Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Beautiful Beginning

One of the first things Laura and I noticed about the property we have built the guest house upon was the intense noise we immediately heard.  It was the unmistakeable sounds of God.  The day was hot when we first viewed the property in August of 2011, a hot, still day with nary a breeze to cool us.  As we made out way onto the large plot of land which consisted of 9 parcels all nicely subdivided and ready for the builder, we could sense an overwhelming presence.  It was an easy decision.  We chose the most level of two lots side by side and entered into agreement with God; His will be done.

16 months later with the first stage of Rio Vista Mission House almost complete, we still sit in peaceful wonder each morning as He blesses us with His noise.  His creation glistens in the morning light, everything coated in a thin but distinct layer of moisture, truly God's way of providing for all the little creatures that live in the trees and brush which completely surrounds our little enclave.  The towering Caoba trees, some of which are over 200 years old, filter the light of the rising sun each day. 

The bright globe sends beams of yellow light through the leaves and dances through the thousands of water laden spider webs in the nearby bushes.  The first sounds of His creation reaches our ears as the birds of the sky begin their ceaseless twittering and whistling; I don't think I have ever seen an unhappy bird here.
Fully an hour we sit and watch and listen to the orchestra play, the Maestro in full control as He continually adds more and more to the convoluted and yet extremely intricate rhapsody of life. All of these things work together, only most of us take all of His creation entirely for granted, expecting that trees are just trees, plants are just plants, bugs and creeping things are better left unseen. 
Each day we truly appreciate the splendor and noise of God's creation, for this is the noise that He meant all of us to hear, and then understand, and finally to give thanks.

In a few days we will all enter a New Year, a new page in our stories; how much time will you spend in the presence of the Lord in the year to come, or the following years?  "Be still and know that I am God"  All of creation around us shouts to humanity of the glory of God, a deafening roar from the sheer size of it all; created for us to enjoy, growing around us for each of us to explore.  My God does not need to be proven for His existence for pointing out the obvious is entirely ridiculous.  If you didn't know it already, your standing in it.

Our prayer for you in the coming year is that it be a prosperous year, full of blessings as you also promise to watch and listen more intentionally to the noise of God around your lives.  If you find it difficult where you are because your lives are just "too busy", take a break from it, venture out into the sunlight and find a place where you too can hear the noise; and then bask in it.

So deafening, words hardly do Him any justice.

Mike and Laura

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad a Todos y Dios Te Bendiga!

This year marks our second Christmas away from home, our family and all of our friends at ROL and around Lethbridge.  Things are a bit different this year though as we are celebrating inside the completed first stage of Rio Vista Guest House! 
This room with the tree in it is what we call the "Common Room": this is an area where teams can come together while staying at Rio Vista and do Mission Field briefing and follow-up as well as a quiet room for prayer and relaxation.  Eventually we will provide a computer center with Internet so teams can communicate with their families back home.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder"  I write to tell you that it is more true than I could have ever imagined.
This year we are especially mindful of our immediate family, separated by a great distance between Canada and the D.R.  Both Laura and I have extensive families with four of our own children as well as numerous brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces and this year our first grand-daughter!  While I realize our decision to move to the D.R. would come with the sacrifice of limited time with our family and loved ones I must emphasize the condition of our hearts during this most important season.  Even though we are here without our  loved ones; our children, our parents, and our friends it is during this season that family is most on our minds.  Even when we still lived in Canada our large, extensive family always tried to come together to celebrate the season.  Maybe not all together, but whoever could, they did get together.

It should come as no surprise that now while we are here in the D.R., I wish we could have all of our children around us to celebrate Navidad in our new home.  This year however, it will not be so.  Our hearts look forward to the time when we can be together.  I want to encourage our readers to seek out the time you don't think you have to reconnect with a brother, sister, father, mother, son or daughter.  Make the time to include as many as you possibly can in your busy lives regardless of their circumstances or yours. 
For Laura and I we will at the very least, be available to skype with all of our family during the Festival of Navidad.  Later when we make our way back to Canada in the new year (No date yet!)  we will definitely take the time to seek out our loved and immensely missed family; then we will take the time to deliver the hugs and kisses , gifts and blessings to as many as time will allow.

Laura and I would very much appreciate your prayers for our family, especially for our children Johnathan, Gabrielle, Forrest and Louellen;as well as our grand-daughter Liliko Rose.

We love and miss you all immensely
Bless you all at this special time of the year, Feliz Navidad a Todos!
God willing we will see you soon!

Mike and Laura

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Blessed Attitude

We knew that when we came to the island of the Dominican Republic to live here full-time we would meet people that could or would have an impact on our new lives here.  We were not surprised in the least to see that one man in particular came into our lives while working on the project God had brought us here for.  When we first cleared the land and the skies cleared of winter rains, the crews showed up to lay out the foundation of the Rio Vista Guest House.
The three guys in this picture were on site doing just that in January 2012,  the Foreman is in the foreground facing away from us.

  Rafaelito  was lead foreman at the beginning of the construction of Rio Vista Guest House.  Since then he directed many men, Dominicans and Haitians, in the build of the project.  At our first meeting he seemed a kindly man, sincere and genuine, with a strong handshake and wide smile from ear to ear.  I was taught at a young age by my father that when you meet someone for the first time, you must put out your hand in greeting and when offered the other hand, grip it firmly and as strong as you are met in return, if not slightly stronger.  Rafaelito must have had the same lesson.  Each time we met we would clasp hands and just stand there in a power struggle of friendship; each increasing the power of the handshake until finally one of us backed down from the pain.  Usually it was me.
I know it sounds like a male thing, but most of you understand that there is a level of respect that goes along with the authority of a powerful handshake and greeting.  Maybe it was just the way I was raised.

All through the construction of Rio Vista, Rafaelito continued daily to work beside his men until one afternoon in April he indicated he was off to the neighbor city of Santiago the next day for a visit to the hospital.  I immediately asked him what for?  He always appeared fit and able everyday we saw him; his powerful grip was a testament to his will.
He told me he was diagnosed several years ago with brain tumors that continued to grow and now he was off again to receive treatment at the hospital for his condition.
What a shock!
He showed Laura and I his head and the scars from several surgeries from the past; as well as the immense soft spot on his left side of his head.  His skull cap had been partially removed a few years ago in order for the tumor to grow without increasing pressure on his brain.  I am absolutely convinced that this solution would not even be considered if he had access to proper medical care.

Rafaelito returned to work at the project in July of 2012 and most of the construction was almost finished; at least for his part.  Over the next few months little work was done on our project so we did not see Rafaelito until we heard he passed away quietly at home with his family around him.  He finally succumbed to the tumor, the cancer now having spread to other parts of his body.

Rafaelito never gave up on his Faith that God was the center of his life.  Daily he professed his love for the Lord.  Let us understand something of this; having Faith in God may not save you from an early death or even an illness that can end your life suddenly.  For me I saw daily the strength and fortitude of the Lord which carried this man for years until he could go no more.  While I only knew Rafaelito for a few months, I saw a man stronger with his illness than most men I know who do not have death knocking on their door.
His strength came from the Lord, it allowed him to get up each day and go out to provide for his family the only way he could; with his hands.
The Dominican Republic has a poor social net and an even worse medical network to provide for these individuals properly.  There are no health subsidy programs here; there are no cancer centers; there is little hope.

In my opinion, Rafaelito was the poster child for 2 Cor 12:7-10

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Rafaelito knew his strength was from the Lord, he lived in it daily.  All the while he kept a calm and peace about him, he displayed constantly a Blessed Attitude, never complaining about his condition.

Rafaelito expressed his desire for his family to be cared for and prayed until his last breath that God would care for them after he was gone.
Laura and I are lifting up his family in prayer, join us if you could.