Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As this year rapidly approaches its end, I can't help but wonder how a year can bring so many changes.  A year ago at this time, I was making plans for a return trip to the Dominican Republic mostly because I lacked something "better" to do.  Now, a year later, I'm once again making plans to return to the Dominican Republic only this time it's not because I don't have anything better to do, but because I know that God has led me there and that being there is best for me.

Since my decision last April to return to the DR to work with Students International, life has been a whirlwind full of fundraising, working as a landscaper, working as an Activities Director, Missions Training, more work as a landscaper, more fundraising, and Language Training.  These activities took me to Indiana, Oklahoma, back to Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, back to Indiana, Guatemala and finally back home to Indiana.  Life has been full of late nights, hard work, travel, many hellos and goodbyes, doubt, more travel, frustration, conversations in a foreign language, more frustration, and fears of the unknown.  To sum it up succinctly, it has been full of transtion and challenge.  As I have briefly reflected on the story of Jesus birth this Christmas, I can't help but imagine all the transitions that took place for Mary and Joseph.  Excitement of coming marriage, angels visiting, becoming pregnant, fears, traveling, rumors of unfaithfulness, and finally giving birth to your child in a stable.  Yet throughout all of this, God generously provided and abundantly blessed. (although it may not have been the way they thought He would do it) As I think about my transition period this past year, I too must admit that while it has been difficult at times, God has generously provided and abundantly blessed. He has provided me with friends who care deeply, encouraging notes when I have been lonely, a boss who was incredibly flexible, a mind with the ability to adapt and learn, and the INCREDIBLE generosity of friends and family.

As I look ahead to spending the next several years in the DR, I know that more transitions await and more challenges lie ahead but most of all, I know that I have a Father and Savior who is able to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.  While he may not always provide in the ways that I'm expecting, I look forward to the unexpected gifts that He will shower down from above.  This Christmas season may each of you reflect on the many ways He has provided and enjoy the great and wonderful gift of our Savior's birth. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


As I walked the empty cobblestone streets of Antigua, I couldn’t help but feel a little lonely.  It was my first day in the city and I knew no one.  I wandered the streets aimlessly for a few hours discovering all the nooks and crannies that accompany an old colonial city.  After several hours of walking, I was exhausted and collapsed on a bench in the plaza pulling out a book to read.

“Would you please buy something?” the boy pleaded. “You could buy a necklace for your girlfriend?”  I looked up from the book I was reading and quickly glanced at the boy standing in front of me, his eyes pleading with me and his arms loaded with necklaces and scarves.  He was not the first vendor that had interrupted me begging me to buy something.  Still feeling a little lonely and wanting to practice my Spanish, I decided to strike up a conversation with him.  Manuel was 15 years old and lived in a Panajachel, a city about two hours from Antigua.  He came to the plaza in Antigua every weekend trying to sell the artisan crafts his mom made during the week.  He had never attended a day of school in his life.  He had no skills, no money and very few opportunities. The only life he knew was a combination of begging and selling in the plaza for his parents.  I couldn’t help but remember my life at 15.  I had the world at my fingertips (or at least that’s what I thought) and my opportunities were endless.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.  I wondered why God had given me so much and Manuel so little.  I wanted to give him the opportunities I had but all I had was some money.  That might help for a moment, but ultimately it wouldn't fix anything.  I bought him some lunch and left.

The following weekend as I was strolling through the plaza, Manuel spotted me from a bench and eagerly rushed over to say hello.  As we continued talking, I noticed anther familiar face.  My Spanish professor Harvey was seated on a bench nearby with a group of Guatemalan men.   I walked over and we exchanged hellos as Manuel slowly followed behind.  Harvey introduced me to his friends and we briefly talked a bit about school and sports. Finally, Harvey looked at me and asked “Who is the boy behind you?”  Without even thinking, I quickly replied “Only a boy named Manuel.” I stood there horrified.  Why had I said “only”?  Quickly bailing myself out, I added that Manuel was my “Spanish Professor” on the street and was teaching me a lot about the culture.  Neither Manuel nor Harvey seemed to notice what I had said and the conversation continued.  Eventually, I said my good-byes to all of them and started making my way back to my house with the words “Only a boy named Manuel” ringing in my head.  “Only a boy named Manuel.” 

As a child, I had been told that God loves and values every human equally,  yet somehow at that moment, I had failed to believe it.  A scripture like “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” had lost its meaning.  From my cultural lens, Manuel was somehow worth less because he had less and understood less.  Yet as I continued to think about Manuel, I knew from past experiences I had much to learn from him.  Even though I thought I had many things to offer him, I still needed him more than he needed me.  For my poverty is not a lack of money, a lack of education or a lack of opportunities but is in my understanding of the value and love that God has for others.  While I continue to think of poverty only in terms of things, perhaps it isn't a big enough picture. Perhaps poverty isn’t simply in the lack of money, education, or opportunities but perhaps it is simply settling for less.  Settling for less than He has commanded.  Settling for comfort rather than obedience.  Settling for revenge rather than love.  Settling for material things rather than generosity.  Perhaps, true poverty is simply settling for less than Our King!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Bigger Story

Walking through my parent’s office the other day, I stumbled upon the book “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss.  Even at 24 years old and with quite a few things left on my to do list for that evening, I couldn’t help myself.  I stopped and read it through.  As a young kid before I knew how to read, I remember begging my mom for just one more book.  Whether it was a simple classic like Goldilocks and the Three Bears  or epic stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, I loved the adventures of a well told story. 

As I’ve grown older, my love for stories has neither gone away nor diminished yet the word story has taken on deeper meanings.  No longer are good stories hidden within the pages of books (or perhaps in the hard drive of a Kindle) but are told in the short stories of our lives.  They are toddlers discovering the way the world is put together, a stranger encouraging a single mother struggling to provide for her children, communities coming together to help out those that have not, an engineer working hard to provide clean water for communities that have none , and simply a farmer bringing in the last of the harvest. 

I am often drawn to people whose lives tell stories such as these but not simply because the story in itself is good but because it points to the great storyteller that tells it.  Each of us has been given our own story to tell yet it is not truly our own story.  It is simply a small portion of a greater story that is often forgotten.  It is a story of lasting hope, unending love, and incredible redemption.  It is the story of our Creator.

Tomorrow, I leave for Antigua, Guatemala for six weeks of language school.  While I’m there, my own story will not be as it has been.  I will meet new people, new foods, and a new culture.  But in spite of all the ways that my story will be different, ultimately God is asking me to tell the same story.  It is a story of lasting hope, unending love, and incredible redemption.  It is the story of my Creator.

Monday, August 29, 2011

God Help Me

 “You can’t even love the people closest to you.  You expect to go to another country and love the nationals there but you can’t even love your wife, your brothers, your sisters, your teammates.  How are you going to love people who are so different from you?”  I sat in my seat at Missions Training International (MTI) and tried to let those words sink in.  At first, I thought perhaps Robin, our South African instructor, was being a bit harsh.  I mean after all, maybe I don’t love them perfectly but I certainly do a better job of loving them than most Americans.  Yet as I continued to chew on those words, I began to realize that Robin wasn’t referring to love lightly.  He wasn’t referring to our temporal, shallow, bought you a new trinket so you feel good for a few days, type of love.  He was referring to the sacrificial, suffer on the cross, perfect kind of love that Jesus displayed.  In John 13:35, Jesus calls us to display that love to one another.  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Robin was right.  I can’t love my family like that.  I can't love my teammates like that and I definitely can't love people from a totally different culture, who speak a different language like that.  I sat in my chair knowing that I wasn't qualified to love like that.  I wanted to love perfectly but I knew I wasn't capable on my own.  God Help Me

As we continued struggling our way through different things that we would face over the next years of our lives, it became brutally obvious that God Help Me was a phrase I would say regularly.

When I’m working at my new job and I’m struggling to understand my new language.  Would you give me patience.  God Help Me.

When I'm trying to navigate my way through the muddy waters of "helping" people.  When someone has an need and it is hard to determine if giving them a handout will truly help or hurt their situation.  God Help Me.

When conflict arises and I don’t know the appropriate steps to fix it.  God Help Me.

When cultural differences arise and I have a hard time discerning if something is simply just different or wrong.  Would I suspend judgment and extend grace.  God Help Me.

When the expectations of my teammates, the nationals, my supporters and myself are pressing me in four different directions. God Help Me.

When I don’t want to deal with the loss that comes with moving far away from home. When I simply want to insulate myself from the pain of loss.  God Help Me.

When the unthinkable happens and disaster strikes.  When I can’t see God as God, God as good, or God as faithful because my circumstances seem to be shouting the opposite.  God Help Me.

God Help Me.  As Americans, we often shy away from being helped.  It is a sign of weakness.  We pride ourselves on our abilities to take care of ourselves, make it on our own and blaze our own path.  We champion the strengths of individuals who can do it on their own.  Yet somehow God is and has been in the business of choosing the weak to accomplish his purposes.  For God chooses those who know where their help comes from, that through their life, they may bring glory to His name.  As I begin this new journey of my life, may my purpose of bringing glory to His name remain the same. God Help Me.

Pics from MTI

I just thought I would share a few pictures from my time at Missions Training International in Palmer Lake, Colorado.
Eating really good food with new friends, Josh and Sam.
Crossing the "bridge" from one culture to another during class.

Spent at least a small portion of each day playing with some of the kids.
A sweet rainbow outside of MTI.  I saw a few of these while I was there.

View of Pikes Peak from the top of a mountain near MTI.

Hiking one Saturday at Seven Falls!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Giving FAQ's

I have tried to make the giving process as easy as possible for all of you but if you still are unsure exactly how to give, I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to try to help you out.

1. What are the different ways to support Eric financially?

  • One time gift
  • Monthly Gift
2. I want to give a one-time gift, What do I do?

  • Credit Card: Just call the SI office (559-627-8923). Be sure to say it's for "Eric Miller".
  • Check: You can mail a check to the SI office (Students International, P.O. Box 2733, Visalia, CA 93279-2733). Please make it out to Students International.  Please make sure to note that the money is designated for "Eric Miller".  Otherwise, your donation will simply be covering SI's general expenses.
3. I want to give monthly, what do I do?
Step 1: Fill out the Response Card. You should have a response card I gave you that I'd like you to fill out and mail to the SI office. This tells me how much you are able to give and how I can reach you in the future. If you do not have a response card please email me at and I can send you one.
Step 2: Decide how you'd like to give. You can give by sending a check to the SI office (see address above) each month, or you can fill out a form to have the money taken out of your account automatically.  Automatic withdrawal is generally the easiest and simplest way to give. You should have been sent a copy of this form but if you do not have it, e-mail me and I will send it to you. Please fill this out and return it with your response card to the SI office.  If you are not able to begin giving immediately, please note which month you would like to begin giving on the response card.
Step 3: Begin sending your gift/Return completed Auto Bank Draft Form.

4. What is the easiest way for you to receive a monthly gift?

  • Giving each month through the Auto Draft program. Sometimes people sending checks will simply forget to send their support. Using Auto Bank Draft makes it easier for you and for me.
5. What month can I start giving?

  • I would strongly encourage you to begin giving as soon as you're ready. I put all the monthly support I receive before I go to the DR towards my Pre-Field budget.  However, I am asking that you begin giving by at least January of 2012 when I will officially enter the field.
6. How long am I expected to commit?

  • I am asking that you would commit to supporting me through December of 2013.  That is a two year commitment from the time I will begin serving in the DR.  
7. Why am I not giving to Eric directly?

  • Students International is a non-profit organization and all gifts are tax-deductible. Any financial gifts for them or any of their staff members must be given to the organization and not a specific member. However, 100% of all your gifts will support my ministry directly.
8. Can I give quarterly or annually?

  • Yes! For simplicities sake I did not list this option on my response card, but if this is the easiest way for you to support me that is not a problem. If you have a response card simply write somewhere on the card you're committing to send a check totaling $x every quarter or year?
9. I still have a question?
  • Call or email me. All of my contact info is listed on the right side of this blog.

What is Microfinance?

As I have started telling people about my upcoming adventures to work in microfinance in the Dominican Republic, I've noticed that my exciting news is repeatedly met with a blank stare that is usually slowly followed with "What exactly is microfinance?"

Microfinance is a relatively new method of fighting poverty.  Briefly and broadly defined, it is the provision of banking services for low-income individuals who normally would not have access to these types of resources.  Stated even more simply, it is a bank for poor people.  While most Americans have access to traditional banking services, in most third world countries, traditional banks only offer their services to low risk clients who can back up their loan with some type of physical collateral. (aka "the wealthy") Thus, people living in poverty either do not have an opportunity to obtain a loan or the interest rate on the loan is extremely high.  Microfinance banks, however, have challenged the "traditional bank" thinking and have discovered ways to provide small loans and financial services to impoverished people.  Clients, which are generally women, use this money to start or improve small businesses.  In addition, organizations teach basic principles such as basic accounting principles, budgeting, and the power of supply and demand.  The hope is that these services can empower the clients to create a better  life for themselves.  Instead of simply giving them a handout, clients are given a hand up.  It is an incredible way to help the poor while allowing them to keep the self dignity and respect they deserve.  For a more in depth look at Microfinance, try checking out

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Bit of Geography

I recently read an article talking about how geographically naive Americans are. At first, I was a laughing at the embarrassing geographic mistakes people made on a regular basis, but I soon realized I didn't even know where all the New England states where located. As a result, for all of you who are a bit geographically challenged like me, I thought I would try to help you out.

Where is the Dominican Republic located?
The DR is located on the island of Hispaniola located in the Caribbean. The nation shares the western third of the island with Haiti. It is the second largest nation in the region both by size and population.

Where is Jarabacoa located?
Jarabacoa is located in the center of the Dominican Republic in a mountainous region. The nearest major city, Santiago, is located about 45 minutes to the north.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Thanks for checking out my new blog! If anyone would have told me three months ago, that I would be sitting here writing my first blog to update family and friends on my future endeavor to become a missionary, I probably would have coughed up a mushroom. It's not that I never thought I would go into missions or that the Dominican Republic is even that far away but "Becoming a Missionary" was definitely not on my list of things to do in the next year. Nevertheless, here I sit both anxiously and eagerly anticipating the new challenges that God has for me. (blogging being one of them)
On this blog, I will have information about who I am, how I will be serving the people of the Dominican Republic, and different ways that all of you can get involved. I am so thrilled to be a small part of what God is doing and I hope you will partner with me on this journey. If you have any questions for me, please let me know.
-Eric Miller-