Posted by Max
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New York City, The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, and my favorite name, Gotham. Random Fact: Gotham is a nickname coined by Washington Irving. Gotham means Goat-town, and folk tales make it out to be a town of simple minded fools. I like it becuase Batrman wrecks every bad guy in it. My dad and I on our way back from La Republica Dominicana, had a 13 hour layover in this gigantic city. We landed at JFK Intl. Airport at 6 A.M. and flew out at 7 P.M. But we did everything in between.

What better way to start the day (haha that ryhmed) than a bagel and lox? Why a bagel and lox in New York, of course. We rode the subway from JFK to the World Trade Center Memorial and walked to the Backstage Deli on our way to Battery Park.
After walking around for a couple hours, seeing The Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron building, Grand Central Terminal, countless other subway cars, we saw a bunch of asians taking pictures of the butt of the wall street bull. It was way funnier in person. We then took the subway to Yankee Stadium, for my first Yankee game. 
We then took a walk through central park. I found a spot to hang up my SOCO hammock. We took a final subway back to the air port and left NYC.
 
 
The ministry of Young Life has affected our lives pretty profoundly.  And maybe not in the way that most people have been influenced by this ministry.  It wasn't until about 12 years ago that we even heard of Young Life.  And let's just say that we were many years out of high school.  In fact we now had these two little people who also had no idea what they were about to be exposed to.

All these years later, after going to camp work weeks, family camp, hosting weekly Club, serving on committees, going to lots of Young Lives Camps, helping put on banquets, and LOVING IT, we're still in awe of the way that YL does ministry.  It relational.  it's incarnational.  It's the way Jesus did it.  Of course It works!

Young Lives (Young Life's ministry to teen moms) has become one of our favorites.  (It could be the cute babies I guess?)  Being involved in this ministry has blown all my pre-conceived ideas about teen pregnancy to pieces.  Girls who choose life, and deal with the consequences are really the heros in these situations.  So many make other choices.  Do they still need the transforming power of Jesus?  Yep!  And we get the privilege of walking alongside them.
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mentors are my heros
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gratuitious cute baby picture
If you're familiar with Young Life camping at all, then you probably know 
Psalm 107:2 - Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.  

SAY SO. 

At the end of every Young Life camp week campers are encouraged to stand and SAY what the Lord has done in them during the week.  

To get the full context, Psalm 107:1-3 says:

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.


SAY SO.

It's the highlight of the week for many weary leaders and tired camp staff.  To hear that all the work and energy spent has been used by God to redeem young people from the hand of the enemy.  We've been blessed to serve at Young Lives camp:    Teen moms.  Babies.  Mentors.  Crazy amounts of strollers and pack-n-plays.  And laundry, laundry, laundry!
Last year, as a family unit, we served at Camp Buckner in the hill country of Texas for 2 weeks.
Emily and Max both served in the dining hall at Camp Buckner.  Emily was a server and Max washed dishes in the PITS.  I may be biased, but my kids are HARD WORKERS!  We were so proud of them.  Our friend, Joy, from Tucson joined Emily on Work Crew.  So fun.
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Camp Buckner 2012
These kids were awesome.  They served their hearts out.
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Work Crew - Camp Buckner - 2012
With all those babies, there is a whole other camp full of adults and teens who come and provide childcare while our campers participate in all the usual Young Life games, rides and Club.  Those who hold babies and rock them and push a stoller around late into the night are showing Christ's love to a teen mom who may have little love and support in her life.

This year, Emily served as a childcare worker, first in Michigan for a week and then at Lost Canyon in Williams, Arizona.  She made friends with these lovely girls, who not only worked in the purple nursery with her but climbed a mountain with her - both physically and literally!  They came, they saw, they conquered!
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Lost Canyon - 2013
Classic Young Lives...Santa and crying babies.  Of course!
And beautiful girls with beautiful babies...and God doing beautiful things.
 
 
A while back I posted a bit about Emily and what her struggles have been.  Thankfully, as promised, God has been using the hard things in life to teach us about our weaknesses and give us hope for what lies ahead!

You may be wondering how little Max has been fairing here in the Dominican Republic.  Oh, I'm sorry!  Did I say "little Max"?  Because the last time I blinked, he was 3 years old and cute as a button.  Now he's just cute as a button. Or so I hear.  From the girls.

And he may or may not need a haircut....
he tries new things...like death by downhill bicycle...
and he dances...
in public...with girls....dances like the bachata and marangue
He goes to wyldlife...claro (obviously)...
I think he's making friends...and he does have some that aren't girls...
And then he earned some "man" points when he buried a dead dog that we found...eeewwww.
It took him a little while to warm up to the idea of playing soccer...here in a country where "futboll" is second only to baseball, the competition can be fierce...he plays with the big boys and he's holding his own.  Not many shin guards worn here either. 
He's probably learned the most Spanish of all of us so far...no doubt it includes many words picked up on the soccer field.   Words I won't learn from my proper Columbian teacher.  But it could be useful to know certain words, yes?
"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9 
This is what I pray for the young man he is and is becoming.
 
 
Independence Day.  February 27th in the Dominican Republic.  A two-hour school program.  Adorable!

I haven't smiled and laughed so much since getting here.  From fantastic dances to political skits, humorous vignettes and beautiful faces.  And these kids have been taught their history!  I was particularly impressed with their portrayal of the political issues that the DR has faced.  Serious topics for first graders.  This culture is full of life and energy with seemingly little self-consciousness.  Teenagers dancing in costume?  Yep! 
 
 
Emily has been writing a little bit over on her page.  Click on over and take a look and maybe send her a quick note to let her know somebody's out there reading!  And here's a few pics of my sweet 16 year old from the past few months.
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with our Spanish teacher Nellie
Getting ready to climb, slide and swim 27 Charcos (waterfalls)!  - with Anna (our construction team host) and Katelynn (doing her student teaching here this semester)
Going to the dance...
At the Doulos College Fair - presented by the Junior class.  She shared info from NAU, Condordia College in Portland, and Biola.  Shout out to all our peeps who are NAU Lumberjacks!
And here she is in Haiti...
where she and Anna built a desk organizer for Second Mile Haiti, among other things...
While we've all had our ups and downs while living in the DR, Emily has perhaps had the hardest time.  It's not easy being a teenager.  Period.  But making new friends in a different culture in  a different language has been pretty tough.  As parents it can be equally as tough to remeber that God is teaching us and growing us ALL THE TIME, and usually through the hard things we learn and grow the most.  We hope that the end result will be maturity, wisdom, and compassion.

Rather, speaking the TRUTH in LOVE, we are to GROW UP in every way into him who is the head, into CHRIST.   ephesians.4:15
 
 
Gloria a Dios!
Church life looks a little like this...

...a great pastor who speaks very fast, of course in Spanish, sometimes there's a translator (when a large group of English speakers are visiting),

...energetic, loud worship, usually accompanied by jumping and sometimes dancing around.  We had a group of high school students from Washington a few weeks ago and they looked a little wary, but it's completely refreshing to be a part of this worship service.

...I'm usually looking up words in my pocket dictionary, scribbling notes and making lists of things to look up later.  But sometimes I just sit and bask in God's love for me without having to understanding anything else because I can't!

...one week we couldn't see the screens where the pastor will put up scripture, quotes and other notes (we all find these extremely helpful) and there was no translator this week...a few minutes into the sermon, I look over and both kids had given up trying to follow and just started reading their Bibles.  It's always a good idea to have your Bible at church, no?

...another thing I love about this church is when the pastor's wife finishes with the announcements (and I think of some other beautiful pastor's wives that would be so great at this as well) all of the children stand and everyone extends a hand and prayer for them before they are dismissed to children's church for the remainder of the service.  Love this!  Chidren are shown how they are loved and an important part of this church family.

...it's close enough to walk to, although we usually drive.  Por que?  No se.

 I am continually reminded that God's church extends to the whole world.  No country, nationality or race holds an exclusive right to Christianity.  The beauty of the Lord shines on the faces of His people all over the world.
 
 
Because after I made this list, I realized that I was flawed in my thinking!  I listed the unimportant, inconsequential things FIRST, and then added the really important things (the PEOPLE) to the end of my list, as if they were an afterthought.  When I saw what I had done, I was appalled at myself.  The REAL reason we love Jarabacoa so much, is because God has given us these PEOPLE to befriend us,
1.  So, the MOST IMPORTANT reason we love Jarabacoa so much is because of the PEOPLE here who have given of themselves to welcome us, feed us, give advice, invite us, and befriend us in our first few weeks.  So grateful for them and the community they have built here.  Here are a few of them (and I do mean a FEW, because there are so many and I only have pictures of some).
Chad and Krista, whose story of living in the DR for the last 17 years inspired and spurred us on to take this step and live a new adventure.  They have shown the Lord's kindness to us in so many ways.
Sandy's job was to pick us up from the airport...her huge smile and Spanish skills made us fast friends.  Hubs Darrell is a sweetheart too.   They bought us dinner on our first night and we helped them move into their new house last week!   Hmmm....buying a house in the DR...we kinda want to be their neighbors.
The view out Darrell and Sandy's porch.  What's not to love?
The Mac's were the first to have us over to their house for dinner.  I believe it was chili and cornbread.  Max and Caden (their oldest, a 7th grader) have become buds, going to Wyldlife and playing football.  Harley and Abby (mom and dad) are teachers at Doulos and they're in the process of adopting a Dominican child or maybe 2!  You can see why I am impressed and find them to be SO lovely to be around.  (and they're Steeler fans...really???)
And the LeMoines...you are too beautiful, inside and out!   Denae as ranslator/Spainish teacher and Dan as business cohort/furniture builder have helped us in so many ways ...the world needs to LOOK OUT because God surely is doing something amazing in this house.
Of course there are many others who will no doubt make their way onto this blog and onto the facebook page...so look for more faces shining with Jesus' love.
So on to the other things I love so far...
2.  It's a small town.  Really.  4 stop lights. 2 hardware stores.  You can't go anywhere without running into someone you know.  And if you're Joe Atkinson, this would be impossible anyways.  He knows someone just about everywhere we go.  Of course I realize there might be a down side to always running into someone you know, but I'm not there yet.
3.  You can just walk there.  You CAN basically walk just about anywhere you need to go.  A few friends live a mile or so out of town, a little farther than I might LIKE to walk, and it would be quite a calve work out, but you could do it.  And we have a car now, so no one really HAS to walk.  But you can.  And it's funny how having a car (just 1) seems like such a luxury.
4.  The weather.  And add to the weather the beautiful views and lush vegetation, which technically makes this 2 things.  We are still sleeping with the windows closed and a fan going, mostly for the white noise effect, and because we're basically "mosquito-phobes" still.  Don't want to get the Dengue fever, you know!  Mornings are cool and the days are warm and breezy.  They say we're in the "perfect" time of year and the heat's coming, but I'll just enjoy it now and live in denial.
5.  Doulos Discovery School.  I will have to go into more detail in another post, but the short list goes like this:  I love...expeditionary learning, the teachers, the adorable pre-schoolers, my awesome Spanish tutor, the whole school takes recess in the morning, there's an on-campus cafe that feeds my family all day long, morning staff prayer, daily all school gathering at flag, and seriously, the list goes on and on.  If you haven't looked at their website yet (because I think I link to it often) please check them out www.doulosdiscovery.org)

Here I am with Griselda, who faithfully works at Cafe Taino, our on campus cafe.  She is a delight and she is my daily Spanish conversation partner, whether she wants to be or not!
6.  Avocados are cheap.   Of course, they are now out of season here in the DR, so they're imported and not quite as cheap, BUT there are a plethora of other inexpensive vegetales to choose from and a quaint little market at which to buy them.  I do a lot of pointing and smiling, and somehow manage to take home a large bag or two full of items for which I usually pay around $5.  I have yet to make it to the meat market, so we've mostly been cooking vegetarian style (except for some bacon and lunchmeat) and everyone seems pretty happy with it.  Wha??

Some of you may have already seen these pictures of the avocados on facebook, but for those of you that are avoiding the FB experience, here ya go!
Yes, it's nearly as big as his head.
 
 
So we moved into an apartment last week.  For the first time.  The big selling point was that they are brand new.  But brand new in the DR can have some pros and cons to it.
Good:  nice entry area, landscaping to come.
Bad:  wires still cascading across the steps...not so good for the clumsy, sir-trips-alot in our family.  That would be me.
Good:  three nice bedrooms.
Bad:  no beds yet.
Good:  kids love their hammocks.  and they insisted on bringing them.  thanks Brazil!
Bad:  not much else to put in there yet.
Good:  It's a new building.  This is the view from our balcony.
Bad:  Still working on the others.  Done soon? Months?  Years?  Dominican time.
Good:  Nice and bright with lots of windows.
Bad:  No screens yet (not a very common feature here) and the mosquitos love me. and not in a good way.
Once we get some furnishings, I'll post some more pics!
 
 
There's been a lot of mixing and pouring and forming and smoothing going on here in Jarabacoa.  And a lot of rain.  But the work continued!  During our first week, Joe worked with a team of high school students from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Ohio.   What hard workers! 
Watch the progress...
The before...laying out the new ramp that will lead to the lower level classrooms.
They dug out the path.  It was great to see them working with our Dominican friends..
The new classroom building is a two story building with 4 classrooms accessed from the upper level and already occupied.  The lower classrooms are accessed from below...thus the need for a ramp!
Then just in time for the concrete, a big group from Spring Arbor University in Michigan shows up!  Yay for burly college guys!!!
And and the first phase is complete!  Funds were available to keep some of the Dominicans working even after the work team left.  So, more has been happening in the last few weeks!

Joe is in his element, using the gifts that God has given him to organize, teach, motivate and encourage young people to work hard and work smart.  He absolutely loves working with his Dominican counter parts, Carlos and Patricio, who patiently listen to our span-glish and always have a smile and a hug for us.

And if you're not a "h
 
 
Sometimes I am a slow processor.  I think about things for a while.  Things come to me later.

Last Sunday was our first "hard" day.  After being here for 9 days, we were all anxious and ready to move into our rented and hopefully "furnished" house.  I say hopefully because after looking at some other supposedly furnished houses, I'm learning what the Dominican definition is.  So, when our contact called and said the house would not be vacant and available until NEXT weekend, there was a bit of disappointment in the air.

Hmm...what to do, what to do.

Call the owner of that other house we almost took!  The second choice!  What?  Can't reach him until later this afternoon?  That's ok.  We'll wait.  Surely that one will be available.

What?  Not available.  Hmm...what to do, what to do.

Let's look at some other options.  We look around a bit.  Get a break on the Villa we're already staying in.  Decide to wait.  It's a good house, good neighborhood, good distance, good price.  We'll wait.
At church on Sunday a guest speaker, still in Spanish,  talked about our esperanza, HOPE, the hope of our life.
Hebrews 6:18-20
we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,  where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek..
As I've been thinking about that verse. I realize that HOPE is our anchor.  It's all we have.  Hope in Christ, hope in the future, hope in His plan.  I think that's why we can say as Christians, that any circumstances that surround us, that sadden or threaten us, don't rob us of our hope.  We're looking to the future, to the next unfolding of life.
So on Monday we were invited by our American friends, Darrell and Sandy, to their host home to do our laundry.  And they have a dryer!  A rarety here.  So blessed by their hospitality.  The grandmother and her grandaughter host many families.  We had good food, lots of laughs and spanglish conversations while that laundry was washing.  New friends with new possibilities that wouldn't have been made had we moved into our OWN place with our OWN washer (and probably no dryer.)