Youth Trip Update by Abby Breeser

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Youth Trip Update by Abby Breeser

Here is a follow up letter from Abby Breeser to her supporters for her Youth Immersion Trip.  She said we could share it with you.  


Hello everyone this is Abby and I wanted to let you all know about my amazing experience in the Dominican Republic(D.R.)

We started with an overnight flight that was fairly good and made it to the Dominican Republic by 11:00 in the morning. We had an amazing reunion with our Dominican friends. When we got to La Victoria we set up the house and did a quick prayer walk around the city. Since we were so exhausted we had an early night and dreamed about the work we would do the next day.

The next day we went out to La Canita and made crafts with the kids. They absolutely adored it. We drew their name in bubble letters and they got to decorate it with stickers, dots, markers, googly eyes, and of course glitter which got all over them and us. At the end they all showed us the work with smiles on their faces. That was probably one of my top highlights of the week.

The following day we went to work on Centro Te Veo, a community center we are building for the women of La Canita. The land it is being built on used to be a dump so it was a lot of trash pick up. About five minutes in we found a giant tarantula that was right by my friend's foot. Then we cut it in half with a shovel. That stalled the work a little bit. When we finished we had a worship and prayer time on the land it was beautiful. 

The next day we held a sports camp for the kids of La Victoria. We found out however that we should of used the word clinic because the teams in La Victoria came wanting to play us and those kids were good.We ended that day with a trip to ice cream to cool down.

The following day we held another sports camp and had another day of a work out and fun with some amazing athletes. At the end of that camp we took a group photo and to our surprise we got presented with a plaque from the volleyball team of La Victoria thanking us for our support of their team it was a very special moment. That night we had a worship time in the street it was so serene and beautiful I completely felt god's presence.

The next day we did an amazing  race through the streets of La Victoria. We had three teams with a mix of Americans and Dominicans. We started by having to build a human pyramid and then headed to a blind walk. We continued with a three legged race and then had to memorize a verse and run back to wear we started. It wasn't the most put together activity but it had a really cool idea. During the afternoon we want to La Canita again to buy jewelry the women of La Canita had hand maid it was beautiful. That night we had a worship time in the park with some youth group kids from La Victoria and yet again god was so evident. That night we played around on the street.

The next day we headed out of La Victoria to go to the beach for our last day. After a day of playing and getting our hair done in cornrows we headed back to the YWAM base where they generously let us stay the day. They served us dinner and let us use there facilities. That night we prayed for our Dominican friends as well as everyone in the group. I was able to overcome being afraid of praying in a group it was such an uplifting moment. Then YWAM generously drove us to the airport were we caught or overnight flight home.

All in all, it was such an amazing experience and time I had with everyone and i will never forget it. On this trip I discovered a desire to be fluent in Spanish and when I returned to school I will be taking Spanish classes more seriously. On top of that I overcame my fear of praying in a group, but most of all God was so evident to me on this trip and it just gives me a desire to return to the Dominican Republic. It was so amazing and thank you for your support of my mom,my youth group, and me. Love you all and hope to see you soon.💕💕

   Sincerely,  Abby Breeser

 

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When I Hold It In My Hand

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When I Hold It In My Hand

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about the abundant ministry and work happening in June.  Today I sit here with all of our teams home and our two interns wrapping up their time in the DR.  Jordan and Johannah will be home next Monday.  The stories and heart changes are just beginning to surface.   And the momentum of our work in La Canita is powerful.  It is both beautiful and overwhelming at points.  Who would have thought that we would be holding all that we are right now?  Teams of new people visiting our beloved La Canita, building a women’s empowerment center, creating a jewelry line, starting immersion experiences in Denver, launching new staff to step into the calling of pouring into the worth and value of women?  Amazing.

Today I am making calls to Immersion Trip participants and leaders.  I am updating our website and putting some final touches on our Half Year Report.  (You can expect that in the mail soon!).   I am looking towards the fall and contacting our leaders to confirm dates.  I am texting with Kelly about jewelry sale opportunities and with Katrina about grant opportunities.  I am brainstorming about fundraising with new staff and with new ministry partners on ways to activate personal formation with urgent social needs.  It is so much to hold.

And that is why I am thankful for two images.  One that is keeping me centered today.  And one that we hope will center us as an organization as we grow. 

This first is one I took with my iphone just last week.  (see above).   I was overwhelmed with the needs of our organization and carrying burdens I am not asked to bear.  In the midst of this emotional weight, my husband handed me a bag of jewelry from the La Canita women.  I quickly put it in my bag in order not to have a breakdown.  Once I got to my office, I tried to ignore the bag of jewelry, but knew I needed to get it to Kelly or at least tell her how they looked.  So, bravely, I opened the bag.  And, thankfully, the beauty, simplicity, and full story was sitting there, right in my hand.   So much of what we do with Project I See You is intangible.  But the grace came in the moment when I could hold the jewelry, fresh from the DR, that represents poverty and extravagance dancing together.  This is what it is all about: empowering women towards real change based on the truth that WE are seen. 

And the second image is for us all.  It is our new logo for the coming years.  As we grow we want to re-center again on our focus: seeing and being seen.  I love how this image holds our core identity even as we launch into more strategic and new projects.  We are hopeful and eager to see all that God has in store for us in the rest of 2016 and in the years to come. 

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By the way!  Join us at the Te Veo Jewelry Launch Party, Friday July 8th at Kelly Campbell's house.  Email me for the address and to RSVP!  And check out our upcoming events for later this summer and fall by clicking on EVENTS in the navigation bar above.  Join us!  Join us!  Join us! We would love to SEE you.  

With love and grace,

Lizzy

lizzy@projectiseeyou.org

 

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June 2016 - ABUNDANT Life and Ministry

This past Tuesday Kelly Campbell and Amanda Pennington left for La Canita.  Today, they are working alongside the women of La Canita to create the pieces of the new Te Veo jewelry line that we saw at Day of Beauty.

Tonight Angie Ham, our Accord, Inc President and volunteer on the US Centro Te Veo Build Team, flies overnight to join our Dominican Centro Te Veo Build Team.  She will work alongside them in stewarding our next steps in the building of this women’s empowerment center on the border of La Victoria and La Canita. 

On Monday, June 6th Angie Johnston and Mercy Tucker will lead a mother/daughter trip with 7 women and 7 teens, in a week of bonding, working, laughing, cooking and sweating.  They will be joined by Project I See You’s first interns: Jordan Tisdall and Johannah Johnston, who will be staying for a month of leadership development and learning about material poverty with spiritual growth.   We are so delighted and prayerful for these two young leaders! 

The following week starts ten days of two youth groups, one from Denver and one from Kansas City, joining the work of Project I See You in La Victoria and La Canita!  We are overjoyed to be connecting these 30 people with Dominican life and God’s work in these communities.  There will be youth rallies, volleyball games, working on Centro Te Veo, and a focus on a relationship with God that transcends culture and language.  Telly DeBoart, Susy Newman, Tammy Breeser, and Dan Wagner will be leading these teams. 

We can’t believe all that has come together for this summer!  Our Dominican community is more than hospitable and we are honored to be with them in the journey of seeing and being seen by the Living God. 

Will you join us in prayer for this packed full month?  And prayerfully consider being a regular giver to Project I See You as we launch this month of ministry in the Dominican Republic?

www.projectiseeyou.org/donate

 

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Letter From Our Director: Day of Beauty Call to Action

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THANK YOU to all of you that made Day of Beauty 2016 a success!  May 15, 2016 was a beautiful day, with 38 appointments at 4 different top-notch salons in the Denver area offering beauty services to our volunteers and donors.  Thank you to Rebelle Salon, The Studio Hair Design, Hazel and Harley, and Le Coquelicot for donating your time and talent! Over $2,000 was raised for our Immersion Experience participants and critical projects such as Centro Te Veo. 

And this year, we had our first ever Day of Beauty AFTER PARTY!  Thank you to VOCO Creative, Primo Vino, and Susie Knezel Photography for making it a beautiful and fun night!  (Red carpet pictures will be emailed to you next week!).  We were reminded of the heart of Project I See You: seeing and being seen.  And our missional means to that end: Immersion Experiences.  Immersion Experiences create transformative spaces that combine social action and personal formation.  We highlighted how this has been true in our trips to the Dominican Republic over the last seven years and how, just this year, this is happening through Immerse Denver.  We also were delighted to see the Te Veo Jewelry Line and planters that Freedom Collective International has made for us.  And to hear about upcoming Immersion Experiences this June to La Canita, this fall through Immerse Denver, and more opportunities on the horizon.  We are passionate about seeing people like us activated to truly SEE those in their home, in their communities, in their cities, and in the world.  All fueled by the experience and truth that we are seen by the Living God (Genesis 16:13). 

Our CALL TO ACTION at the After Party was to become a regular giver to Project I See You.  In order for our work to be long-term and sustainable, we need consistent givers to know what is possible as we move forward.  While we have been able to operate because of several generous one-time gifts, this year we are at only 33% of our budgeted monthly income for general donations.  There is an urgent need for our supporters and volunteers to consider giving monthly in the amount of $25, $50, $100, or $250 per month.  These gifts are tax-deductible and support our current projects, operations, and outreach.  You can click on the link below today to set up a recurring donation:

www.projectiseeyou.org/donate

Also!, several people have asked how they could give a one-time gift for the beautiful After Party! The link above will also guide you for one-time gifts.

In the coming months we will be rolling out several exciting changes within Project I See You.  You will see an intentional shift in focusing even more strongly on “seeing and being seen” as we grow.  You will see our staff and volunteer teams expanding, increased action locally, and more intentionality with projects and people internationally.  You will see beauty abounding and real hope for our world truly valuing and empowering women.  

Join us!  

With love and grace,

Lizzy

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Centro Te Veo Build and Business Development Team Trip

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Centro Te Veo Build and Business Development Team Trip

Our January Build Team and Business Development Team trip was beyond imagination.  In summary, a final floor plan was developed and we are working with a local contractor on our official build plan.  We will be moving forward with construction of the first floor in the coming months!  

We also established our DR build team that will be our main point of contact with the purchase of materials, construction process, and desired out comes.  We hope to keep you closely up to date as we receive reports and pictures of the process.  

Our business development team met with our DR Advisory Team, coming up with a strategy for shifting to a co-op model.  They produced a Market Bag Set within the two weeks we were there (and proceeds from the sale of these bags will go towards funding the co-ops training and materials needed to make the business locally sustainable within three to five years).  You can see pictures on our Facebook page.    

Kelly Campbell, from Freedom Collective International, came on this trip with us to kick off our partnership. She was busy creating products for a boutique level line.  Watching the co-creative process with our Dominican friends was really amazing.  We will let you know when those lines launch and keep you up to date on how that is impacting the lives of the women in La Canita.  

Of course we were all personally blessed beyond belief, watching this all come together.  As we move forward with Centro Te Veo and this business development, we covet your prayers, hopes, and support.   

Our Team: Matt Nowka, Dawn Lawrence, Angie Ham, Leane Mahanke, Susie Knezel, Kelly Campbell, Ann Rajewski, Telly DeBoarts, and Lizzy Wagner

 

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The Smile of God - by Betsey Tinker

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The Smile of God - by Betsey Tinker

Have you ever felt a smile? The kind that moves you to a new world…like going from a desert to a rain forest when you’re parched? Sami has this kind of smile.

The first time I saw Sami was on my first missions trip, recently, to the DR. I was a shaky American entering a new world, knowing nothing, fearing much, feeling small and pinched. He was a benevolent soul who was there when I touched down in the 3rd world. The moment I met him he acted as if we were very old and well acquainted friends. If he could have picked me up off the ground, I think he would have. Though his arms stayed at his sides, his smile grabbed me and catapulted me high into the air. “Betsey!”, he exclaimed with a Dominican familiarity that I had never known from a stranger.

In an instant, in a foreign land with nothing recognizable to anchor me anywhere, his smile and voice spoke to that ancient place, the most familiar of places. The message resonated through me, “You are seen. You are known. You are Betsey. No matter where you are…I am here. With you. Always.” I felt the smile of God. 

In that liminal moment I knew I would be able to handle all that was ahead…the unknown, heat, fatigue, fear, new smells, roosters, trash, mosquitoes, sleeping in a net, sharing one bathroom with 17 others, eating strange food, struggling with the things that are so easy here in the US. In Sami’s smile, I knew all was well. I knew I was seen, and known, and most of all...loved.

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New Places and Spaces for Project I See You

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New Places and Spaces for Project I See You

Written By Jayne Spear

She stood at the center of the group, all eyes on her and posed the question, “Would you want to come with us?”  She waited.  Silence.  Large eyes staring back at her. And the , like electricity, murmurs, postures turning to the lady at their side, whispers, nervous giggles, louder rumblings.   Knowing this group as well as she did, she quickly got louder and asked again with authority, trying to reign the group back in before she inevitably would lose them to the chaos and disorder that she had come to know with them.  “Would you want to come with us to Haiti?”  After five years of pouring into women’s worth and value in La Canita Dominican Republic, she asked them would they want to find a community and give to them what they have received.  Absolutely they would and are planning on traveling to a neighboring village with our team in June.  They are excited to teach them their wood working skills, jewelry making, but most importantly, to pour into them by seeing them, getting to know their stories and holding those stories with all the dignity they deserve. They are honored to be Project I See You of the Dominican Republic. 

But Haiti?  Haiti.  Their poor neighbors with nothing.  The ravaged land that they border that speak a different language, have different customs, diseases and food?  Is it safe?  What would we do with our kids?  What if they don’t accept us?  Isn’t there a lot of violence in Haiti?  Just this past week a riot broke out and someone died.  One woman said, “I want to say yes but I am afraid”. 

As Angie relayed this scene to me I couldn’t help but think of the first time someone presented the idea of me traveling to the DR.  In fact it was Angie that first asked me to go.  I felt so profoundly moved that these women are now where I was almost five years ago.  Willing hearts that have received much from God and have felt seen by Him yet so unsure of the path ahead and how scary it might feel to travel to the unknown. 

Yet it was the going that changed my life.  It was the act of surrendering amidst all of these fears that began to soften my heart and open my eyes to a whole other place that is dear to God’s heart.  It is in this place, the Dominican Republic, that I have found a layer of my soul that only gets unearthed when I am there pouring sweat, filled with the palpable love that consumes all of my fear.  Where I hear the hum of motorcycles, roosters crowing, dogs barking, Caribbean music blaring and the laughter of children who have nothing but who are so full of life.  I thought I was saying yes to giving. And I was. But I was saying yes to receiving so much more.   I now know the risk is absolutely worth it and that Life is what comes out of it.  A life more colorful, rich and multi dimensional than if I had never gone.  I am willing to take those risks and face my fears every time for that.

As Angie wrapped up the meeting two women approached her and said, “We will go with you.” And so we step into the vision of Project I See You “recipients” becoming the Givers to their neighbors close by and, one day soon, a little further away in Haiti.

In the coming weeks you will be hearing more about this community of women, their stories, and their hearts.  You will hearing of our collective desire to build a space in La Canita, a center, a home to launch from: Centro Te Veo.  But today we boldly foreshadow a huge part of our inspiration: the story is already being written for Project I See You, La Canita to go to a little town just outside of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.  We could not have written this story even if we tried.

 

 

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Living Water: Giving What We Have Been Given

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Living Water: Giving What We Have Been Given

THIS POST IS WRITTEN BY SUSY NEWMAN

At our leadership retreat back in January we took time to pray and to ponder what steps God might be calling Project I See You to take in the future. Up until now our focus has been to invest in relationship with the women from a community outside of La Victoria in the Dominican Republic. Our motivation for this comes out of a sense of gratitude for what God has done in our lives and a desire to share that with others. We have recently sensed God leading us to begin working with the women in the D.R. to instill in them a sense of mission and outreach to their neighboring communities and beyond.

As we were discussing this, what came to mind is an image from the geography of the land of Israel. It has to do with the contrast of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a body of water that has an inlet via the Jordan River, but no outflow. It's a unique body of water because it's so full of salt and other minerals that there are no fish or other living organisms in it… thus the name the "Dead" Sea.


The Sea of Galilee on the other hand has the Jordan River flowing into it as well as flowing out of it. This causes the water supply in the sea to be constantly replenished. That constant flow means that the Sea of Galilee is a source of "living water." It is not stagnant. It can sustain life and cause it to flourish.


This image helps us to consider in our own lives whether the living water of God's Spirit is not only flowing into us but also pouring out and impacting lives around us for the Kingdom of God. As we build relationship with the people in the Dominican Republic, we want them to understand that this pouring into them is not to be a stagnant process for them, but that as they receive they can pass on to others what they have received.

Plans are being made for our next trip to take some of the women of La Canita to the neighboring communities to reach out to other women in similar ways to what we have done with them. We are excited to report as well that a team that just returned from the D.R. made a short trip to Haiti to begin exploring possibilities there!

As the local part of the vision for outreach is already beginning to be realized, we have also been reminded of a sense of being called to reach out to women  "behind the veil." There are a couple of connections in our network where people are already reaching out to women behind the veil. We have begun to dialogue with these people and are continuing to prayerfully consider what that might mean for Project I See You to partner with them in the future!

John 4:13 "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

 

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Going Back

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Going Back

Several weeks ago I sent out an email saying I was planning a trip to the Dominican Republic in April for women from Colorado who haven't had the opportunity to take a trip yet.  However, as things began to unfold it became clear that the trip in April is going to be more of a business trip to move us forward in the dream of purchasing land and building a community center with the women to house their jewelry making supplies, woodworking tools and provide a place for them to convene as a community.  Currently, the space we use is a patch of dirt, shaded by a tree that provides little coverage when the torrential downpours so common to the area arrive in the afternoon.  In addition to researching and hopefully purchasing a building site this group is also planning on traveling to Port a Prince Haiti, where they will meet a community that is possibly even poorer than our friends in La Canita. With the help of our friends, Kim and Mark Jones, who do ongoing work there, we hope to one day travel with the women of La Canita to serve their neighbors in Haiti.  We have served and loved them for five years and out of that abundance believe that God may be leading them to pour into women's worth and value in other communities.  How amazing to dream about travelling with them and serving others with them.

This leads to the June trip that is, in fact, an immersion trip with new women from the Denver area travelling together.  I have decided to join this trip, not the April one, as I get really excited about creating and building a new team and experiencing with them this new culture for the first time. We hope to introduce the idea of serving nearby communities and ascertain who may have a desire to begin taking steps toward that end. We imagine the focus will be getting to know people who potentially have even more needs than what they have been living with in La Canita.  We will offer to take some of  the women to a smaller more rural area nearby to meet with a new group and begin the idea of serving others locally.  Maybe someday we will travel to Haiti with our beautiful friends from the DR.  "Si Dios quiere"...if God wills.     

Many people on this trip have education backgrounds and hearts for children. We are excited to see what will unfold with this group and their specific passions. 

What I have learned from my "mission trips" over the last five years is that I have an extravagant life compared to so many in this world, particularly the underdeveloped or "third world".  At the same time, I am struck by my own poverty, spiritually and relationally speaking, compared to many in this world who must rely on God every day to provide for each need.  The joy and gratitude that flows from a life dependent on a Loving God levels me every time I visit.  The simplicity in contrast to my complicated web I have come to know as "normal" beckons me to a deeper place of faith in a good and extravagant God. It beckons me to return  to the Dominican Republic and dream about where Project I see You will go in the future.




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Hidden Gem

Biemba is one of those hidden treasures. The quiet servant type that doesn’t demand a lot of attention but yet is such a vital and a valuable member of our team. She is hardworking, trustworthy and is always serving us when we are in the D.R. She has been serving Project I See You from the beginning.

Biemba purchases food, prepares the meals for the team and serves us in her home about twice a day, including cleaning up after our group. None of our group has ever gotten sick from Biemba’s meals. Her sister, Candida and her daughter, Litane have become a part of that serving team, cleaning the homes we rent each day. 

Biemba’s heart is gold and she demonstrates Jesus in the way she serves us. All of those who have gone on an immersion trip have been blessed by her presence. She is an integral part of our family so it is my desire that you “see” Biemba, the sometimes hidden, quiet, humble servant of God that gives herself away!

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MORE Space

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MORE Space

The beauty of all that has happened with Project I See You is that we could not have planned all of this, even if we tried.  Here we are, a group of women that really love God, each other, and connecting with other women around the world.  And suddenly we are making jewelry with scraps, digging wells and pipes, laughing with friends in La Canita again and again, and dreaming more fully than ever before about:

-       A full blown Community Center in La Canita

-       More and more women in our lives visiting the Dominican on Immersion Trips

-       More and more men coming on Immersion Trips and connecting with our Dominican brothers.

-       Taking Vision Trips to other places around the world where dear friends live

-       Stepping into the conversation about women, worthiness, the world, misogyny, and the church

-       Developing a real, sustainable, honorable business model with Dominican women

-       Going on an Immersion Trip with the women of La Canita to other communities, yes!, even to Haiti.

-       And more.

You all, we have been having so much fun and are so full!  And feel a little crazy and tired some of the time.  As ya do.  On our Vision Trip in December, we were really believing and asking, “What’s next, God?”  And, to our amazement, (and my astonishment!), we hear, “More.”  Making more space, more room.  As women do.   

So that is what we are doing.  Making more space to grow this life that God has given.  And one step in that is Diane Urbano will continue as our Administrative Manager and I will step into a part time Director role.  With hope and love we are honored to carry some of this calling.  Over the next months, we will be letting you in on what God is making clear to us.  And you will be hearing the voices of more ISY people.  

In the meantime, we have an upcoming Immersion Trip, April 14 to 21st.  The initial meetings are starting NOW.  Email info@projectiseeyou.org if you are interested in coming to an initial meeting.     


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Leadership Trip Update - December 1-9, 2014

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Leadership Trip Update - December 1-9, 2014

 

We are back!  What an amazing trip we had in La Victoria and La Canita.  As usual, we are amazed at how God went before us and prepared the way for healing in our hearts, our friends hearts, and work that flowed around us and through us.  

 
Our aims for the trip were many, and somehow, as I look back, they were all accomplished and then some!  More on that soon and in the New Year.
 
The thing I am compelled to write about first is something that I don’t want to forget.  It is the story of how God met me on this trip.  After all, you can NOT go on a trip with Project I See You and NOT be deeply transformed.  (That’s a double negative).  Even if you do bring your husband, seven month old, and are trying to team lead the trip.  
 
From the moment we drove to the airport in Denver, I suddenly and consistently was feeling a little crazy.  As in anxious, foolish, and a bit shameful, crazy.  What were we doing?!  Going to another country, with my family, to see about our process of adopting from there, (we are in the process of international adoption from the Dominican), to be with Dominican friends I had not seen in two years, to act like I had some influence in a group of EIGHTEEN people that were going to connect and serve alongside women that have been making (amazing) jewelry that we are fumbling through to sell.  WHO DO I THINK I AM?  I don’t even speak Spanish.
 
In the midst of a swell of panic at DIA, I heard a still small voice: Breathe.  One foot in front of the other.  One step at a time.  

 
So we got on the plane.
 
And then we were in Santo Domingo at a bed and breakfast.  And in Juan Dolio with another adoptive family and friends.  And in La Victoria with five, and then thirteen, and then…it happened.  It was happening.  And when things are happening I can miss it – I can be distracted from my insides where God meets me.  I am a momentum junkie after all.  
 
But thanks be to God, I was met like Hagar at a well (Genesis 16).  He saw me.  And so did our Dominican friend that was praying with us.  He has a recent and burdensome gift of seeing images as he prays and sleeps.  And the picture for me was of oil.  He knew it was oil pouring over my head because the oil was flowing from a spout just like they put in their huge oil canisters.  Oil – pouring all over me.  He said he could have confused it for water but the spout gave it away.  Oil.  Anointing.  This time, this trip, this family, this calling.  
 
And suddenly I was at peace.  Maisey still needed extra cuddles in her baby sling.  Dan still had to leave four days in to go back to work.  I still slept like three hours a night.  But gone was that self-doubting, shameful tape.  And onward with the work and play God has laid out before us.           

                                                                                                - Lizzy Wagner

 

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The Jewelry Business??

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The Jewelry Business??

So it seems like years since I have written about our work (and play) in the Dominican Republic. Oh wait, it actually has been years. Two, I believe. There is a bit to catch up on…

A month ago the women who love La Canita were standing in my dear friend’s home in Lakewood, Colorado laughing, talking and catching up on our lives.  The occasion was a jewelry party to sell the wares that our dear friends in the Dominican Republic have created.  Hundreds of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings were beautifully displayed throughout the home and at the end of the evening we had sold almost $2000 that will be going back to our friends’ community of La Canita. How did we get here? We did not set out to aid women in the production of jewelry and starting micro-businesses. In our vision statement we don’t have “creating sustainable business and entering into the Fair Trade market” as part of the plan. What happened?

The story is a beautiful one to tell. It necessitates creating the scene that took place over seven years ago in a dirt patch under a tree; the beloved tree that alternately offers some shade and relief from the dry season’s sweltering heat or the torrential downpours that are present during the rainy season.  Mercy, who was homeschooling her little ones in the DR at the time decided to bring out some of her kid’s arts and crafts materials for the women to do projects.   She retells the story sort of sheepishly, “I didn’t have much to bring to these women who had lost almost everything in the flood. All I knew is that I needed to go out there and all I had to bring was this.” Specifically, Mercy brought out paper plates, glue and glitter and they made decorations for Christmas to hang in their homes. The women went crazy for it. They loved it and got so excited to see that they could make something beautiful.

On subsequent trips we would bring down different crafts for them to make. By way of confessional, I am not an artsy craftsy person. I break out in little beads of perspiration when I enter Hobby Lobby. I panic when my kids have to make shadow boxes and panoramas for school projects. Believe me, I was not excited about this portion of our “mission trip.” The morning we went out to teach them how to make beads out of rolled up magazine bits and toothpicks I was quite cynical about the whole scene. However, watching their faces light up after they had created something was brilliant. These are women who do not have the resources to hang art in their homes. Most families do not even have mirrors hanging above their sinks in the bathroom, if they even have a bathroom. It is extravagant what we bring to them;  glue, toothpicks, old magazines, the opportunity to realize a piece of themselves in the act of making beautiful things.

They took off with arts and crafts and seemed to come alive at the act of participating in creating beauty. It was evident that this was to be a significant part of the time we would spend with the women. On the following trip we brought down sewing machines and taught them to make hair ties and scarves. Then our resident artist Leane brought woodworking tools and taught them basics in creating beauty out of wood. She showed them how to look through the piles of garbage that surround their homes to find something they could use in their creations. We left the machines and tools for them and when we returned six months later they had dozens of pieces they had made; purses, scarves, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.  We were speechless.  hey were like children welling up with pride and excitement to share what they had done. They were also quite entrepreneurial as they realized they could create an income for themselves by selling their art.  

There is no money in their community to purchase extras like jewelry, but we knew we could bring these things home and possibly generate some interest and income for their pieces.  They gave it all to us entrusting us to do what we could for them. People got excited and purchased their items at church, the gym, and fundraisers we would have. And they continue creating. In May they gave our group over 250 pieces to bring back to Colorado and sell. We have found ourselves mid-story, asking what comes next for them with their jewelry.  What is our part? We believe this could significantly enhance our friends’ quality of life and are openly seeking to know our part in their story.  

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Under Water

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Under Water

Gracias a Dios!  Estamos aqui!! We are here. We arrived on Thursday to Atlanta, spent the night and left early Friday morning for a long day's journey to La Victoria!  We flew in over what looked like marshes and wetlands.  The hurricane missed the DR but left a major tropical storm in the process. We had to drive in a circle to get to our destination because the river had risen so high the bridge was impassable.  After a long trip, we arrived!  They had been without water or power for three days but are slowly getting back to "normal". There are places in La Canita where houses are completely under water.  Our sweet friend Franci who is about to have her baby is apparently staying with friends because the house where she normally lives is under water. We hope to see her today.  It is becoming apparent that God has us here for such a time as this...is anyone following the theme???  WATER...again!!  We are praying with them and asking what God would have us do.  Biemba, our friend and cook, prayed the first night, "Thank you God, we needed these 'lights' to arrive in this dark time".

  • Pray for us to love well.  We are all "healthy". 
  • Pray for continued healing for Barbara, who is slowly healing from a nasty head cold.  
  • Pray for Susie who came down with a bit of a cold as well. 
  • Pray for continued protection, unity for the women in the Campo, direction on details concerning the operation of the well, health for us...and for us to see and be seen!

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Live Wires

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Live Wires

In La Victoria the electrical wires dangle from above, tangled, like a bird’s nest that got whipped and shredded by years of hurricane force winds.  Everywhere in this town I look, bundles of them are attached to nothing I can decipher but wound so tightly and randomly that to untangle them would be a daunting, if impossible task.  Where are they supposed to go? Where did they begin?   If I touch a low hanging one, will I get shocked?   It seems as if no plan has been made here, but as a whim arises or a need presents itself, another is added.   From my very American sensibilities where order and process reign, I cannot tell, I can only see that somehow these wires have power and supply electricity, be it ever so sporadically to this town.  

Out in the campo, just 10 minutes further, there are not as many wires, maybe one or two running into a tin roof, the occasional light shines out in the dark barrio. Electricity has not made it this far it seems. Here is where the women are, the ones we have come to love as sisters.  So many of them.  A mess actually of personalities and opinions and needs and baggage.  White, toothy smiles in a sea of dark black espresso faces.  Round mounds of mother flesh.  Chairs in tight circles with opinions and voices.  Arguments that go so far back, they have etched grooves and lines into faces.  Alliances and agreements.  Live wires.  Bound tightly.  

Occasionally, we will ask about a woman who lives a little further out, with the brood of children, in the cinder block house without the roof, why doesn’t she come around?  Or the lady without the teeth who walks with the mule out in the back roads on the way into town?  Maybe she could come to one of our meetings with plastic chairs in the circle, dust getting kicked up by a naked baby running around.  A look or a scowl will tell us that she is not welcome, maybe she’s done something unpopular or offensive.  This we understand, it doesn’t need to be explained to us, this crosses our cultural barriers. 

But we come for everyone, the young Haitian refugee, pregnant again, who can’t speak the same language and has been beaten so badly by her old man caretaker that she has lost her hearing.  We come for the proud matriarch who sits and judges the others in the circle and her neighbor who is promiscuous with a bad reputation.  We come for the hardworking mom, babies on each hip, who wants to bring order to this little band of women, knowing they need each other for survival.  We come for the drunken old man who clicks his tongue at us as we walk by and brings us bottles of coca cola while his own children go hungry. We come for his children, to see them and tell them they matter.

We keep coming back, we, this bundle of American women who have fallen in love with the people of the Dominican Republic.  Bound tightly together, needing each other for support.  We bring our own poverty, our messes, even if we have tried to leave them at home.  We, who know what it is like to be the one who is not welcome in the circle and we who have been the women not welcoming others into the circle. We wind around each others hearts and stories and brokenness and beauty.  We bring our extravagance to this impoverished country.  We leave richer than when we came.    We’ve become tangled into the web of the beautiful story that is being written over years with these people.

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Water…Remembering the last trip, planning for the next one

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Water…Remembering the last trip, planning for the next one

The night our little group arrived at the house that was to be our home for the next week the electricity was already out.  We had come prepared with flashlights and headlamps, knowing that electricity is inconsistently available in La Victoria.  With the help of a little team of Dominican men who were to be our guides and translators we moved our bags and boxes of supplies into the dark compound.  We began to light candles, blow up our air mattresses and build mosquito net contraptions with duct tape and whatever else we could cobble together.  After a couple of hours of what felt like setting up a campsite inside this home, we were ready for some food and water.  It was clear that the toilets were not flushing and when we went to turn on the faucets, they were dry.  One of the young men helping us brought a five gallon jug of drinking water to disperse among the thirteen of us. 

This seemed sufficient for the first night and all of us seemed content enough to wash off the day of travel with wet wipes.  However, the next morning , after breakfast,  we were all feeling a bit grimy.  We had fruit and power bars for breakfast and there was a definite stickiness to the whole group.  Not wanting to be prototypical high maintenance Americans, no one was complaining, but the topic arose, “How can we wash our hands?”  Another immediate concern included, “Do you think the toilets might flush today?”  They never did.  We were there for a week and had all of the issues one might presume in a third world country.  And we had no water.  Other than what our little car could carry in trash cans, we had no water.  Enough for a bucket over the head and a wash cloth over the body…I never knew one wash cloth could clean so much.

No one seemed to complain much, however, after the fifth day, it was clear we were living in a fairly “unsanitary environment”.  We pushed through and decided that it was evident what our next trip would entail:  attention to the water issue.  We lived this way for one week.  Our dear friends have been living with this for a lifetime.  We were all feeling a stirring within us to address this issue of water that affects so many of the people of the Dominican Republic.  This will be our focus.  We will move in this direction.  May God show us what He wants to do through us in the DR. 

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You spit in people's eyes????!!

Bonelli. I cannot possibly begin to tell the story of Bonelli, the man whose vision was stolen by diabetes, until I first speak of Biemba, his wife.  She was our “cook” for the week while we were in the Dominican Republic.  By the world’s standards she is unspectacular; one wouldn’t look twice if passing her on the street.  However, to a more spiritually attuned soul, it takes only moments to realize that with Biemba, you are in the presence of greatness.  She has become a dear friend to the women who have lived and traveled down to La Victoria and a spiritual leader to the women out in La Canita who depend on her to lead their Bible study each week.  A no-nonsense woman in her late thirties, if she spoke, I wanted to hear what she had to say, if she corrected, I worked to do it right.  I watched the people as they filled up the bags with rice and garlic follow her meticulous instructions.  As she examined the onion, they waited…they wanted her approval as well.  There is a…regal quality to Biemba. As if royalty has been displaced and was dropped into a dusty Caribbean town to cook in a tiny kitchen in front of a hot stove. 

I had the privilege of accompanying Biemba back to her home one morning.  We had been out purchasing food for the day and she needed help carrying the dripping bags of beans that the toothless man with the overturned milk crate had ladled out for us from his tin pot.  She gently scolded me as I took the flimsy baggie from the bottom and part of the contents spilled out dripping black liquid down my arms.  A woman watched from her doorway and feeling sorry for the very inexperienced American, she rushed out with an extra bag for me to catch the rest of the overflowing contents.  Though I was all thumbs, Biemba acted grateful for the “help”, as uncoordinated as it was.  It struck me as strange that this woman would be cooking and serving us all week. It felt backward, like we should be serving her.  Several times over the course of the week, I had the strange sense that I knew what the disciples must have felt like as Jesus, their King, knelt down to wash their feet.
As I followed her down a little pathway to her home, I noticed a small child bathing in a basin outside the door and a few chickens scattered out of our way.   Her tiny home was dark, with a few motes of dust dancing in the sun beams that shone through the slats in the roof.  Several “rooms” were partitioned off by clean unmatched sheets and I could see that the kitchen was at the back of the room. 

This is when I first met Bonelli.  To say “met” feels like an inaccurate account.  As if you can meet a corpse, or have a conversation with a dead person.  More accurately, I saw a man sitting lifelessly in a chair.  He sits all day long, unmoving.  Sort of staring off into nothing. He doesn’t speak or show emotion.  Yet, as I shook his hand, there was softness to him, vulnerability.  Bonelli had a gentle soul.  Or maybe just a broken spirit.  In sharp contrast to Biemba’s rich commanding demeanor, Bonelli’s is small and poor.   However, his presence is very penetrating…like a vacuum sucking the air out of the room.  Even, during our mealtimes when he was on the other side of the curtain, staying out of our way, his presence was felt. We knew Bonelli was there.  He was always there.  He never left.

Though I never had a conversation with her about this, the women who knew her better had shared that Biemba has grown very weary of Bonelli’s state of being.  I quickly understood how taxing it was to have his lifeless presence around constantly.  But even deeper for Biemba, she knew this man before he had lost his vision.  He used to work and engage in life.  This was the father of her children, her provider, and her companion. I had learned that on a previous trip, the women from our group had prayed over him to have his sight restored and she had asked that we do this again.  Since then, one of those praying women had a dream that we prayed for him again and his vision was restored.  So the intention had been set before the trip that one of our tasks while in the DR was to pray for Bonelli to receive his sight.

So here is the part of the story where I begin to squirm.  I say I serve the Almighty God who is who capable of doing ALL things, yet I am acutely aware that most of the time, I don’t see this kind of healing happening.  My scars have just begun to heal from watching my mom’s life get ripped away by ovarian cancer.  I prayed constantly for God to heal Mom’s cancer and restore her health and I didn’t it see it happen.  This kind of faith, this kind of praying rips the scabs off of my fresh wounds. 
Additionally, I really don’t want to make God look bad.  I mean, if we come in here and start praying for the blind to see, what are we going to look like to the rest of the world?  To Bonelli and Biemba?  Maybe they will see that I really don‘t have great faith. Maybe they will see that I often question if God is really interested in our physical comfort or health.  I see so much suffering around me…everywhere…so much death, so many tragedies, miscarriages, cancer, and unexplained death of children.  I see overwhelming evidence that seems to point out the terrifying proposition that God doesn’t heal the sick. Those are great stories in the Bible.  Good Sunday school lessons.  But to move out in faith and ask for that kind of thing to happen today?  People might find out that He doesn’t answer my prayers.  I might find out again.

 It is much easier for me to go down to the DR to help women start businesses and meet practical life needs.  I imagine myself telling my friends and family, “I am going on a mission trip to help women become more self-sustaining and to be able to buy food to feed their families.” This is all true.  Not a stretch, not misleading…I could stick with that.  It is acceptable even to non-Christians to do that kind of humanitarian work.  But to tell people we are praying for blind people to see?  This is a whole other level.  People aren’t prepared for this.  I am not prepared for this.  
I know how this looks to the world.  For that matter, I know what it looks like to me!  I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church”.  Crap.  We are those women.  We are the ones who believe in the Bible…that God spoke into existence all of creation in a word.  We are the ones who hold our hands up and dance and sing praises to God.  We bow down to God, not to science.  We have faith.  We look so…foolish.  Exactly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. The wisdom of God looks absolutely foolish to this world.    

 So it was a risk as we sat down to Bonelli’s table the last morning of our trip and laid our hands on him and began to cry out to God for a miracle.  Our hearts removed from our chests and laid out on the table, bare, vulnerable and open.  And we asked the question.  We made our request known to God.  We didn’t come in the “back door” with a “If it is your will, would you consider healing him, but if not, we totally understand and know you have a better plan” prayer.  We marched in the front door as God’s kids and jumped straight into His lap begging Him for a miracle in that moment.  Complete restoration of sight.  And then one of the ladies did something weird.  Cuz this wasn’t weird enough. She said meekly, “Uh, guys?  I feel like maybe I am supposed to rub spit in his eyes.”
  
And so she did. And so we waited.  As I grabbed my heart back off the table and shoved it into my chest, I pleaded in the silence to God, “This could be your chance!  You could heal him in this moment and really make a name for yourself here! I mean, wouldn’t everyone then know you care?  You are loving?  You are the one true God?”   Much weeping in the room.  Tears being spilled over.  Something was happening.  We waited.  More waiting.  Silence.  Nothing.  “C’mon God, do a miracle!  We are really putting ourselves out there, ya know?”
Silence.

 Bonelli didn’t receive his sight that day.  The part of me that wants to defend God here will go to the explanation, “Something shifted in the heavens that day and we will one day see it.”  But I am not sure of that either.  It’s Good Friday and I am reminded that many watching Jesus hanging on a cross that day were probably pleading in their hearts, “C’mon Jesus.  Now is your chance!  Make a name for yourself. Get down off the cross! Kick those Roman soldiers’ asses!”  Much weeping. Waiting.  Tears spilling over.  Silence.  And then what appeared to be defeat. I wish I could tie all of this up with a nice conclusion for those of you reading and waiting.  But I am still waiting.
     
“Those who wait patiently on the Lord will not be put to shame.”

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Franci

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Franci

One story: Franci was a 14 year old girl I fell in love with in the Dominican Republic.  Something about her caught my eye the very first day we were in La Canita  (that is the little village outside La Victoria, it means "little cane" because Sugar Cane is plentiful there). She wouldn't make eye contact with anyone and she seemed skiddish around everyone who got within close proximity of her, even the other women in her village.  A few days into the trip it occurred to me that she acted much like the homeless dogs that wandered around the streets.  To approach them is not wise as they are only used to being kicked, beaten or mistreated in some way and may lash out in self protection to bite those who come near. They even rejected little scraps of food we tried to hand them because they have been conditioned to receive abuse and do not know that good things could come from the hands of humans. And so it was with Franci that we had many thick walls to break through to let her know we wanted to give something good to her, that we were safe.  Trust wouldn't be handed over easily.  The thickest wall of all seemed to crumble just a little, it was the one that has taken her captive and tells her that she is not worth knowing, is not worthy of love, and was made to be used and discarded.  

Franci has a four month old baby and was kicked out of her home by her father because he refused to pay to take care of them both.  Homeless, she sought refuge in the home of an old man named Emilio, a mentally ill, if not demon possessed alcoholic who appears to be about 70 years old.  He rapes her every night.  If she refuses to sleep with him, she gets beaten.  She was very closed to me most of the week, even after taking her and her son to the hospital to be treated for severe burns.  But day by day she seemed to come out of her shell as we poured out love on her.  By Friday, she had even begun to sparkle a little, like a fourteen year-old girl should.  We washed her feet, massaged oil into her little legs, took her to the beach and held her baby for her while she splashed in the ocean.  We taught her how to give her son antibiotics and wrap his wounded little hand, how to make jewelery to sell and how to save money to buy more supplies.

 It appeared that when we arrived, she was very shunned by the other girls (also teenage moms with no men to support them) and they kept their distance from Franci, kind of like we learned to steer away from the stray dogs.  But something broke loose off of this young mother this week that opened up a possibility for connection with others. We have no illusion that Franci is out of harm's way.  And to leave this young mother, this child, in the home of this disturbed man, Emilio, broke our hearts in places we didn't know we had.  Only one week.  Only several voices speaking of her dignity that competed with the many others that have always told her that she is worthless. Are we crazy?  To think we could come for a week and make a difference?  But something tells us we did.  A Voice beckons us forward, to lean into the places of pain where it would be easier to shut ourselves off, easier to not enter into this grand story of epic pain and loss.  But we showed up, and in faith believe we made a small difference. Believe we are supposed to be part of this larger story.  A seed planted.  Hope spoken. The second all women's trip completed.  And we promised we will be back.  And we will.  The women of La Canita now forever hold a place in our hearts, that is reserved just for them.  And I dare to hope that we have earned a place in theirs as well. We will be back.  

There is a small story...more to come. 
Jayne

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I Don’t Have a Category For This

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I Don’t Have a Category For This

There are not words to describe the last eight days.  Places in my heart were opened up that I didn’t know existed.  Love grew in places where I have never had feelings.  Like a tree that springs forth out of the crags and rocks on a mountainside, hope has exploded in a desolate and barren place.  I will write a little each day to try and give you a picture, but no picture will be sufficient to explain the work that God is doing through the lives of the people in the Dominican Republic. 
We prayed for the blind to see, we literally spit in people’s eyes and smeared mud on their faces and called down miracles.   We treated a four month old baby’s hand for severe burns, got antibiotics to a little girl who had gotten knocked over by a motor cycle, we held hands with children who followed us through the streets, wanting a taste of the Hope that we brought.  We danced and laughed and washed women’s feet.  We touched the “untouchables” with growths and tumors.  We held babies who don’t have diapers because they cost too much. 
We taught women to use sewing machines.  We gave them lessons on how to make projects, beaded necklaces, headbands, things to sell…and gave them envelopes to save their money to buy more. We washed their feet, massaged lotion into their weary muscles.  We danced and laughed and praised God together.  They will forever be in our hearts.  I sobbed as I got on the plane yesterday and took my last glance back at the people we were leaving behind.  I didn’t want to leave them.  I have to back to see them.  I will go back.  They are forever a part of my heart.
God is REAL….and He is big.  And he speaks and he moves and he cares deeply about the details of our lives.  Thank you for checking in.  Back in a country with consistent electricity, I will share stories.  Be in touch.

Jayne

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