Open Letter to 2012 Trip Participants and Sponsors,
Welcome back to the reality of our world which is quite different from where we were in the Dominican Republic. If I did not get a chance to express Sherry's and my gratitude to everyone individually, I would like to do so now to everyone as a group. We had another terrific trip and thank everyone for their contribution of time, prayer, and money.
The 2012 Motley Mission Crew VII roster included Canadians Kim Walko, Erin Barry, Dave & Terri Campbell, Tory Walko, Nick Walko, Matt Campbell, and Adam Campbell; Samantha Martin, Jaime Collins, and Stephen Pearce from Newfoundland; and Michiganders Ken-David Finnerty, Dave & Sheila Krofcheck, Bob Eaton, Jack Malone, Martha Purvis, Marty & Edelbis Uldriks, and Rick & Sherry Raymond. Many of the participants have been on multiple trips which speaks volumes for the impact the trips have on everyone.
This year 2 homes were constructed by the 'Crew'.
Each trip brings new memories and accomplishments. Some we can see, others not. Rest assured though, you helped make a major difference in many lives of the people we served. Two new families now have homes. I can tell you from past experience, they will never, ever forget what you have done for them. --And another (Jaime from Francis and Milargos' neighborhood) is having a small home constructed right now by the community with leftover construction materials and donations by members of the group and even donations by Gustavo's church. Moreno is setting up and supervising the workers from the community. Countless others benefited from food, clothing, and toys that were distributed (over 2,000 pounds worth that we carried in our suitcases plus everything that was purchased in the DR). Over 200 bibles and new testaments were distributed to people that WANTED to have a bible to read. Our hope is that as a result of placing the Word of God in the hands of so many people each year, many will come to Christ. The word of God is a powerful tool. We showed Christian movies, challenged the homeowners and the whole community to come together and unite under Christ. We saw members of different denominations work at the same time on a job site, even interdenominational house dedications. For those of you who have been on many trips--you know this was a giant leap forward.
We introduced the community to microfinance and then told them if they wanted something like this instituted, they would have to put together the infrastructure--it remains to be seen whether any of that will come to fruition, but we are excited about the prospects. It was nice to hear from the whole community that they did not want us to stop what we were doing--if we could only do one or the other they wanted us to stick to our game plan.
Many homes were made more secure with the concrete, wood, and other items that we ordered extra. Rabbits were purchased from the money that Steven raised and Nickolo and his family will give it a go trying to raise them. Money that was left over will be used to purchase chickens and other animals that hopefully will be a sustaining way to provide food for other families.
I am so proud of the way the group always showers the local children with love and affection. There is no doubt that is noticed and appreciated by the parents and the whole community. Once again the community really came together to work with us and to thank us collectively. Over 200 people attended each of the house dedications. I thought this year the whole team was remarkable.
We thank Gustavo and Bien for their hospitality--our hats go off to both of them. Hosting our group is always difficult but this year was a particularly trying time for Bien as she lost her father while we were there. Somehow she picked herself up everyday and took great care of all of us like she does every year. The whole group extends our best wishes and asks that God blesses you both greatly. We also pray that He will give you the strength to continue facilitating groups for years to come.
By now, I hope everyone has had time to reflect on everything that was accomplished with the help and direction of God. I thank Him each and every year for letting me be a part of this ministry and along with a lot of people both here and in Gustavo's village--I pray that He continues to give us the resources (both workers and financial) to be able to do this each and every year. Preparations have already begun for the 2013 trip.
It always amazes me that there are so few problems on these trips, especially when you consider that 20 people share a house in a geographic area that has unreliable electricity and limited transportation options--I think you'll have to admit that overall things went pretty good. Coming together as a team to accomplish a common goal requires some sacrifice, but the end reward makes any little inconveniences seem totally irrelevant. The slideshows of this year's trip have been completed and we encourage you to show them to your friends, family members, and members of your church. You never know, someone you show the slides to may have it laid on their hearts to join us on a future trip. Thanks again for your dedication and the sacrifices that you made to go on this trip. And for all you newbie's....you are now a part of this wacky group that derives pleasure from paying to work while on vacation...I can't explain your mental relapse, so it must be a God thing. Keep listening to what HE puts on your heart.
Introducing Microfinance to the Community
Every year there seems to be one new initiative added to our agenda. This year it was microfinance. Empowering the people to help themselves. After 7 years of Motley Mission groups focus on building homes I think many of us were wondering if what we were doing was the best way to improve the quality of life to the most people or if there were other ways that could be more effective. We are always looking for ways to leverage our resources, even if it means heading in another direction. Enter Linda Moore. The seed was planted by an email simply asking if I had read a book called "The Poor will be Glad" by Peter Greer & Phil Smith. The authors were both Christians and talked about the Western ways of giving sometimes causing more harm than good as certain people become reliant on our giving as opposed to trying to earn a living to be self supporting. It was written from a biblical perspective. Although Linda and her husband Dave are friends and supporters of Project Santiago and the Motley Mission Crew, I have to admit at first I was a little offended that she would suggest we might be able to improve the way we do things, however, Sherry (my wife) and I felt compelled to read it because quite honestly we were feeling the same way. We read the book and two others about microfinance just one month before the 2012 trip and challenged the others in the group to do the same. After a few email discussions with Gustavo it was decided that we would have "town hall" meetings each of the two Wednesdays that the groups would be there. Pastors, business owners, and general population attended and we simply introduced an idea that several people were already familiar with. We talked about starting small and using different cell groups that would be responsible for collecting money and making loans. We offered to put up some seed money but Gustavo said (no money-not yet) and made it mandatory for participants to attend 'classes' before anyone was eligible to participate. We felt good about the approach the community was taking.
I am paraphrasing translated comments from some of the people, but I would like to convey some of the comments that struck me at the first two community meetings that were attended by an average of 85 persons:
"We know that your hearts are to help the people of this community, but I know what most of these people are here for. They think they are going to get some free money. I just want to warn you to be careful."
"Why haven't we thought of doing this on our own? There is a general mistrust with some in the community, but if we are to grow, we need to figure out on our own how we can do this."
"We need a pharmacy; can you furnish the money for that?"
"Can we use loans to purchase chickens and goats?"
"Who determines who can get loans?"
"Don't stop what you are already doing here. If we only get one or the other, continue helping the poor of this community in the ways that you already are."..........and many, many more questions and comments.
We were also reminded by Gustavo of the many things that the group had done to help people by empowering them to make a living, like:
Buying a seat for a motorbike for Santos that enabled him to start a moto-concho business,
Paying for tutoring and specific training,
Allowing Jenkins to focus on his computer repair business and earning enough to send his wife to the university,
Grandma starting a bakery to earn a living for her and her grandkids, etc.
Now, I am not bringing any of this up to toot anyone's horn because everyone involved in these trips knows that it is by God's commission that peoples lives are changed and that we are merely participants that he has allowed to be a part of the equation of improving others lives--and more importantly put on a road that will lead them to Christ. We know and understand that it is a privilege to be involved in these trips and the impact that they have on others and our own lives and are just happy to be able to experience His hand at work.
Back to the microfinance--one point the book brought out was to listen to what the community at large had to say, they know their needs best, and really are the ones best suited to solve their own problems.
Again, we need to thank Gustavo who has been teaching classes about microfinance in the community. He has reported that there is now one active cell group established and operating, and they are doing it without our financial help. We are excited to hear about the progress when we return in 2013 and thankful that the community is supporting the idea and taking ownership in the project and hopeful of their future.
So, this is how we operate. We are open to God's promptings and we recognize that many times these promptings may come from other individuals. You get a sense that you are on the right track when those new ideas weigh on the hearts and minds of others in the group. After telling Kim about the book, I received this email (reprinted with her permission):
Amazon shipped the book and it arrived yesterday. I read it and I'm glad you are excited to try different methods of community support. Microfinance is a win / win for everyone. San Pedro is not far from Gustavo's and Esperenza works there, they may be able to help. I visited a project in San Pedro - A school was built, and a water purification system that sells water to locals. They must bring their container to the "store" and it is filled for less than the water delivery trucks and it is sanitary. This water project supports the school. Then the next phase is to build a Church. It is in progress. A couple of times a year a medical clinic is provided to this community for free. The end result of all this is - There is now education, clean water, less disease, spiritual growth, and a community that has employment. Many people in the area told us how much these improvements mean to their lives.
The most important part of this story is that the area is on the hill of San Pedro. For years there was black "mud" and everything was unsanitary. This area was considered by San Pedro locals to be the "slums", an embarrassment to the city. It has a nickname that I can't remember (Spanish still confuses me). The people that lived "up there" were generally outcasts. Now with the school, and a larger Church, there is hope for the whole community. There are many colmados opened and one of the roads is being paved. This dream took a few years and many volunteers and prayers but IT HAS TRANSFORMED a whole community.
Now the downside - The water station has been vandalized a few times. It seems that the water delivery trucks have a monopoly in the area and they are unhappy with the areas access to safe, sanitary water available everyday at an affordable cost. They used to deliver once or twice a week at an exorbitant cost since there was no access to clean water at all up there. The water station has been secured and the new obstacle is that the water truck "Mafia" (my words, not the local words) complained to the government and now, new ridiculous rules are being imposed on the station. The government is insisting that each container be sanitized before being filled and that the water is tested by an expensive method daily. None of these rules apply to the trucks that fill any container available no matter how unsanitary. Welcome to Dominican corruption.
I am not telling you this to be cynical, quite the opposite. I am sharing this so that we all recognize that our best intentions may require much more than we have initially invested. The additional support required after this was up and running would have you pulling your hair out Rick. But I promise you this - It is worth every bit of aggravation. If we begin a project of any size, we need to be committed to see it through and be there for support for the bumps along the way. God is leading us to new opportunities and new people because He believes they are worth all of our efforts. We can make a difference.
Part of my excitement this year comes from Stephen. He gets on the website every chance he gets, has told whoever will listen and look that he is going to be part of this. He has made drawings of rabbit cages and has modified his designs. He has an infectious enthusiasm and he knows that this opportunity is not available for "just anyone". He has earned the opportunity and is embracing it!!!!
Three of my four kids (no matter their age, they are still my kids) will be there to share the experience this year. Their energy and enthusiasm along with Matt & Adam will be a delight for me to watch. They all grew up together and are like family. Wow, what an awesome God. Each year He gives me another reason to continue the work in this community.
Max Lucado and his daughter wrote a book for youth titled "You Were Made To Make a Difference". This quote is from the book:
"Noah, the amateur, built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic".
I want to be on board with Noah. I want to follow the prompting and nudges that God leads me to. I may never know the difference that we make, but I do know we make a lasting impression and I want it to be pure and only given with love and friendship. Thankfully Gustavo and Bien allow us to do that while we are there. With their guidance, we have been able to form relationships that enrich our lives long after we leave. These are not relationships of "dependence" they are truly friendships. Going each year is like Homecoming. It was so awesome last year when we went to Church and everyone was welcomed and had an escort to sit with. It really made us all feel part of the service. There were no barriers, only a very gracious welcome and sharing of Bibles and Hymn resources so that we all were included. As a "Non-Denominational" group, that was the best way to share acceptance of each others faith.
Sherry has the gift of prayer. She can turn any situation into a heartfelt, beautiful request to God. Please pray for us Sherry, that we will accomplish all that we are moved and nudged to accomplish. Please pray for the safety of our group and our helpers, the acceptance of our individual abilities, our health and may all of our hearts be moved again this year to continue this work. Please pray that our intentions help the families move forward and that we respect the limitations and see the need of each individual family. Please pray that this year will be no different from other years, that someone in the group will be moved to have a lasting friendship with the families we are helping. Pray for Gustavo & Bien, that they have the patience to deal with our "Northern" way of thinking, that our more liberal acceptance is not misconstrued as unfaithful, we truly have the heart to serve. Thanks Sherry, I know you will pass along this prayer and combined with mine, we will have an awesome experience this year.
We are packed and ready, and I can't wait for our new adventure. I can't wait to see you, it has been way too long and we have lots of catching up to do. I am sending email hugs, see you soon,
Note from Rick...What a pleasure it has been leading this team each year, especially with enthusiastic team members like Kim. I don't think Knute Rockne could inspire a team with any better words than Kim came up with in that email--it sure fired me up! Hopefully everyone who reads this can feel the enthusiasm and heartfelt desire to help the people we serve and understands why this mission team is such a joy to be a part of. Thanks Kim and all of you for being such an important part of this mission team. Also, never underestimate God's power to you use you--yes you--to accomplish His plan. Linda--we thank you for bringing this book to our attention and we are looking forward to see how God is going to use it.
Week # 1 Carlos Montero Family
Week # 1 we had the pleasure of constructing a home for Carlos Montero, his wife Beatriz, and their four children Lila, Elianny, Esteisi, and Ricky. Carlos worked for the municipal transportation system as a bus driver. The family had always dreamed of having a bigger home but full time work was needed just to provide the family essentials of food and clothing. Like other families that we have built homes for, I remember the genuine gratitude that the family had for their new home and the overwhelming joy the family had when moving in. That joy is infectious as we shared laughter, hugs, and tears of joy. I remember looking into Carlos' eyes at the house dedication and I could see and feel his deep appreciation for the help that he received and the really cool thing was that he and his family understood that it all came from God. He created them, He stayed with them and protected them in that shack, He fed them, and He provided a way for them to have better shelter built for them. He also provides us with so much more, Jesus said, "Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
We challenged the family to find a church and step up their faith. We challenged the community to unify under Christ. The house was dedicated by pastors from two different denominations (a first) and neighbors from different denominations worked on the house. At the house dedication Beatriz told us that Ricky had went into his bedroom and when she followed him she saw him on his knees thanking God for his own bedroom and his own bed.
Week # 2 Canadians Invade the Dominican Republic
Home Built for Arismendy & Family
On the second week of our trip a home was constructed for Arismendy, his wife Mercedes, and their children Este, Rut Mercedes, Estefani, Riki, Ari, & Arisleiny. Some of you remember the pictures of the home from last year. It was the house that was held up by bungee cords and bra straps. Some of the walls were ready to collapse. When we looked inside there was a baby lying on the bed sleeping. Well, the house didn't make it through the rainy season, so the family was staying with relatives. Needless to say, they were happy to hear the news that they were going to have a house built for them. This house was a little larger than most that we build, but so was the family. Again, we had terrific community support, denominational walls were torn down, the community came together unified under Christ. We challenged the family, the community, and even members of the Motley Crew to take their faith to a new level. One thing I have learned from the community where we work in the Dominican Republic is that families have to rely on one another. There are not any government programs that take care of you. If you run into a problem, the community or your family has to figure things out. To most people there, not having lots of material things is not as important as sharing what you have with others. Don't get me wrong, Dominicans want stuff, just like we do. I think the main difference that I have seen is that if you have excess (defined as more than someone else) then you share it with others in your family and community. That means if I have two shirts and my neighbor has none--I give him one of mine. Refreshing concept isn't it? Also, I can only imagine the amount of faith it must take to get through just one day. Waking up every morning not knowing how you are going to have the resources to prepare a meal for your family, or falling asleep knowing that there a holes in your house big enough for a rat to go through but it is too dark to see them. These are all things that we can fix and we recognize that to the families that we build homes for they are more than just a band aid. They are a chance at a new life.
The pastor of the Pentecostal Church (who used to be a carpenter) also challenged the community to participate in the builds. He also urged the people in the community to unify under Christ. As secular as the community was when we first arrived, we felt that this was a huge step in the right direction. So much so that we awarded the pastor the GOLDEN HAMMER AWARD for promoting unity in the community.
Stephen P and Kim went rabbit shopping and cages were made for a project that Stephen had raised the money for. One of the families that we constructed a house for three years ago (Nikolo) had experience raising rabbits and said he would give it a go. Clothes were passed out, movies shown, and food distributed.