Sunday, September 23, 2012

Digging Deep

It’s a new school year at Manna Christian School and things are off to wonderful start.  As most of you know, we made the decision this past summer to add another freshmen class.  So this year, we have a freshmen and a sophomore class!  It’s pretty exciting having new students here, but as I’m sure you all can imagine, there is a stark difference between the freshmen students as opposed to the sophomore students.  Sometimes it’s hard to see how much improvement our kids are making, but seeing the kids from last year right along side the new group of kids has really helped us see how much those sophomore kids have grown and matured.  

Like any teacher, I love all of my students, but there are always those few that you just REALLY love.  Well for me, one of those kids is Ibelca.  She was the only full-time student I had as one of my disciples last year so naturally we got to be pretty close.  In our discipling time last year, we spent about half of the year building our relationship and the other half of the year doing various studies from the Bible.  It was a really good year, and I definitely feel like it was well-spent laying the groundwork for our discipling relationship.

However, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the growth that I’ve noticed in Ibelca the past few weeks.  At school with the new group of freshmen girls, she (along with Graisy and Jailinne, two of our other sophomore girls) has gone above and beyond to make the new girls feel welcome and included.  She is excelling in every single one of her classes.  She is branching out and forming new relationships and friendships with other students at the school.  But the thing I am most proud of is her spiritual growth.  

During one of our discipling times this past week Ibelca and I were talking about heaven and what we thought it would be like.  In the course of this conversation we started talking about baptism.  It was so exciting to get to hear her perspectives and thoughts about this incredibly important issue.  I was able to tell her my story of how and why I was baptized and she even asked me a few questions.  I told her if she wanted to talk about it more or ever had any questions she could always come to me and she said she would.  

That was probably the best day I’ve ever had with Ibelca.  Sure, we’ve done a lot of fun things together, played a lot of games, been a lot of places, laughed a lot.  But to hear her talk so openly about decisions that are so vital for her eternal life made me love her more than I ever have before.  My hope and prayer for her is that she will continue to think about her spiritual life and that I can be the guide and mentor that she needs me to be as she continues to grow.  Please keep her and all of our students in your prayers as we continue along with our second year of school!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Graduation Celebration

On July 28, I was able to be a part of a very special day.  Rosmery graduated from high school!  It was such a fun day, and I feel so blessed that she wanted Chad and I to share this exciting day with her.  

Several months ago, Rosmery had asked Chad to be her escort.  At graduation ceremonies here in the Dominican Republic, each graduate has someone escort him or her into the ceremony and walk with him or her to get the diploma.  It is usually a family member or a close friend, so when Rosmery asked Chad, he immediately felt very honored!

The day of the graduation arrived, and we picked up Rosmery at her aunt’s home in Rio San Juan where she had spent the entire day getting ready.  She looked gorgeous!  She was decked out in a beautiful new dress from the Beckham family, and you could tell by the smile on her face that this day was panning out to be everything she had dreamed it would be.  

We took Rosmery to the park in Rio San Juan where she was supposed to meet with all the other graduates so they could walk in a parade with their escorts to the graduation site.  It was so much fun getting to see Rosmery meet up with all her friends and pose for pictures.  It was very obvious that she is a positive role model to those around her and it was really encouraging to see her in that environment.

After the parade, the graduation crew which consisted of me, Keely, Jeff, and Allison, left Rosmery and Chad and headed to the gymnasium to meet up with Porfi and Carla and some of Rosmery’s family.  Little did we know the night was only beginning.  Three and half hours later after diplomas and medals had been awarded, the band had played, the valedictorian had given a speech, teachers had been recognized, and every graduate had received a big round of applause, the class of 2012 threw their caps in the air and said goodbye to their high school days.

When all was said and done, we met up with Rosmery to tell her congratulations.  As her family and friends gathered around her to hug her, she got a little teary eyed.  It’s funny, but I remember having that same feeling when I graduated from high school.  Excited about the next thing to come, nervous about the unknown, but more than anything extremely blessed because so, so many have helped you along the way and they are all there around you to help you celebrate that wonderful moment.  

Rosmery is an amazing young lady, and we are so happy that we got to celebrate her graduation with her.  She is still deciding what to do and where to go next with her life, so I ask that prayers be lifted up for her.  No matter what she decides to do, I know she will be successful and God will bless her.  Congratulations Rosmery!

Friday, June 8, 2012

School's Out For Summer!

It’s hard to believe, but the first year of Manna Christian School is over.  One year under our belts.  And I’m not entirely sure who has learned more...the students or the teachers.
Our sweet little freshmen will be sophomores.  They’ve learned how to graph linear equations.  They’ve learned how to correctly accent words in Spanish.  They’ve learned about ancient world history.  They’ve learned how to balance chemical equations.  Now they know how to speak in French and English.  They know how to play volleyball, football, and Nukem.  They also know countless Bible stories and the books of the Bible.  But more than all of this, they are better people.  Ranger went from being an average student to truly caring about his studies and having one of the highest grades in most of his classes.  Yefri speaks fluent English and just last week decided to be baptized.  Cristopher has gone from having a horrible temper to being one of the sweetest and even-tempered kids in our school.  Renecito has opened up and become more outgoing with his peers as well as adults.  Jailinne has become a sweet, loving caregiver who is amazing with Connor.  Angel has become a leader at Club Chiquito with the younger kids who are a part of that ministry.  And these are just a few of the many, many positive changes we have seen in our kids this year.
As for the teachers, we’ve learned almost as much if not more than the kids.  We’ve all learned different ways that we want to teach our classes.  We definitely have learned ways that we want to discipline in the classroom.  We know more about our kids, how to reach them, how to relate to them, what makes them happy, what makes them mad.  We know more about ourselves, how we are as teachers, what works for us and what doesn’t.  And we also know that we have achieved a huge accomplishment.  Personally, this was my first year as a teacher with my own class, and while it has had its ups and downs, it has been a learning experience.  I feel like I have grown as a teacher and more importantly, I have grown as a person.  I have learned what my limits are, I have learned what is truly important to me, and I have learned that I have to choose to be happy no matter what my circumstances.  I am still growing in all of these areas, but I know that this first year of school has helped me come to these realizations.  
So who has learned more?  I am not really sure.  We have all learned so much.  But I do know this.  We have had a wonderful year.  We are all exhausted and ready for a break, but God has prepared us for the next year to come.  We are all a little wiser, a little older, a little more mature, a little more prepared.  I pray that God will continue to bless Manna Christian School, the students and the teachers, in the years to come.  And now let’s celebrate because, as Alice Cooper sang, “School’s out for summer!” 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Start Spreading the News...

For those of you who haven’t heard the news...Chad and I are getting married!
This past spring break, Chad and I traveled home to the States to visit with our friends and family for a week.  However, a big part of our trip home was our one day trip to New York City to celebrate our one year anniversary and Chad’s birthday.  These two milestone events fall within one day of each other, so I wanted to do something really big to celebrate.  I decided to get us tickets to see one of his favorite movies, “The Newsies”, live on Broadway!  He was so excited, and I was, too!  I knew we would have a wonderful time.
We flew home for our spring break and spent most of the week in Chattanooga and Cookeville hanging out with our families and friends.  Then, on the day we left, we made a quick stop in New York City!  After getting all dressed up for our big night out on the town, we went to Shula’s to eat dinner and then got to spend some time walking around Times Square.  Finally, it was time for the show!  The show was incredible, and we had so much fun together.  

As the night was winding down, Chad gave me a huge hug and told me thank you for a wonderful anniversary and birthday present.  He told me had loved me for a really long time.  Then he said that he had a question for me.  That’s when he got down on one knee, pulled out the ring, and asked me to marry him.  I was shocked!!!  After I registered what he had said, I shouted out an enthusiastic “Yes!”  We were engaged in NYC!
We are both so happy and excited, and at this point, we are already in the stages of wedding planning.  The date is set for October 27!  I feel so blessed to be marrying such  an amazing man.  I can’t wait for us to start our lives together.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Football Time in the Dominican Republic

This past week we were blessed to have a group here from Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN.  While I always enjoy groups being here, this one is extra special for me because they are from Cookeville, my hometown.  As anticipated, this group went above and beyond what they came here to do, and the people of the Dominican as well as our team was blessed by them being here.
This group did the usual group activities of hosting a few VBS’s, visiting the hospital and the dump in Puerto Plata, and completing a work project here at Manna Christian School.  But in addition to all of the typical activities, this group got to be a part of the first ever Manna Christian School football game!  It was an event for the history books to say the least.
Several months ago, the students at MCS asked Evan about learning how to play football in P.E.  Since all of us are football lovers, he immediately agreed.  Now picture this...18 kids who have never played football or even watched an entire football game learning how to play for the first time in their lives.  As you can imagine, it’s been an interesting few months.  The kids learned the rules, the terminology, and they even learned different plays.  To put the icing on the cake, they made up names for their teams.  They’re precious.  :)  Evan told them they would have the opportunity to show off their mad football skills with the TN Tech group.  
Now, I love our kids and I think there are a lot of things they are really, really great at.  But I was pretty certain that football was not going to be one of those things.  However, bless them, they were not going to go down without a fight.  They talked the game up all week long with the group.  They practiced every day after lunch and any moment of free time they had throughout the day.  There was even some smack talk going down.  It was all pretty amusing.
The day of the game arrived, and the kids were pumped!  The first game was between the group and the kids, and like I said, our kids were certain they were going to crush the group.  Well, the kids didn’t win, but it actually wasn’t a complete devastation.  The kids never scored, but the group only scored two touchdowns on them.  That either says something about our defense or it says something about the TN Tech group.  I’ll let you decide.  
But do you know what the best part about the day was?  Our kids had so much fun!  Everyone got to play.  Even all of the girls made an appearance on the field.  When they weren’t actually in the game they were on the sidelines cheering for each other and doing cheerleading stunts.  They learned more about what it means to work as a team, and they were able to learn from some pretty awesome examples with the TN Tech group.  
So did their smack talk come back to slap them in the face?  Maybe so.  But did they have a great day playing a great sport with some great people?  You better believe it.  
We don’t have a mascot, so I’ll just say, “GO MANNA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL!!!”

Monday, February 13, 2012


A week ago today I got to be a part of something really special.  In most Latin American countries, a girl’s fifteenth birthday is a huge deal.  They call it their “quinceñera.”  It could roughly be compared to a “sweet sixteen” in the United States, but it is probably more important to people of Latin American culture than a “sweet sixteen” would be to a person in the United States.  This past Monday, Keren, one of the amazing girls that I get to disciple, turned 15 and I got to be a part of her special day.
Following in traditional quinceñera custom, Keren was able to borrow a beautiful white formal dress.  She spent the entire afternoon straightening her hair and putting on makeup and getting all dressed up for her big day.  After school Chad and I went over to the Children’s Home where Keren lives to take her into Rio San Juan to get her picture made.  She looked so beautiful!  We went to this quaint little photo studio in Rio San Juan, what I like to consider the DR version of Olan Mills, and Keren was able to show off and pose in her beautiful dress.  It was so much fun helping her come up with new poses and fixing her dress and her hair so she looked perfect in every picture.  
After the pictures, we came back to the Children’s Home for her big party!  I felt so honored to be invited to such a special event.  We used the room upstairs at the Children’s home and Keren’s mother and some of the kids at the Children’s Home had helped to decorate with streamers and balloons.  Keren had a special seat of honor that was decorated just for her.  The rest of the night was filled with a fun game prepared by Rosmery, a speech by the birthday girl herself, a delicious dinner prepared by Carla, and of course...birthday cake and presents!  Everyone had such a wonderful time, and it was sad to see the night pass so quickly.
Keren is so special to me, and I’m so glad that I got to be a part of such a special occasion in her life.  It was so fun to see and be a part of something that means so much to this culture.  I pray that this next year in Keren’s life is one of the best she has ever had and that there are many more special years to come.

Monday, January 23, 2012


After practically a month long vacation to the United States, I am back to the Dominican Republic and right back into the swing of things.  A little time away and the opportunity to visit with family and friends was so wonderful.  I genuinely enjoyed every second I had in the States, but it is good to be back here in my home away from home.
School started this past Tuesday, and I find it so surprising how quickly our students fell right back into their routine.  They continue to surprise me every day with their behavior, good attitudes, and desire to be at and participate in what’s going on at school.  I think after a month without us, they actually kind of started to miss us.  Kind of.  :)
Something I am really excited about for this coming semester is our renewed focus.  I know I personally made a New Year’s Resolution to talk to each of my girls very directly and specifically about becoming a follower of Christ.  I very quickly found out that my fellow disciplers had set similar goals for themselves.  Audrey wants to use Bible stories to help her girls learn English while learning more about the Bible.  I saw Evan practicing the books of the Bible with his disciples.  Glenn is sitting down and studying the Bible with each of his boys.  Jordan is encouraging the students to focus on making spiritual resolutions and goals for themselves.  Chad is helping all of us get refocused by planning our curriculum and helping us take our kids to the next level spiritually.  
This past week in discipling our focus was “Resolutions.”  We talked to the students about setting goals or making resolutions for the coming semester.  We helped them make very specific resolutions and also showed them ways they could measure their progress with the goals they had set.  In addition, we made goals for our entire school that we can all work at together to achieve.
I decided to use this theme to open up the spiritual conversations with my girls.  This past Thursday I had one-on-one time with Ibelca and Keren.  My first 45 minutes was spent with Ibelca and we talked about one of the goals she had set for herself earlier in the week - to learn more about God.  I wanted to help guide her in a direction that would help her be more specific and intentional about this.  After some talking and brainstorming, we finally came up with a plan where she would start reading from the Bible every day.  We chose a book she was interested in (John - because she likes the verse John 3:16) and we made a calendar to let her know what chapter she is supposed to read every day.  Then in my time with Keren we focused on one of her goals.  She had mentioned earlier in the week that she wanted to grow closer to God.  Keren already has a very faithful prayer life and so we decided to expand that a little by keeping a prayer journal.  Every day she is going to write down the things she is praying for and we are going to use that to look back and see how God has answered her prayers and how He is working in the things that she is bringing before Him.  
I share all of this not to boast, but because I am so, so excited!  I know this will sound silly to some of you, but to me this is the hardest part about discipling these girls.  It’s easy to hang out and play and have fun and go to the beach, but when it comes to the most important thing you can ever talk to someone about, it gets hard and it’s not all fun and games anymore.  I know the importance of talking to my girls about following Jesus and I so badly want them to come to know Him and have a relationship with Him, and that is why I am making that a priority this semester.  I am so thankful for how God has already blessed my time with two of my disciples, and as I plan for the week to come, I pray he blesses my time with Rosmery and Elisa as I try to help them set some spiritual goals for themselves.  
Please be praying for them - Ibelca, Keren, Rosmery, and Elisa - as well as all of our students and mentors as we strive to grow closer to God and learn more about His will for our lives.  I can already tell that 2012 is going to be a great year!