Even in the valley You are faithful You're working for our good ~ Sovereign Over Us
In Like a Lion....Out like a Lamb??
As most of you know, Gabe fell and broke his arm about 3 weeks ago. He badly fractured his humerus bone which resulted in a trip back to Indiana. He went into surgery the next day where they inserted a plate and 7 screws. After spending two weeks in Berne recovering, he is back in the DR and we are so thankful to have him home! We are so grateful for everyone who lifted him up in prayer during that time, as well as the girls and I. We are so thankful for each and every one of you! Gabe's accident seemed to be the cherry on top of an already stressful, crazy year. I can say that 2018 hasn't exactly been kind to us. In fact it seems to have come in like a lion. It's been a year of what feels like mostly valleys. For the first 3-4 months of this year, I found myself battling with anxiety. I've struggled with anxiety and fear for most of my life, but during these past few months, it felt like anxiety was out to destroy me. I found it hard to make it though the day and often found myself flat on the floor, parlayed with fear. Panic attacks were a frequent occurance. On top of that, I was also struggling with some pretty bad back pain. We were also in the midst of a busy group season at Freedom.
Add to the mix the every day trials of life such as work and kids, and our family was pretty much left feeling exhausted, defeated and ready to throw in the towel. But through the frustration, tears and weariness, God has been gently reminding us that it's through the fire and the valleys that we truly learn to depend on the Lord. We learn to let go of our pride and we discover that we can't but He can. Through each valley and fire, we see Him shaping our character. I recently heard somewhere that our trials are like that of a silversmith who is 'testing' silver. The silversmith puts the raw silver in a crazy hot pot. The silver melts and the impurities melt to the top. The silversmith then scraps off the impurities and once again puts it into the fire. He does this over and over again. He knows the silver is done or pure when he can look down and see his own reflection. Wow! The Lord allows us to go through trials so that He can purify us from all our impurities. I don't know about you but when the Lord looks at me, I want Him to be able to see His reflection! So while I'd like to hit the restart button on 2018 or even see it go out like a lamb, I'm going to choose instead to praise the Lord for each trial that has and may come our way. Because I know that each trial matures us into Christ-likness.
What's Happening with Freedom
We are looking for school-year interns! If you're interested in doing a gap year, experiencing another culture, taking on big responsibilities, or loving on kiddos, an internship with Freedom may be right for you!
Spring is often our off-season for groups. We also had several interns who had to leave early which left us a few teachers short in the school. So for the past 3 weeks, I've hung up my chef hat and stepped into the teacher role. I'm currently helping in Prek-3 & 4 in the morning and teaching 2nd grade English in the afternoon. I'm enjoying the change of scenery and also having the opportunity to form stronger relationships with our students!
3 More Days!
The 2017-2018 school year is coming to an end! Our last day is Wednesday, with Kindergarten graduation being held on Tuesday. It's incredible to see the changes that our students have made in one short year. Preschoolers are recognizing letters, shapes and colors in both English and Spanish, 3rd and 4th graders are speaking a lot of English and many of our students have made big improvements in their behavior. Most importantly, our kids are hearing the gospel daily! We had several students this year come to know the Lord as their Savior and that just leaves our hearts bursting with joy!! Continue to pray with us for all our kiddos. Our desire is for all them to know the Lord and for them to live out their true design by bringing glory to God! Prayers would also be appreciated for the upcoming summer as we will be starting a new summer program consisting of English enrichment classes, VBS and camp! We are excited to see how God works in and through this.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. ~ 1 Peter 4:10
His Hands & Feet
Several weeks ago I was walking around the campus and really took notice of the team that we were currently hosting. At that time, the team was painting the front of the school, while others on the team were working in the classroom with our preschoolers. It struck me then how many people have in some way or form played a role in this ministry. In the first two months of 2018, we have already had 170 people here from various parts of the US helping further the Kingdom of God in the Dominican Republic. I can't even begin to count how many people have come down over the past 7 years and either laid a block, wired or plumbed a building, dug a footer, painted a wall, sat with a child in class, held a crying 3 year old on their first day of school or helped us prep notebooks for various classes. And that's only a small fraction of the people who have impacted Freedom. We have people
who have never set foot on our campus that have made the decision to sponsor one of our 240 kids, we have churches, individuals and families supporting our missionaries, we have people volunteering their time to help load containers or donate items that we desperately need. We have people that are daily lifting us and the kids in our school up in prayer! How great is our God?! I love that He chooses to use us in so many ways! He doesn't need us to accomplish His will, but yet out of His goodness and grace, He invites us to be a part of it. How amazing it is to see and think of all the people that have played a role in making disciples of Jesus in the Dominican Republic. God has given us all different gifts, talents and abilities yet He has called us to one common goal: to glorify Him with our lives...to love God, love people and live out our design! What an amazing picture Freedom is of so many lives that are living for the glory of God!
Gabe continues to keep busy with construction. The shell on the second 8-unit apartment building is complete and classrooms are being added to the second and third stories of the school. The construction team also held their first "Construction Class" recently. We see this as an amazing opportunity not only for growth but also for building stronger relationships!
Cooking for groups has kept me hoppin' this year. In the first two months of 2018 we've already hosted 170 people. In one week, we will host our biggest team yet.....74 people! That's a lot of mouths to feed! (Prayers would be appreciated!) In the school, we are serving lunch to 150 kids each day. We also started serving breakfast at the beginning of this year for all our kiddos. What a blessing that has been for all involved!
The girls have been staying busy with school! Their Spanish continues to improve and is already a lot better than mine. I'll often hear them speaking Spanish amongst themselves.
With teams here these past few months, they've also had the opportunity to participate in camp. Camp gives us an awesome opportunity to pull kids out of their normal routine and share the love of Christ with each and every one of them! Pray that our girls would be shining lights for each of the kids in their classrooms and that the love of Christ would shine through them!
What might a day at Freedom look like for these cuties? Click here to find out!
A Day in the Life of.......
Have you ever wandered what a day looks like for one of our students?
I've put together a short video that gives you a small glimpse of what it looks like here at Freedom! See link above to view the video.
If that video sparks your interest at all and leaves you wandering in what ways you can get involved, there are several different ways!
First of all, you can take a trip! (click here for more info!)Taking a trip allows you to physically participate in what God is doing at Freedom International. Whether it be through construction or helping out in the school, it gives you the opportunity to make a life-changing difference in the lives of our kids! It's amazing to see the relationships that are formed between teams and our students in just one short week. Those relationships are often strengthened through return trips or even sponsorship!
Speaking of sponsorship.....This is Weslin and his first day at Freedom International was June 12th. The first day of school really wore him out! He's still one of several in our Pre-K 3 class that are looking for someone to sponsor them. Becoming a sponsor gives you the opportunity to develop a life-changing relationship with one of our kids. 100% of your support goes directly to their education. You have the opportunity to exchange letters and can even visit them! What a blessing for these kids to know that they have someone constantly in their lives, who loves them and is lifting them up in prayer! We love seeing the excitement on our kids' faces when they hear that their sponsor is coming to visit! What a sight it would be on graduation day to scan the audience and see a room full of sponsors who have invested in, prayed for and loved on our kiddos! If you are interested in sponsoring Weslin or any of our other kids, click here for more information!
Most importantly, you can pray for all our students. Pray that their lives would be changed by the Holy Spirit, that they would Love God, Love People, Live Design, and that they would go into their communities and the world doing what they were designed to do......to bring glory to God!
Pray for all of us missionaries on the field as well. As Jason (our president) always points out "...everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher." (Luke 6:40) Pray that we would be constantly walking with and growing in our relationship with the Lord. Pray that we would be fully surrendered to Him and that we would allow Him to lead this ministry as He sees fit. After all, we are only stewards. God is the owner. As Hudson Taylor says....."I do thank God for permitting one so unworthy to take any part in this great work, and do not regret having engaged in it. It is His work, not mine or yours; and yet it is ours not because we are engaged in it, but because we are His, and one with Him whose work it is.
Whether you take a trip or sponsor a child, you are all already involved with and play a big part in this ministry. It's your financial support and prayers that allow our family to be here! Thank you for investing in what God is doing here! We love you all and thank God for surrounding us with such an amazing support team!
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ ~ Galatians 1:3
I've been doing a study by She Reads Truth on Galatians and I've been struck by this verse in chapter 1.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ ~ Galatians 1:3
The study points out that the greek word used in this verse for grace is 'charis' and it means "an undeserved act of kindness". The greek word for peace used here is 'eiréné' which means "a sense of health, welfare or wholeness". 'Grace and Peace' Every time these words appear in one of Paul's epistles, we find them in this order. Grace then Peace. I love that Paul puts them in this order! Apart from grace, there can be no peace. As the study puts it "There can be no wholeness apart from God's undeserved kindness." I don't know about you but I constantly find myself trying to find peace outside of the grace of God. My heart wanders and looks often
to the things of this world to satisfy my soul. We sang the song "Come thou Fount" the other week in church and these words really pierced my heart. "Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. " But yet God's grace and undeserved kindness continues to pursue me! I love the Chris Tomlin version of this old hymn. He adds the following chorus.
How Your kindness yet pursues me How Your mercy never fails me Till the day that death shall loose me I will sing, oh I will sing
All I have to do is rest in the undeserved gift of grace from a God that loves me more than I can imagine! And it's through this undeserved grace that I can in return truly show and demonstrate the love of God to those around me!
What's Happening with Freedom!
This summer, we were able to move into our new kitchen which is located in the multi-use! Thanks to these wonderful ladies, we got it all set up and ready to use in one day! It's been a huge blessing for school lunches and for the teams!
Summer is always packed full with groups. This summer we had close to 200 people. Thats 1600 meals! As you can see, I was super excited to have a commercial 12 burner stove! It also comes in very handy for feeding 120 kids lunch everyday.
Gabe's been busy with getting our second 8-unit apartment building up and running. We just poured the first ceiling yesterday! Currently, all of our apartments are occupied so this building is essential for preparing for more people who are interested in joining our ground team!
Gabe's also been busy finishing up this building! Not long ago, this building consisted of one shop (the lower right side of the building). Now we've added a second shop and also 2, two-bedroom apartments above the shops!
Austin and Laura will be occupying one of those apartments! They arrived on campus this past Monday and we are so excited to have them here! Please keep them in your prayers as they adjust to their new life in the DR.
This summer we started having chapel every Friday morning for students in Kindergarten through 4th grade! We are currently focusing on how to love one another! Check to this short clip of the kids singing!
We've had so many new things going on this summer! I think a favorite of mine is the new playground! These kids went from playing in an open field with a few beat up balls and jump ropes to this! What a blessing it's been! You can see the joy written all over their faces every time they get a chance to play on it.
We are so thankful for everyone who financially and physically made this playground possible! As you can see, my kids and all the MK's are also loving that this is now in their backyard! It's definitely getting good use! (click the photo to see a short video of the zip line!)
If you remember, these girls spent an extra 5 - 6 weeks in the states this summer while waiting on their visas. So many of you were lifting us up in prayer during that time and we can't thank you enough! While they missed about 4 weeks of school, they all got A's and B's on their most recent report cards and are continuing to speak more and more Spanish! Ava just turned 9 in August (she is a 3rd grader this year) and Blakeley and Karsyn will be 8 in November (they are currently in 2nd grade). I'm not sure where my babies went but it's been a joy to watch them grow!
Click here to see a short video of all that God did in 2016!
Our school bus fleet has grown by 1! A big thank you to everyone one who gave towards the match. With a projected 210 students next year, this is a must!
Gabe has been working hard on our multi-use building. This will make a huge difference in my area of service! The bigger kitchen will allow us to expand our meal options and will also provide a cafeteria area for the kids/teams. If you would like to help finish this building, click here to give towards our "Building" fund.
Our tractor is on it's way and should arrive January 28th. This tractor was outright donated to Freedom. God is so good! It's amazing to see how He continues to provide.
Francielis is in Blakeley and Karsyn's class and is in need of a sponsor. You can sponsor her for $50/month. We also just recently introduced Anchor Sponsors. Anchor sponsors will sponsor a class as a whole for $200/month. This will add the flexibility to provide additional curriculum, improve our meal options, provide teacher's aides and will also allow us to take them on a field trip once year. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, click here!
The Countdown Has Begun!
The Suon Family will make the big move on January 23rd! Please keep them in your prayers this week as they finish packing and say their goodbyes. It's a bittersweet moment but we are all so excited to have them on the field!
Quick Pyle Family Update!
Both sets of our parents were able to visit in December and January!
We loved being able to share our life in the DR with them.
After a much needed Christmas break, the girls are back in school! (Ava - 2nd grade, Blakeley & Karsyn - 1st grade ) While it's not always easy for them to go, they are all doing an amazing job!
On April 29th, we will be heading back to the states for 4 weeks. We would love to meet with you and share all the amazing things God is doing in the DR! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time.
We are truly thankful for your continued support! Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Pray that we would keep God first and that everything we do would bring glory to His name.
"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth" (Exodus 9:16).
This move has not been easy for Ava. There have been many tears shed at school and bedtime often brings around the questions of “why?” “‘Why did God call us here?” “Why do I have to go to school?” “Why do I have to learn spanish? I don’t understand it”. “Why don’t I fit in down here?” “Why do I feel alone?”
Talk about tugging at this mamma’s heart. It’s a struggle to hold back my own tears while I watch the tears stream down her cheeks.
Now, there has been a huge improvement over the past year, and while the tears and questions are still there, there aren’t as many of them. But they are still there. She still struggles to understand what her purpose is here and why God would call her to the DR. But through this struggle, God has opened a door and allowed us to have many conversations about how much God loves her and only wants the best for her. About how God calls us to be uncomfortable at times because He is shaping and molding us to be more Christ-like. We talk about how everything we do is to bring glory to God and that we are called to deny ourselves and surrender everything to Christ.
It’s a lot to take in for an eight year old but she often nods her head through the tears. As I lay in bed after our conversations, I find myself asking a lot of the same questions. Why God does she have to go through this? Every ounce of my heart wants to keep her from this heartache and pain. But I know that God is faithful. I know that where God calls, He will provide. A few weeks ago, He did just that! We got to once again experience His faithfulness.
Every week, the girls pick a kid from their class to pray for. Each night they pray for that kid during their bedtime prayers. That week, Ava picked Bryan. Bryan is an ornery little kid with a contagious smile. :) Half way through the week, Ava came home and shared with me that Bryan was having some discipline issues at school. While this isn’t exactly out of the norm, Ava said that it was an increased amount and that he was just acting different. She thought maybe something might be going on in his home life. I told her that we would continue to pray for him and for whatever was going on in his life.
Every Friday night, our Freedom team gets together to share about our week and then we worship and dig into God’s word. That night, our leader Jason, said he had a story to share about Bryan. My ears perked up when he mentioned Bryan's name. Jason went on to share that Bryan had been having increased discipline issues, just like Ava had pointed out. That morning, he had visited the office twice before 11am, which meant he would be sent home for the day. Jason drove him home to talk to his mom. When he arrived, Jason found only his brother at home. His aunt, who lives across the street, walked over and Jason explained to her what had happened and that Bryan was having a lot of discipline issues. When he asked where Bryan’s mom was, the aunt told him that she had a job that now required her to be gone all week. She only came home on the weekends. As Jason talked to Bryan's aunt more, he found out that Bryan was sleeping at their house but spending the rest of the time at home with no one to really look after him. The aunt mentioned that she thinks his increased discipline issues was a result of him missing his mom. At that moment, Bryan covered his face with his hands and started weeping. Jason kneeled down to his level and gave him a hug and told him that he understood how that would make things more difficult for him. He asked Bryan if he wanted to come back to school for the day and Bryan said yes.
After Jason shared this story, tears were streaming down my face. Ava had picked Bryan at the beginning of that week to pray for. I believe it’s because God placed his name on her heart. She took notice of his increased discipline issues and came home and shared that we needed to continue to lift him up in prayer. How awesome is that! I know it’s not that Bryan’s discipline issues immediately disappeared, and it might seem like a small thing, but God used an eight year old girl to lift up a little boy that was hurting and missing his mom. God is so faithful! Not just because he pricked her heart to be praying for him, but because He allowed her a glimpse of how He is using her down here to further His kingdom!
What's Happening with Freedom?
Classrooms continue to go up! Next Tuesday we hope to pour the ceiling on this second story classroom. These classrooms will give us the opportunity to equip children to glorify God by loving Him, loving others and living out their design!
The Suon's have made it to the half way mark! They have raised 50% of their needed financial support! If you are looking for a way to invest in the Freedom ministry, consider supporting this family! Click here to make your donation.
Tuesday we received two more containers! Supplies such as desks, cabinets and tools will help us keep this ministry running. God continues to provide beyond what we can imagine! Thank you to everyone who donated and helped out!
We need interns! We currently have 5 interns - Abby, Heather, Sarah, Olivia and Vannie. You can see the love they have for God reflected in their love for our kids. If you're interested in joining them, click here for more info.
We are truly thankful for your continued support! Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Pray that we would keep God first and that everything we do would bring glory to His name.