Giving Cat a Voice

Several days ago we celebrated the end of our third year of the GO Seminary of the Americas.  We invited the students, teachers and their families as well as other collaborators to join us for a day at the public beach in Sosua, celebrating a year of hard work, theological discovery and a deeper understanding of the Churches call to overcome the culture of the broken world with the culture of the Kingdom of God.
Kerlyn giving instructions to the Seminary crew at the beginning of our day.

Kendrix and Kerlyn Pena, brothers who are third year students that will soon lead a church plant in the town of Tamboril where they grew up, joined me for some hang out time down on the beach away from a lot of the hustle and bustle.  We met our waiter, Richard.  He’s Dominican but was raised in Queens, New York from the time he was 10.  Richard explained that he continuously made poor decisions.  That he was frequently in and out of trouble until he got into real trouble some time ago.  He did 17 years of hard time of a 27 year sentence.  He got off early for good behavior and was immediately deported.  He’s been back in the DR for a year.  He’s a year younger than me.

We invited Richard to join us.  His transparency allowed us the opportunity to be quicker friends.  He didn’t know who we were yet but he didn’t apologize for his past and we didn’t shame him for it.  We continued to hang out.  This is incarnational ministry… being present with cultural outsiders, with sinners, with what the self-righteous religious identify as “those” people.

We were overlooking the beautiful beach and ocean.  A geographic location whose beauty is compromised by the brokenness of humanity, it’s reckless drunkenness and drug abuse, it’s prostitution, it’s exploitation and failure to live up to its own dignified expression of God’s image.  Some Dominican women came and sat down next to us.  I noticed a young Haitian girl on the beach near the water’s edge.

She couldn’t be missed because some Dominican men that worked the beach were heckling her and chiding her.  She couldn’t have been more than 15.  She had stripped down to a bikini and was arranging herself, scowling at her hecklers and then redressed.  I heard her vocalize and then saw her sign.  It became clear that she was deaf.  My heart sank.  Not with pity, but with understanding.
This girl has the misfortune to be a young woman in the context of the Dominican Republic.  It’s a life hard enough already for Haitian women, being positioned on the lowest rung of the sociological ladder.  Added to this is her deafness.  Deafness here means absolute vulnerability and on a public beach in a country known as the Thailand of Latin America for its own brand of sex trafficking it means that she is at risk if she is not already being exploited.

The reality of her deafness becomes clear and it hits.  It’s like I’ve been struck by a bolt of lightning.  I have two deaf, American daughters with cochlear implants.  They know sign, they speak, they hear crudely but have as much access to all of the world, hearing and deaf, that one can currently imagine.  They are not at risk.  They are protected, insulated from the sex trade, loved, cared for, not alone… in part because they were born to Vicki and I, but also because they were born in America and not Haiti, or not of a Haitian couple in the Dominican Republic.  This young woman, this girl, could just as easily been one of my own daughters had soul been sown to flesh differently.

Kendrix, Kerlyn and Richard continue to speak.  The Spirit is speaking to me.  “Go get her.  Feed her.  Silence the hecklers with your love and treat her like a queen for this next hour or two.  Show her love and hope and care without exchange.”  And so I excuse myself.

I walk down the steps to the beach through the continued sounds of men being less than they are intended to be and walk out to her near the water’s edge.  I start signing to her. At this point I don’t know if she knows an actual sign language or just a more general kind of charades.  But she does.  It shows that given her life she’s more blessed than others that face her same challenges in this context. She’s been to some kind of school.  I sign to her that I have children, girls, that two of them are deaf too.  I ask her if she’s hungry, if she wants some food.  She does and I motion for her to come with me. 

We walk back through the same on-lookers, hecklers before, now silent and watching.  As a perceived tourist and American in particular, there is
a certain amount of influence you seem to just have, whether it be legitimate or not.  Part of being a Christian means leveraging power and influence for those that don’t have it.  You take the Enemy’s weapon to divide and use it to unite instead.  This is how those charged to be peace makers by their Master do the work of justice and silence the Enemy behind his own lines.   I sit her down next to us.  I ask Richard to give her a menu.  It just happens to have pictures which makes it a little more useful for this girl.  She points to what she wants and we get her a drink.  I sign to her asking her name.  She acts like she’s pulling a whisker across her face from her nose to her cheek.  Her name is either “Cat,” “Chat,” or “Gato,” depending on whether or not you’re interpreting into English, French/Creole or Spanish.  I finger spell my name for her and that it’s nice to meet her.

At this point I’m concerned that Cat will think I want some kind of “compensation.”  I don’t know that this is the case but that’s the problem, I don’t KNOW.  So to be safe it’s time for me to excuse myself, pay the bill and leave.  Earlier Richard pulled me aside asking for some specific financial help because he claimed to need a few more pesos to purchase a phone.  I told him that I’d see what I could do.  But now my concern was that if I don’t leave, Cat will think I want something but if I do leave they will run Cat off and just keep the money spent on her behalf.  I pulled Richard aside, “Promise me you’ll treat this girl like a queen for the next two hours and I’ll help you with what you need.  Deal?”  “Deal.”
I said good-bye to Cat and left.  As I got to the other side of the beach I realized that I’d forgotten to ask for the receipt.  I went back 10 minutes or so later and Kerlyn went with me.  When we arrived back at the little restaurant Cat was feasting on a huge platter of food, Richard was sitting by her and looked up at me, smiled and said, “I’m taking good care of her, man.”  And he was.

As I got my receipt I asked if I could get a photo with Cat and she signed, “Yes.”  I signed to her that Jesus loved her and said good-bye again.  When I looked at the photo later I discovered that she had signed “I love you.”  I hope she knows or learns to understand if she doesn’t already that the one she actually loves is Jesus.  I was just trying to follow him and I’m not sure how well I did.  But I hope it further awakened in her, her own dignity as an image bearer of our God.

Pray for Cat.  I don’t know her story.  I can only guess at the hardships she faces.  I don’t know where she is today, who cares for her, etc.  I know that she’s at risk.  I know Jesus loves her and pray God has put and will put other Christ followers in her life to build into her, to lift her up, to honor the image she bears.

One Clean Windshield Worth 7 Lives…

We have a saying at the GO Seminary of the Americas: "The fingerprints of the local church should be all over its neighborhoods. The community should love the church so much that even if it disagrees with what the church believes, it would grieve if it were gone."

We want to plant and lead the kinds of churches in our communities that would leave those respective communities feeling diminished by our absence because our redemptive presence was so strong.  When Jesus walked into a village things changed for the better.  When a church is established in a neighborhood things should be positively different not because of us but because of who we follow and how we follow him.  

In our Incarnational Ministry and Strategies II course students are challenged to develop ways of creatively engaging their culture with the Gospel and ever-serving presence of the local church.  We want to pour ourselves out for others and invite them to be a part of us if they are so led.

Today something completely unexpected happened.  Today we hit the streets with squeegees, sponges, cold bottles of water and fliers.  We thought we were just washing windshields and reaching out to public transportation drivers that serve our neighborhood.  We later discovered that we were also saving lives.

Public cars labeled with the same letters follow the same routes and are a form of public transportation here in the Dominican.  We have a circuit that runs directly through one of our neighborhoods.  They pack their cars full of fares and their passengers can get from one side of Santiago to the other and back by following the connecting routes.  These men drive all day long in crazy traffic (they make a lot of the “crazy” themselves) and it’s thankless, hot work.  Because the “A” car circuit goes through our neighborhood daily for up to 12 hours at a time, these drivers are considered a part of our community.  One of our students asked “What if we serve them and let them know that we care for them and are grateful for their work?  We could wash their windshields and give them water.”

It was a fantastic idea!  Culturally, here in the Dominican, when a windshield gets washed at an intersection or elsewhere there is an expectation that the driver will pay for the service, EVEN if the service was initially refused.  They almost always have to pay something.  The students wanted to turn the system upside down.  We’ll serve them at no cost AND we will give them a bottle of water as a thank you for their service and invite them to the neighborhood church.

So we prepped, got materials together, and set out to the “A” car route.  It went like this: 1. Student hails the car and begins immediately washing the windshield 2. While another student sticks his head in the car insuring that the service is free and 3. Hands them a bottle of water 4. While saying, “We’re able to clean your windshields for free because Jesus cleaned up our lives for free.  Your windshield will get dirty again but Jesus can clean up your life forever.  If you want to know more about it, come visit us one Sunday.” 5.” Here’s a flier with a scripture, address of our building and times of service.  Have a great day!”  The scripture is from John 4:13-14 and reads: “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

We did one car after another… more than 80.  But one was unique.  The driver took the flier after we finished and handed it back to a passenger as he drove off.  Towards the end of the street the car stopped and the passenger got out.  He walked back to the students.  He asked them to wash the windshield of his life.  At first they were confused.  He broke down and confessed, “You guys are here for a reason.  For me.  I changed my mind.  I changed it in the back of that public car after I heard what you said and read this verse.  I need that water.  I’m at the end.  I had made up my mind to murder my family and kill myself today but now I won’t.  I’m not going to do it.  I was going to do it tonight but now I can’t do it.  He went on to tell of extreme financial difficulties, that he had not been able to provide for his family, that he can’t find work to provide for his wife who is pregnant with twins and the twins and singleton they already have together.  He was at the end of his rope, desperate and ashamed, believing that they would all be better off if they were just dead.  All together there are 7 of them.

The students prayed for him.  They took up a modest benevolent offering to get him through the night.  They confirmed where he lived and got his contact information so that they could follow up with him the next day and connect him to the church and pastoral staff.

Something as basic and ridiculous as a squeegee saved the life of two adults and 5 children today.  We never knew weeks ago when this plan first was born that it would be used in such a miraculous way.  The church, the People of God, went to the streets today and a difference was made.  Lives were saved.  It’s an encouragement to be sure but the question follows, how many has the Church lost due to its preoccupation with comfort and complacency?  How many more will die?

Today the fingerprints of the Church were on a squeegee that taught me that pouring ourselves out in small and great ways is a matter of life and death.  We only discover this in the act of serving.  There is a real battle going on that cannot be fought from a posture of comfort.
May the Church reject complacency in favor of a commitment to grow in its service and its redemptive engagement of the culture and community surrounding it.

Redeeming, Renewing, Restoring. 

Giving Tuesday... Help us Keep Making a Difference

Jeff teaching an impromptu class with Seminary students at the GO Leadership Development Complex land that will one day host our GO Seminary of the Americas that Jeff is currently developing and teaching at.
Vicki, lending a voice to Haitian pastors GO
Partners with in isolated parts of the country.
Raena loving on children during our service trip to
Phaeton, Haiti.

The Rogers family has just completed serving a year and a half on the island of Hispaniola!

Make an ONLINE DONATION today in support of our work with GO Ministries in honor of Giving Tuesday!*

You’re supporting our work to see the island of Hispaniola Redeemed, Renewed & Restored!
Specifically, we are developing the Seminary of the Americas which is in its third year of service.  Currently, Jeff is overseeing the training and helping to teach 25 different students and is adding a new cohort of up to 15 in January, 2015.  There will be at least one new church plant, one relaunch and the founding of one Celebrate Recovery ministry coming out of the graduating cohort of 12 in the fall of 2015 after they complete their third year of course work!

We continue to work in partnership with local leaders on the island helping secure funding for nutrition programs that provide food for about 1000 children as well as access to clean water for the poor in 10 different communities in partnership with local churches.  Our medical ministry provides access to those that would otherwise have no access to basic healthcare and our sports outreach offers leadership development to hundreds of at risk inner city youth.

We also continue to equip North Americans serving alongside of us in various partnership development initiatives to become more missional and intentional at home.  This year we helped host 80 teams which provided just over 1200 individuals to share the Gospel and be Jesus alongside of local Dominican and Haitian pastors.

Please consider partnering with our ministry today through a one-time gift or a much needed monthly partnership of $50/month or more.  You can safely and securely set up either online HERE. 

Thanks for your generosity and support!
Grace & Peace,
The Rogers

*If you already partner with us financially we are grateful for your support.  If you would like to make an additional one-time gift it is welcome.  We are grateful for your support.  We cannot serve the way we do without you.

A Scoundrel & A Picture of Jesus

“Ramón is a scoundrel and deserves to die.  He’s an exploiter.  He’s lived his life at the expense of others.  He’s arrogant.  He’s selfish.  He’ll take advantage of you.  The fact that he’s let his diabetes rage out of control and that it’s killing him slowly, humiliating him… It’s everything he’s earned.  Let him die and do the neighborhood a favor.”
This statement is the summation of what many of Ramón’s neighbors and acquaintances think about him and his current health condition.  Ramón is circling the drain due to unmanaged diabetes.  He has, until the last few months, been circling it by himself.  I know Ramón.  He is a scoundrel.  You can’t hear the intonation in my writing to hear that when I state that I write it as a certain term of endearment.  I’ve known Ramón.  He was our landlord for the brief 6 months we lived in the Dominican back in ’05.  He’s all of the things his critics have claimed but I always loved him through his arrogance, machismo and swagger.  He was and is just another spiritual orphan made in God’s image.  He’s only ignorant of the implications of such a gift, to be so made.  He need only be reminded again and again and again…  until he hears it in such a way that it begins to get traction in his heart.
Since we moved back to the Dominican in June of 2013 I’d lost track of Ramón.  I saw him here and there but he no longer lived with his wife; they were separated (no doubt due to him being a scoundrel, again, written with affection).  I knew he was in poor health but not the severity.  But I found him again, in the most unexpected of places.  I found him in the GO Seminary of the Americas where I am teaching and developing a program with a team of Dominicans and North Americans to better equip local leaders to engage more faithfully the mission of Jesus in their own culture(s).  Ramón was not there in class.  But Pablo was.
Me and Pablo
Pablo is what you’d call a non-traditional student.  He’s an older gentlemen who has started co-leading a Celebrate Recovery program in the nearby Central Church since he started the Seminary (that’s a Gospel centered 12 step program reaching out to those struggling with varieties of addictions).  During our Incarnational Ministry and Strategies class we were discussing the importance of taking redemptive ownership over our neighborhoods, seeking to be responsible to meet the needs we saw around us rather than ignoring them or waiting for others to do it.  Pablo raised his hand.  “My wife and I have started caring for a neighbor who is very sick.  Could we as a class go pay him a visit and maybe assess his situation?”
The next day during our lunch break, as a class, we walked the 6-8 blocks to where this man was staying.  We brought him lunch.  We had a nurse from our medical clinic go with us and we walked in the door.  There, in a wheel chair, sat Ramón.  This once proud rooster of a man, sat before us in the humiliation of the consequences of not caring for his illness.  He had bleeding ulcers on one of his ankles.  The other had terrible scarring from a previous infection.  His blood pressure was out of control as was his blood sugar.  Because he’s neglected his own care, the diabetes has taken his sight from him.  This compounds all of his other issues because now he cannot tell which medicines to take when, what time it is or what the proper medication or dosage is.  He. Is. A. Mess.  Here, near the end, he is the material culmination of his life’s spiritual poverty and he is alone.  Rather, he was alone… until Pablo and his wife took on the responsibility of taking care of a neighbor who was formerly a stranger.
Since this day of my reunion with Ramón weeks ago, his health has somewhat improved.  He’s been made more comfortable.  Pablo has organized his medicines in such a manner that he knows when and what to take and where it is.  Last week, 4 of our Seminary students asked to be excused from part of their afternoon class.  Ramón needed a blood transfusion and here you have to find your own donor.  They wanted to go to the hospital to see if they were a match.  This was possible because of Pablo’s advocacy. 
Today in our Incarnational class we were discussing Micah 6:8: “You know, humanity, what the LORD requires of you, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before your God.”  We were discussing the implications of mercy, the difference between simply showing mercy and actually loving it.  You see one can show mercy while still hating or resenting the recipient of that mercy.  One can show mercy and still feel superior to the one receiving it.  In fact, one can hate mercy and still offer mercy. 
Pablo raises his hand.  He says, “Last week when I asked my classmates to go to the hospital I also called a dear friend who is a Christian.  I asked her to go to the hospital too to give blood.  She refused and then she scolded me.  She told me that I should not be doing this for this man, that he was wicked and is getting what he deserves, that I should just let him be and suffer the consequences of the terrible life he chose for himself… that I needed to look out for myself, that the public hospital is filthy and full of bacteria and that I’m putting myself in danger for a man that deserves to suffer the consequences he earned.”  I watched a single tear from each of his eyes roll down each of his cheeks as he shared.  This woman, a Christian, failed to recognize the implications of the Gospel and so responded unfaithfully.  He knew it and this was why he was sharing.  He was as grieved for her as he was for Ramón who was receiving her condemnation rather than mercy.  She didn’t love mercy yet and because of this she would not show it.
But when you love mercy… you can’t help but express mercy.  The resources for this kind of mercy reside in knowing and loving Jesus.  Mercy is not just a “what,” it is also a “Who.”  Jesus Christ is the Mercy of God for all of humanity.  Pablo has made that mercy his own after having received it himself.  When Pablo looks at Ramón and what he has come to be, he sees himself without Jesus, like we all should who name ourselves “Christian.”  Indeed, the only difference between Ramón and Pablo is that Pablo has responded to the mercy of Jesus.  Why would Pablo want Ramón to suffer what Pablo himself also deserves but was spared because of God’s grace?  He doesn’t.  And so he, like Jesus, draws close and pours himself out for the so-called undeserving, putting himself at risk so that his neighbor might be made new.  We have not had final exams in this class but by his actions Pablo has already shown that he has mastered the course and it’s material.  He is himself a picture ofJesus… and I presume to be his teacher?  We are brothers serving a common King, nothing more and nothing less.  His love and mercy are a blessing and encouragement to me.  I hope they are to you too and that you’ll find your own Ramones and respond as one that loves Mercy, both the Person and the practice.

From one scoundrel to another.

A New Creation

Today my mind continues to race back to what was happening 9 years ago...easily the most terrifying and joyful day of my life. My knees were worn from begging God to allow the girls to survive, even when doctors told me there was only a 50% chance. My heart raced, then ached, then broke as I imagined the odds. I remember trembling in my hospital bed the night before, my hip aching from steroid shots to strengthen the girls' lungs, my husband's strong arms faithfully embracing me and praying God's hands over all his girls. I couldn't imagine a world without them. I couldn't imagine my world without them. I had only known them for 6 short months, but my heart fell in love with them long before they had names. And those we had just drawn out of a hat. The time was too short. We needed 3 more months.

That was the night my worn knee prayer changed. Changed to the most difficult prayer I've ever prayed. "Oh, Lord, let your will be done. I will still follow you whatever the outcome. With an aching heart, I will still follow." Then I added my P.S., "but Father, oh how I would love to watch them grow up, to shepherd them, to teach them."

56 and 61. That's the number of days these warrior girls fought in the NICU. 10. The combined number of days machines breathed for my tiny girls hooked up to ventilators. 6. The total number of holes they had in their hearts. 5. The number of blood transfusions between them. 6. How many days old they were before I ever was able to hold them. 5. The number of minutes each I was able to hold them. 5. The number of pounds they weighed...together. 3. The number of cysts in Sophi's brain presumably from an inutero brainbleed. 4. The number of days they were when I had to leave them in the hospital and began visiting my babies. 1. The nasty staph infection that turned Sophi's frail body septic. 6. The number of days old they were when their doctor told us they wouldn't survive through the night. 100+ The number of Dominican and Haitian brothers and sisters praying during a 24-hour prayer vigil at the church in Hoya del Caimito that same night. 9. The number of years old they both are today.

We experienced the most outrageous sunset tonight while cutting birthday cake outside. The kind where God just shows off. What started with hues of oranges and blues turned to pinks and blues. Taking your breathe away. Making you reach for a camera to record the moment. But the camera couldn't record such beauty. Sophi looked up and assuredly proclaimed, "God is saying Happy Birthday to us". With a smile, Raena said, "He's already answering my wish". When asked to explain, she looked at the white cloud with orange rays bursting behind it's curves and said, "Jesus is coming back to renew all things."

And this momma, this momma who gets impatient with these curly-haired beauties, who doesn't spend nearly enough time gazing into those big brown eyes to discuss what's important to a 9-year-old these days, who occassionaly yells to get them to stop bickering (I somehow manage to defend myself because they're deaf and our house is always loud, it's a ridiculously poor excuse), who nearly threw the pancakes across the room when one, not mentioning any names, ungratefully said she doesn't eat pancakes with syrup on them after I made three rounds of pancakes because the first had bugs in it, then another round because the syrup was infested with hundreds of ants, and finally because I flung them on the floor. Oh, sweet grace, and beautiful sunsets, reminding us from the mouth of this miracle, purposed, wonderfully designed child that all will be renewed. That renewal and rejoicing is not only on the horizon, but is here today. With her words, all three girls began worshipping and making up songs to their God. Because what else do you do when you see His masterpiece across the sky?

Tasting God's Promises

This journey of following that we have been on, this journey that has intensified over the course of the last 6 months as we have been thrust into the next chapter of our lives has been so rich and full of goodness. It’s not been without its concerns or stresses. At the top of the list of concerns that we’ve had surrounds how Sophi and Raena would adjust to living in the Dominican, their education, their health, their tech support without specialists easily on hand, etc…

Concern is good. Concern is an expression of love. Anxiety… anxiety is different. It is the opposite of peace and inserts itself the moment trust in God gives way.  Anxiety is the perversion of concern and is symptomatic of wanting to control all outcomes on our own terms. Anxiety indulges “What ifs,” and makes obstacles of countless hypothetical scenarios kindling embers of doubt into a raging inferno of fear induced paralysis. That’s where it goes. Anxiety distracts us, leading us to ignore everything else around us because we are so consumed by things that have not happened but might. It’s an effective tool of the enemy to draw us off course and render us utterly ineffective.

Peter walked on water. He was bold enough to get out of a boat in an effort to meet Jesus who was walking on the water towards him. He did it! He was walking on water. He journeyed into the madness of trusting that if Jesus willed it the water would hold him and against all common sense and practical knowledge he was doing it. But he got distracted. He took his eyes off of Jesus and started to look at the waves all around him. He began giving the very real possibilities around him more authority over his situation than Jesus and he began to sink… But he didn’t drown. Jesus reached down, pulled him up and asked, “Why did you doubt?”

Our journey is a different kind of dramatic than that. There have been times when we’ve been tempted to be stifled and hindered by “what ifs.” But God in his grace meets us in our fear and nudges us, rescues us from our tendency to sink and reminds us that the point is to follow Him, not to stop and obsess over the rocks we could possibly trip over along the way. We’re grateful for a God that nudges. We’ve needed nudging along the way. We’re also grateful for a God that adds to our courage as we journey forward with little signs of encouragement to keep going.

Our concerns surrounding the twin’s education given their hearing loss and needed supports to succeed have been significant. If anxiety were to creep in, this is one of the tenderest areas of vulnerability for us. So the girls’ success at school has been one of the potential stones in our path to obsess over (i.e. What are we thinking moving to a place with no support, no specialized professionals, no this, no that, why the heck would we dare get out of this perfectly good boat… you get the picture). And as we dropped them off today at their first day of Third Grade in the Dominican Republic we passed through the doorway into their classroom. The door was decorated with a rainbow. There was another on the bulletin board behind the teacher’s desk. Rainbows are cool; they’re great for kids, colorful, etc. I’d seen it the week before when I was putting tennis balls on the chairs and desks to cut down on class room noise. But I hadn’t really paid attention to the detail of the door or bulletin board until this morning as the girls sat at their desks for the first time. Both the board and the door read, “Tasting God’s Promises.”

And this is when I heard Him say in my heart this morning, “the rainbows are for you, they’re for the students but they are also for you. I’ve promised you concerning these daughters of yours. I’m reminding you that they are daughters of mine and that in as much as you are their father I am more their Father and I’m yours too. I’m no stranger to your concerns on their behalf. I will care for our daughters. And to remind you of this I’ve marked the proverbial stone in your path (Sophi & Raena’s education) both within and without with a rainbow, the first marker of my promises.” And so I walked away from a Third Grade classroom this morning completely and unexpectedly floored by our Father’s love and encouragement and any temptation towards anxiety just melted away.

I love that the teacher chose “tasting God’s Promises” rather than “taste” because it conveys on-going experience in motion; it has not been completed and we are also not waiting on it. It’s happening now and it’s an on-going discovery. So “Tasting God’s Promises,” the teacher later explained is actually their class’s theme for the year. Turns out, I think it’s mine too.

God Gives Us These Things To Build Our Faith

There it was. What we had prayed for, hoped for, consulted nearly a dozen experts on, and spent a small fortune on was sitting on a paper towel. “God gives us these things to build our faith.” That was our diagnosis today. Interesting how these words weaved together by our friend and Australian audiologist serving in the Dominican created a tapestry of courage, faith, and perseverance we could wrap our family in. Grateful that she was the one telling us disappointing news because she started with a phrase like this putting everything in perspective. The tests she performed were the same ones that slapped us in the face 8 years ago. I found myself once again looking nervously at the concrete floor hoping the tests would produce good news, rather, the news I wanted to hear. The surgery we painstakingly waited 6 years to do and saved up money to have done in May had failed. The grafted skin didn’t stand a chance against planes, humidity, ear molds, and a nasty infection that blew her new ear drum. My first thoughts led to blaming myself for what I did or didn’t do to create the situation. How do you “lessen” humidity on a tropical island? My second went to the hospital bills still pouring in and how that money could have been used to feed children here instead of on a surgery that only had a 60% chance of taking. Then it came like a tidal wave. I couldn’t look at Jeff for fear of sobbing. I couldn’t look into the big brown eyes of the fragile yet courageous one for fear of falling apart. How could I tell her after everything she’s been through that it didn’t work and we were going to have to go back to all our extra precautions, away from a pediatric ER, away from our expert surgeon, away from specialists …and then her calm eyes met mine and she reminded me that “God gives us these things to build our faith”. Before fear could consume me, Hope arrived. I learned that my faithfulness was still determined to have conditions. We would go, we would stay, if we found a teacher of the Deaf to go with us and if Sophi’s ear was healed so the risks were decreased. Our hearts continued to not only be tugged, but pushed, pulled, dragged towards moving back to the Dominican. And God has shown me on His terms that it was without a teacher of the Deaf and now, painfully, without Sophi’s ear being healed. And there it was in black ink underlined years ago from another battle with overwhelming fear “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
So, we walk forward in faith. We dry our tears. We dry Sophi's tears and encourage her through her fears and frustrations. So many challenges in 8 short years. Yet I look at how each challenge has grown her character deeper, her wisdom wider, her fortitude stronger, her empathy and compassion towards others greater. We can't protect our children from every hurt and every frustration. In doing so we stunt their spiritual growth, their dependence on their Creator, their character development. In overprotecting we actually keep them in shallow waters when indeed, they can swim in the deep end. We appreciate your specific prayers that the infection has not affected the electrodes in her implant and we pray against meningitis. We pray for courage and peace for Sophi as she faces old challenges.