The Numbers Tell a Story

I like to analyze things. Things make more sense to me when they can be observed, analyzed, changed and tested. While my wife can write beautiful words that paint a scene, I’m much more at home figuring out a way to use formulas in a spreadsheet to help me automate a complicated process. God gave us all different personalities, and so I know this is normal. However, there are many times when I need to not only focus on the numbers, the things that I can see more easily, but also focus on understanding the story that the numbers are telling.

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Kathy’s crazy 4 year-olds

Doulos Discovery School in Jarabacoa is home to 256 students from age 3 to seniors in HS. Half of the students at Doulos receive a scholarship to attend and of those students, the average family income is $527/month. At the low-end, we have families earning less than $150/month. When Kathy and I share our story of how God brought us to the Dominican Republic and to Doulos, we do a pretty good job of sharing those numbers. It’s one of the easiest ways to explain what it is that we do here. But what that doesn’t do is tell you what it’s like to sit in the home of one of Kathy’s Pre-K4 students. To have the family offer you coffee and welcome you into their home. To hand you their newly born baby to hold and proudly show you the pictures of their wedding and children’s birthdays. To give you the tour of their house and make introductions with all the extended family that lives together or close by. These moments make real a world that if left only to the numbers would sit idly on the page.

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Kathy with her student and a new baby sister!

Doulos also has a cafe and part of my job is overseeing the operations there. I always fancied myself a restaurateur and so for me this is an exciting outlet for some of my creativity. Also, I enjoy eating good food, so I’ve got a vested interest in the Cafe’s success. The cafe serves between 80-100 lunches daily to staff and students. Most students have lunch brought from home, but for those that have two working parents or who live too far from the school to allow for this, we provide lunch sponsorships. We have 25 students who receive some form of lunch sponsorship. We work hard to serve healthy meats, veggies, fruits and a whole lotta white rice to the Doulos family every day. Earlier this year we had a team from the US come in and build us a covered eating area off the back of our main administration building. Since Doulos doesn’t have a cafeteria building, we eat at picnic tables outside. Which is fine as long as it’s not raining. Now with the size of the new eating area, we can easily fit all the students at tables in one central location. I got to manage this project from start to finish and was able to dust off some of my construction management skills that I thought I’d all but forgotten.

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Starting construction

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Waiting on the roof panels

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The finished comedor

Around this same time, we were notified of a student in Kindergarten that didn’t have healthy food every day for lunch. At best, she was getting some fried plantains and a little bit of rice. After talking with the school counselor we put her on a lunch sponsorship. The first day when she got her plate with baked chicken, salad and two scoops of rice, you should have seen the look on her face. She ate every last bit of rice and the proud smile she wore was infectious. Every month I process a report on the lunch sponsorships and it’s just numbers on a spreadsheet. The reality that happens just a few steps from my office every day is so much more than that.

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Hamburger day in the cafe

These stories happen every day all around all us. Not just to those of us that live in foreign places. The hardest part for me is to pause long enough from the everyday spreadsheets, numbers and tasks to take in the beauty and complexity of the people and lives that we touch.

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Kathy’s class picnic

Our family has been living here for almost two and a half years. We’ve seen our children grow from not knowing any Spanish to being indistinguishable from Dominican children, save for the blond hair. We’ve flown home three times for fundraising and visiting family, twice for funerals, and once for professional development. Our home is 936 miles away from the last home we lived in and yet it feels like millions some days. Please pray for our little family. Pray that we will be healthy and have the strength to “live the command” that Jesus gave us. Pray that God will supply all our needs.

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September 15, 2012

This picture is on my computer desktop and reminds me daily of the story we started writing 2-1/2 years ago. Thanks to everyone who has joined us on this journey. We can’t do it without you.

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