Good morning everyone! I hope the week finds you doing well. It’s been a while since our last update, but I wanted to drop a line and fill you all in on the current happenings here in Santiago and Palo Alto. We have wrapped up Spring and begun Summer, with some looming travel and prayer requests.
We recently completed our first semester teaching English at the school in Palo Alto. We have almost 60 students (and a few teachers) in our classes, and I am happy to report that most are doing quite well so far. Being a smaller, isolated school, we have unusual access to incorporate faith into the class. Please pray that the director and local population will continue to be open.
The official school year may have ended, but we have started a summer class! There was enough desire to continue from the students and staff that we have a group attending a summer English class. Some of the kids walk great distance through the mountains to be there, so we are thankful that they have this desire to learn and be involved. We also established a new record for the number of folks who’ll fit in our small pickup truck (19!). It is a slow roll up the hill to their respective stops, but they appreciate not having the full walk back home after class 🙂
When we began the classes at the school, we stopped the previous class because many of the youth who were in that class are at the school. So, we have added an adult English class within the community to allow those not in school to take part as well. In this class, we also try to bring a Christian presence to the forefront. Like the kids at school, some of the people walk up to 6 mountainous miles to attend – after a day of working, even.
We have distributed 26 filters into the community this past year, and I continue to grow more fond of this project. Many people in our focal community collect their drinking water from rain barrels or local streams, which are laden with various parasites, bacteria, and sediment. The filters we bring into the community are inexpensive, very low maintenance, simple, and with care will last for up to 10 years. This is one of my favorite projects, as it is an opportunity to build relationships with the residents and provide an instant “touch” with the gospel. We can present the filter with a direct analogy to salvation, and have begun to see people brought to faith and into the local church. The filters also provide an ongoing opportunity to revisit peoples’ homes and share time with them as we check in and ensure the filters are functioning properly. Our community is very relational, and time spent together over a cup of (delicious) local coffee grown by the family or neighbors is well spent. We continue to see great growth here, both in spiritual terms and meeting physical need. As I’ve mentioned before, we try to follow Jesus’ model of providing for a need while presenting the gospel. The filters have also given us the opportunity to make many new friends in the community as well.
The small community church in Palo Alto, pastored by our friend Amado, is also growing. When mission teams visit, they have the opportunity to share directly here with a local community. While we don’t focus on bringing teams down per se, we welcome those who wish to visit and invest a little elbow grease and/or teaching through VBS programs, preaching, etc. So, if you ever want to come and see the community that your giving impacts, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can set up a time for you to come down. To keep the per-person costs most effective while maintaining the intimacy of serving people directly, teams of 10-12 people seem to work best.
Visiting Mission Teams
We helped Santiago Christian School with a couple of teams this Spring. The Wheaton College football team came down again this year, and as always had a good time sharing with the community through their hard work as well as leading some sports/devotional time with the kids in the community. This group of young men always comes ready to build, paint, pour concrete, or teach the kids.
Another group, first time visitors from a school in Pennsylvania, fought off a rainy start to the week and managed to achieve a great deal of work in the same areas. They brought small gifts for the children, worked on a few community projects, helped distribute some water filters, and presented childrens’ programs at church. Both teams had the chance to step outside their comfort zones and make some new friends.
Earlier this Spring, the mountains around Santiago were pelted with a great deal of damaging rain. The road we use to/from Palo Alto washed out in several places, and was impassable for a few weeks. Access has been restored, but the road continues to be an issue. The government has committed to improving it – and has, to a degree. Work is ongoing, but it is still very rough on vehicles and in times of increased rain can wash out entirely. The road is unpaved, and it seems that the grading work is often undone by the next rain event. We are hoping and praying the work is ultimately effective, and that the road is improved or even paved.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to make a stateside trip of the same length as last year. We had originally hoped to be able to visit many of you as we were able last year, but a couple of things have changed our ability to do so. As some know, our Dominican visas expired some time ago. We are actively trying to navigate the renewal process and follow the track to permanent residency. However, our passports will expire before the term of a new visa – so, we must first renew our passports before the Dominican government will issue new visas. Additionally, we must leave the country and pay a significant overstay fee in order to apply for new visas. We will be traveling back to the U.S. later this week and try to do both. But, due to the increased costs for exit fees, new passports, travel, and visa application fees we won’t be able to make it around to visit with most of you. Some have stepped in and helped with a portion of the travel costs, but the other costs still add up to a great deal of money. Hopefully, we will be able to make a “regular” visit to see you all soon.
In Case You Missed It…
Thanks to the generosity of some stateside churches and friends of ours & the Hartsfields, the Moms and Dads in Palo Alto received some useful gifts after church a few weeks ago in a post-Mothers’/pre-Fathers’ Day celebration….it was a big turnout and around 100 gift bags were distributed. CLICK HERE for pictures..