The first day of 11th grade might seem a little anti-climactic after going to college.  Unless you're Emily and starting at a new school for the first time in your school career and it's in a foreign country.  Luckily and blessedly it is a bilingual school that is taught primarily in English.  Hooray for the best of both worlds. 
Max begins the second half of 8th grade not ever having completed the first half.
"What in the world are we doing" you might ask...
Doulos Discovery School is an amazing place where one-half of the students are on scholarship.  Doulos is a US non-profit and all of the teachers and staff from North America raise their own salaries in the form of support.  Giving the poorest students in Jarabacoa the ability to receive a private, Christian education would be fantastic enough.  But there's more!  Classes are taught in English, so all of the students become bilingual.  95% of the students are Dominican and the school's mission is to educate and equip their students so they can impact the DR.  What a great thing!  AND it's an Expeditionary learning school, which is an exciting way to learn.  If you want to know more about all of this, check out their website here.
We're privileged to able to serve here this semester and work alongside the amazing staff.  What a great group of young, smart, and enthusiastic people who love Jesus and followed the call to the DR.
So Emily will finish the11th grade and Max will join the 8th grade class (or possibly the 9th grade class because of his math level) and then who knows where they'll go from there?  Only God knows for sure.
By the way, the high school students start school at 7am!!!
 
 
After hiking and repelling, and more hiking (and lunch) we headed down the mountain through the coffee farm and had a little tour. 
Spirit Mountain Coffee Plantation has been operating for about 6 years on a long farmed piece of land where coffee farming was abandoned after a hurricane in the late 90"s.  Replanting and developing new methods for growing coffee are high on the priority list here!
The ripe coffee bean on the tree is called a cherry and can be eaten.  The red pulp is thin like a cherry and tastes like a mild pepper to me.  But is a little sweet.  The coffee seed or bean is inside.  You pop it in your mouth and spit out the insides like you would a cherry.  There are 2 or 3 beans inside each one. 
We're in the middle of the harvest season when workers pick the beans as they ripen and they go to the processing area.  The beans are de-pulped in this contraption before being washed and dried.
Here's the work team from Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio.  They've been great workers and a great group of new friends.  More pictures to come of the work they've been doing at Doulos.
And the wonderful Wallace family!  They're an inspiration and excellent example of impacting a country for Christ through education, business and love.
One of the farm workers who lives at the plantation has caught a few wild boars and now has some piglets too.  They're loud and stinky and....BACON!!!!
Back in the truck for a chilly ride home.  I guess the long sleeved shirts were a good buy.  It's been a lot cooler than we expected.  They say it's only going to be around for a few more weeks, but we'll take it!
 
 
A few days ago, our second day in the Dominican Republic, we visited Spirit Mountain with the work team from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Ohio.
Jarabacoa is a mountain town where city folks come to get away.  It's surrounded by more mountains and Spirit Mountain is atop one of them.  As an ecological reserve and coffee plantation, the scenery is fantastic and the views incredible. 
Job 12:7-9
"But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
 Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
"
Getting there was an adventure itself!  First we crammed in a truck and drove out of town, crossing rivers and driving on roads worthy of any 4x4.  Yes, people gladly sit in the back of trucks.  It beats walking.
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Max with new friends Darrell, Corrinne, and Lawrence
The rest of the group was in a taxi van, so they had to hoof it up the rest of the mountain.  Whew!  I got a seat in the truck.  Best husband ever made sure I sat in the front seat.  Didn't want me to barf all over new friends.  This gave "over the river and through the woods" a whole new meaning.  This is the river we crossed.  In a truck.  It's not very deep.  Really.
So we gathered at Camp Discovery, where kids from Doulos and summer campers experience views that are incredible, and birds galore!  Anyone a bird watcher?  There are 20+ bird species found only in the DR and many are found here on Spirit Mountain!
From camp, we hiked to the "Rock" for some repelling.  Here's a shot of the "Rock" from camp. Sorry, I'm not adept at any form of Photoshop, or I'd put a little arrow or something to point out the spot.  It's up there toward the top, almost dead center in the shot.  It's the big grey rock.  See if you can pick it out.  It was a decent hike, especially for one who doesn't hike often.  But the trail was good and the incline wasn't very great.
And there's Camp from the Rock.  Same story as before.  See those little white roofs over on the right?  We hiked from there!
At the Rock the kids all repelled.  I did avoid this certain unpleasantness.  There was pressure, but I prevailed in my need for self-preservation.  Surely they didn't want to carry me down the mountain?  Injured on my second day in the country?  I don't think so.  Smashing into a mountain was not going to make it a good day.
Emily loves it.  Max did it.  Last.  There he goes...over the cliff.
Some people like it...Darrell and Sandra...
Some not so much...
That's Lawrence from Germany.  He and 2 other Germans are volunteering at Spirit Mountain.  He was NOT so excited to be on the literal side of the mountain!  He's a great guy - we had dinner with him the next night.  Traditional German spaetzel (sp?) - it was delicioso!  Max's favorite meal in the DR so far.  German food!
And another shot of the amazing view!
Look for another post about the second half of our day (I know, right?!?!) which was equally as gorgeous and educational.
 
 
We've been here in the DR a little over 48 hours!  We've been SUPER blessed by the love and warm welcome we've received thus far. 
Our home for the next 7 days is a 2 bedroom apartment in a "villa" complex, where the short teams normally stay.  It's only a few blocks to the school (Doulos) and lots of little eateries and super-mercados.  It's cozy and we'll be staying here until we move to the our rented house next week.
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That's our place upstairs. There's about 10 apartment/rooms in the complex.
We had a one hour ride from the airport (after arriving about 2 hours late - some guy trying to board the plane in NY couldn't find his passport, so they held the plane while they looked for his bag and got it off of there).  Our brief time at JFK airport in NY went smoothly with just enough time for Max to get his pizza.  For breakfast.   Lovely Sandra met us at the airport in Santiago in a taxi and got us safely to our new home in Jarabacoa.   Sandra coordinates the short term teams and she and her husband, Darrell are Aggies from Texas and have just been here a few months.  They made sure our first meals were good and not eaten alone.  Love them already!
Our first day, Joe had staff training at Doulos at 8am.  The kids and I slept in - Max won by waking up at 10:30!  He apparently was a little tired.  Ah, my baby is a teenager.   Joe met his co-workers and got familiar with his assignments.  He's really looking forward to getting started on Monday with a high school group from Ohio that arrived Friday.

We got a local telephone, and we're working on getting Joe's iphone to work here.  Skype works and we have other apps like viber.  So call us or let us know how you'd like to communicate (if at all)  PLEASE communicate!

This sweet girl, Sarai, is the assistant to the Executive Director of Doulos, and she showed us all around the town (we walked).  She also the local house hunter!
Our second day was incredible - but that story will have to wait until tomorrow.  Lots of beautiful pictures to come!
 
 
We made it! Here we are at the Santiago airport. All the bags made it too. Even the guitar which had to be gate checked. Emily was worried for a few minutes when it didn't appear at baggage claim, but then there it was sitting on a different carousel. Hooray!

 
 
Over the past few weeks we've been thinking about Philippians 4:10-14.  A lot. And the Message puts things into a different frame sometimes, and here's what it says:

"I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my trouble."

We live a sort of "strange" lifestyle these days.  We're living on Buster, parked at our friends house.  Sometimes its hard to explain to people that it's OK.  That we actually like it.  Most of the time.  When Joe recently said that he was thinking about listing Buster for sale, Emily was the first to pipe up with "NO!".  It's our home, and has been for the better part of 3 years.  Maybe it's our "comfort zone" now.  You know what THAT means...must.  get.  out.
The part that says "hands full or hands empty" - has become a monthly reality.  Sometimes we don't know where the next dollar will come from, but it always does.  I don't know why God does it this way, but I suspect that He is still teaching us to rely on Him for everything.  Everything.  We know it's true that when things are going well, or coming easily, we forget that we need God.  That we rely on Him for everything.  All that we have.  Every step. Every breath.
So whatever your situation, you can trust Him to take care of you.  What's the worst that could happen when you are living in the One who makes you who you are?
 
 
It's been a little over a month (it had been, when I wrote this) now since we returned from Brazil.  After two weeks in Brazil, and 6 weeks before that on the road, it has been back to the reality of the Tucson heat!  And back to "what's next?" for the A's.  
Even though we prepared (somewhat) for our re-entry, it's still hard to put the whole experience into words.  At least into words that do it justice.
On some level, it was about these amazing children.  The love.  Full of life.  The joy in their faces and the sadness in their eyes.
And then it was about the work we could do there.  For them.  With them.  VBS.  Medical clinics.  Hugs.  Gifts.  Crafts.  Songs.
Being "assigned" to a Arieli before we even left the US, writing letters, sending pictures,  gave us a head start on our love.  She was here with 3 of her siblings, an older sister and a younger sister and brother.  They had only been at the Lar for a few months.  Nine years old and she told me her mom had "problems", and had brought them here.  After hearing so many horror stories, I am so thankful that she is at the Lar.  She is safe and loved.  And she is being taught about the One who can care and love her through anything.
When I looked at her, I saw myself at 9.  Spunky, confident, not afraid to sing out loud, and a little bossy.  The night we said goodbye, my heart broke as she cried into my shoulder.  Sweetest.  Thing.  Ever.  Oh how I would have loved to bring her home.  And I'm fairly certain I would have, if that was allowed.
But really it was all about God.  What he's doing around the world in the lives of His people.  Whatever feeble gifts and sacrifices we make are nice trinkets, really. We raise money, travel a long distance, sleep on the floor, sweat buckets, shower occasionally, work, work, work, all the while giving what we we think is our all.

When in reality, it is all just about God.  How great and marvelous are the works of His hands.  The lives He will save and redeem to bring Himself glory.  And we got to see a little tiny part of it.  The miracle was right there and we were there to see it.
 
 
One of our hopes in going to Brazil was to work with some of the older teens.  Developing skills and training the older kids so that their transition out of the children's home is a key part of the Davis Lar's program.  

While our days were full of VBS and other pre-planned activities, Joe was able to work closely with one boy, Ze Luis.  An 18 year old who lives at the boys transition home in Eusebio, Luis loves to work in the bakery there.  (The coconut bread they make there is amazing!)  He also likes woodworking.  Good thing he was paired with Joe.  They worked on several projects together along with his sister and some other girls who live at the Lar.
One of the unique features of the Davis Lar is they are one of the few homes who take sibling groups.  They keep kids together when they've got nothing else.
These two girls were hard workers!  Safety first!
Luis with a neighborhood dog.
One project we worked on was making benches for the dining hall.  Max was working the saw with Rebecca's help.  He did great on the trip.  So proud of him.  Despite the mosquito bites and the frogs, he had a great experience.
Here's a pic of the group testing out the new bench.  One of the best parts of the trip was working with not only our group of Americans, but the Brazillian kids joining right in.
 
 
This is my girl.  Biggest bun ever.  Funniest girl ever.  She's a deep thinker with a heart that is learning to serve and love and follow her God.  Click over here to read some of her thoughts on our trip to Brazil.
Tank is her friend.  Her large, lovable friend.
 
 
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One of the work projects we worked on - taking down a rickety kiosk.
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Max with Israel and Peter. We had a day off and got to hang out at the beach with the team.
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One day we set up an obstacle course all around the Lar and had a 'mud run'. The kids LOVED it!
This week we're doing medical clinics out in some surrounding areas including some favela's (slum areas). We have a pediatrician, dermatologist and ENT doctor with us. We also have an Registered nurse and several aspiring medical students on the trip. During the clinics we run some VBS activities for the kids waiting.
It has been awesome for all of us to be able to tell the people we are serving that we are here because of Jesus. The physical needs here might be great but the love of Christ is something that offers lasting relief.