti (http://quisqueya.org/)  Little did we know they were both undefeated and the #1 high school team in the country as they arrived.  And yes, we did have our empanada’s handed to us on a banana leaf platter, but we genuinely didn’t mind.  These guys were so nice, so humble, and so disciplined we couldn’t be upset about a 40 or 50 point loss (yep…it was that painful:).  They blew everyone away on and off the court.  But you would never see them bragging, talking trash, and egocentric.  They demonstrated great character and shared openly of their faith in Christ at half-time of our blow-out game.  Hats off to you Quisqueya…look forward to seeing you again next year.

On the ministry end of things, we began the pavement pounding process of looking into not only more of the Velocidad one-night youthworker seminars, but also…maybe…could we…possibly…pull off the first all-city Youthworkers Convention?  That would be a dream come true and one that I will tell more about in next month’s blog…dum dum dum dummm!

The kids, not to be outdone ran full steam right to the end of the year.  One major difference we found with Santiago Christian School is you teach and are taught up to the last day.  Gone are the days of baseball in French class or kick-ball in Math for the last week.  It was good for them and us.  All three are now heading into a transition year.

Our first graduate

Carter graduated 6th grade which is very much celebrated in the Dominican.  Complete with a formal graduation evening, pomp & circumstance and the very cool tradition of Mom’s ushering their sons (and dad’s ushering daughters), Carter strolled to the front, gathered his hard-earned diploma, and celebrated!  We are so proud of you big guy!!!  Now it’s on to Middle School with all of it’s challenges and joy’s.  Give’r buddy!!

Carter also wrapped up his first season as the only 6th grader on the Jr. Varsity basketball team.  It was learning curve and half for him but he went after it.  The guys were bigger, faster, stronger, and more athletic than any he had ever played against.  And, even during those gut-wrenching times when you wonder if all this effort is worth it when you’re ‘riding the pine’ (sitting) more than you’re used, he talked things through with his coach, prayed about it.  Thank you dearly Mark Widmere for pouring your life into our son.  You have been a wonderful and trustworthy spiritual mentor to Carter.

We pause this blog for an important message….“MORE MOTO’S of the DR”

Love this Bug

Amber, not to be outdone, paced herself to an uber great year in 2nd grade.  She racked up spelling words and overall grades that were “awesome” to use her words.  And, while she continues to be her sweet self, and unassuming wild side has begun to emerge.  She jumped into ‘ballet’ with friends in an after-school program taught by one of the teachers and excelled.  She even had a little performance in which she looked beautiful.  It’s that wild side though that made us wonder.

Amber, Lucia, Abigail and Jumine

One of Amber’s gifts is making others feel welcome and loved.  For her birthday party in May she invited her ‘posse’ overnight to celebrate turning 8 years old!  Unbelievable.  Growing up so fast.  Too her credit she has made some wonderful friends.  We had the ‘United Nations’ girls sleepover party which came loaded with going out to watch a play… coming home for sugar in take…taunting her brothers with the gifts and fun she was having…and, well, whatever else little girls like to do at an overnighter. We love you little 8 year old and are excited about what’s in store for you next year!

Rockin’ the fashion world at the cookie factory

And then there’s Drew.  Nicknamed, “Little Sugar” by his teachers for adding sweetness wherever he goes & motivating the other students in his class.  Drew officially moves into Kindergarten next school year and is more than ready for the challenge…according to him.  On his fifth birthday back in March we had some longer-term convincing to do when Drew announced, “I’m 5 now.  I can go to Kindergarten”.  The concept of waiting until the next school year wasn’t in his plans.   Now was better.  We worked through that and Drew finished his school year off very well.  He and I even had the chance to tour a local cookie factory.  It was interesting to see the process but even more interesting to see how forward industry in the Dominican is moving forward and progressing.  It was a great day.

The school year wrapped up with Tracey moving into full-time P.E. classes for the fall.  She’ll be taking on all the K-5th grade P.E. classes.  Something she will excel at.  Myself, I am taking on the role of Chaplain at SCS.  It’s a new position and the melting together of various current and new endeavours (i.e. on-campus women’s bible study?  Yep…that’s a new one on the resume).  The kids, as mentioned, are moving a grade up.  And the language barrier is becoming the language understood.  Slowly but surely we’re getting better.  We can only grow from here.

Thanx again, as always for your prayers and care.  I’m so sorry this update took so long to get to you.  Another update will be coming the end of July and will have lots to say about the Grace Mission team we hosted, camp speaking, family reconnecting as we visit home over the summer.

For now, please know we love you and look forward to visiting in person!

RANDOM PHOTO

Rainbow over our school campus

Blessings from the Houck crew!!