A couple of years ago, an idea was planted in my head. Paint Los Gomez.
We went on the 2016 trip and when we came back, I couldn't get painting Los Gomez out of my mind. The 2016 trip was fantastic and the team accomplished everything they set out to do.
The 2017 trip featured the puppet team acting out bible stories to approximately 1,000 youngsters at different schools. It added a whole new dimension to the Motley Mission team and was very well received by both students and teachers/administrators. For those of you who have been participating in the trips over the past 12 years, I think you can see the progress in the community really starting to take hold. It's exciting! When we returned from the 2017 trip, I just couldn't let go of the idea of painting Los Gomez, so I started praying, God if you want this done, you are going to have to show us how to do it. Doors started to open.
First off, getting hooked up with Global Paint for Charity (typing in a google search of exactly what we needed yielded a "hit" that was first on the list of search results). After contacting the non'profit and conversing several times with the president and founder Rony Delgarde, we were granted the request of a container of paint which turned out to be 4,500 gallons. More about Global Paints for Charity later...Next, applications were submitted to several non-profit foundations, and one by one we were turned down flatly--none offering as little as a $1 bill toward our project. That's when you need to take a step back and once again turn it over to the Lord. There are two things that I distinctly remember after that prayer. The first was hearing..."You don't need a foundation's money for this project, I have given you and members of your church and community the resources that are needed to raise the money for building materials for this project." Okay, He was right, it was possible even though we had never attempted anything of this magnitude before. The second thing I remember is this, "You've turned this over to me, now step aside."
When this project concept was first introduced to the church, I know many people doubted that it could be completed, and there were probably a few who thought I had completely lost my mind. Even though God knew, I needed to know if this community (in Battle Creek) was behind the project. I wanted the mission team's input on a variety of things so we set up a meeting to kick around ideas on making the trip successful. After all, painting and repairing a whole community was no small task, especially for our facilitators of 13 years, Gustavo and Bien Guzman. Up to 250-300 homes painted, 2 churches, and a school. Imagine the impact of a whole community like Los Gomez and beyond having their homes and structures repaired and painted. Everyone with dirt floors getting concrete floors, cement block walls being stucco'd, siding being repaired, leaking roofs being repaired. In addition to repairs, some homes needed a total makeover consisting of almost totally residing, concrete floors, and new roofs and rafters.
A challenge was issued. "Is there a reason we can't do this?" Personally, I couldn't see how we could let this opportunity slip through our fingers. This would have a tremendous impact on the whole community and could start an infectious wave to spruce things up. It had the potential to open doors to allow the spread of the gospel message to others and show our love by sharing our resources.
Now, let's do something good together.
We've all been there...when a problem is so big, we know we can't do it on our own. We struggle and struggle and finally give up and surrender it to God--"God if you want this done, you'll have to do it, I don't know how." That's when He says, "Have a seat, my friend, I've got this one."
On June 9th, I flew to Santo Domingo for a week, and met with Gustavo to assess the repairs needed for Los Gomez and surrounding areas and estimate the material costs of the building supplies. After visiting over 150 structures, we estimated the material costs to be around $25,000 to $30,000. Of course, we also needed to pay for shipping the paint and customs which was estimated to be another $8-10,000. Shortly after returning to Battle Creek, I received an email from Yorkiris Benitez (she is from Los Mameyes and was attending WMU on a scholarship awarded by the Dominican Republic government). At the time she was doing an internship with UPS in Atlanta (a senior in WMU Engineer Program). The email read, "Dear Rick, Attached is a grant application that I acquired from Alice Turner at the UPS Foundation for In-Kind Shipping of Commodities for Non-Profits. I'll call you later to discuss." Ryan Swank (the local UPS manager and Sherry's son) threw his support behind the project and to make a long story short, within one month, we were granted the request by UPS Foundation to pay the shipping charges door to door which were estimated at $3-4,000 (and grew much, much higher after being tied up in customs for 3 1/2 months). This came just in the nick of time as our fundraiser was scheduled for July 30th. Up to this point, there were still several doubters that we would even be able to raise sufficient cash for the shipping, port, and customs charges...but the grant from UPS foundation acted as an impetus to show people that this project was now a reality. An announcement was made in church and the following week we held our fundraiser. Over the next two months we raised over $30,000 to purchase over 6,000 pieces of siding, several hundred roof tins, 2 x 4's, rafters, cement, blocks, sand, gravel, hardware, and other items to make repairs. God bless everyone upon whose heart He laid the desire to give.
This whole project has left me in AWE of how God works, weaving lives together, zigging when we wanted to zag, and knowing just the right timing to execute His plan. It has been a major lesson for me in how "God provides," especially when the task seems impossible or too big to bear.
Paint and repairs needed
Re-siding one of the Los Gomez homes
1st day on the job site
Kevin assesses the work to be done
Progress being made...Mike & Jerry
PAUL JOLES ADDRESSES THE CROWD
PAUL JOLES JOINS THE TEAM AND DELIVERS THE MESSAGE AT EVERY SHOW!
I first met Paul in Santiago, Chile in 1996. Shortly after joining Grace Community Church in 1996, I found myself ready to embark on a trip to South America, and Pastor Mike Whitesell said, "There a missionary that the church supports in Santiago that I would like you to look up when you're in Santiago if you have time." He gave me Pauls phone # and off to South America I went. I contacted Paul when I arrived in Santiago and we set up a time that we could meet. The day before Paul was to pick me up, I contracted a case of food poisoning and sic--I mean really sick--and didn't think I'd be able to meet with Paul. But, the good Lord had other plans--and in the end I felt that I could pull it off--and so we met. His wife had made spaghetti, which I'm sure was delicious, but I was too sick to eat. After a short stay, Paul dropped me off back at the hotel and that I thought was the end of the story...Flash forward 21 years...Pastor Brad Smith goes on a two week sabbatical--and guess who the guest preacher was? Paul Joles. Before Paul preached, I was scheduled to do an announcement about our upcoming mission trip for 2018 and told everyone in attendance a little about the trip. After Paul preached a strong message the second week, I went up to the stage when the service was over and said, "Paul... Do you think it was by chance that we met in Santiago 21 years ago?" He said, "probably not." We were talking about how God weaves our lives together to accomplish His work, and I said, "Would you be interested in going on the mission trip this year. We sure could use someone like you who can deliver a strong message--and in their (the Dominican's) native tongue." "I'll have to check my schedule, but I think I'd like to do that," was his reply.
Paul was an amazing addition to the team. Not only was he able to deliver the gospel message in Spanish at every performance of the puppets, he also led a couple of very thought provoking devotional's to the mission team in English (my favorite was on metamorphosis).
Barbara Engelhart organized and led the puppet team to do several shows of the "Prodigal Son" along with a few Christian songs in Spanish. It was very difficult teaching the puppets Spanish, but a bigger challenge was getting the puppeteers to move their fingers in Spanish. The puppet team this year consisted of Tammy and Makayla Skidmore, Kristen Westcott, Quincy and Aspen Bashore, Sherry Raymond, and Barbara Engelhart. Rick Raymond tried to fill Jack's shoes as Captain Fantastico's brother--but after the first day's performance was fired and replaced by unanimous decision by Mike Bashore (he had all the moves and wasn't afraid to shake it up a little, while Rick was more like watching paint dry). I've been told there is a video of Mike's performance and I would like to obtain a copy and post it on You Tube to see if it goes viral. Rounding out the crew was Paula Bashore--audio technician and Dave Finnerty who helped with set-up and drove the team to their performances. Paula is a good example of the team members stepping up and stepping in. When Jenkins couldn't show up for an event, Paula stepped in and got things running and kept the show going and was there for every single show after that. Although she would have liked to do more carpentry stuff, she was a valuable part of the team. Thanks Paula.
After Paul's return from Santo Domingo, he sent an email to Pastor Brad and copied me. Here is what the email said,
"Brad, greetings brother. I trust that you and family are doing well. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed the trip to the Dominican Republic with the team from Grace and that I was impressed with their focus, their unity, and how well they related to the folks who were the target of their ministry. Rick and others have cultivated a great relationship and openness with the people in the target community that would be the envy of career missionaries. It was great to see.
I did not hear even one word of complaint, even from the ladies who had become "living sacrifices" to the mosquitos. Overall, I would say that they represented the Lord, Grace Church, and the USA very well. I thank the Lord for the oportunity to have participated with them. Please convey our affection to the team as well as the other brethren at Grace.
We thank Paul for those words of encouragement. As I've always said, organizing these short term mission trips has given me a massive sense of appreciation and respect for the work that full time missionaries do. The dedication and commitment it must take to set everything aside and join the mission field is hard to fully grasp. It has been a real joy to be a part of the mission team all these 13 years, and we are grateful that the good Lord has given us a glimpse of who He is and why He had to die on the cross for sinners like us. Please continue to pray for missionaries everywhere.
Gustavo, as everyone who has been on one of the mission trips knows is like Paul, in that he has dedicated his life to the Lord and to helping the Dominican people. He, along with Bien, are the full time missionaries we leave behind each year. Aside from helping people out, they disciple them, conduct bible studies year round, give English lessons, are active in their church, they are the town pharmacist, nurse, & doctor; the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker all rolled into one. Gustavo and Bien, along with our gracious Lord are the real reasons why we have been able to forge such strongbonds in the community and we can't thank them enough!
SETTING UP THE PORTABLE PUPPET STAGE
MIKE FLIES IN TO JOIN THE SHOW
Paul, delivering message at Los Gomez
Who makes the puppets come to life?
On the way to the next show
Paint Project Update / Timeline
The Paint was shipped on September 1st and arrived in the port of Rio Haina on October 4th. Things didn't look too well for some time. First Hurricane Irma, then Jose, followed closely by Hurricane Maria. Some building supplies doubled in price. As each storm passed, prices would start to drift lower and they wham, as soon as another hurricane approached prices would go back up. Finally, prices stabilized at pre-hurricane levels and we began to order materials. Although the Dominican Republic was spared major damage, the surrounding islands were not so lucky--and that was where the demand was coming from, initially driving up prices that have now stabilized.
Fundraising for the building materials started at the end of July and as of September 15th we have raised a little over $30,000. That is really an amazing amount of money for a small organization like the Motley Mission Crew and we are so thankful that God laid it on the hearts of so many people to contribute to this project. Thank you to all who have contributed prayers, time, materials, and/or money. This has been a total team effort.
October 2017-- Gustavo is notified by port authorities that we owe about $25,000 in tariff and customs charges because the goods were shipped to an individual's address, not a non-profit. He enlists the help of Cami, UPS Dominicana, and others to seek a resolution. It is determined that best course of action is to re-establish a non-profit organization that was dormant. Papers are filed and so begins the long process of piloting through the endless sea of red-tape.
November 2017--Notified that someone has to pay for charges that are accruing at approximately $100 per day or $3,000 per month. Finally, Gustavo gets approval for his foundation and a tax ID number. We thought we were over the hump, then Gustavo was given a list of 19 items that had to be taken care of before the container could be released. The Dominican team of Gustavo, Cami, and Ceasar (UPS DR) rolled up their sleeves and started to check things off the list as they were completed.
December 2017--By now Gustavo and team had assembled a regular book complete with letters from everyone involved, to pictures of past trips, BOL's, and other documents required. Finally, all 19 steps had been completed--but wait, now he has to have the community inspected to see if his organization is really performing tasks as outlined in his report. Neighbors are interviewed, the Los Gomez area inspected and we pass with flying colors. But the treasury department still will not allow the paint to be released, THEY LOST THE BOOKLET that he had put together. Time to get senators involved, or anyone else. Gustavo meets with politician and is assured he will get things moving. 2nd inspection--passed. No paint yet
January 2018--Seriously...what else could go wrong. Gustavo is informed that he has to have another inspection of his home--which of course he passes. He is promised that the paint will be released--we hope so--the mission team will be arriving in two weeks. Finally, Gustavo says, "Lord, I've done all I can do. This is in your hands."
January 14th--Mission team arrives. Still no paint. That's okay, we have plenty of repair work to do. Puppet shows and movie nights. Dedications
January 22nd--Mission team departs. Still no paint. Mission team leaves without seeing a single house painted, however major repair work was done on four homes.
January 23rd, 2018--Sound the gong, clang the symbols, sing alleluia...the paint has finally arrived at Gustavo's.
January 24th, 2018--Paint distribution starts for the first 100 homes that have completed repairs.
January 27th, 2018--Outlying areas continue to receive repairs. Homeowners are responsible for making repairs with the donated items. Once completed, they will be able to pick up their paint.
I have shortened this immensely--you would not have time to read it all if I detailed every step of clearing customs, but I think you have read enough to appreciate the lesson in perseverance that Gustavo, Cami, and Ceasar were given. Thank you so much for hanging in there and complying with every detail--we so appreciate your dedication and efforts.
Alleluia!! The paint has arrived
Picking out Their Paint Colors
Global Paint for Charity
A special thanks to Rony Delgarde and the people at Global Paint for Charity for donating between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons of paint. The paint was shipped from a warehouse in Joliet, IL in September along with 15 cases of various items and 6 cases of paint brushes and equipment. The paint was collected and then recycled by Global Paint by sorting like colors in 1 gallon and 5 gallon containers. This was paint that would have probably ended up in a landfill and will now be provided to impoverished people who could not afford the luxury of paint. Some of the houses are several decades old and have never had a coat of paint, inside or out.
You can read more about Global Paint for Charity by clicking on the link:
Another huge thanks goes to the UPS Foundation for donating the door to door shipping of almost 38,000 pounds of paint, supplies, and materials from Joliet, IL to Los Mameyes, Dominican Republic. The initial commitment from both of these fine organizations was instrumental in "jump-starting" our fundraising efforts by showing people here that the project had viability. The community responded by throwing their support behind the project--opening their pocketbooks and volunteering to be on the mission team. UPS foundation was billed an additional $8,900 in demurrage charges because the container was held up so long in customs. They picked up the entire tab and for that we give them a container full of heartfelt gratitude.