Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the way back to to U.S.

On the way back home. Our first group left here very early this morning (4:15am) and is more than likely already back on the ground in Atlanta by now. The remainder of our group has just finished packing and will head to the airport in an hour or so.

Was this mission succesful? Absolutely! We were led here to serve both the physical and spiritual needs of the Dominican people. However, this trip was SO much about the work that God wanted to do in the hearts of all those who have been obedient to come. The game of baseball was the "hook" that God used to get all of us together over here for His true purpose. Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective. Over the course of these past ten days, we have had 15 members of our group accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord & Savior. Five other people have publically professed their commitment to be fully devoted followers of Christ. Through out our travels as we shared the gospel on baseball fields, softball fields, sugarcane villages and orphanages, we have witnessed well over 200 people receive Christ as their Lord & Savior and given away close to 700 Spanish version Bibles.

On a personal note, God has impressed upon my heart the great need for Christian male leadership here on the island. In my opinion, drastic change here will only come through consistant evangelism and dicipleship of young males. As FCA Baseball & Softball continues to go forward with the mission here in the Dominican republic, this will be the area where we will focus the attention of our resources.

In regard to the "fire" and the perspective change that God has given all of us while we were here, I pray that each of us will be very intentional in keeping the fire stoked as we return to the lives that we have been away from for the past week-ten days. We must all remain intentional in anchoring ourselves in our identity...who we are "in Christ". We must walk in confidence, knowing that our time here on earth is temporary and fleeting. We must remain intentional and consistent in our prayer life, with our time in Gods word and recognize that the people we surround ourselves with will determine the direction and quality of our lives. We must realize that it is not us who is in control of our lives, but God and that He has an incredible plan for us. Remaining "in Him" and walking with Him all areas of our lives... will enable us to recognize His leading and direction for us and He will be glorified as we "bear fruit" for Him. Again, it's not what we do for God, but what He has already done FOR us that we need to anchor in. God will show us the activity that He wants for us.

To all of you who have followed this blog or have heard about our mission here over the past couple of years and may be thinking "wow..I would love to be a part of that mission", I encourage you to reach out to me. It just may be that God wants you to be a part of His work here. God Bless you!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Internet in the Dominican Republic is FINALLY back up!

Hey everyone…sorry for the delay in updates. Because of the weather, our internet connection has been down since Tuesday afternoon. Although the weather has really changed our plans and has caused us to cancel most of our baseball games, we have all continued to be blessed as we see God move in our hearts.
Our past few days have been amazing as we continue to see God work in and through the lives of our group and the Dominican people. When we ARE able to play ball, in different villages, our coaches and athletes share the gospel after each game as well as visit villages and orphanages. Many within the villages have come to know Jesus over the past few days. Along with the salvations in the village, we have had over 15 of our own coaches and athletes come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord & Savior as they have heard the gospel presented.
Yes…faith comes through hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Jesus Christ (Romans 10:17).
The pictures above speak loudly.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday in the Domincian Republic

This morning we went to a SCORE church plant in San Pedro. It was a pretty modern facility. The pastor spoke English and we got to sing in Spanish. After we sung a little with the Dominican people, there were a few baptisms. These were the first baptisms at this particular church. It was a waist deep concrete pool outside the church near the back left corner. A Dominican woman who was baptized was so overwhelmed as her sins were washed away. We then went to another building to hear a new American missionary lead us in English Sunday School. After that we all came back together in the main church to sing and complete the service.
The middle school and high school baseball teams left for the brand new Score Highlands Baseball Complex in Boca Chica to practice around 2 pm. This facility consists of two baseball fields and a softball field and is home to the San Francisco Giants Dominican League Affiliate. There are also soccer fields, volleyball court and two pools.
After dinner and before devotion time many of the boys, coaches and parents took the little walk down seven or so blocks to the beach. Devotion time completes the day and we have a visit to an orphanage and games for both high school teams and middle school teams are on the agenda for tomorrow.
Posted by Jodi Shaheen (so Bob can do what he does best!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hey...The boys have arrived safe & sound...and I'm not sure what the girls think of that!

OK...Sorry I am a bit behind on this. Yesterday was a crazy day with 31 of our group already here and 70 more arriving. So here is the update for yesterday. The girls headed out in the morning for another sugarcane village and on the way stopped and picked up all sorts of toys, balls, Hula-Hoops and fingernail polish (which was really a big hit with the little girls). Our team stayed at the village for about 3 hours and just loved on all the kids, playing kickball, soccer,and giving pedicures. Watching how quickly the children learned how to do the Hulahoop was really cool as well. Two of our girls shared their testamonies as to how God has worked in their lives and we handed out two cases of Spanish Bibles.

The afternoon brought some pretty heavy rains that delayed both of the flights that all of our baseball playes, coaches and parents were on and the weather also flooded the softball fields where our girls were to play another softball game against a village team. So..we adjusted well by using the opportunity that God provided through the flooded fields to become MUCH more interactive and relational with the Dominican girls team as we all joined together in a friendly game of Kick Ball. The boys all arrived safely with the only damage being two equipment bags that were lost some where in Miami (hopefully delivered to us today) and a baseball bat that was damamged. We just arrived back at SCORE after our Sunday worship services in different village churches. I will post those pictures and provide the days updates either later today or tomorrow morning. God Bless all of you!

Competing against the Dominican Jr.National Softball Team and the experience of Casa De Luz

Hey..we got to sleep in a bit today. Breakfast was at 7:30am and then the girls suited up for a double header against the Dominican Jr. National Team. The games were played at the Highlands Complex in Santo Domingo, which is the Dominican training site for the San Fransico Giants. Needless to say, the fields were considerably nicer than the field that we played on yesterday in the San Pedro village. The girls split the double header one game each and competed fiercly. Hayden Bartlett hit a TOWERING 265' home run.
After lunch at SCORE, the girls showered up and everyone jumped back on the bus for the 45 minute ride to Casa De Luz, which is an orphanage in Boca Chica that houses 19 severely physically & mentally handicapped children from the age of 2-18. As expected, this trip was very emotionally challenging. The girls seemed a bit tense as they entered the facility and then first saw the children. The conditions of this orphanage by Dominican standards is very good, however by comparrison to the blessings that we enjoy in the U.S., the conditions were pretty bad. There was no air conditionaling and all of the children were pretty much drenched in sweat. At least half of the children are so physically handicapped that they can't move and therefore spend 24 hours a day in bed, their only movement is being rolled over by the staff or having their diapers changed. Flys were very prevelant.
After 10-15 minutes had passed, our girls were overcome with compassion and began holding, caressing and loving on the children. Several of the girls and adults from our group were weeping. It was a powerful experience. When it was time to leave, our group circled up and prayed for facility, the children and the staff. We don't have the answers as to "Why" God has these children in these conditions and these circumstances, but our faith and knowlege of Him gives us comfort in knowing that their condition is temporary. That all of these chilren of God will receive perfect, heavenly bodies in due time and that there will be no more suffering. We were truly humbled and blessed by these children. Please pray for them.
After dinner back at the SCORE complex, everyone took the short walk to the beach and grabbed some ice cream from a local street vendor on the way back. I must say though, that the devotion time tonight was truly the most special part of the day. After we recapped all the events of the day, Jennifer Emerich shared her testamony of how she surrenderred her life to Christ just four months ago at the age of 42, letting everyone know the love, joy & peace that has come over her since that decision was made. I then shared the amazing story of the cross with the group and one of our softball players made a decision to give her life to Christ. It was an emotional moment for everyone and an incredible way to end the day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reflecting Christ in a Sugarcane Village and on the Softball Field

Today was an amazing day. However before I get into the days events, I want to reach out to the rest of our Team FCA missionaries who will be coming over to the island on Saturday. Apparently, all the SCORE missionaries are Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew and Peanut M&M Junkies. The problem? They can't get those things here. If any of you coming over to the island on Saturday could help feed their addiction by bringing those items over I know they would love it. In addition to that, Please see if you could find some face paints and brushes. The children in the villages love to have their faces painted, however we can't seem to find those items here either. at 8:30 this morning we headed out to a small, impoverished sugarcane village just outside of San Pedro. On our way to the village, we stopped at the "Jumbo Store", (think WalMart) and purchased $400.00 worth of food that we would distribute to the families of the village we were going to visit. That amount of money allowed us to buy enough rice, beans, sardines, bulion, salt & canned chicken to feed about 75 families. After buzzing through the store, we hopped back on the bus and headed over to the village. We pulled into a large open field (cow pasture) as we arrived and within 5 minutes, we had pretty much all of the village residents surrounding us. My estimation was that there were about 100-120 people in all. What was very interesting to me was that the people were comprised mostly of women and then children from just a few months old to about 16-17 years old. I only saw 2-3 males that were over the age of 23-25. Apparently, once the boys get into their late teens-early 20's, they leave the village (and their children) to head out and find work outside the village.
We played wiffle ball with the boys, gave airplane rides to the little girls and just generally loved on the kids for about an hour. Then everyone (our group and all the people of the village) walked over to the village church where one of our softball players, Lindsay Emerich, led everyone in a few Bible nursery rymes and songs. Coach Mike Shaheen, working through a translator then got up and shared his testimony about how God has worked in and through his life and the lives of his family. He spoke about discovering a God who has shown him how to love. When coach Shaheen finished, our team of coaches, players and parents handed out the bags of food to the 75 selected families. Each individual bag of food would be enough to feed an entire family for about 5 days. They were extremely grateful. As it came time to leave, a few of members of our team became a bit emotional and overwhelmed. My thoughts? I believe that God is starting to impress upon the hearts of our team just how truly blessed that they are.
We headed back to SCORE for a quick lunch and then the girls suited up for an afternoon double header against a high school & college age team in a village just outside of Santo Domingo. Upon our arrival to the field, we observed the opposing team warming up in the outfield. We got off the bus and were immediately surrounded by close to 50 children yelling "Americano's, Americano's". I think that many of our girls were a bit shocked by the greating. Within 5 minutes, there were close to 150 people in the stands and surrounding the field ready to watch the game. We palyed two, 5 inning ballgames. game number one ended in an 8-8 tie. At the end of that game, we assembled everyon in attendance along the 3rd base side of the field where Jessica, one of our players shared with the group how at the age of 7 she placed her faith in Chris and God saved her. Then Greg, one of the missionaries that accopanied Jessica down to the presented the Gospel and gave everyone an opportunity to respond. Twelve young men from the village who were spectators at the game made decisions to give their life to Christ. All the glory to God!
Game two of the day ended with team FCA winning in the bottom half of the last inning by a score of 6-5. However the result of that game fell WAY short in comparisin to the life changes that I have begun to witness today. The resounding response from our group today was "these people have nothing...but they are so happy". In Philippians 4:11-13, the apostle Paul said "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FCA Softball Arrives arrives Safely in the Dominican Republic

Well it's straight up 11:00pm and we are calling it a day...but what a great day it was. God has been faithful in delivering all of us to the SCORE Missionary Training Center (MTC) safe and sound. We arrived to cloudy skies and a light sprinkling rain that lasted for just a short while. On our 40 minute ride from the airport to the MTC, we drove through the outskirts of Santo Domingo, the capital city. Everyone immediately acknowledged that we were certainly not in Atlanta anymore. The girls immediately noticed and comented on the impoverished and run down atmosphere. They were surprised when they were told that the areas surrounding Santo Domingo that we were riding through were actually some of the wealthiest parts of the island.

When we arrived at the MTC, we received our room assignments for the week and then were served a lunch of pasta with red sauce. We had a brief orientation by Sara, one of the on site missionaries with SCORE. We all just fellowshiped the rest of the afternoon and continued to build relationships with each other until dinner time...white rice and some very tender beef. After dinner w walk the 7 blocks to the beach, took some pictures and then returned to the property where Brittani lead a devotion with the girls and Bob shared with the adults. Off to bed for everyone now. Thank you God for a great day!