Has it really been 100 days living in the Dominican Republic?! Well, almost…we’re at 97 days today. And in 2 weeks I will be home for Christmas with my friends and family. That is sure to fly by and I will be back here for the final 4 months of my GAP year. Craziness. Complete craziness.

If I could sum up the past few weeks here, I would have to say, they’ve been a blast! Full of new experiences, new foods, new friends, and new places – new everything! I must say, I miss home so much, but I’ve been busy with all the fun I’ve been having. We had a wonderful thanksgiving feast here last Thursday with 55ish people (missionaries, interns and GAP students) who gathered to celebrate.

One highlight would be a short term mission’s trip we took for a long weekend in Bani. It was gorgeous there in the mountains. I really enjoyed just hanging out with Dominicans my own age. We played a few games of softball (where I hit a double!!! But I have to be honest, I struck out twice first. Oh well), attended youth group, hung out, painted some of the church, etc. We went to lots of church (5 ½ hours in one day), some work on the church and got to play at the beach with some of our new friends. I thought it was scary jumping off of this big dock into the ocean (little did I know what was coming the following weekend), and throwing each other into the water…haha! I also got to share my testimony in church for the first time ENTIRELY IN SPANISH! Whoa, it was nerve racking but fun! It was nice to get out of the SCORE complex and have an adventure together.

Last weekend I got the pleasure of going to San Jose for 3-4 days with 3 of my closest friends here. I got to stay with Omar and Noemi. If any are reading from Alden Community Church who did work on their house this past summer, I got to see the final product and it is a great home for them!  It was interesting having an entire weekend with only Spanish speaking hosts. But cool to see how far I’ve come. I could communicate with them! There were rough moments but all in all, it was exciting to see how much I’ve learned since I’ve come here. Some highlights of the weekend were: eating goat (yes, they roasted a goat, and it was really salty), going cliff diving (30-40 feet off the edge of a cliff into the ocean below. Who knew I had it in me? I jumped 4 times by the way and it was scary and exhilarating), getting our hair straightened Dominican style by Noemi, getting our nails done in the village by Evelyn in her little salon, playing with the children in the village, and attending their awesome church and a small group in Sumeidi’s home.

We had a break from classes last week which was nice but I am ready to get back at it! I’m excited for 2 more weeks of Spanish and we start our class on Hermeneutics too, being taught by Craig McClure whom some of you may know. Sorry this is short. I’ll just have to update you with all my fascinating and funny stories when I visit the states in a few weeks. Don’t forget to ask me about my numerous hilarious bathroom stories. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!1471320_10201198363465542_682974067_n
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Milk here is really different than milk in the United States. It comes in a box and it has a shelf life of like 3 months – no lie. Or you can get the powder kind and mix it with water. Unfortunately, it seems like every time I eat anything with milk here, it doesn’t go well with me. Milk and corn have become my enemies! Some of you know that I haven’t been feeling the greatest, but regardless God is faithful and has been giving me grace just when I need it. It’s been an adventure with my tummy and I appreciate all the people back home who are praying for me! Thank you so much!  

Since I blogged last, a lot has happened! Spanish is coming along nicely. One of my teachers, Julio, jokingly said that I should be able to say anything since I know present tense, near future and past (preterite) tense. Some days I feel pretty good about my Spanish and other days, it’s hard. I am doing great in class and trying to study diligently, but Dominicans speak a very fast and sometimes lazy dialect of Spanish which can be very challenging when you’re actually outside of Score trying to understand people.

This past weekend, I went on my first Dominican home stay. I got to spend the weekend with Diana and her family in the capital. It was a lot of fun! We labeled everything in her house with the Spanish words for things, went to a Dominican church (and youth group) and went to the mall. I got to meet some of her friends and spend time with her parents and brother. I grew to love her family in just a few days. Diana is 19 years old and is studying medicine at the university. She works as a translator for Score when she is on her breaks. She is bi-lingual and was very patient with Atlea and I all weekend. We learned new words in Spanish, had some awesome girl talk, and got to practice by communicating with the people in Diana’s circle. I hope and pray that I will have opportunities to go stay with them again while I am here.

Bible classes completed since my last blog: One week on Leadership, two weeks on Anthropology (the doctrine of man) and Hamartiology (the doctrine of sin), and one week of a class titled, “Walking with Jesus” with an incredible man, Don Gordon.  We touched on a little bit of everything, including marriage and divorce; sexual sin; unforgiveness; adversity; anger and conflict resolution. It was a heavy class!

Although I have seriously been having a blast in the GAP program, there are tough days too.  Through my weaknesses and homesickness, God is breaking me. In a good way J Here is an excerpt from my devotional:

“God loves to decorate. God has to decorate. Let him live long enough in a heart and that heart will begin to change. Portraits of hurt will be replaced by landscapes of grace. Walls of anger will be demolished and shaky foundations restored. God can no more leave a life unchanged that a mother can leave her child’s tear untouched. This might explain some of the discomfort in your life. Remodeling of the heart is not always pleasant. We don’t object when the Carpenter adds a few shelves, but he’s been known to gut the entire west wing. He has such high aspirations for you. God envisions a complete restoration. He won’t stop until he’s finished. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”

You’ve heard of the fruit of the spirit…Mentioned in this verse which says, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

But seriously, how cliché does that verse sound sometimes, when we throw it around in our little Christian circles? How do you feel happy when you are hurting? How do you respond kindly when someone is mean? And how do you love people when it’s not easy? These are real questions that I have to ask myself every single day. The old Shannon would want to stand up and punch someone! Or yell, or whatever, we all have those internal battles. But God is remodeling my heart. I am learning that God is the source of these “fruits.” If I want more love, then I need to spend more time with the source of love. He has been faithful to give me just the right amount of strength, patience, joy and wisdom that I need each day and I have to brag about that! For all you skeptics out there, my God is AWESOME!

If nothing else comes of my year in the Dominican Republic, I will at least be able to say that I have learned A LOT even in the last 76 days and have been stretched beyond what I could have ever imagined. If I had to take an educated guess, I think that everything I’ve gone through thus far has been because God wants me to learn how to truly love people. Not myself, but others. And how much does God love us?! When things get touch, am I mistaking what is happening to me for God’s lack of concern? No, he cares so much!

I am learning, through my greatest test in life so far, that I must trust in God’s goodness even when I don’t understand why something is going a certain way. I must trust in God who is always good, instead of the goodness of life. Because let’s face it, life is not always great.

Highlights/Praises:

  • Eating authentic Dominican food (different than the Score food) prepared with love by the wonderful Dania and Diana Rodriguez. Sharing life together in their home, being welcomed by their family, talks in Spanglish with her dad, and lots of laughter.
  • Adventures with Ashley! 😉
  • After dinner walks with my lovely friends, Alicia, Rebekah and Renee.
  • Movies on laptops
  • Bible studies and challenging talks with amazing people
  • Rain boots. So glad I brought them. Best purchase ever!
  • Holding little conversations in Spanish – exciting!

 Things I could live without:

  • Going like a full week and a half with no games….boring! Game night soon!
  • Mango is sadly going out of season and sometimes you get a really bad piece.  
  • Tarantulas
  • Doctor’s offices, milk and corn (which happens to be inside of almost everything!)

Thank you for reading my blog – I know it was long!

Fall Harvest Party!

Nerdy friends! 🙂

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Hello! Thanks for checking in on me! I am well, and life is good, but this past week has been one of the most challenging weeks of my entire life. I have officially been smacked in the face with a ton of bricks called homesickness. What a monster! Can I just say, I REALLY miss Brad, my family and my friends. Being separated from my support system has been tough. I know they still love and support me, but from afar. I am learning to build another support system here in the D.R.

The thing about mission’s trips, is that they’re awesome. They place you face to face with extreme poverty, they test your limits, they are uncomfortable, and they challenge you spiritually, emotionally and sometimes, physically. They force you to ask questions of yourself like, “Why am I so spoiled and selfish?” And they force you to ask questions of God, like “Why do some people have it so rough?” You grow tremendously in your walk with God in a relatively short amount of time. Mission’s trips point out the ugly things inside of you, they reveal what needs to be worked on, and they challenge you to change the way you think and act. But then, after 7-10 days of that, you get to go home. You go home to your warm showers, your comfortable bed, your favorite meals, your privacy and your loved ones. And you are on what we call a “spiritual high.”

I am being hit with the tough reality that I am not going home to those comforts any time soon. I shed a lot of tears this week as I realized again that I am right where God wants me to be and no one said that it was going to be easy. In the midst of this, God gave me many reminders of his love and comforted me in ways that amazed me.

It was an honor to meet and be taught by Dr. Brad Price and his beautiful wife Madell this week on the book of Joshua. What perfect timing for the class, too. It was all about achieving what God created you to be so that you can accomplish what God has created you to do. Please let me elaborate a little. In the life of Joshua, God was preparing him for great things. He put him in a hard place to make him tough (by allowing him to be a slave), He put him in a happy place to make him thankful (by allowing him to be set free), He put him in an honored place to make him thoughtful (by allowing him to be a spy), He put him in a hazardous place to make him tenacious (by allowing him to be a soldier), and He put him in a humble place to make him tender (by allowing him to be a servant). We all know I’ve never been a slave or a soldier or anything like that, but I could still relate to Joshua! God has me doing all kinds of things that are out of my comfort zone and difficult. Some of these things I don’t want to do at all. But I find it so comforting to know that God is just preparing me for a great life of serving him, just as he did with Joshua! That is exciting!

I’m learning to accept that my time here is super important! And I learned a lot of applicational things about facing obstacles and defeats and having victory over my own battles. Life can be tough sometimes, but God truly does equip us to handle it and helps us through every trial. He is faithful!

Ministry in San Jose is great! It was nice to see Craig and Joanna back home and to hear some of Craig’s vision for the teen discipleship groups. I’m going back there tomorrow, so there will be more to come on that! Spanish is also going well…I have my next big test on Tuesday!

I spent the weekend from Friday evening to Sunday morning at Emmanuel House with Adrienne and a few others girls. We helped her prepare her bible lesson for the kids on Friday night and played some banana grams (which is quickly becoming one of everyone’s favorite games here!) Saturday morning we had her bible class, which went really well! It was cool to see the kids so excited to learn. Then we took 2 of the girls into San Pedro and went shopping. Marqueya and Adrienne bought uniforms, shoes, school supplies, and a few other items for them so that they could go to school. Then we went out to eat, and took them to see the ocean (for the first time!)

We dropped the girls off at home, and visited for a few minutes. It was the poorest home I’ve ever seen in my life. We had to walk down this path to get to the very edge of Quisqueya and they were the very last house. Garbage surrounded the home, which was made of tin and housed 12 people! It was a one room house with bed sheets separating areas of it. The floors were dirt and I learned that when it rains the water flows right into the home making everything muddy. They have no running water and I didn’t see any food. And yet, they were so happy to have us come into their home and seemed to be in very high spirits. It is still surreal to me, and an image that I will never be able to erase from my mind. I feel so very blessed to have what God has given me.

Later, we went to Los Montones for their first night of youth group there! It was a blast! I got to see my friend’s Gredual and Ridel. Their leaders were very passionate and the energy was awesome! We got to visit with them after, pray with them and had dinner in one of the Dominican leaders homes. Compared to American standards, it wasn’t much, but I was treated like a queen! Sometimes we go to help others, and they end up helping us way more than we could ever imagine!

Favorite, fun memories:

  • When things get lost in communication between Spanish and English…Alicia’s prayer in Los Montones, she ended and said Amen. But no one budged, so she said it again, with more fervor. And again…and again! And then I turned around and whispered to her that a Dominican leader was going to pray now, and the look of mortification on her face was priceless!
  • My first home stay off of the SCORE complex and eating authentic Dominican food.
  • As challenging as it is, bi-lingual banana grams and game nights.
  • Hot chocolate, sleepovers, movies and encouraging talks!

Things I could do without:

  • Ice cold showers
  • Group projects
  • The non-paved, pot hole filled roads that you have to take at 5 mph
  • Spanish tests!

Speaking of which, I need to study now 🙂 Love you, thanks for reading and for praying!

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Well, I’ve been in the D.R. for 35 days now, where has the time gone?! I have been loving every moment. One of my housemate’s Jess said, “It feels like 10 seconds and 10 years.” Some parts of the last month have seemed really long, but all in all, it has flown by!

So far, I’ve completed classes in Bibliology, Spiritual Disciplines, and Evangelism. This week we will be studying Old Testament Poetry, which includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. That sure is a lot to pack into one week of study, but if any bible teacher can handle the task, it’s Carter 🙂 (shout out!!!)

Spanish is going well! We’re starting unit 4! It’s kind of crazy to see myself understanding more and more Spanish as the days go by. My first Sunday in church for example, it just sounded like a jumbled mess of words. But the last two weeks, have been much better. I can’t understand everything, but I recognize words, and can follow along with the bible references and the main points of the sermon.

Yesterday, we started our own ministries. Our group of 12 got split up and assigned to Pasitos de Jesus (a girl’s orphanage), Emmanuel House (a school), Josiah’s house (a boy’s orphanage) and San Jose (a village). I, along with Renee, Lauren, Jessinia and Clay will be going to San Jose every Monday to do ministry there. We will be teaching English and starting a teen discipleship group. Craig and Joanna, the missionaries there, are currently in the states visiting home, so yesterday we were solely with the Dominican pastor there, Omar. Once Craig returns next week, we will be able to see his vision for the discipleship group. But nonetheless yesterday was still very interesting!

 We arrived in San Jose with the goal of meeting some of the people and starting to build relationships. That is difficult to do with such a small knowledge of their language. And even though Omar knows some English, he refused to speak to us in English forcing us to use the Spanish we knew. After a while, we traveled to another nearby village called La Rinconada and played soccer with the children and young adults. Although I’ve been on missions trips in the past, I’ve never gone hiking so deep into what seemed like a jungle to get to another place. It was a hot, sweaty, and exhausting day, but very fun at the same time! We have a great group going there and I’m excited to see how things play out!

Another place here that has been touching my heart is the Lily House. I have described it in a previous blog post. I will also have opportunities throughout the week to serve there. Please be praying for creative ways that I can serve these women. A missionary here, Ashley, suggested doing an exercise/aerobics class with the ladies on Saturday evenings. This would help keep them preoccupied in the evenings when rehabilitation is most difficult for them. That would be fun and stretching! I’ve certainly never done anything like that before, but then again, God is putting me into all sorts of situations that I’ve never been in before and teaching me so much!

Most days I feel overwhelmed with how much I am learning! How can my brain seriously read and study and learn so much so quickly? It is certainly God blessing me and my time here. So thank you for your many prayers! I can see so clearly why God brought me here at this time and it is amazing to see Him working. Thank you also for your prayers for my health. I am feeling MUCH better 🙂

I do also want to share that one of the best parts about being here is the people I am here with. I am making so many great friends and this program has some great leaders who are really challenging me and encouraging me daily. Normally in the mornings, we are all on different schedules and we may walk over to score and eat breakfast or do our own thing, but yesterday morning, my housemates and I had an apartment breakfast together. Then we went to the pool and did water aerobics (led by our director Jaime!) It’s been a lot of fun doing life together! We spend every moment together day in and day out, so the relationship building process is accelerated here. I feel like I’ve known these people a lot longer than just 1 month! You end up being very vulnerable and open about your feelings, your struggles, and your little victories. There are no secrets here either! If you get sick, EVERYONE finds out about it! I love my new family!

I could never adequately sum up the last couple weeks in this blog post. Please check out my pictures on facebook! Thank you for your support, I love getting messages from you guys back home. Please be praying for our group, that our hearts would be humble and willing to learn and grow. Please pray that we continue to learn at such a rapid pace. Please pray for our relationships with each other and with the people we are serving. Te amo mucho! ❤

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Hi everybody! I hope you are well. The past week has been a rollercoaster ride for sure! God is showing me so much, I’m bonding with my roommates and classmates, and I am learning so much in Spanish and Bible classes too (I hope my brain doesn’t explode!) We’re halfway into our second week of classes, so I am starting to get into a rhythm with classes and homework.

 Learning Spanish is both challenging and exciting. We are all coming up with clever ways to study, like playing charades in Spanish with our vocabulary words, and labeling everything in our apartments with sticky notes. Bibliology is even more intriguing. My teachers are all extremely passionate and wonderful. I’ve never been so excited to wake up for classes in my life!

Last Friday, we went to the Lily House where they had a little welcoming party for us. Lily House is a ministry in which they house women who are coming out of prostitution. It is kind of like a rehab for them, plus a safe home, and a place where they can learn about God’s love and purpose for them. We played some games with the Dominican women and then enjoyed muffins and tea. We heard an incredible woman, Vanessa, share her testimony of how God is delivering her from a past of drugs, sex and little self-worth. They make the most beautiful handmade jewelry there too, operate a little store, and also a spa where they do nails and give massages. I would love the chance to hang out with these special ladies some more!

Saturday we went to Pasitos de Jesus (little hands of Jesus), a girl’s orphanage. I made a little 8 year old friend, Sandra. She was so precious and I had so much fun playing catch with her, jump rope, hand games and reading (She was pretty much at my Spanish reading level, which was crazy!) In the afternoon we visited San Jose! That is where my church has spent quite a bit of time the last 2 years on their short term mission’s trips. It was so cool to go back and see all that God has done and is doing there! Last summer, our group built their church. Since then, on the same plot of land, they have a medical clinic, two homes for the pastors, a storage shed and a school. It was funny to see familiar children’s faces, some of whom are now a foot taller than the last time I saw them!

Sunday was the 2nd time in an all-Spanish speaking church. I can’t wait for the morning when I can understand all of what Pastor Nate is saying! The 13 of us had a great time of prayer and worship on Sunday night. I love my new family so much. On Monday we had a work day and did some hard labor around our apartment for 4+ hours in the HOT sun! We pulled weeds and raked stones (so that grass could be planted), we trimmed plants, cut down a huge tree and painted the wall around our house. I think we all felt pretty accomplished and our home looks much nicer!

I did have to be taken to see a doctor last night for the 2nd time. Apparently I can’t kick this stomach bug and I now have colitis. It really, truly stinks being so sick down here. To say my night was interesting would be a huge understatement! (My roommates are amazing though!) I will spare you readers most of the gory details. But please keep me in prayer. I am on a liquid diet for 6 days and am on a few different medications. Just pray for physical strength and a resolve that will not be easily broken! On a positive note, there is no doubt in my mind that I am right where God wants me. Why else would the enemy be attacking so hard?

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t feel like giving up yesterday and today. How much easier would it be to suffer in America where I could have my cozy bed, excellent healthcare and my mother’s chicken noodle soup? But I am realizing that I need to not be focused on how crummy I feel. I found myself losing sight of my purpose here in the D.R. because I had gotten all caught up in my feelings. But Jesus didn’t seem too concerned with his feelings when he hung on a cross for me. I am starting to cry as I meditate on the magnitude of Christ’s love for me. I found this promise in scripture today:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor death, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-38) God loves me! How incredible. And he may allow Satan to mess with me, but I must be patient, persistent and strong in my faith in the midst of being sick. I am learning that God’s extravagant love is a reality that no one, not even Satan himself, can take away from me.

My prayer for all my family and friends is that you would experience the intensity of God’s love for you too. ❤

1231550_704265459855_1856470770_nHi guys! Thanks so much for checking in on me! It’s been super busy down here in the DR. We started classes yesterday (Tuesday). 4 hours of Spanish in the morning and 2 hours of Bible in the afternoon. It was actually very interesting and Spanish is fun (so far)! I have to dig deep and find those old disciplines (like good study habits) and get used to homework every day. I also went around the score complex and tried talking to a handful of the local Dominican people asking them questions like, “where are you from,” and “what is your favorite color?” They laugh at me every time but I remind them that, “yo necesito practicar mi espanol” (I need to practice my Spanish). Our first bible class is “Bibliology.” I’m excited to start diving deep into God’s word!

On Monday we started our ministry tour and went to check out a few places where we could potentially spend a lot of time helping and serving. We went to Emmanuel House which is a day care that a woman started for the poorest of the poor children in a place called Quisqueya. There are several special needs children (they are usually forgotten about in the DR) and some of them cannot go to school here for many reasons. A common issue here is that the children do not have birth certificates (which they need to attend school). Emmanuel House provides a safe place they can come to receive some education and a few meals a day. We made up little bags of school supplies for them and then got to pass them out to the children. Some of them have never had a back pack before and it was a blessing to see their grateful, smiling faces.

After that we went and did some home visits and got to see (and walk inside of) some of the homes the children come from. They were 1-3 room homes, with dirt floors, random mattresses or cushions for beds, no electricity, and no running water. It was raining and the water would just run into the homes where the children would often sleep…It was gut wrenching. Honestly, it was very emotional and it was difficult for me to see. But at the same time, these people are content for the most part with little or no complaints and the ones who know God were praising him for his goodness and for our visit. What joy!

One random thing we did was squeeze 18 people from our group into a 12 person van with no a/c (Dominican style) It is totally normal here to see buses and taxis crammed with people to the point where it just seems humanly impossible. I was so hot and uncomfortable and initially had a pretty bad attitude, but God is really showing me how blessed I am to have so many comforts that I unfortunately take for granted quite a bit. It may seem silly, but God is using one morning here in the Dominican to break down walls in my heart and soften it towards the people he loves.

The past few days have been more difficult as I try to physically and emotionally adjust to life here in the Dominican Republic. Please keep me in your prayers. I have a minor stomach bug and hope for a speedy recovery! Also pray that we would all find the motivation to work hard in class and become fluent in the language so we can really start building relationships with the people here. Thank you, I miss you all very much!