Friday, December 9, 2011


Since I last blogged, my life has been full of a bunch of “firsts.”  Living here in the Dominican Republic, it seems like almost everyday is a new experience or something I’ve never before been a part of.  However, there are a few “firsts” that really stick out in my mind that I’d like to share.  
The first first is this past Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving in my life that I have not spent with my family.  I’m not going to wasn’t the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.  But it was special in its own way.  After sending a tearful email to my family in the States expressing to them how much I am thankful for them and how much I wished I could have been there with them, Chad and I packed up the strawberry pretzel casserole, the corn casserole, and the homemade ice cream machine to head down to Norm’s house for our team’s Thanksgiving celebration.  Everybody brought their favorite  Thanksgiving dish, and it was quite the feast!  After we were all pretty stuffed with turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie, the game playing commenced.  Despite my homesickness for my favorite holiday, it really was a happy Thanksgiving, and I’m glad I got to spend it with my family here.

First number two would have to be our first group experience while having school at the same time.  A group from Fairfax Church of Christ in Fairfax, Virginia, came down to help us with our annual Magi drops that we do for some of the children in this area.  For those of you who don’t know, Magi is a project that provides Christmas gifts to those that would not normally have a Christmas.  The group was absolutely phenomenal!  Led by one of our advisory board members, Mark Gibson, this group was possibly one of the best we’ve ever had.  They were so prepared, so excited, and they even came with Santa Claus!  One of their church members, Shack, was a Santa Claus look alike!  I’m still not entirely sure that he isn’t the real Santa Claus.  In addition to having a phenomenal group, our students blew us away. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of them.  At each Magi drop we had a carnival for the kids that came.  We partnered up our students with the group members to help run each of the games.  Our students were so impressive!  They were helpful, encouraging, and formed relationships with the group members as well as with the kids who came to the carnivals.  They really were leaders, which is exactly what we’ve been trying to instill in them from the beginning.  The first group week/school week all in one was a testament to the fact that our discipling program is working, and I can not express how good it felt to see the results of all of the love and work and energy we have been pouring into these kids the past few months.  

Another exciting first was my first birthday here in the Dominican Republic.  And surprisingly, it went pretty much like any other birthday I’ve had minus going out to eat at a restaurant to celebrate with friends.  Our students sang happy birthday to me in math class, one of our sweet students, Bebo, got me some awesome combs for my hair :), I got cards and gifts from my friends and family in the States, I got some nice little gifts from the team here, and our whole team even got together for a little party/hang out time.  It was a good day, and a good start to my 24th year of life.  
On a slightly more disgusting and disturbing note, I saw my first rat in person that I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was in Chad’s house, and we had seen a few signs of it in the kitchen.  However, a few nights ago, I got a real glimpse of the thing.  Chad had gone to take a shower while I finished up cooking dinner.  When he turned on the hot water heater, the rat jumped out of the hot water heater and into the shower.  Chad then proceeded to run out of the bathroom followed by the rat.  I jumped on the counter and started screaming/laughing as we watched the rat scurry behind the refrigerator.  We thought it stayed there, so Chad went to get Carlos (our brave, strong, not scared of rats Dominican friend) so we could try to catch the rat and get rid of it.  I stayed on guard on top of the counter with a broom.  However, when Carlos and Chad got back, we couldn’t find the rat.  It must have run somewhere else after it went behind the refrigerator.  So it’s currently still in the house and I live in a constant state of paranoia anytime I’m over at Chad’s.  
As you can see, there are a lot of firsts that happen on a daily basis.  We are actually currently in our first final exam week.  And we are about to wrap up our first semester at Manna Christian School.  Some firsts are exciting.  Some are fun.  Some are sad.  Some make you want to scream.  But would I trade this life of constant “first” experiences for a bunch of routine, normal, predictable experiences?  Not a chance.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Here in the Dominican Republic, Christmas has come early this year.  Actually it started November 1 to be exact.  Due to the lack of Thanksgiving celebrations here (we actually are celebrating but there’s not nearly as much hype here about Thanksgiving), we decided to go ahead and deck the halls and trim the tree to get optimal Christmas celebration in before we all head back to the States in December to spend some time with our families.
So...on November 1, Evan and Rachel invited all of us over after to school to decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, eat some yummy potato soup, and watch Elf.  The evening was topped off by each of us making our own ornaments with our favorite Christmas memories on them and by Connor wearing around his Christmas-music playing reindeer antlers.  It was a a great way to kick off the Christmas season, and we all had a really good time.
Then, the following Monday, we were out of school for a national holiday here.  Chad and I took the opportunity to do some Christmas decorating of our own.  We made three wreaths - one for Chad’s back door and two for the classroom doors.  This was our first wreath making experience, and it was a lot of fun!  Then we decorated the Christmas tree with the “help” of our sweet Dominican kiddos.  They mostly just sat and made fun of us and kept stealing the balls and hiding them.  They’re crazy!  We finished off the day by hanging our stockings, drinking some apple cider, and watching yet another Christmas movie.  
Do the kids think we’re crazy for celebrating Christmas already?  Some of them do.  Does it even remotely feel like Christmas here based on the weather?  Not at all.  Is this the first year of my life I’ve ever decorated a Christmas tree wearing shorts and a t-shirt?  You better believe it.  But is it actually beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas around here?  Absolutely!  I think there’s a reason they call it the most wonderful time of the year, and it has to do with being around people you love.  I’ve realized that that sentiment carries across oceans.  No matter where you are, Christmas really does feel like the most wonderful time of the year.  And in the words of Audrey, “This year for Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Christmas.”  Merry Early Christmas!

Ready for some Christmas celebrating in our summer weather Christmas clothes.

Love these girls.  :)

Our homemade Christmas ornaments with all of our favorite Christmas memories.

The whole crew!  Connor really enjoyed his first Christmas experience.  Haha.

My cute little Christmas tree at my house.  

Our first wreath attempt.  A success!

Our beautiful Christmas tree - all ready for the holiday season!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Math Madness

Math class started this past week, and pretty much the only word that could be used to describe it is madness.  Don’t get me wrong...the kids were well-behaved, they were eager to learn, and they did an excellent job in their first week with a new schedule.  However, it was the teacher who experienced a little bit of madness.  Yes, that’s right.  Jill Rhodes went slightly mad due to her math class.
Why, you might ask?  Well, I discovered very quickly (within about the first 45 minutes of class the first day) that my wonderful students were no where near the level I needed them to be at to start Algebra I.  As frustrating as this was, I knew I could get them ready if I just allowed myself, and them, some time to review and, in some cases, learn the basics.  
Now we’ve entered into a stage that I like to lovingly refer to as “Back to the Basics.”  And we have literally gone just about as far back as you can when it comes to math.  This past week we covered addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  And I am proud to say after this first week that all of our students can add (even when you have to carry!), subtract (even when you have to borrow!), multiply (even numbers larger than what is on the times table!), and divide (with and without remainders!). This next week I’m hoping to wrap up our “Back to the Basics” review with number lines, fractions, fraction operations, percents, and decimals.  I’m hoping after all of this, we’ll be able to start in with Algebra I.  You may think that this seems like a lofty goal, but I know these kids are capable of this.  Will we have to go back and continue to review and relearn basic math skills?  Yes, probably every day.  But do I love these kids enough for the math madness to continue?  You better believe it.  So bring on the number lines, fractions, percents, and decimals!  Let the math madness ensue! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back in the Loop

So as I’m sure many of you have noticed, I’ve been a pretty terrible blogger since school has started.  We have just been so, so busy!  However, that is no excuse for keeping all of you out of the loop, so I want to apologize and let you know that I will try to start doing better about updating my blog more frequently.  
To briefly get everyone back into the loop, here are some things that have been going on here in the DR:

1. School is going absolutely wonderfully.  The kids have adjusted so well to all of the changes we have thrown at them, and we are about to wind down our first grading period next week.  Can you believe we’ve almost finished eight weeks of school!?!  You know what they say...time flies when you’re having fun.  I genuinely do have fun with our students and have fun teaching them, but it isn’t always fun and games.  The more we get to know some of them, the more we learn about their heartaches and struggles, and to be really honest, we just don’t always know how to deal with it.  It’s kind of a bittersweet thing.  It’s sad to hear about some of the things our kids are going through or have gone through, but at the same time it’s encouraging to know that they feel comfortable enough with us and with one another to share those things.  All in all, these first few weeks have been a growing experience, and I know that will only continue in the weeks to come.

2. I took my disciples to the beach.  One Friday afternoon when there was no school here due to a holiday, Ibelca, Elisa, Rosmery, Keren, and I packed up our coolers and our beach bags and headed to the beach.  It was so much fun!  I was kind of nervous because this was really the first thing all of us had done together.  I have a wide age range of girls, 12 to 18, and I just didn’t really know how it would go.  But we all had a wonderful time.  Keren, Elisa, and I swam in the ocean, while Rosmery took a million pictures and Ibelca hunted for a crab.  I just really enjoyed watching them out of the school environment.  I get to hang out with some pretty amazing girls, and while not everyday is a day at the beach, I do enjoy those moments when I see their true personalities shine through.  At their request, we will be making another trip to the beach in the near future.

3. My mom and dad came to visit.  This was Dad’s first time to visit and for both of them it was their first time to see the school in action!  I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with them, and I am so thankful that they got to actually be a part of what I do every day.  They had a really good visit, and I’m excited for the next time that they get to come.  Hopefully Abby can make the next trip!


4. Wilson had a very successful treatment on his eyes.  As many of you know, Wilson is one of our students at MCS and a boy who lives at the Children’s Home.  He has had some major eye issues involving his cornea and several infections for quite some time now, but wasn’t able to receive treatment due to a lack of money.  Well, the problem had reached a boiling point and Wilson was in serious need of some help.  We petitioned our friends and family in the States, and so many of you came through with support for Wilson.  He had a procedure done a few weeks ago to basically clean off the interior of his eyelids.  It was very successful, and we are waiting to see if there is any permanent damage to his corneas.  We were all overwhelmed by the support Wilson received, and we are so grateful for all of the support and prayers that Wilson received.  We are truly blessed to all be a part of God’s family.

So in a nutshell, that’s what has been going on.  I hope you feel a little more informed now, and I promise I will try to do my best to post more frequently.  Please continue to keep all of us in your prayers.  I love you and miss you all!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Manna Christian School

The first week of Manna Christian School is over, and it was a huge success!  The kids are happy, the teachers are happy, and everybody is ready for a little bit of rest before beginning a new week.  Here are some highlights from our first week of school.
This past Saturday we had an Open House for all of the students and their parents.  The Open House was on our school campus, and for some of the parents, it was the first time they had ever been to Bobita.  The day went really well.  We handed out uniforms, backpacks, and their student handbooks.  We were also able to give the parents and students a tour of the school.  We finished off the day eating a yummy lunch of moro and salami prepared by our school cooks, Ada and Jasmín.  The day was wonderful, and it made all of us really excited about the first day of school.

Uniforms packed up and ready to be handed out at Open House.  Those Walmart bags came in handy!

Student handbooks and planners.

Chad and his disciples: Anderson, Bebo, Carlos, Cristopher, and Wilson.

Audrey and her disciples: Graisy, Estefany, and Jailinne.

Evan and his disciples: Tony and Leandro.

Glenn and his disciples: Renecito, Elio, and Ariel.  

Me and my disciples: Ibelca, Rosmery, and Keren.  Elisa is one of mine as well but she couldn't be there that day.  She takes classes at the university on Saturdays.  

Jordan and his disciples: Ranger, Nataniel, Carlitos, and Angel.

Monday morning rolled around and we were all a little nervous but ready for a great day.  The kids arrived on campus right on time looking so sharp in their uniforms and new backpacks.  (A little side note, but I thought this was so cute.  Each of the kids has a navy polo and a red polo.  They all decided together to wear their navy polos on Monday and Tuesday and their red polos on Wednesday and Thursday.  Precious.)  Surprisingly enough, they were a little nervous!  The first few hours of school they were pretty quiet.  I was kind of surprised by this reaction, but at the same time, I can understand how they weren’t quite sure what to expect.  But don’t worry, they definitely had loosened up by the end of the day.  

Ready for the first day of school in Classroom 1!

Our first student to arrive on campus was sweet little Wilson.  Doesn't he look great?!

Manna Christian School faculty looking snappy in their uniforms!

Arriving at school on the Daihatsu.

Singing the Dominican national anthem like we do every morning.  I cannot express how much joy this time of day brings me.  

Cool backpacks!

Learning some English with sweet Ibelca.  She's so smart!

These first few months of school we are doing English Immersion, so Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are full of English class.  In the mornings we have two conversation type classes that we are all co-teaching where they get to practice the English they are learning.  In the afternoons we have a more focused setting with our discipling groups.  For example, I teach English every afternoon to my four disciples: Elisa, Ibelca, Rosmery, and Keren.  The kids have been learning so much English, and this is something they are really excited about.  I am already so proud of the progress they have made!  On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the kids have Spanish and History followed by English in the afternoons.  Our Math and Science classes are going to start in October after English Immersion is over.  Fridays are a half day of school so we have English the first two periods, followed by PE, and then discipling time.  
Every day of the week we have discipling in the afternoons.  Each kid who is a part of our school gets at least one session a week of one-on-one time with his or her mentor.  The days students are not in one-on-one time, there is a group activity for everyone else to be involved with.  This week, our focus for the discipling time was goals.  In the group setting we talked about different goals we have for our school and played different games and different activities to convey the message.  In my one-on-one times this week I focused on getting to know each of my girls a little better and expressing to them what I want our time together to be.  Please be praying for each of my girls (Rosmery, Keren, Elisa, and Ibelca) as well as all of our disciples.  Being this involved in each of their lives is a role that is going to take some getting used to from both parties, but be praying that these relationship open up spiritual doors that have never been opened before.  We all have faith that God is going to use this school to create strong followers of Him.  
So that’s Manna Christian School Week 1 in a nutshell.  It’s definitely going to be an adjustment, but one that is definitely worth it.  It still seems a little surreal that we started a school.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers and ask God to bless each of the students and each of the teachers every day.  We love you all and hope you get to come visit Manna Christian School very soon!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Super School Support Team

We are only a few days away from school starting, and the last few weeks have seemed like a whirlwind.  We have worked non-stop to make sure everything is ready, and I think we are almost there!  We have one of our very dear friends, Jill Reese, arriving today to help us with some professional development, we are having an Open House on campus for all of the students and parents on Saturday, and school starts Monday!  It’s hard to believe it is already here.  We are all excited, but a little nervous as well.  Keep us in your prayers this Monday and all throughout this school year.  I know God has big plans in store for us, and this is only the beginning.
It’s hard to put into words just how many people have been a part of making this school come together.  I think if I started a list of who all has been involved with this, I could honestly write for hours.  From our friends and families in the States who have sent us countless amounts of support, to the multiple Dominicans who have done various things for us and helped us figure out how to make the best school in this country, to our students who have put so much time and effort into doing what they need to do to be a part of this school, to every member on our team who has worked tirelessly to get the school ready in every aspect possible...this endeavor has taken an army!  Manna is beyond blessed to have so many people in so many places working together to get Manna Christian School started.  I am truly humbled when I begin to think about every person who has played a part in this.  I’m a big thank-you note writer, and I want so badly to write each one of you personally a thank you note, but it’s just not possible!  So consider this my thank you.  Thank you from all of us for your incredible, humbling support.  We could not have done this without you.
I think one of the more humbling things we have experienced recently is receiving the large UPS shipment that was sent in with literally tons of school supplies!  Desks, chairs, textbooks, notebooks, Poptarts (thanks Mom), pencils, paper, a copier, overhead projectors, Elmos, scissors, calculators, and the list could literally go on and on.  We are sooooo grateful to everyone who was a part of this because we know how much work it was to coordinate all of this and get everything together.  Specifically, thank you Laura Beth Lamb and Cassey Gibson.  You ladies did so much work helping us figure out what supplies we had, what supplies we needed, and making sure the shipment got here.  I am so grateful to each one of you.  You are both true examples of what a servant should be, and I’m honored that both of you are a part of our team.  Also, thank you, thank you, thank you to Cheryl Mynatt.  Ms. Cheryl worked tirelessly to get us textbooks, desks, projectors, and additionally she sent me tons of wonderful resources to use for my math classes.  I know she had a lot of help from wonderful like my mom, Mr. Lynn, Debbie Lusk, and Jill Reese, and I am sure there are countless others that put in time and effort to make everything come together, but Ms. Cheryl, you really outdid yourself and we don’t even have the words to express how thankful we are for you.  
The shipment is just one of the many ways we have seen God work through people to glorify His name in this country.  Thank you so very much to all of you!  I cannot wait to write again and let you know about the amazing success of Manna Christian School.  How do I know it is going to be success?  Because God has already shown that He is for us, and if He is for us, who can be against us? 

Two Daihatsu loads of supplies arrived back at camp late at night after several days of waiting for everything to get cleared through customs in Santo Domingo.  

We had so many people helping to make sure everything got here okay and got unloaded.  

Needless to say, we were all super excited and some of us were a little overwhelmed about the amount of stuff we got.  I think Connor was the most excited out of all of us.  :)

We weren't entirely sure where to start...

But we did have a lot of help!

We decided to start by just getting it all out and then organizing it.  

Because every math teacher needs a huge protractor!

Finally organized and ready to go for school!  These are all of the textbooks we received.  We're storing those that we're not using currently in the front room of the Admin House.

Supplies for our students.

And even more supplies!

Our awesome new copier!  I love making copies on it.  

Connor was happy to get all of the supplies.  He loves Manna Christian School.  Thanks again to all of you who helped so much with this!  We love you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Manna Christian School Sleepover 2011

This past weekend, we decided to have a huge sleepover with all of our disciples to finish out the summer, say goodbye to the interns, and get ready for an awesome school year.  While the night was definitely crazy, it was so much fun!

Our interns were a huge help in getting everything set up.  All of the girls slept in the girl side of the dorm, and all of the boys stayed at Chad’s house.  The interns helped us set up mattresses and they prepared and baked pizza for all of us to eat!  By the time everyone got here, camp was looking great, and the kids were so excited!

We started off the evening having some pizza and playing outside for a while until it got dark.  Then we moved the party out to the field for a bonfire that Glenn and Carlos had worked on most of the afternoon.  The night was the perfect temperature for a bonfire, and we had a great time roasting marshmallows with ridiculously long sticks.  After the fire, we popped some popcorn and set up a projector and sheet for a movie on the pad.  After the movie and showers in the dorms, the kids were ready for some bed, and when I say the kids, I mean we were ready for bed.  :)  The girls went down pretty quickly, but from what my sources tell me, I’m pretty sure most of the boys slept a grand total of an hour that night. 

The next morning we got up and all had breakfast together followed by a worship service on the pad.  It was such a special moment having three of our ministries (the school, the Children’s Home, and interns) all together and united in one place.  It was a blessing and a wonderful way to end a great summer and start a new adventure. 

While I’m pretty sure that we will be making the Manna Christian School Sleepover strictly a yearly event, it really was a blast.  We absolutely cannot wait for school to start!  The kids are excited, we are excited, and I know that God has huge plans that have yet to be revealed.  Please be praying for us in the weeks to come.  We love you all!

The girls' sleeping area in the girl's dorm.

Where the boys slept in Chad's house.

We were so excited for everyone to be at the sleepover!

Having some fun before the bonfire.

Some of our amazing girl disciples.

Roasting some marshmallows at the bonfire.

The combination of all of our ministries after church on Sunday.  What a blessing!