We’ve seen a bit of everything in the past two weeks, and we’re still able to “live laugh life” about it. We’ve had fifty kids in class in one community and four in the next, we broke up a fist fight, we have created pencil dependency, and we have lost every pencil sharpener the day we got it. But, we have also seen the excitement and self-confidence that comes with getting a math question right, remembering a phrase in English, and sharing about their dreams and goals for the future.
Throughout the chaos and uncertainty, we have been learning a lot both from our kids and each other. We have been seeing the differences between the week-long trip and this trip, especially in building relationships with the kids. Coming in as summer school teachers, we’ve had to earn respect and trust from the kids. They didn’t automatically love us because we were making them do schoolwork. In the summer. But over the past week we have felt more welcomed, loved, and appreciated by our kids.
These relationships have taken time, effort, and persistence.
During our training meetings, we learned about the relationship cycle. The first step is infatuation. Infatuation is the illusion of love. It often comes with excitement and unrealistic expectations for the relationship. Most relationships in a week-long mission trip do not get past this stage.
The next step that every relationship must go through in order to become deep and meaningful is called disorientation. This is the hard part of a relationship where expectations are not met, faults are realized, and we become disappointed. This happens with friends, significant others, and even with God. This step is what refines the relationship. God uses this step to test and strengthen our faith.
“For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver” Psalm 66:10
It kind of felt like we started out in the disorientation stage with the kids. The kids are used to the Americanas playing with them and doing whatever they want. Because of this, the kids had expectations for us that we did not fulfill. As their teachers, our goal was to help them learn and make them feel capable, not just to play. It definitely took effort and perseverance to get the kids to respect and listen to us in the classroom.
If you are able to push through the disappointment and redefine your expectations for the relationship you move into resolution and love. This is the final step in the cycle.
Going into our last week of teaching we are still working on moving into resolution and strengthening our relationships with the kids. We have felt a major shift in the atmosphere of the classrooms (minus the fight) and have been connecting better with our students. If we hadn’t persisted through the hard days we wouldn’t have the relationships we now have with the kids. We would have been distant, uncomfortable, and unwelcome. Now we are welcomed and loved, even when the class doesn’t go well.
The process of building relationships with the kids has been similar to building a relationship with God. It has taken persistence, it’s been slow, and at times it is frustrating. Throughout our lives, we encounter difficult times and may not feel God’s presence. But ultimately God is using these seasons to develop our faith and character.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” Romans 5:3-4
He has been growing something so much deeper and more meaningful in our time in the classroom, as well as in our hearts. We have only gotten a glimpse of the joy that these relationships can bring and are looking forward to our final three weeks here in Barahona.
Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to for the past two weeks!
More personal updates:
Kristina has 25 more bug bites, Bekah had a 101 degree fever, and Kadyn rubbed a banana peel on her foot.
We all learned how to make no bake cookies, the generator broke (means no AC), and we started bringing chairs into the pool.
(PS Arik and Bilen, the kids were asking about where you were this week. Miss you guys!)
We have been in Barahona for three weeks now. Our friends from SPU just left for home on Saturday, so we are getting into the groove of teaching without them. We loved having them around to help us teach, hang out, and play nertz (lots of nertz). We miss them already! S/O to Bilen and Arik. It was sad to see them go, but it was a good reminder of how fast time is flying by. It makes us appreciate the time we have to make stronger relationships with the COTN staff, our host families, and the kids.
Since our last blog, we started summer school and lived with host families for two weeks.
Bekah and Kadyn headed off to Paula’s house and Kristina went to Magnolia’s. Both women work in the COTN office. It was an adjustment living away from the Casa (the COTN guest house), but we quickly grew to love our new families!
Bekah and Kadyn’s host brothers (Paul, 4 & Jeremy, 1) kept them entertained, Bekah even got peed on by Jeremy (LOL). Every evening they sat out on the porch and hung out with Paula, her husband Wellington, her sister Perla, and the boys. As they sat there and talked (both in Spanish and English!), tons of family and friends would stop by on their motorbikes and chat for a bit. They experienced the value that community and relationships hold here in the DR.
Kristina lived with Magnolia, her husband Fran, and her sister Pamela (14). Over the two weeks, Pamela and Kristina became close because Pamela was quite good at English. She ate chichurones (pig skins), learned meringue, and realized her love for empanadas. She had a lot of alone time to rest and reflect on the days. This school year she had a busy schedule and during her time at the host family she had to learn to be okay with taking time to rest.
Last week we also got to go to Zumba at the local park! It was great to get outside and to be back together for an hour each night. We learned some new dance moves, too! We hope to make this a weekly outing for the rest of our time here.
Here’s what day in the life of Kad, Beks, and Kristina looks like:
8:30 – Breakfast
9:30-11:30 – Class
12-2 – Lunch
2:30-4:30 – Class
5-11 – Dinner, pool time, chillin out, & if we’re lucky, Zumba!
Throughout each week we teach English, reading, and math in the five bateyes. We have run into a few roadblocks: some schools don’t have books for reading class, kids don’t bring their notebook and pencil every day, and the different types of classrooms we have in each community. We have also realized the breadth of grades, ages, and skill levels in each class and have learned how to teach each group of kids.
The most challenging subject is reading. Some kids don’t know their letters while some kids should be reading chapter books. It is also a challenge to have enough books each day at each school. We have learned how to create new activities with reading and adjusted to the different learning styles of each class.
We love teaching English and math! It is really exciting to see when students understand what they are learning and when they realize they are capable of learning these subjects. Their looks of joy and confidence are what we look forward to every day. We have also started to personalize the subject matter of the English classes to what each group wants to learn. We only have a few more classes of English left and want to teach them what they want to learn. We also taught them the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” to teach them the days of the week in English. It was a hit!
Originally it was daunting to think about how much subject matter we felt we needed to teach each kid, but we have realized the real reason we are here. We want to make each kid feel capable, confident, and cared about in our classes. It’s less about them learning a certain amount of math and more about them seeing their ability to learn. We love our kids and look forward to the little successes during the day!
Through everything we have done here, the language barrier has been the most difficult aspect. God has been teaching us so many things through us not fully understanding what is being said.
Church services are lively, loud, and long. We love seeing how other people worship the same God and the passion and excitement that He brings to them every Sunday (and Thursday!). Although it’s next to impossible for us to get the message of the sermon each week, it’s incredible to hear people worship and talk about God in another language. You can definitely feel His presence in the room.
We have a newfound respect for people moving to a new country and being faced with learning a new language. We definitely feel lost a good portion of the time but we always figure it out in the end!
We would love prayer for energy, patience, and that God would continue to show us why we are here. We hope to be stretched in new ways and see God working all around us.
Here’s some personal updates from the past two weeks.
Kristina: has 21 bug bites, hair has been cornrowed for like five days, scooped a dead bird out of the pool.
Bekah: all the kids think her name is cow, shaved her legs for the first time, was traumatized by two wasps on her back today.
Kadyn: according to Franklin she has a boy name, didn’t shower for five days, loses it whenever she sees a puppy.
Time has flown by and we are already done with our first week. We flew into Santo Domingo late Sunday night and toured the city the next day.
In the afternoon, we picked up two other interns from SPU and headed to Barahona (bara-OWN-ah), our new home.
We went to the COTN office to meet all of the staff members and then went over to the medical clinic to meet the nurses there. After that, we went to the I Love Baseball field and Kristina showed up all the boys with her skillz.
Over the next few days we visited the bateyes, communities where we will be teaching at the COTN schools. We met with the principals of the schools and met some new friends. In Los Robles, we met a guy named Robinson who was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident a few months ago. As we visited with him and his family we were amazed by his faith in God and his confidence that he will walk again. In Don Bosco, we met two girls while we walked around the neighborhood. We quickly got comfortable with each other and were laughing and joking around together and singing Despacito.
We also helped with the COTN kids camp on Thursday and Friday. It was for kids ages 8-12 who behaved and did well in school. We sang and danced with the kids for the whole morning and in the afternoon we played with them on the playground and watched them swim. It was a cool opportunity for the kids to meet and play with kids from other communities.
Finally, we were able to tour the two universities in Barahona. At the public university, we got to sit in on an English immersion class and talk with the students. We have been having a lot of fun seeing the city and being immersed in Dominican life.
So far we have been learning to go with the flow, adapt to change (there’s a lot of change), and how to rest. The culture is very laid-back and relationship-based, so we get a lot of free time to just build relationships and reflect on our experiences.
Tomorrow we head off to our host families for two weeks and Monday we start teaching. Keep us in your prayers and feel free to reach out, we don’t get snail mail here but we do have wifi at certain times of the day! Keep an eye out for our next blog post!
Kadyn, Kristina, and Bekah
Hello! My name is Taylor Johnson, and I am one of the 2017 deputees. In less than 12 hours, I will be at the airport with my team to spend the next 8-weeks of my summer in Montenegro. Throughout the entire deputation process I’ve been continuously asked: “How are you preparing for this?” “Aren’t you scared?” “What if it’s not everything that you’re expecting?” and that’s why I’m writing this blog post, to address these questions, and to specifically focus on how I have been preparing for deputation.
Truthfully, I love when people ask me the questions I stated above, because not even a year ago, I thought exactly the same way they did. I felt this constant need to have control and order, and I needed to always know what was going to happen and when. Well, I have discovered this need for control and order comes from not fully trusting God in all aspects of my life. Making the decision to go on Deputation, was also me making the decision to give all trust to God in all aspects of my life.
So, how have I been preparing for this trip? By trusting in God every step of the way. By trusting in God, I see that as me having complete faith in God. My favorite verse in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (NIV). Deputation is giving me the opportunity to finally live out the truth of this verse. I may not have all the answers to everything as I get ready to board this plane in a short, twelve hours, but I have faith that God has me going on this trip for a reason. I may not know what the reason is yet, but I feel Him calling me to this, and hearing Him calling me to serve this summer is all I need to know this is the right choice for me.
So, am I scared? No, because I have faith that God has a plan in store for me greater than anything I could ever imagine. Am I scared my expectations aren’t going to be met? No, because I don’t have any expectations. The only thing I expect to do is go and serve the Lord for the next 8-weeks, other than that, I am leaving the adventure and experience to God. The only way to truly prepare for this trip is to understand that you don’t have control. God has the control. When I understood this, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I have been able to grow in relationship with God and to hear His voice more clearly. As I finish typing this post, and add last-minute items to my suitcase I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I am finally walking by faith, and it is such a beautiful thing, indeed.
It’s our last morning in Haiti. We are all packing up and getting ready to say goodbye to the people that we have been working beside all summer. We spent our last few days here at a beautiful resort where we got to swim in the ocean and relax in the sun. It was like paradise and the perfect way to end an amazing mission trip. We are all sad to be leaving Haiti, but all plan on coming back at some point in our lives. Haiti has left such a huge impact on our hearts and it’s hard to say goodbye. We just want to give a huge Thank You to the Tlucek family for hosting us this summer, the other interns that we worked with for an awesome community, and the World Deputation program for giving us the opportunity to serve in Haiti this summer. It has been a blessing.
The past month and a half has been crazy busy and also crazy amazing. We started our trip by almost immediately leaving Lima for Iquitos, a city surrounded by rainforest. We went to prepare for the YMI explorer team that we´d be working with just a few days later. The six-member team (Lynn, Cindy, Max, Katie, Cobi, and Emily) was a ton of fun. We also had a few English/Spanish translators there: Marveli, Daniel, Jonatan, Elizabeth, and Liz. During the week-and-a-half trip, we worked in kids programs and aided ministry lessons in order to provide support for the YMI team. We both grew very attached to some of those we left in Iquitos and were very sad to return to Lima. We don’t think we’ll ever be able to fully describe the impact Iquitos had on us.
We got a few days in Lima to rest and help serve food to a Chinese team that was with Julio’s church at the time. During these few days we also met our English/Spanish translators for our Amazonas trip: Anthony and Leyla. After the weekend was over, we met the next team we’d be working alongside. This seven-person team (Carl, Robin, Tim, Beth, Ben, Zach, and Kevin) was from Maryland. They’re pretty awesome, and also pretty tall. We felt like dwarves. Then we boarded a flight to Chiclayo, where we stayed in a hotel for a night. The next day, we got on an eight-hour bus ride to a city called Bagua where we again spent the night in a hotel. The final day of travel was a six-hour ride in trucks to the side of a river where we were picked up in peque-peques (motorized dugout canoes) for a short ride to Hope Mountain, the seminary/church/whatever-else-it-was where we’d be staying. For the next five days, we worked with churches up and down the river to minister to youth, which involved a lot more trips in peque-peques. Of course, lots of other fun things happened too. We ate zuri (grubs), achuni (monkey), armadillo, and some sort of hawk. We played frisbee, had water fights during boat rides, and grew very close as a team. Amazonas had some peculiar challenges as well. The largest was probably the double-translation. Everything was translated first to Spanish, then to Awajun (a local language of the region), so messages had to be short. Overall though, Amazonas was also amazing, and we were sad to leave there too.
Now, we’re back in Lima for the remainder of the time. We can’t believe that we have only a little over a week left! For right now we are preparing to teach a Sunday school class at Julio’s church and mostly just hanging out. We’ve also gotten to see Leyla and Anthony a few times, which we really enjoy. Rosario’s cooking should be a national treasure, and we’ve lost count of how many desserts they’ve brought home for us. We’ve also tried cau-cau and cuy in the last week! We are a bit like helpless puppies, staying where we are told and eating everything, but we are certainly enjoying it!
Our question for our last week is this: what’s next? What changes when we get home, and what doesn’t? We have to ask ourselves what God has in store next and how our experiences have been preparing us for that. We will be continuing to ask these questions in the coming weeks and months, and we would love it if you would pray with us about this.
That’s all for now, but we’ll probably be updating one more time at the end of our trip!
~Jenna and Ashley (Team Peru)
It is week 5 of English Camp and we have been here for 6 weeks so far! Time is flying by and it is incredible to reflect on all of the things that we have done here. Stephanie has been teaching Older Science, which is boys and girls ages 10-14 and Alessia has been teaching Younger PE, which is boys and girls ages 5-10. I have been a Group Leader for a group of girls ages 10-12. We have all been enjoying our positions a ton and love all of the kids here! There are super cute and it is going to be SO hard to say goodbye to them at the end of next week.
When we arrived in Haiti, we soon discovered that we would not be the only people volunteering at English camp. There are 11 interns in total and they are all amazing people. It was a bit overwhelming at first to learn everyone’s name and remember where they were all from, but now we have grown close to all of them and become a close knit community. Some of the interns will be staying here for a whole year, which definitely puts our 8 week mission trip in perspective. There have also been teams and individuals that have come down to serve for a couple of weeks at a time. It has been great to meet and interact with so many amazing people. Everyone serving here loves Jesus so much and it is inspiring to listen to their stories and testimonies.
On the weekends we have been taking day trips to other parts of the country. We have been to the beach twice so far and have heard rumors that we will be going again this weekend. The beach is beautiful and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom even when it’s 15-20 feet deep! We also get to eat Haitian food at the beach, which we all love because Haitian food is the best food on the planet!! We have also gone into the mountains once and that was gorgeous. The mountains are extremely green, which I did not expect when I heard that I would be going to Haiti. I imagined everything to be dry but the country side is very lush and we have had several thunder storms during our time here. They are really intense, but also pretty cool to watch because the lightning is so bright. When we don’t take trips outside of Port-au-Prince, we have gone to some little boutiques and street vendors. We savor every moment that we get to explore because we don’t get to leave the property during the week due to the high crime rate in Haiti right now. So far we have loved every part of Haiti that we have seen and are looking forward to seeing more of the country before we leaving in a couple weeks!
The heat here is intense and mixed with the humidity, we are all sweating more than we ever thought possible and that any human ever should (“so be thankful” -Alessia). Also, the mosquitos have been horrible. We are all getting eaten alive, but it is worth it when we get to see the kids’ smiling faces everyday. Camp has been really fun so far and has tested all of our comfort zones. We did not know that we would have required tasks to complete when we got here, but that quickly changed. We have to lead stretching in the morning at assembly, lead English songs during morning assembly, tell a Bible story during morning assembly, and give a devotion at the morning meeting or after dinner. These things definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but were also a great opportunity for growth. We are now preparing for the end of camp, which involves teaching the kids songs and verses to memorize for the ceremony on the last day of camp. It is kind of stressful right now, but I think that the end result will be really amazing. So that’s a quick summary of everything we have done so far because we have failed to post anything thus far…I hope you enjoyed reading it!
Haley, Alessia, and Stephanie
A week later and we finally are posting here! We aren’t very good at this but were trying. We have been in India for a week now and every single day here is filled with new experiences, sights, smells, emotions, laughter, and good food (yes its spicy. yes we are struggling).
We are working with the kids and learning their daily routine, as well as how to adjust to teaching children with special needs. It hasn’t been the easiest transition but each day gets more comfortable. Aubrey is working in whats called “The Office” which is where the older kids, who aren’t working on academics, go to learn different skills to go out and live on their own in the working world. They are learning computer skills, paper bag making, laundry, and teamwork. Sarah is working in the art class 3 days a week with the older kids helping them learn about shapes, colors and shading, art history, and painting techniques. The other 2 days she is helping in the preschool with Class B. Most of the kids are non-verbal but they are able to recognize their shapes, numbers, and body parts. They also love snack time, painting/coloring, and getting to sing songs and dance.
After school we are tutoring 4 of the preschool boys. Tutoring is a term we use lightly because most of the time it ends up being lots of coloring and taking silly pictures. It is tons of fun though and usually our favorite part of the day.
Although this week hasn’t been the easiest one of our lives we are learning a lot and very grateful to have this experience.
Lots of love,
Auntie Sarah and Auntie Aubrey
Hey everyone! We’ve made it safely to Lima and the lovely home of Julio Serrano, the missionary we’ll be working with while we’re here. It’s been a long, but good, day. On our flight to Houston, we sat next to a very kind man from Southern Louisiana who told us about his own mission work in Mexico and how he hopes to go back into ministry in a few years. Thankfully, we only got ourselves lost in an airport once, and Jenna was only mistaken for a minor twice! We’re so excited to be here and to meet the rest of the Serrano family tomorrow!
~Jenna and Ashley AKA Team Peru
We arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti this afternoon after stopping in New York along the way. Byron and some of his kids greeted us at the airport and soon after arriving at the Tlucek’s house in Tabarre, we were introduced to the other interns that will be working at the camp with us. We got to see some of the Haitian culture on the drive back from the airport and the heat is incredible. Andrew (the oldest son of Byron and Shelley) showed us around the property and gave us a brief explanation of what camp will look like on a day-to-day basis. We ate homemade pizza for dinner and enjoyed refreshing mango smoothies for dessert. The day was long and hot and exhausting, but we made it!! We are all excited to see what tomorrow holds and start doing the Lord’s work.