What I Learned Between Two Hills and a Cliff

Monday, September 18th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

Renee and I decided one day recently that we wanted to go out driving looking at new areas for ministry.  There are so many small villages tucked away and hidden in the hills and sugar cane fields that you cannot see from any main roads.  Because they are hard to get to and hard to see they often get overlooked by ministries serving in the area and we really want to make sure they are getting their spiritual and physical needs met.

On this day we decided to drive through an area known as La Union and see what might be behind that large area of apartment complexes.  As we were driving I noticed a small dirt road and said to Renee, “Let’s see what’s down there.”  What we found was a hidden little area of houses with some of the most beautiful views I have seen.  The road got progressively worse as we went up and down a few hills.  The last hill we went down was pretty steep with a cliff on the driver’s side and a big hill shooting straight up on the passenger’s side.  As we came around a turn I was facing a hill that was steeper than the one I had just come down.  I tried to make it up the hill but as I got a little over half way up my tires would start spinning and I couldn’t make it.  I did not have enough room to turn around, so I tried backing up the hill I had come down but I kept sliding into the big ruts in the road and my tires would start spinning.  We were stuck!

After trying a few more times to get up each hill I decided it was time to call for help.  I really could not figure out how someone was going to be able to help us, but I thought maybe someone would have a winch and could help that way.  I called a good friend and tried to describe where we were.  Renee and I decided we better head out to the road we turned off of to be easier to find.  After a bit Waldis, our friend, found us and we jumped in his car to show him were ours was.  He drove part way and then parked and we walked to the car.  As we looked at the situation we walked up the hill in front of the car and there was a man and women sitting talking.  As Waldis talked to them they asked him why it was a problem.  He said that my car would not make it up the hill.  They told him that the small van at the top of the hill had just come up it.  He looked at me and said, “Give me your keys.”  I protested a little telling him I had already tried.  Waldis told me, “You have a big strong car…it is not a problem.”  With that he got in my car took off, much faster at the hill than I had, and went straight up it.  I stood there both amazed and embarrassed with my ego stung.

When Renee and I got in the car with Waldis I said to him, “I can’t believe you made it…I thought there was no way without something to help pull.”  He said, “Your car is powerful…you just had to go at the hill more strong and the car would take you up it.”

As we continued to drive around and laugh about our “big” adventure I begin to think maybe God was trying to teach me something.  I believe that God is always speaking to us and trying to teach us and grow us though situations.  As I thought more about this situation it hit me.  We have found ourselves in situations like this before, and may well again, where we can’t go back to something we had before, but the future we feel God calling us to is scary and uncertain.  What if I can’t do it?  What if I fall?

But don’t we serve a powerful God?  Psalm 29 says the POWER of the Lord is so mighty that His voice echoes above the sea, splits the mighty cedars, strikes like lightning bolts, makes the desert quake and can strip the forest bare.  Then it says that the Lord gives His people strength.  I think God was telling me that if He is calling us to something than He is expecting that we will trust that we have a powerful God driving us and we will not move slowly up the hill tentatively, but that we will charge forward running right at the hill with confidence not in ourselves but in the God we serve.  David did not stand back waiting for his challenge with Goliath, but instead charged forward onto the battlefield to meet him.  He was able to do this because of his confidence, not in his own abilities, but in the God he served.

If you have something that God is calling you to that may seem scary and unsure I want to encourage you to not walk forward in confidence, but to let out the battle cry CHARGE and RUN forward in confidence, Why? Because you serve the star breathing creator of the universe!!!!

– Chantz Cutts, Executive Director

Forever Changed

Monday, September 18th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

IMG_3705-3138291281-O3As I think back to my trip to the Dominican Republic with Go MAD six weeks ago, it seems so far away and yet like I was there only yesterday.  I remember vividly our last night there, a Thursday evening, when Chantz asked us, “What are you going to do when you get home?”  I sat there and listened to everyone’s responses and can honestly say, I didn’t know.

Six weeks later, I still don’t know.

But I HAVE returned changed.

There are so many things that you would think would be at the forefront of my mind as I think back to our trip:  the children that we played with in Munoz and at the Bible study on Wednesday evening, the church where we witnessed God’s spirit as we participated in a Spanish speaking service, the rehabilitation facility where we met recovering addicts in the midst of godly men, the women in Ascension who passionately wanted us to purchase their jewelry, the 300 children that we helped feed on Friday morning, or (if I wanted to be selfish) the beautiful sunsets and amazing landscapes.

But these are not the things that moved me.  They impacted me…but they don’t move me to action like two significant things that I witnessed.  Two things have caused me to pray daily how I can help Go MAD on a grander scale.  Two things have convinced me that no matter what I was doing, it wasn’t enough.  Two things that continue to convince me that there is more that I must do.

The first evening that we traveled to an adjoining village, I watched an older man, dressed like an American, walking down the street on the outskirts of an urban area.  He was leading a woman behind him by the hand who was clearly from the Dominican Republic or Haiti.  She was dressed like she was headed to a party in downtown Austin or Houston.  The first thought that came to mind was, “Why does she look so sad if she is walking down the street with her boyfriend?” And then I tried to rationalize her face wondering if something had just happened that caused her to look so depressed.

Later, there was a beautiful woman in our hotel who was also from the Dominican Republic.  Like the first woman, she was also dressed provocatively and looked very lost the first time that I saw her.  It appeared as if she was gathering her bearings, looking for someone.  Although this caused me to pause, I didn’t immediately jump to conclusions as to why she was there.

The next morning, I saw this same woman at breakfast, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and again that night at dinner.  While at the dessert table, she walked up behind me to add a dessert or two to her plate and I nonchalantly made a comment about how good the chocolate dessert was and encouraged her to try it.  As I sat down to eat and then have reflected on that moment many times since, I wonder if I should have said more.

I know that there was nothing that I could have done in my situation to help the first woman, save to pray that someone would rescue her from what I now know is a life of prostitution.

But, the second one….could I have spent a few moments to witness to her?  Could I have shared, in just a few brief moments, how important she is to God?  Could I have asked her to sit with me at the pool sometime before we left for the United States and listened to her story and showed her that hope exists?  Could I have told her that I would be praying for her every day almost 46 days later with a heaviness in my heart, praying with my whole being that I didn’t miss an opportunity to save her?

These are the things I think about now.

As I recently heard of two different sting operations where the police arrested young girls and women in a sexual slavery ring in the US, I thought of the girls.  I thought of how the girls here in the US will have access to healthcare, counseling, education, support, and even a GoFundMe opportunity.  And then I think of the women in the Dominican Republic, the few that are rescued, and how they don’t have access to these things.  My thoughts then drift to what these women think and how they continue with their lives when they are rescued from prostitution.  Who lifts them up?  Who gives them hope?  Who counsels them and tells them that God loves them and that they are valuable?

Yes, I still pray daily about how I can help Go MAD.

But the focus of many of my prayers are for these women who have so little hope.  My prayers are always for these families who get stuck in the cycle.

I may not have discovered exactly what my changed life will look like, but I do know that these women will always be a part of me and that I will forever be changed.

– Victoria Otto, Mission Trip Team Member

New English Class

Monday, September 18th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

English ClassGrowing up, one of my favorite movies was the Wizard of Oz. I loved this movie so much, I dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween 3 years in a row having to get two different sizes of the ruby red slippers (because I outgrew them) and my very own Toto stuffed animal. In this movie, we meet 4 different characters all of whom believed they were lacking something in their lives and believed the wizard of Oz could grant them these things. The scarecrow wanted a brain, the tin man wanted a heart, the lion wanted courage, and Dorothy wanted to go home. In the end, it was not the wizard who granted them these wishes, but it was the journey to Oz that allowed them to realize they either, already had in them what they believed they were lacking, or gave them the opportunity to learn the trait they were lacking. In mission work, it is easy to be thought of as “the wizard of Oz” that can grant wishes for everyone, but granting wishes is just a temporary fix. Go MAD’s priority is to help enable the Dominican people to either discover they have the power within themselves to change their situations, or to equip them with tools that can be used to better their situations. In short, Go MAD’s goal is to empower the people of the Dominican Republic. One of the ways Go MAD seeks to achieve this goal is through providing communities with English lessons.

We are excited about our recent partnership with the public school in the village of Esperanza to be able to teach English to the students! Every Monday and Wednesday our English teacher, Isachar, teaches English to the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The students are more likely to attend class regularly, because the English lessons are incorporated into their school schedules. This allows the students to better retain the language skills and allows them to gain a more in depth understanding of the English language. Because the economy of the Dominican Republic is heavily dependent on tourism, most of the employment opportunities here that will allow a family to live above a subsistence level involve being able to communicate in the English language. By giving the students this skill, they will have a much greater chance of finding employment that will allow them to provide for themselves and their families. We can in turn begin to change their mindset from needing others for survival, to being responsible for their own success and begin to break the cycle of poverty. This is a great example of how Go MAD works to restore hope and create opportunity.

– Callie Clyde, Community Coordinator