I was sitting out in front of our house the other night, talking to the teenage neighbor girls Ada and Yelissa. Mostly these conversations are about me learning the correct way to say things in Spanish. Or rather, the correct Dominican way to say something in Spanish, because it’s not always the same thing. I remembered that I wanted to ask them what our address was. Since there’s not a street name or numbers in most of the city, addresses are more like turn by turn directions than anything. Translated, ours is the street we live on, third driveway on the right, Portón Rojo ( or, red gate).
Since we’ve moved our family here, we have been praying that God would show us the purpose we are to fulfill. What will our path look like? What will the ministry be? While we were waiting on an answer, we fell in love with our neighbors. Every day for hours, Luke and Emily would play, sing, dance and have so much fun with the two teenage girls, the 10 year old little sister and 3 year old Jose Ramon. Most days their 5 year old cousin Marjorie was at the house. Our little house was bustling with activity, Emily playing dress-up, Luke teaching Jose how to ride a scooter. Kathy and I were thankful that our kids were getting along so well in such a new environment. In fact, because of all the time they have spent with the neighbors, Luke and Emily’s Spanish is progressing faster than we could have ever imagined. We joked about Emily being a translator for us soon, but that actually happened the other day. For real.
Our new neighbors have been such a blessing to us in so many ways. They have taught us to cook and clean Dominican style and the girls have watched our children on a few occasions so we could meet as a group and discuss and pray for the ministry. Every time they would watch the kids or help around the house, we would offer to pay them, as we would offer teenagers back in the US, and every single time, they vehemently declined. Like ran out of the house shouting no, declined. Kathy asked them why and they said that while it is custom to pay people to help, we are family and it is not necessary or acceptable. I began to pray that God would show me a way that we could help their family out.
It wasn’t long before the answer to this question became clear. While the family lives in a recently constructed small home made out of block, the grandma lives in a much older mostly wood framed home with a rusty metal roof. Each side of the roof was constructed not with a single roof panel, but three smaller panels that were most likely scrap from somewhere else. There are holes throughout and when it rains, the floor gets flooded. We had just had experience putting a new roof on a similar home in Santiago over Thanksgiving and it was clear that this was the greatest need. I asked the girls if they would ask if it was okay if we fixed the roof for them. They talked it over and agreed and so today, with the help of Luke and my brother, we were able to provide them with something that I take for granted every time it rains. I prayed last night that we would be able to tell them that it was a blessing from God and not from us and as we were leaving today, I did just that.
We have received the answer to what our path will look like. A few weeks ago, we filed paperwork to set up FIGHT (Freeing Individuals from the Grasp of Human Trafficking) Ministries with Luke, Naomi, Phyllis, Kathy and myself. We know that we are called to help children that have had their childhoods ripped away from them by people that mean to do them harm. This is a huge problem and we know that with God, we can make a difference in the lives of children that have been trafficked or are at-risk. We’re excited to get to work and share more specifics in the coming weeks.
There is much more work to be done here at Portón Rojo as well. We were invited to our neighbor’s church yesterday for the Día de la Altagracia celebration. We didn’t realize we were agreeing to march in a procession of a thousand people from one church to another 2 miles away. It was quite an experience and we were happy to spend the afternoon with them. They agreed to come to church with us next week and go to one of the poor neighborhoods and play soccer and baseball with us afterwards. We pray that God will continue to allow us to bless their family so that their children stay children and aren’t ever put in danger.
We felt sometimes that we were just spinning our wheels here, but God had us right where he wanted us and now we that we can see that, we are so thankful for His timing and direction.