Stars in Her Eyes

Estrella means “star” in Spanish and her eyes reflect that as they sparkle with joy. But this wasn’t always the case for the young Dominican girl. I would get teased a lot, says Estrella of her life before Children of the Nations (COTN). “People would tell my mom not to let me look at them because they didn’t like the way I looked.” Estrella’s esotropia (condition of which one or both eyes turns inward) made it difficult for her to see. Her poor eyesight caused her to struggle in school and she was teased for her appearance. Her family struggled to afford food and clothing so paying expensive medical bills was out of the question.

Fortunately, visiting medical Venture teams from COTN treated Estrella and subsequently, she was able to have eye surgery.  “It has changed my life forever!” Estrella declares. “My total disposition changed after my surgeries. I have self-confidence and I am happy.”

Today, through COTN, Estrella attends school and enjoys nutritious meals. She receives important follow-up care through their medical clinic including prescription glasses that continue to correct her vision. Her surgery and continued care have helped her grow up a happy and confident young woman. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of medical Venture teams, the clinic staff, and partners who supported the clinic and children like Estrella.

The COTN clinic plays a crucial role in keeping children healthy and by offering lower cost medical care to the community of Barahona in pediatrics, gynecology, surgical procedures, and dentistry. Last year, thanks to the generosity and tireless work of COTN partners and volunteers, the clinic doubled in size.

Barb Kjose, a nurse and Venture team member, recalls the early days of the clinic: “We would come in the morning and there would be a line out way past the clinic. And we’d feel bad because we could not see all those who came.”  And now a second story has been added to the building, creating more space for surgery, dental care, and processing patients. The expansion has also moved the clinic’s laundry room and kitchen from an old shack to a more hygienic space within the building.

Estrella wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. To everyone who supported the clinic, she says, “Thank you. . . Without the clinic, we would not have medical help. More people would suffer and have bad health, and I would still be suffering physically and emotionally with my crossed eyes.”

Thank you for helping children like Estrella ‘see’ their way to a healthier future.

 

If you would like to find out how you can go on a Medical Mission with COTN or other organizations, please come to the Global Outreach Talk on Medical Missions, Sunday, April 8, 12:15pm in S-140.

Life in the Dominican Republic

The first time that my husband Kyle and I went to the Dominican Republic, the country captured our hearts. After that Impact Trip, we spent a summer at the Children of the Nations (COTN) base working with their I Love Baseball (ILB) ministry and producing media for their marketing team. Children of the Nations is an organization that believes in taking care of people with food and education while sharing the joy of Christ. I Love Baseball is a branch of COTN that provides baseball training for kids and an opportunity to stay in school in their communities. This helps end the cycle of poverty in the Dominican Republic because the boys have something to fall back on if they don’t make it in the big leagues. At the end of that summer, we left with rich friendships and everyone’s last question was “when are you coming back?” That question was answered when we returned this past fall.

It was such a joy to see the COTN staff members again and catch up. On our previous trip, we built some strong mentoring relationships with the boys in the ILB program. When we pulled up to the practice field, I had butterflies of excitement in my stomach.  It was incredible to experience picking up right where we left off.   However, we immediately saw how much they had grown in character as well as in height.

In the prior summer spent in the Dominican Republic, we gave the ILB kids opportunities to teach the younger kids how to play baseball. Many acted like they were too cool for school at first, but eventually more and more joined us to teach. When we returned in fall, they had created an afternoon practice that was fully run by the older boys. They invited the younger boys to join and the older ILB boys to be volunteer coaches. This was a rare moment where we got to plant something and watch it grow at the same time.

One of the things that Kyle and I are drawn to in the Dominican Republic is how they do community. America can be a very individualistic culture and the Dominican Republic is all about taking care of the group. For instance, when Dominicans make dinner, they make an extra plate of food because they know someone will stop by and join them. One of the most eye-opening conversations Kyle and I had with the ILB boys was when we realized that they didn’t know what a homeless person was. Their response was, “so Americans just let people live on the streets rather than invite them into their homes?” After a pause, we sadly answered “yes.” The Dominican Republic is a very different culture than we live in, but it made us ask the question, “What can we take back with us to the States?”

The community we have in the Dominican Republic is special and we are very grateful for those friendships.  Maybe we can’t bring everything back, but we can bring how much they value community. Until the next time we go back, we’ll continue to work on making that kind of community a reality here.

Find out more about Children of the Nation’s I Love Baseball program.

Another Mission!

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Well over a year ago, two enthusiastic and passionate moms (Alischia Besteman and Samantha Willing) came in to meet with the Missions Department with a desire – We want to go on a mission with our families.

They weren’t sure where. They didn’t know how…yet.

But in April it happened. Three families, with children of various ages, spent their spring break in the Dominican Republic serving alongside Children of the Nations and I Love Baseball, because these two women took a leap of faith and responded to what they believed God was calling them to.

Here’s a bit of Samantha’s family’s story.

What surprised me the most about our mission trip was… how amazing we functioned as a family. We were out of our comfort zone and physically uncomfortable at times but we really banded together and had a great time.  It ignited a passion in our marriage and took our love and respect for each to a deeper level.  The impact truly showed when we asked our kids if they wanted to go to Hawaii this next year or another mission trip and they enthusiastically said “ANOTHER MISSION!”   

God really showed up when… At the end of our trip when we were saying our goodbyes we decided to give away a few things, but felt like it wasn’t enough. We could have given it all and still have wanted to give more.  When my 11 year old son gave away his favorite football to one of the boys he had bonded with my heart was bursting.  I knew it was special to him and I knew that his gift to this child was the Holy Spirit working through him.  I have never felt such complete peace as I did when I was getting rid of my material things. 

I had an “ah ha” moment as I realized that this is how it must feel to tithe (which is something we have always been scared to commit to) – the feeling of peace, joy, and calm that comes with not being attached to our things and allowing God to use our blessings to bless others. 

We had been warned before our mission trip that sometimes people come back and feel really guilty about their own comfortable lives.  We came back not feeling guilty, but feeling incredibly accountable for how we use what God has given us.  We came back with a desire to be different, to spend different, to give different and to develop servants’ hearts in ourselves and our children.  Our eyes were opened to how God can use us if we let Him, even when we feel ill-equipped and not particularly strong.  We came back with softer hearts and eyes to see the mission field around us in Bellevue not just far away.  This trip helped us re-define our family and create a vision for our future.  It was incredible.

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Dominican Republic Impact Team – Recap

I am returning from The Dominican Republic with a full heart and spirit of deep thankfulness and gratitude.  Our team spent the week in relationship with 25 – 30 of the boys that are currently enrolled in the I Love Baseball program in Barahona.  We had the opportunity to teach baseball clinics to some of the younger boys in the outlying communities, to play baseball with the older boys, and spend lots of time just talking with the boys and getting to know their life story.  There are several boys that live with a family member because their parents are no longer around.  There are several more that participate in the program, then go to school, then go to work because they are the sole provider for their family at home.  All of them are becoming leaders in their communities and trying to make a change in their families for generations to come, thanks to the servant hearts of the people of I Love Baseball and Children of the Nations.

I have seen impoverished countries before, but none of them have ever struck me as much as these boys did.  After spending a week with them and truly getting to know them, it touched my heart in a way that I’ve never felt before.

DR_Juan Isael
Juan Isael

Because of that, I decided to sponsor one of the boys that is enrolled in the ILB program.  His name is Juan Isael Cueva Feliz   He is 15 and has been part of the program for a few years.  It became very evident to me that he will truly be given a much greater chance to graduate high school and grow closer to God through my small donation and the relationship that I could provide.  If you are interested in this, let me know and I could tell you about the boys!

One of the things we did was bring a bunch of paper, markers, and stickers to make signs for each of the boys on the day that they played their game.  We started to bring the signs out to cheer and the boys flocked to us, asking us if they could use the markers and stickers to decorate their signs.  I’ve never seen high school boys get so excited to decorate a sign with their name on it.  We ended up completely interrupting the game and spent an hour and a half decorating signs, taking pictures, and laughing a lot.  I apologized to the coach for the interruption and he quickly stopped me and thanked me for the light we were bringing to the boys through the simple gesture of just being with them.  He said it had been some time that he had seen the boys this excited.

 

Here in America, I am constantly trying to fill my day with activities and tasks and find it a great accomplishment to check things off of my list to show progress.  In the DR, they thrive on living in community with one another and you will often find them just sitting in front of their homes, chatting with neighbors and watching the kids play.  This was a huge reminder for me to slow down, pay attention to what God has in store for my life, listen, be in relationship with those around me, and eliminate distractions.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, your prayers and support were appreciated beyond expectation and I am grateful!

Nic Shackleton
nicholausjames@yahoo.com