Thursday, November 22, 2012

The "Momtain" Miracle

I pressed down on the clutch and shifted into first gear.  The truck slowly lurched forward and I double checked that my dirt bike was tied down securely in the mirror as Villa Vasquez slowly began disappearing behind us.  I heard the voice of the police officer behind me casually say,

"You should have brought a rope so you could hang yourself."

Slightly shocked at such a cruel comment, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the sad, scowl of the handcuffed man sitting in my backseat.  Defeated, he sat silently without even a glance in his direction.  I shifted my weight in my seat, prepared myself for the long three hour drive, and tried to wrap my mind around all that had happened in the last several days.

Three days earlier, I had come to work as always and parked my dirt bike in the motorcycle parking lot.  I climbed the stairs to my office, brewed a pot of coffee, and sat down at my desk for a morning full of office work.  Ten minutes later, my boss Brian popped his head in my door and asked me if a mechanic had been planning on stopping by to pick up my dirt bike.  Slightly confused, I quickly told him no as he explained to me that he had just seen a guy drive out the gate on my dirt bike.  I jumped up, rushed to the window, and my eyes confirmed the unwanted truth, my bike was gone.  Brian and I jumped in a base truck and took off in the direction the guys had left with my bike.  We spent the next 45 minutes driving around trying to catch a glimpse of the bike with no luck.  Stunned, we drove to the police station and filled out a police report with little hope that my bike would ever return.   The police told me they would call.  They didn't.

Frustrated, I spent the next several days trying to focus on my work and not on the fact that my bike had just got stolen.  Somehow, everyone that I knew had heard about what happened and wanted to hear the story.  Generally, I thoroughly enjoy telling stories but somehow this one was a little to fresh yet.  Usually at the end, they would tell me that when a bike disappears, it almost never reappears.  "Thanks for the encouragement." I would think to myself.

Friday morning, I got back from visiting an associate and sat down at my desk hoping to quickly finish up a few things before lunch.  As I started my computer, I heard Jayson York, one of our directors, coming out of his office talking excitedly on the phone and asking Brian if he had seen me.  Overhearing him, I walked out wanting to see what he wanted.

"Melisa has your bike." Jayson half yelled excitedly.
"Has my what?" I said skeptically.
"Melisa found your dirt bike while she was on the way to the beach."

In classic doubting Thomas fashion, I called Melisa so I could hear it and believe it for myself.  Apparently, Melisa, a friend and coworker of mine, was with a group of students driving on the interstate toward a beach on the north coast, 2 1/2 hours away from Jarabacoa, where my dirt bike had recently broke down as it was heading toward the border of Haiti.  As Melisa and the driver, who happened to be my mechanic, passed the bike, they both were fairly certain that it looked exactly like my bike.  They hit the brakes and parked the van on the side of the road as if something had broken down.  My mechanic jumped out of the van and started off in the direction of the bike faking a conversation on his cell phone.  As he passed my bike, he immediately saw the key identifying factor.  The sticker on the side read "Momtain Trail." (The previous owner who didn't speak English accidently spelled Mountain wrong on the sticker.)  Melisa and I had often joked about me having the only "Momtain Tail" in all of the Dominican Republic yet I had never realized how much of a benefit that might be one day.  Upon recognizing the bike, my mechanic needed only to turn around, walk past the van to a police checkpoint about 100 feet ahead and inform one of the several police officers.

Being a numbers guy, it wasn't hard for me to figure out that the odds of Melisa going to the beach, my bike breaking down at the spot, Melisa and my mechanic recognizing the bike, and that police officers were on hand are not all that high.  That doesn't even include the fact that they spotted the bike 2 1/2 hours away from where it was stolen.  Lots of people told me I was really lucky that I got my bike back but I knew it wasn't luck.  People don't get lucky with those types of odds.  I knew it was one of God's miracles in my life.  As I like to joke, it was my"Momtain Miracle".  :)

I could continue with the story and tell about my trip to Villa Vasquez, how I tried to navigate the justice system, bribed the cops, eventually took my bike along with the the thief back to Jarbacoa in MY truck, how I ended up on the news in La Vega, and eventually had to decide what justice should be for the thief, but instead of rambling on about all those things, I simply wanted to take this Thanksgiving Day and praise God for the way he took care of me. In all honesty, it was only a dirt bike that was stolen.  If it wouldn't have been found, I would have lived, moved on, and probably forgotten about it within a couple of month, BUT God was faithful and he cares deeply about me.

Last night at our staff bible study, Jayson spoke about  five reasons everyone should be thankful.  One of the things he mentioned was how thankfulness for what God has done in our life should result in a trust in the future.  It is easy for me to look back on my life and see all the reasons I should be thankful, the ways that God has worked miracles throughout my life.  However, I have to admit that it doesn't always build my trust that God will do the same in the future.  The Israelites were constant examples of this.  They wandered through the desert and God miraculously cared for them in each in every situation yet they never seemed to learn to trust that he would do it again.  Most of us tend to live life much in the same way.  I hope as you reflect on all the things you are thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend, you would rest in the peace that the creator God who provides those "Momtain Miracles" will continue to do it tomorrow and the next day!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hannah Duncan: A Story Worth Telling

Name:  Hannah Duncan
College: Taylor University

Hannah Duncan came to the Dominican Republic with a group from her college, Taylor University.  With a love for life and lots of energy, Hannah used her passion for business, sense of humor, and love to learn in order to interweave her life story with those here in the Dominican Republic!

I was sitting on the brick ledge of a front porch in Jarabacoa. As I sat there listening to the women around me, I was hit with this realization: that contrary to my beliefs, in order for Microfinance to do “well” and accomplish its goal of improving the standard of living for others, the bottom line is ultimately not about sustainability. As I began to mull this concept over in my head, every fiber of my business-brained being cringed. For 3 three years I had studied in school that business is about the bottom line. It is about gaining profits, meeting quotas, being efficient, growing, and being sustainable. However, as I looked into the smiling eyes of the women around me, that was not the objective for the people at that meeting. It may have been a desire, but it was not the end goal. I saw this played out when I watched the women have their picture taken. The way the women reacted to getting their picture taken made me laugh. Several of the women were shy and needed some coxing in order to have their picture taken, while others pulled out the makeup and were ready for a photo shoot right then and there. As I witnessed this scene play out before me, I let the idea that gaining profits, growing, being sustainable was not what measured the level of success that the MF site would encounter, but rather success was measured by the depth of relationship built between the women in that circle. 
As the week progressed I was exposed to more ways of how impactful the MF site was for so many of the women. I made hospital visits and home visits, I washed chairs, de-feathered chickens, and taught a class on stewardship -- all things I never would have associated with Microfinance, but the reality is that all those things are what being the hands and feet of Christ look like. Microfinance is a truly empowering concept, but nothing is more empowering then a relationship established upon the love of Christ. Microfinance is one avenue to minister to people, but keeping it to the narrow mindset of bottom lines and profits is very constricting.  I am able to say that I have learned because of the relationships that I saw play out at the MF site. Microfinance is a very powerful tool that incorporates both the love of Christ with the empowerment of economic freedom. 
My story was impacted by the experiences I had on my trip. The MF site is not only impacting my story, but the stories of dozens of women and families. Christ tells us in Matthew 25 that, “‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” In my life I have found a knack with business. I have studied the history of Microfinance, and this concept resonated with me. It made sense. People can be pulled out of poverty through equipping them with loans. The part that I was always missing in my story was the relationship. Student International’s MF site has been able to intertwine the deep seeded value of relationship amongst a community and as a result, not only are people’s standards of living improving, but so too is their standard of loving as Christ loves!

The MF Site wants to continue to impact the stories of both students and the poor.  Please consider being "1 of the 106" and help make our future dreams a reality!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Audrey Williams: A Story Worth Telling

           Name:  Audrey Williams
           Homestate:  Ohio
           College:  Taylor Univesity

Audrey Williams came on an outreach for two weeks last July and impacted Miriam, myself, and several groups of women with the story she told.  With a humble heart, a willingness to share and a passion for photography, Audrey tells about her time with the MF Site from a slightly different angle.

//Through the Nikon-Glass//

            As a photographer, my experience is often much different from those around me, owing to the fact that much of what I see is through the scope of my camera lens. It would be my privilege to share with you what I experienced through my lens this past summer (2012) in the Dominican Republic at Student’s International’s Micro-finance Site. 

// Focus
--          Ask any photographer. They’ll tell you how crucial “the focus” is in an image. It determines the central subject of the photo and often reflects the centrality of a person, emotion, place, etc.--essentially what you want your image to reveal. The focus of the Micro-finance Site was never blurred, clouded, dim or obscure--it was Christ, through and through.   
            Humbly, the Micro-finance Site staff serves in nearby communities, allowing students to come alongside them in this mission at the same time teaching and equipping them to be servants of Christ, modeling an attitude of obedience. Within the ministry (bank-meetings, interviews, home-visits, etc.) the love of Christ overflows through the interaction of brothers and sisters serving one another for the glory of the Kingdom. What a joy to serve with two amazing individuals who bear the fragrance of Christ and model such love this past summer!

// Clarity
--          With the focus set, clarity comes next, assuming the overall clearness of the photo. Similar to focus, there should be no question as to what is happening in the image, every detail accounted for. In the Dominican Republic, this included eagerly discovering and experiencing new facets of culture and traditions in the homes of many generous Dominicans, in order that our view of the DR, micro-finance, and the work Christ is doing would register with a new crispness.

// Exposure
--          Now that the scene is clear and set, a photographer is keen to adjust the exposure of the image. Simply stated, exposure involves how much light the film is exposed to, revealing the scene to be captured. Likewise, I prayed daily for my rough exterior to be shed, in it’s place an exposed and obedient interior, eager to encounter light. A test of my willingness to be exposed came in the form of story telling--my own to be specific. I remember as I quietly murmured the last words of my testimony to be translated, looking up and my eyes meeting a bank-meeting full understanding eyes and a kind woman reaching for my hand. I remember the feeling of vulnerability that comes with being exposed, but what I remember most is the encouraging warmth of that sweet woman’s hand. 

            There are so many more photography tips I would love to share as well as reflections from my DR excursion, but I’ll conclude with those simple lessons I learned in my time at the Micro-finance Site.

Focus. Clarity. Exposure.

Christ--the focus. Discover and experience--to gain clarity and understanding of where you are. And finally exposure--both to what is being done in and around you.

A. Williams

The MF Site wants to continue to bring students and the poor together for the glory of God.  Consider being 1 of the 106 and be a part of what God is doing here in the Dominican Republic!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Be 1 of the 106!

I pulled up to Judy's house and hopped off my bike.  Dust came billowing out of her house as men were tearing down some old parts of her house.  Judy had talked for awhile about remodeling her house but I had no idea she was planning to do it this quickly.  I walked in and found Judy in the kitchen joyfully telling one of the neighbor ladies all about her plans for the house and what the upcoming weeks would hold.  While the plans were not grandiose, Judy was excited to have a house of block instead of old, rotting wood.  With a gift from a family member, some money they had saved, and a small loan from the Microfinance Site, Judy's dream of finishing her house is finally becoming a reality.

Dania, her husband, Julio, and I sat at the table in their living room drinking Dominican coffee and reading what scripture had to say about finances.  Afterward, we pulled out some paper and I helped Julio and Dania form a budget for the first time in their lives.  It wasn't pretty as we finished the budget and it told an unwanted truth.  Julio had lost his job 8 months ago and their family was making $200 a month with the income from her small business and the random part time work he had found.  We sat down, made cuts, made a new plan, and committed ourselves to being disciplined.  It was a tough evening but with a little help from the Microfinance Site, organized finances are finally becoming a reality for Julio and Dania.

Honestly, I could list story after story of the ways that the Microfinance Site has been helping, motivating, and ministering to families in just the last month.  Some of them would be exciting such as Judy's remodeled house and some of them would be disheartening like Julio y Dania's situation.  However, in both stories, I can assure you that growth is happening.  One is easy to accept, the other kind of growth hurts!

While we are encouraged by the stories of "growth" in our associates lives, the Microfinance wants to see more.  We believe in what we do and how we do it and we want to impact more people.  As a result, we have made it our goal to start five more banks within the next near in order that we may reach more people.  Ryan Holloway (Previous Director), Miriam, myself and countless others have put in a lot of hard work just to be able to arrive at this point.

However, we need your help!

In order to make this dream a reality.  We will need to raise US$20,000 for our site.  We need fourteen thousand for future loans as well as an additional six thousand to cover the costs of a new employee while we get the banks up and running.  The best news is with a 100% repayment rate, your gifts toward future loan capital can be recycled over and over again.  While raising US$20,000 might sound hard, perhaps impossible, Henry Ford once said that "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."

So lets try it and see what happens!

60 people at $50   = $3,000
30 people at $100 = $3,000
12 people at $500 = $6,000
3 people at $1000 = $3,000
1 person at $5000 = $5,000

All we need is 106 willing people to partner with us.  

How can I be one of the 106?

There are three simple ways that you can help!
  1. Spread the word:  Tell people about the Microfinance Site here in the Dominican Republic and the incredible things that God is doing here.  Copy the web address above and post this blog to your facebook wall.
  2. Plan an Event: Events are a great way to raise awareness and money for things you believe in.  Make it a Sunday School project at your church or if your a young student, go to your student council and make it a class project.  Get creative and start helping!
  3. Give a One Time Gift:  Click on the link below and make a donation to the MF Site through Students International's website.  Consider making a gift using the giving chart above.
  4. Give Monthly:  Think about making a commitment to support the Microfinance throughout the next year.  Instead of simply being one of the 106, commit to giving for a year and be 12.  Use the link below to make an electronic gift each month or contact me at in order to make an electronic fund transfer every month right from your bank account.

Thanks so much for your past, present, and future contributions to the MF Site.  As a ministry, we truly feel blessed to have hundreds of partners all over the United States that pray, support, and care for our needs.  If you want to know more about myself or what we do, check out the Students International or Microfinance pages listed above.  Also feel free to contact me at  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gloria Merrick: A Story Worth Telling

Name: Gloria Merrick
Homestate: California
Gloria Merrick came on an outreach with her church last March and spent a week with Miriam and I at the Microfinance Site.  I was continually amazed at her attitude and vulnerability as she connected with and loved the people around her.  While some people may write her off because she is young, God has already given her a story worth telling!

I am not a fan of soda, but denying a drink in a Dominican ladies home is about as disrespectful as you can be as a guest. I drank the Coca-Cola with a grin of gratitude. I was sitting on a lawn chair on a painted, cement floor. The walls were covered in many colors of decoration. In fact, the whole room shouted with bright, vibrant, exciting pictures and figurines. Surrounded by a group of local Dominican ladies I expected to be glanced at with awkward, uninviting eyes; the way a lot of Americans are guilty of doing with foreigners. The looks I got were none of the sort. Not even one. I was met with looks of acceptance and genuine interest. Little did I know this meeting was about to change the way I would deal with relationships from then on.

Before driving into the village to meet with a group of devoted ladies, Eric asked if I would want to share my testimony at the “bank meeting”. Not really knowing what to expect out of a “bank meeting” or in a woman’s home, I decided to do it. We walked down the unpaved, rocky road towards the home we agreed to meet at. Suddenly, I realized that it was almost time for me to follow through on my commitment. I had taken three years of Spanish in high-school, but being fully submerged in culture tends to change the classroom experience. Unsure of how translating a testimony would work, I trusted Eric to share God’s work in my life with a circle of attentive women.

With papers of praise we began the meeting worshiping with only our voices. In a language not native to me, I could still worship God with a body of believers. After spending some time sharing struggles and praises, Eric then transferred the script over to me. In a span of ten minutes, I stepped into vulnerability and openness telling the story of my life. When I spoke, I was encouraged with rounds of head nods. The atmosphere was thick with sympathy and love - love with the motivation of acceptance. These women really cared about what I had to say. They praised God through my story with edifying, uplifting words that gave my spirit more confidence. After a wonderful bonding time we got to business paying off loans and calculating simple math. (The kind you need, but don’t ever use in school) I realized how terrible my simple addition and subtraction skills were. Throughout the entire time I was visiting in their home, there was a recurring trait in each woman that boiled down to one word: grace.

 I stepped into this woman’s home not knowing what God was going to do with and in me. Reflecting back on this experience I understand more fully how big and all encompassing our God is. He is not confined to our nation, our city, or our church. He is the bigger picture that connects us all together. He is universal. 

God used this experience to teach me a very important business skill. He taught me that business is about the relationships. Before we started talking about money or anything business related we worshipped God and grew in relationships with one another. In turn, I now take that approach and apply it to many situations. Whether it be in a professional relationship with teachers or businesses, group projects or simple get-togethers, it stays in the front of my mind. It’s a new filter that keeps business talk and motives from getting in the way of relationships.

Each woman I met taught me that life is more than success. They had it down. They knew what it meant to serve others and care for each other selflessly. The only reason they were running a business was for the sole purpose of supporting another person. It makes so much sense why so many people in the States are unhappy and depressed.  It’s because we've lost sight of what business is really about. It’s not about the pursuit of money, title, and happiness. It’s about truly connecting. Connecting from the soul with one another is what God intends for each and every one of us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Your Story Worth Telling?

I sat on one of the hard benches underneath the tiny hut/pavilion in Los Higos where MiBanco Esperanza always congregates.  Many of the women from the bank sat around the pavilion with me as Victoria, an American mother, poured out her heart to the women.  As I translated her life story, many of the women appeared aloof, distant, perhaps not even listening to the story.  Many of the women from Los Higos come from difficult family backgrounds and desperately need the same hope that I saw in Vicki.  Yet somehow each and every time the hope of Jesus Christ is presented to these women, it seems to be met with apathy and indifference.  I finished translating Victoria's story, the women made their loan payments, and I watched as the women hurried off to their houses.  Disappointed, I walked toward the truck along with Vicki and the other American students.  As we walked, Victoria turned to me and said,

"Well, I'm not sure if I the women got anything out of it, but I think God was doing something in me.  I haven't really shared my story much and it was good for me to think about the way I should do it."

Victoria went on to share her story once more at another bank meeting and God used it to greatly impact a few of the women.  However, throughout our week together she continued to emphasize how God had been teaching her through the telling of her own life story.

Every student that passes through the Microfinance Site shares their own testimony before leaving the site.  
When I tell students that they will be sharing their life story with the group, they are often hesitant, scared, and can occasionally be pretty awkward.  "What should I say?" and "My story isn't interesting!" are common phrases that I hear.  I've often wondered why we as Americans shy so quickly away from telling our personal stories.  After all, as Christians, story is one of the most powerful weapons that we can use and I have seen stories that can pierce even the hardest of hearts.  Perhaps it is because we fear opening up and being vulnerable.  Perhaps we fear that others won't find us entertaining. Or perhaps we fear the reality of what our own story says?

While the answer to that question may not always be the same, I would argue that the last question is what we fear the most. Telling our own story forces us to face reality and ask ourselves a deep and uncomfortable question.

Who is my story about?  Me or God?

The answer to that question has implications not only in the story that we tell, but also for our present and future story.  In essence, every time I tell my story and I say aloud that God is ultimately the one driving it, I am acknowledging that I'm not 100% sure where we he is going to take me next.  It can be a scary place to be.  It tests the foundations of my faith. 

However, those that live out God's story don't often have a lack of interesting stories. Jesus is the perfect example of this.  In John 6:38, Jesus pretty much says that he didn't come to tell his own story but the story of the one who sent him.  Two chapters later, he starts telling people that they have no life in them unless they eat his body and drink his blood.  While I might wonder why he phrased it like that, I can't argue that it isn't interesting .  He also does a couple other interesting things during his ministry like walk on water, spit in a blind guy's face to heal him, and provide salvation to the entire world.  But it wasn't just Jesus, the son of God, that did interesting things while telling God's story.  Peter gave up fishing and family and decided that walking on water, preaching in tongues, and hanging out with the son of God was pretty interesting.  Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven.  Then he outran a chariot. (Super cool)  David killed a lion, a bear, and some big dude named Goliath.  Moses parted the red sea and essentially defeated the greatest empire of the world at the time.  Paul left the stardom of the Jewish church and spent his life preaching the gospel, getting beaten, and escaping from cities in the middle of the night.  While my story might not be as grandiose as some of those men of faith, I definitely wouldn't call it boring.  God has called me to leave family in the states, learn a different language, and proclaim the gospel in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic.  It is not quite as cool as mocking the prophets as Baal, but every time I proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, I try to imagine myself mocking the devil nonetheless.

So is God telling an interesting story through you?  DO YOU HAVE A STORY WORTH TELLING?

If not, perhaps you need to ask yourself who is the story about? Me or God.

If yes, then how often do you tell it?  Victoria had an incredibly interesting story filled with the hope of Jesus Christ yet admitted that she didn't often tell it.  If a story is worth telling, TELL IT!  Don't worry about if people receive it well.  Victoria told her story twice.  One group took it to heart and another group barely seemed to listen yet it was equally powerful both times.  If a story is worth telling, TELL IT!

Over the past eight months at the Microfinance Site, God has given many of the American students that have visited stories that are worth telling.  My plan is to use the next several blog posts to let them tell the stories so look forward to several guest posts in the weeks to come!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Couple Thousand Words from the Microfinance Site

Thanks to Audrey Williams, a student from Taylor University who spent two weeks with the Microfinance Site, we finally have some good pictures of the Microfinance Site.  Hope you enjoy them and they give you a glimpse of what life is like here!

A time of worship at our annual Mother's Day Celebration.

Playing team games in order to decide which women get to buy first
at the mini flea market we had.


Putting the puzzle pieces together as fast as they can!
A random home from Los Higos, one of the many communities
the MF site is working in.

Jesse, one of our students, and I flexing after peeling
a whole bunch of yucca at Lero's business.
Lero's husband peels yucca,
a root vegetable similar to a potato.
Ramon, Lero's son, filters some grated yucca
to get out the large chunks.

Lero grills the peeled, grated, dried, and filtered yucca into a bread/cracker called casabe.  She goes to town every morning and sells her product by simply walking door to door.
MiBanco El Tesoro

Explaining to Judy, one of our bank coordinators, some important information
about our new receipt system.

Miriam and I with Ramona at her small restaurant.
One of our associates granddaughters.
Washing the pigs at one of our associate's businesses.  

I think this sums our working relationship quite well! :)

Not even going to try and explain!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

MiBanco Quarterly - Growth

Growth!  As Americans, the word growth in relation to business generally conjures up images of an increase in sales, increase in clients, or an increase in products or services that are offered.  Within the aspect of ministry or church, it is often not much different.  Increase in converts, increase in church members, or an increase in the number of ministry sites. 

I studied accounting in college and God wired me to think in numbers so naturally I like measuring growth this way.  Numbers are black and white; they are neat and organized.  Here at the MF site, it is easy to look on paper and say that we have 11 more associates than we had at the beginning of the year.  Growth!

Yet while quantitative data is definitely an important aspect of growth (especially in relation to Microfinance), it is often not the ultimate measure of success here at the MF site.  How do we quantitatively measure whether the communities we work in are being transformed into the likeness of Christ?  When a woman thanks you because she has learned the power of saving, do we rate the associates growth on a scale of 1 to 10?  When an American student working in the site realizes that the business world is often an overlooked mission field, do we somehow give that a number and throw it onto our income statement?

Over the past several years, the MF site has grown slowly and steadily in the number of associates that we have had.  We are proud to say that we will be serving over 100 associates by the end of the year.  However, as the number of associates increase, we don’t want to lose sight of our qualitative goals.  We continually want to see that men and women within our site are being transformed into the likeness of Christ in all areas of their lives, that the American students on short term missions trips are being stretched and encountering God in a new way, and above all, that God would be glorified in every aspect of our lives.  Continue to pray that God would give the MF Site growth in all aspects of the site.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Microfinance...What's That Mean Again?

What do you think we will be doing here at the Microfinance (MF) Site  in the next two weeks?  I often pose this question the first day to the American students who work in my site and almost always the answer goes something like this,  “I’m not really sure,  probably work with money?”  While that answer is technically correct, I don’t generally spend much of my time sitting around counting stacks of $20s and making coin rolls.  It’s often funny to me that students give this answer, but I also can’t fault them for it.  In fact, I remember sitting as a student at the MF Site wondering the same thing.  Here at Students International, it is easy to guess what a person might do at the Education Site, Health Site, or Dental Site and most people would be able to give you a good idea of how each of those sites improve a person’s quality of life.  But Microfinance, a site that provides financial services?  How are they helping and why is it necessary?

While most of us hear the word finance and our minds wander off to 401k’s, large bank buildings, and rich guys in suits walking down Wall Street, the word finance in a majority of the world will drum up more down to earth images with often tough, life implications.

They drum up images of a single mother of four, overwhelmed, undereducated, and having no idea how she is going to make ends meet for the month.  Someone desperately starting their own business in hopes to put food on the table, working extremely hard and only failing because they didn’t really know what they were doing.  Living life without any savings, without anybody to catch you when you fall and without somebody to help you get back.  Having a child that gets sick and having no money to afford the medication.  Either the child dies or borrow money from a loan shark who charges over 100% interest annually.  Having no place to save money because there is simply no place to put it.  Living in a dysfunctional family and having nobody to teach you the importance of managing your money well. 

So while providing loans and savings opportunities is part of the MF Site here in the Dominican Republic, we don’t just walk around in suits and ties counting and collecting money.  We walk with our associates through the daily grind of everyday life, through the difficulties, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual, and we point them to the One who has all the answers, the One who needs no finances, and the One provides out of His own glorious riches.  Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Holy Moment

"Arms raised and heart abandoned.  In awe of the one who gave it all.
So I'll stand.  My Soul Lord to You Surrendered.  All I am is Yours."

Last weekend, I stood at our staff retreat and belted out those words several times over the weekend. Overall, the retreat was great.  Great speaker...great community...great food (very important for any great retreat) and great games.  However, the greatest part of the weekend for me was definitely the times of worship through music.  Simply coming before our creator and proclaiming the salvation that comes from Him and the incredible breadth of the God we serve.  It was worship.  A Holy Moment.

Sunday morning as the retreat was winding down, our speaker gave us an extended period of time to spend in solitude.  During this time, I pulled out my journal thinking I was going to write but instead stumbled upon a past journal entry.  It was from last summer and I has recently read a blog post  from a blog called "Kisses from Katie."  (I highly recommend it.)  She had written "Surely I could take off my shoes.  Or fall to my knees.  Or raise up my hands.  Surely this moment is holy."  As I read those words again, I could definitely echo that very sentiment.  In fact, I had felt that very well several times during worship that weekend.  However, what had caught my attention the first time I read it and what had caught it again was that nothing drastically different was going on her life.  She wasn't at a nice hostel, eating great food, with great people, and worshiping to great music.  It was simply another morning for her.  Katie, a young single mother of 14 adopted children, living in Uganda in the midst of extreme poverty, was simply washing the dishes in her pajamas and recognizing that God had been good to her.  Proclaiming the joy of her salvation, the immensity of the God we serve, and recognizing that she deserved none of it.

As I finished reading my journal entry, I was convicted yet inspired at the same time.  It's not often that I recognize holy moments in the middle of the mundane, in the middle of the normal of life.  It's not that holy moments don't happen during these times. In fact, every moment is a gift from God, a holy moment.  I simply fail to recognize the moment for what it is.  So I pause today, a break from busy schedule, and I choose to remember.

I remember my oldest sister going to live in Ecuador for a year.  I watched from afar but noted her example. It is a gift from God.  A Holy Moment.

I remember the frustrating weeks of college when I felt as if my passions pulled me in opposite directions.  It is a gift from God.  A Holy Moment.

I remember the daily grind of fundraising in order to come to the mission field.  Friends and family opened their hands and the Lord provided.  It is a gift from God. A Holy Moment.

I remember sitting with one of my associates, Liliana, tears in her eyes, as she tells me she doesn't know how she is going to provide for her family.  I don't know either.  It is a gift from God.  A Holy Moment.

I remember seeing an associate's eyes light up while I teach a class on business administration.  She understands for the first time.  It is a gift from God.  A Holy Moment.

I remember the awe and joy of the 41 boys who went to a water park for the first time yesterday.  It is a gift from God.  A Holy Moment.

My list could go on forever.  My life is full of holy moments if only I would choose to see them that way.  Yet I know I will forget.  I'll struggle with my Spanish.  Something I own will get stolen again.  I'll be washing the dishes in my sink and run out of water.  I'll sit with an associate who is struggling and I'll have no words to say.  But even though I forget in the moment, I know that one day, I will sit back, I will remember, and I will be able to say.  It is a gift from God.  A Holy Moment.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Micro Connections

“How is your business going, Dania?” I asked standing in fronting of her small fritura. 

“Things are a little slow right now. “ she replied,  “I just wish I had opportunities to sell to more people.”

This was not the first time I had heard an associate utter those very words.  Most of the MF associates live and work  in small communities with a limited market.  In fact, limited and saturated markets are some of the greatest challenges that face many of the small business owners at the MF site.  With only 200 potential clients, it is hard to realistically expect substantial growth from a business.  In essence, our associates work hard but often lack the resources and opportunities to network themselves well with clients or other business in order to expand their business.

While there are no easy answers to these problems, the MF site has been hard at work trying to build connections and market opportunities for our associates.   Recently, Miriam connected with a small startup company that sells framed cross-stitch.  Knowing that one of our associates, Rossi, already was selling cross-stitch from her house, Miriam connected Rossi and several other associates with this new company.  Now Rossi is receiving orders on a regular basis and has more consistent work which allows her to be at home with her family.  With the help of a single business relationship, Rossi quickly expanded her market from several hundred clients to thousands of clients.

While the example above may be small, we believe that networks are one of the most powerful business tools and hope that we can continue to use our own networks as well as those of our supporters to benefit associates in the future.

Pray that God would give Miriam and I the creativity to effectively connect and network our associates with viable and sustainable business opportunities.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Life from A Glimpse

Life at Play

The new ride that I got after coming down here.  Unless it is raining hard, I use this bike to go everywhere, including the occasional joy ride through the mountains.

Went on a motorcycle trip with a good group of friends to this beautiful dam!  
Mmmmmm!  Only thing better than the beautiful dam is the fresh fish that come from it.
A Saturday afternoon bike trip!  Thought it would be fun and relaxing trip but turned out we climbed a mountain via a hiking path.  Jumped boulders, went through rivers and managed to flip my bike once!  All in all an adventure filled day.

Bought a new grill and threw a party to try  it out.  Nothing like not having to grill at your own party.
Cheering on my roomate to a victory in the annual city wide volleyball tournament!

Life at Work

Dania, one of our associates, poses for a picture in front of her fritura.  She sells fried foods as well as fruits and vegetables.
Valentine's day party for our bank coordinators and their husbands.   We ate cake , played a lot of games, and had a short devotional.

Eating dinner at Ramona's house with several students from the states.  A great time  for students to be able to connect with the community and the culture.

Working at Juliana's chicken farm where Hannah received the experience of milking a goat for the first time.
Miriam, my coworker at the Microfinance Site, peels yuca.  When students from the states are working along side us, we often take them to serve in women's businesses.

Miriam and I with one of the groups of students that spent their week here in the DR at the Microfinance Site.  The group included a high school student, an accountant, and a youth pastor.  They were different in age and occupation but unified in their desire to serve at the site.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I pulled out of the airport taking the well lit road towards the highway being careful to slow down for all the random speed bumps that were, for whatever reason, placed in the middle of nowhere. I turned onto the entrance ramp and slowly merged onto the deserted highway.  It was 1:30 a.m. and apparently everyone else had already decided to call it a night.  My friend Mark and I didn't have that luxury as we had dropped Mark's friend off at the airport for his 3 a.m flight.  Mark and I sat silently as we continued along the highway in my green Honda CRV.  In the distance I noticed a man run out into the middle of the road waving a flashlight.  As we got closer, I saw that it was two uniformed police officers so I pulled over as they instructed.  I sat in the car nervously wondering what I did wrong as one of the uniformed officers walked around to the drivers side door carrying a very large shotgun.

I rolled down my window and the officer pleasantly greeted us.  He asked me for my license and the documentation for my car.  I gave him both and he took them not even bothering to look at either.  He began explaining to me that him and his partner were responsible for protecting the people of this area.  I knew full well that he only wanted a bribe but I sat there quietly not moving or saying a word.  Even after he had finished talking, I continued to sit quietly playing dumb.  Unfortunately, I already knew I had given myself away at the beginning as I had been speaking in Spanish with him.  Frustrated with me, the officer looked right at me and simply said, I'm not going to leave until you give me something for protecting the people in this area.  I thought about continuing to pretend I didn't understand but the shotgun in his hands along with the corruption of the justice system here persuaded me otherwise.  I pulled out my wallet and gave him some cash.  He handed my license and documents back and told me to have a good night.  

As I pulled away, anger started churning inside of me like a bad stomach ache.  How the crap do they call that justice? Those guys are not protecting anybody.  They are simply sitting beside the road and robbing the people they claim to protect.  Just thieves in good guy uniforms.  The rest of the 40 minute drive home, I thought about all the things that I would have liked to ask him.  "Are all cops just selfish jerks like you?  Do you have any respect for your country or for any of the people in it?  Did you become a cop just so you could rob people?  Do you have any idea what your uniform symbolizes and stands for?"

Thankfully when I got home I was exhausted enough from the day to fall asleep.  However, even to this day, a full two weeks later, I feel the anger that rises up inside of me when I remember the situation.  I don't feel angry about the money he stole but mostly about the fact that he was an incredibly unjust man in a uniform that represented justice.  However, over the past two weeks I've wondered often if I'm that different from the police officer I encountered. I tell people I am a Christian and it is a uniform that represents justice.  I may not have intentions to use my uniform to steal from people or deliberately treat people unjustly but sometimes I simply forgot what my uniform symbolizes or that I'm wearing my uniform at all.  I think God must be fairly angry when I wear his uniform yet my actions don't line up with that uniform or when I simply haven't spent the time to know what it represents.  

May God help me to remember:

That God's justice is showing grace and mercy to those who don't deserve it.  (even the police officer who robs from the people.)  Zechariah 7:9-10

That God's justice is doing to others as you would have them do to you. Matthew 7:12

That God's justice is not being partial to the poor or deferring to the great, but judging with justice.  Leviticus 19:15

That God'd justice is loosing the chains of injustice and untying the cords of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke, sharing your food with the hungry and providing the poor wanderer with shelter---when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. Isaiah 58:6-7

That God's justice is leaving a position of authority, becoming humble and making yourself nothing, becoming a servant, and dying a painful and undeserved death.  Phillipians 2:5-8

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Alive and Kicking

 It is officially Day 58 for me in the DR and that seems crazy to say.  In some ways, it feels like it was just yesterday that I anxiously sat on a plane wondering what the next several months would hold yet in other ways, it seems like I have been down here for much longer.

I have officially settled in to my apartment down here.  It was an incredible blessing to move into an apartment with all my furniture and appliances ready to use.  Ryan Holloway, the previous Microfinance Director lived with me for the first three weeks, followed by several weeks of living alone before my friend Mark arrived a few weeks ago to be my new roommate.   My apartment is much too big for just me so thankfully through Super Bowl parties, a weekly Guacomole and TV night, new roommates, and friends, God has sent people to fill the empty spaces.  Another gift that God has given me so far is a fun group of Dominican guys to spend time with.  They enjoy doing things outdoors and we especially enjoy driving dirt bikes through the mountains.  It has been incredible to drive through the dirt roads of the mountains and simply the beauty of God’s creation.

Overall, while adjusting to living down here has gone smoothly, it has not been without its challenges and frustrations as well.  Many times, simple tasks become long drawn out tests of my patience.  About a month ago, I went to a communication services company called Claro in search of internet service for my apartment.  Since this is a large company here in the DR, I figured that it would be a quick and painless process.  I’ve never been more wrong.  3 trips to the service center in Jarabacoa, 3 round trips to the service center in La Vega (35 minute drive), 5 ½ hours of waiting, 3 hours of working with service reps, leaving in the middle of a meeting to meet a service technician and 3 phone calls later I finally had internet.  Other unfortunate events have been my car breaking down 45 minutes away at the airport, hitting a guy on a motorcycle with my car and killing a dog on my dirt bike within 4 hours of each other, and being stopped by a cop for doing nothing wrong yet not being allowed to leave until I gave him a bribe.

The first several months of working at the MF (Microfinance) site have been excellent.  While language barriers and a lack of technical and cultural knowledge have definitely made the site challenging at times, I have greatly enjoyed my work.  Over the past two months, Miriam, the Dominican lady I work with, and I have planned for the vision of the site, implemented a new accounting system, created a new banking group with Student’s International national staff, and hosted two teams of students.  While all that work has been fun for me personally, the most rewarding parts have been the personal contact that I have made within the banks.  Whether it has been helping Ramona begin her dream of building her own house, business coaching with Liliana as she starts a new restaurant, or simply spending an afternoon chatting with Frankely, the 22 year old son of one of our associates who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident last summer, it has been neat for me to see the way that the site is able to not only care for people’s financial needs but also address their emotional and spiritual needs as well. 

There is much more that could be said but I think I will save it for another letter as my computer is going die soon and I currently don’t have electricity at my house.  Thank you for all of you that have updated me on what has been going on in your life and for those of you that have been praying for me.  Continue to pray for the MF site that we would continue to become more like Jesus in both the personal connections and administrative tasks.  Continue to ask that the Holy Spirit would lead me and guide me as I lead and guide this site.  May God’s glory be made evident in the actions of our lives as we continue to rest in the joy our salvation.  I love you all.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


The candle lit the small outdoor shack which housed the fugon, a small cement stove that many Dominicans use to cook.  The room was small but my friends and I crowded in hoping to make ourselves a pot of coffee.  My friend Moreno grabbed some firewood and began stoking the small fire that must of been started earlier in the evening.  Soon smoke filled the room and flames started leaping through the wood.  A pot of water was put over the fire.  While we waited we sat and listened to my friend Melvin's dad share stories from his life.  Once the water had boiled, coffee was added to the hot water and we waited some more.  Melvin's dad shared another story.  The coffee finished boiling and was poured from the pot through a small filter into each cup individually.  Finally, an hour after initially deciding to have coffee, we sat in the shed and enjoyed the warm black liquid together.

As I sat there enjoying my warm coffee and listening to Melvin's dad start into another story, I couldn't help but think about the process of making coffee.  Back at my house, I could have simply put some grounds into a filter, thrown some water into the machine, and flicked on a button.  Five minutes later, a pot of black coffee would be waiting for me.  Here, the process had taken over an hour and had required more work and attention, yet nobody seemed to be bothered by the length of time we waited.  Somehow, it was as if everybody simply knew that making coffee was about more than just the end product, it was about enjoying the process.  It was about sharing time with people, sharing stories, and enjoying the smell of the coffee brewing on the open fire.  

While waiting for a cup of coffee seems like such an insignificant event, it was a personal reminder for me that God works through the processes of life. That he is refining me, molding me, and shaping me through the process of life.  That finished products don't happen overnight but are fashioned over time.  That God is forming me perfectly and that I am to take joy in that.  He desires that I would be joyful as I hang out with friends, enjoy the beauty of this country, and watch as women's businesses grow and provide abudantly.  He desires that I would be joyful as I spend 20 hours trying to get internet at my house (doesn't mean you can't get upset), take a man to the hospital after a motorcycle accident, and as I struggle to clearly communicate important details during a bank meeting.  May each of you continue to find joy in the processes of life, whether good or bad, as God continues to form us into his likeness.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


As I sit here in my apartment, I once again listen to the rain pounding the pavement on the road outside. While I love listening to the rain from inside my comfortable apartment, the rain here is continually causing inconveniences for life outside.  I almost always ride my motorcycle to places when the sun is showing its beautiful face only to have it start pouring down rain an hour later leaving me stranded wherever I am.  Sometimes the rain catches me in the middle of a drive soaking my clothes, my backpack and me.  The dirt roads become nothing more than a sea of mud puddles which if you are not careful leave your shoes and jeans looking like a puddle as well.  It negatively impacts businesses; it changes my plans; and overall it makes things messy.

As it poured down rain one morning this week, I sat in my office and God brought to my mind Isaiah 55.  "As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for what I sent it."  I always liked this verse because it always reminded me of fresh buds which would bring spring flowers and new green vegetation.  Yet somehow I never really thought about the entire process.  I never focused on the muddy process of the melting snow and pouring rain that made it possible for those things to grow.

Liliana has 4 kids, a husband who drinks way too much and doesn't help enough, and recently just started a second business in order to further provide for her family.  She starts her work day at 5:00 AM and ends it at 8:00 PM.  She finishes her day, falls into bed only to wake up and do it all over again, not just 5 days a week but 7.  She desperately wants a better life for her and her kids and that dream drives her to move forward.

Sila has 8 grandchildren that live around her house.  She works at an orphanage making a small amount of money in order to provide for her family.  She saves when she can but rarely has any money left over.  Recently, she got very sick and spent three weeks in the ICU at the local hospital.  Not only where the medical bills expensive but it cost her three weeks of work as well.  Her grandkids roam the streets during the day with almost no parental support and sometimes just skip school all together. 

I could continue to fill these pages with similar stories of woman with messy lives.  However, as I have been here, as I have see the rain come in many of the woman's lives, I can see God working through the muddy mess that the rain has caused. Sometimes a small flower is beginning to bloom.  Sometimes a plant is just beginning to poke its head at the ground and sometimes I still only see the muddy puddles.  Yet in all these situations I continue to cling to His promise; for the rain and the messes of life "will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for what I sent it."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm Here!

THUD!  The landing gear hit the ground.  It had been a long day of travel but I was finally at my destination.  I had been feeling a bit anxious throughout the day, but that all quickly turned to excitement as I thought about seeing my friend Ryan again who was coming to pick me up.  As quickly as I could (which wasn't very quick since the lines were forever long), I made it through immigration, grabbed my luggage, and went through customs.  As I exited the doors to the airport, throngs of people were waiting outside.  I glanced around trying to catch a view of the SI staff that had come to pick me up.  I spotted Ryan hiding behind a large column along with three other friends from SI.  Being the somewhat emotional guy I am and now being extra excited because extra friends came to welcome me, I dropped all my luggage and sprinted in their direction.  As I approached them, I noticed a guy holding up a sign with my name on it, and I rushed up to him, grabbed his arm and just as I was beginning to lean in for a big hug. my friend Ryan says, "Hey Eric, you don't know that guy!"  I stopped in my tracks and thought, "Oh yeah, I've never seen this guy in my life!"  As it turns out, my friends had brought a sign with my name, given it to a Dominican, and had tried to hide in hopes that I would think they had just sent some random guy to pick me up.  However, in my enthusiasm their attempted joke only allowed me to share my love for the DR with a complete stranger.

Life has been good to me for the two days that I have been here and I feel like I am somewhat settling in to my new apartment.  I've managed to unpack most of my things, get cell phone service, and buy a new water heater so I no longer have to take cold showers.  All in all, it has been refreshing to be here and reconnect with some old friends.  Thanks for all your prayers and continue to pray for me as I hit the ground running tomorrow at the MF site!  

Faith, Hope, Love,

P.S.  Here are a few photos of my apartment to give you an idea of what it is like!

Third bedroom that nobody is using.
Also, don't worry, I'm not planning on having a kid.
The crib was left behind by the previous owner.
My Bedroom
John McCain moved into the apartment with me as well!  
He seems to add a unique dynamic!

Bathroom with Shower
The Balcony!  Probably the best part about the apartment!

Second Bedroom.  Where my roommate Mark will be staying once he comes in February!

Dining Room!


Ryan, the previous MF site leader, hanging out in the living room!
He is staying with me for the three weeks he is here training me.