Toby goes twice a month to a public school to teach on a subject given to him. He usually teaches for 10 to 15 minutes as that is the length of their attention span. He teaches from kindergarten up to 8th grade. He has built some good relationships in the school where they invite him to come to get to know the families of the school children. He has commented many times on how he doesn’t know how the kids can learn much because there is little discipline and a lot of chaos. As he gets to know the kids, they are listening more and paying attention to what he shares from the Bible. It was wonderful to go with him recently to see the kids run up to him and give him hugs. One of the teachers the other day said they call him Donald Trump since they think they look alike. The kids and I will soon be going with the DK Eyewitness books to open a new world to them of things they have never seen.
Toby has been taking his Tuesday and Thursday night classes through the book of Acts and is just about to finish the book. He has had up to 30 people attend the Tuesday night class, including several people from other denominations. Toby has enjoyed the questions that have come up and directing the students back to the Bible for their answers. Toby has seen tremendous growth in the group. Thursday nights he also teaches a class on Acts. After the class, he is working with a couple of the men to develop their leadership skills. One man has come a long way in his ability to lead the church. On Fridays and Saturdays, he disciples men in small groups or individually.
Toby has been focusing a lot of his time on the church at Cancela. It was once a healthy growing church, but the murder of one of their members tore the church apart. When we started working with the church, there were just two people from the community who faithfully came every week. The two ministers trying to help the church also serve another church as well as working other jobs that take from 60 to 80 hours of their week. That leaves little time for anything else! They take what time they can to help their home church and to hold a service in Cancela on Sunday afternoons. I cannot say enough good things about these men, but they have no time left to give if they want to see their families. So Toby has been evangelizing throughout the community for 2 to 3 hours every Saturday, and this has led the church to quadruple in attendance. Many people in the community believe the church is a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon church, so they don’t want to come. Toby is working hard to get the word out that we are a Christian church. An older widow came Sunday for the first time. She lives right behind the church in a shack that is not fit for an animal. She found three stones that she positioned in such a way that will support a pot so she can cook her meals over a fire. She is a widow in desperate need. These people are just trying to survive and have enough food on the table. It is the church where we had VBS last summer with up to 120 in attendance, so we know there are people interested in coming. It is an area that needs Jesus and the hope he brings.
Recently Toby went to Centro Cristiano Mission monthly minister’s meeting at the church camp. They have many churches in their mission throughout the country, so there are always people Toby hasn’t met or talked to very much at the meeting. He loves getting to know new people and developing relationships. He continually receives requests to come preach and teach at their churches. Please pray for Toby as he continues to figure out how God wants him to use his time.
One of the best things of being a missionary is seeing how God provides in amazing ways. Sarah has begged me for a long time to find her Honduran equestrian coach so she could see how Sarah is doing and so she can come to the competition next year. I spent hours searching and trying to remember the name of the equestrian club, but to no avail.
While we were at the international competition, we visited with people from Venezuela. Their coach married a retired high ranking Honduran military official from San Pedro Sula, who just happened to know Sarah’s former coach. He sent me Daniela’s phone number, club name, and their Facebook page. Daniela and I have had several conversations. Daniela plans to keep up with Sarah’s competitions here and hopes to come next year to the international competition. Not only that, but I was able to be a listening ear as someone who understands a little of what the Venezuelans are going through and to evangelize a little.
We are so grateful that horse riding here is inexpensive enough that Sarah can have lessons. Sarah was the most affected by everything that happened that forced us out of Honduras. The blessings coming from her involvement in these lessons have been amazing. Sarah has gone from being a wallflower to singing in front of others at church and being the leader at her equestrian lessons. She has gone from having low reading comprehension to remembering almost every detail of what she reads. She is now an independent student doing her school work by herself after I have taught her. I have heard a lot about horse therapy over the years but had never experienced it before. I am now a big proponent of equine therapy since I have seen the difference it has made in Sarah’s life.
The owners of the stables where Sarah rides and the stables in Cap Cana came together to hold an international competition in Cap Cana over Independence Day weekend (the end of February). This is the second year they have done so. The horses were a bit distressed from the three-hour trip and because they were not used to performing in an enclosed arena with air conditioning and a high noise level. Many of the riders had problems with their horses as a result. Sarah talked with Blondie, encouraging her, and they performed beautifully. Sarah earned two medals and a trophy from the international tournament. She even got her name in the local newspaper! We are so proud of her.
As an added bonus, the participants and their families were given passes for 2 free activities in Scape Park (the owner of our stables also owns the park). Sarah, of course, chose an hour and a half of horseback riding while Cassandra and Jonathan chose to go on the zip line.
The Dominican Republic education system is ranked at the bottom on a list of 72 countries, including Haiti. Public schools here are places of chaos where learning is difficult. There is only one bookstore in Santo Domingo, a city of 4 million people! That makes access to reading material quite scarce. Our minister’s wife said most children do not know how to read until they are thirteen years old. Words cannot describe how excited I was when Park Plaza Christian Church gave us funds to purchase DK Eyewitness books. While these books are not in Spanish, they will help the children learn things because they use pictures to show the children things they have never seen.
Naturally, we will use these books with the children at home, but Toby’s role of teaching at the schools presents another opportunity. The kids and I will accompany Toby to a public school, and while he is teaching the Bible in one class, we will look at books with the students in a different class and explain what the book is about. We are also using the books on Sunday morning after we have our Bible lesson (services are two hours long). The kids love the books and eagerly look forward to library time.
Time Well Used
During our time here we have had the opportunity to grow and enhance our skills for the field. We attended the Wholistic Health Conference in Phoenix. This conference helped us increase our knowledge and resources for meeting the whole needs of an individual. I was able to take a Medical Missions Intensive course, which helped sharpen my nursing skills and greatly increased my knowledge. Toby and I are certified CHE trainers and look forward to using this in the Dominican Republic.
The last several months we have been busy visiting churches and raising support for our work in the Dominican Republic. It has also taken 3 months to finish gathering all the paperwork we need to obtain our Dominican Republic visa. We were blessed abundantly with things for our home and have been working on finding new homes for those things. We will be able to take 15 suitcases to the DR with us, and then we’ll be able to have things sent to us later through a missionary mail service. We are trying to get everything that we’ll need immediately packed into those 15 suitcases!
Busy, Busy, Busy!
Our last few weeks here will be extremely busy. By the time you receive this, we should be ready to go to the Dominican Consulate in New York City (the only consulate we have been able to talk with) to obtain our visa in a day or two. We are just waiting to receive needed documents from Santo Domingo. Once we have our visas, we will be able to purchase one-way tickets to Santo Domingo, saving the mission a couple thousand dollars in airfare. There are many details to finish up before we can go, and we are working through them as fast as we can.
Hitting the Ground Running
Our first couple of months will be spent getting to know our new country, setting up our household, and getting the ministry set up. Toby will be preaching and teaching, but not full time. It will also take time to set up classes with the various churches. When we arrive, we will have to meet with our immigration lawyer to finish our visa process. We will also need to find a home to live in and a vehicle. We will also be spending time helping our children get to know their new country and getting used to daily living.
Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, and prayers throughout the last eighteen months. They have definitely been felt as we have healed from all that we went through in Honduras. Our doctors, our friend and counselor (and facilitator for everything pertaining to the Dominican Republic) Kathy Girton, our board, and many others have confirmed that we are ready to return to the field January 18th. Our board met recently and, after reviewing all the information we presented, they unanimously agreed for us to move to the Dominican Republic the week of January 18th.
Jim Webster and Paul Redwine visited Honduras for the annual board meeting October 25-30, 2010. In addition to having a meeting, Toby, Leonel, Jim and Paul visited areas of Copan — Santa Rosa de Copan, Coquin and others. Click below to see photos that contain scenery, Copan images, Merendon and San Pedro photos.