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Cross-Cultural Relationship Building

Cross-Cultural Relationship Building

Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) has had reciprocal study abroad program with Doulos Discovery School since 2012, when Doulos Founder Krista Wallace invited us into a relationship with them. My daughter, Anginette Fullerton, was the first CVCA student to take her up on her offer. Anginette came immediately after High School graduation as an intern in Doulos’ Kindergarten class. Her time here dynamically changed her, and in turn, changed me too. I became a member of Doulos’ Board three years ago after falling in love with the ministry here through Anginette’s experience.

CVCA has also sent three work teams to Doulos in that time. Our goal for our team trip this year has been relationship building in a cross-cultural context. Some work teams at Doulos focus exclusively on building up the physical structures. Our focus has been building relationships between the students at CVCA and Doulos, between Americans and Dominicans, and between brothers and sisters in Christ. By focusing our hearts and minds intentionally on attitudes of openness, acceptance, trust, learning, and understanding, we hope to serve EACH OTHER both now and in the future.

Our team of included 6 girls (one of whom will stay as a study abroad student at Doulos this semester) and two adults. The girls started each day with students their own age, being welcomed into the community and learning in classrooms that are both very different and very similar to their own at CVCA. Then we focused on building relationships with the rest of the student community by volunteering in classrooms.

As a result, the buzz of conversations and bursts of laughter have increased exponentially as the days have passed. As leaders, Anginette, and I have enjoyed watching the relationships blossom before our eyes. The girls are sharing this cross-cultural experience and that has bonded them in friendships that would not have formed otherwise. God is here and I know that He has given us this Divine appointment to join Him in relationship-building at Doulos.

One of those Divine appointments was with a member of our team, Sha’Nautica Lott, and a little boy in Kindergarten, named Caleb. Sha’Nautica comes from a very difficult background herself. But her intelligence and promise captured the notice of one of CVCA’s board members. Through scholarships and that board member’s sponsorship, Sha’Nautica started attending CVCA this year. That same sponsor encouraged her to come to the Dominican Republic on our team. From the moment that Sha’Nautica noticed Caleb, she recognized a boy full of energy who just needed someone to come alongside him and encourage him to focus and obey. An instant friendship was formed. All week, Sha’Nautica and Caleb could be seen together, working in the classroom, playing on the playground, walking to lunch, meeting his parents. This precious little boy gave Sha’Nautica an opportunity to give back some of what she had been given through God’s grace.

Lives were changed on both sides, and because of her time with Caleb, Sha’Nautica now feels called to become a teacher. Education is a powerful thing, but the relationships formed across cultures, and generations, and countries, and miles, are what change us at our deepest core. Sha’Nautica’s relationship with Caleb will spark many more like it as she is now determined to go to college and prepare for what God is calling her to.

Doulos is a place where all of us can serve, and develop the promise of leadership here in the Dominican Republic and around the world.

Mindy Fullerton

Doulos Board Member and Director of Admissions at CVCA

Joy to the World!

The highest experience of well-being is joy. It is deep, exhilarating happiness independent of circumstance. It’s what the heavenly messenger said was coming to the earth in a poor man’s manger.

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” -Luke 2:10b

Joy is sometimes depicted in the Bible as a calf released from it’s stall, kicking up it’s heels. We see it in the giddy exclamations of leaping lame, seeing blind men, hearing deaf, and in the shouts of the mute. An astonishing reversal, and amazing change-of-fortune is the stuff of this kind of joy!

Everyone likes a “rags-to-riches” story. It’s a theme of classic literature, a topic for many self-help books and motivational speakers, and the reason why people continue to buy lottery tickets. Regardless of political systems, it is an economic fact-of-life that every generation will have its poor.

Jesus said “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.”– Mark 14:7

Many efforts are mounted to eliminate poverty, and there is a great difference-of-opinion regarding how best to achieve this noble end. The Bible has a lot to say about being generous and helping the poor. Helping those less fortunate has always been seen as a sign of righteousness and personal character.

The Bible, however, contains many interesting “paradoxical” opposites that sometimes confound our understanding. By way of example, according to scripture we must win by surrendering, be humble to be exalted, live by dying and be first by being last. Jesus also said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt. 5:3)

In this “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus calls mourners happy, the hungry, full, the persecuted as rulers, and the poor as,… rich?

Inaugurating his ministry in His hometown, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 and said about himself that he had come with a message of Good News—specifically for the brokenhearted, the captive, the mourners, the despairing,… and the poor.

When we have plenty and all is well, we may take our ease, luxuriate, lean on those resources, guard them warily and try to build them up. We can then become self-sufficient and have an exaggerated sense of our own importance, becoming out-of-touch with real need. We can close and harden our hearts to those who still experience it. Perhaps this is why Jesus said:

“it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt. 19:23)

The poor, by contrast are under no such delusions wrought by “the deceitfulness of wealth” (Mt.13:22, Mk. 4:19)
Philip Yancey, in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, said,

“…When the poor have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or scolding. The poor can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything…”

In this wonderful season of Advent, we recognize our need and anticipate together the extravagant way God is meeting that need. Be blessed. Know that you are when you believe God and trust His promises. Joy to the World!

Speaking of Hope

a message from our Executive Director

When I Think of Hope . . .
Regrets, Suffering and Hope are not usually tied together in a single sentence. Children, Christmas and Hope seem like a better combination – especially this time of year. Yet this biblical author pens these words in the midst of pain:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

–Lamentations 3:20-24

 

When everyone is singing Christmas carols and acting like nothing is wrong, sometimes it can push me to the edge; the edge of sadness, frustration, even despair. Why? Like many people, I bear the scars from a wounded past. In turn, that has affected the ones I love. If I focus on the past, feeling the regret of time and opportunity lost, I can be brought pretty low.

As I read from Lamentations, I am reminded that the Lord is my single hope and holds my life in His hands. I can entrust Him with my pain, my regrets, and my loved ones. In His hands, all things will be made whole and new. He is a better lover of my loved ones and the caretaker of my soul.

As a child, I hoped for amazing toys but got underwear instead. As an adult, I give my hurts and desires to God. In return, I receive peace, hope and a changed character (James 1 – “Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials…”)

My hope for you is that you’ll will believe and entrust God with your burdens. Then together in peace, we can wait with hope. We know that God’s goodness will break forth and renew us again.

Merry Christmas,

 

Bob Phelps

Executive Director

 

Doulos Alumni Spotlight

Doulos Impacts. We believe this statement rings true of the students who graduate from our school and continue their education—wherever they go. The best way we can demonstrate the merit of this statement is through the lives of our alumni and their post-graduation stories. We wanted to share the stories of some of these graduates to understand the enduring influence Doulos has had on their lives as well as the difference they plan to make for their country.

Darina Herrera is a 2015 Doulos graduate and a second-year student at Cedarville University in Ohio. Darina is one of our alumni who is applying the tools she learned at Doulos to change lives and impact her home country. She is currently studying Special Education and Specialist Intervention because of the huge need she saw in Jarabacoa, She is extremely excited to come back to the Dominican Republic and help bridge this gap.

When asked how Doulos prepared her for life outside of high school, she noted that expeditionary learning trains students to think as explorers and to see the adventure aspect of learning. “It is such a positive way of living, if you face your challenges with that mindset” said Darina. She also noted that thinking this way helped her transition moving to another country away from the familiarity of the Dominican Republic.

Darina had the opportunity to work as a PreK3 assistant for a year after graduation. This experience widened her eyes to see the work that goes on behind the scenes and outside of the classroom. “I watched how much work and thought is put into the lessons, I overlooked this as a student. I also noticed how much the teachers cared for the students individually and as a class.” This experience made her appreciate the teachers she had and the care they placed on providing a quality education for Darina and her peers.

Darina’s family would not have otherwise been able to afford a high quality education for their five children and are a great example of the kind of family that Doulos empowers through sponsorship. When talking about sponsorship, she noted, “You may be sponsoring only one kid but you will be impacting more lives than that.” We also believe Darina will be impacting the lives of the Dominican Republic through special education for years to come!

 

 

 

 

Of Sidewalks and Seedlings

Life wants to spring up everywhere. It is relentlessly persistent.

The seeds of possibility fall in the most unlikely places.

Should they fall upon soft soil, they will germinate and send down deep roots. Life will be established.

Should the seed fall in hardened places with scant possibilities, it will still try to bring forth life.

And it will often succeed,…for a time. Very soon, however, the lack of root will make itself apparent.

Simple lessons like these are everywhere: If you want something to grow prepare a place that’s suitable.

It’s not complicated. Make space. Remove the rocks. Soften the soil. The life will do the rest.

Giving thanks in an important way to humbly prepare one’s heart. Emptying selfishness and exulting in contentment brings a joy untapped by many of the so-called “prosperous.”

“Let every heart prepare Him room! Heaven and nature sings!”

“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”  —Jesus Christ

Purposeful Adventuring

Doulos Staff Member, Josh Griffin, has blogged about his experience accompanying Doulos 8th Graders to Valle del Tertero
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I love what I do, and I love that working at Doulos also means I get to pour into kids’ lives!
I recently had the opportunity to go with the 8th grade class on their Outdoor Education trip for this semester. It helps that I’m very personally connected to this class – I was able to go on the trip not only as a Doulos employee, but also as a dad to my 8th grade daughter!

This class tackled a tough trail for 36 total kilometers of hiking. Two nights of camping, lots of soggy shoes (and one pair toasted too much while drying by the fire), and a few tears shed along the way. More importantly, though, were the jumps into the river, fears conquered, accomplishments gained, and relationships built. Imagine the opportunities for staff and parents to have small meaningful moments with 8th grade kids along the trail:
“Hey, tell me about your family.”
“I know this trail is really hard right now, but I believe in you and KNOW you can do this.”
“Wow, I’ve noticed what a great leader and encourager you are to your classmates – so cool!”

One of the many things I love about Doulos is the opportunity to teach a Christian worldview through all of these experiences. During the 3 days together, the students were able to share in multiple devotional and small group opportunities. Challenging hike? Pair that up with a devotional about looking beyond obstacles to see God’s ability to solve a problem for us. Perseverance, teamwork, and courage were all covered in devotional times. Then students were able to have small group discussions with their teachers, parents, and staff members and share their reflections from the week.

As a staff member, I love what I do. I love that this trip was just one of the many ways that I am given an opportunity to build up our students and share the love of Christ with them. Sometimes that’s best done on a tough trail or along an amazing mountain river. As a parent, I love knowing that my kids are receiving these opportunities and that they have an incredible team of staff members who love the same things I do about Doulos!

More than just your average field trip, this was a great adventure for some amazing 8th graders! Good job friends!

Sponsorship Paves a Road to a Diploma

“Our hope in sponsoring a Doulos student is that we can walk alongside our student over the years and celebrate together on graduation day!”

—Kathy P., current sponsor

Albert likes hanging out with his sponsors.
There is much to be said about the joy and sacrifice of sponsoring a student through Doulos, but today we are going to focus on the finish line, whether it is far away or on the horizon. For the Plankenhorn family, their sponsored student is currently in first grade, and he won’t graduate until 2029.

While 2029 may seem like a long way off, Albert will be wearing a cap and gown in the blink of an eye, and Lord willing, Kathy and Trevor and their family, will be in the audience smiling proudly, celebrating with giddy excitement at the achievement that they helped accomplish by saying “YES!” to sponsorship so many years prior.

Right now, the Plankenhorns have a macro-view of sponsorship at Doulos because they live, love, serve here, and they’ve had a great chance to get to know Albert and his family and invest in relationship with them. It may not always be the case that they have such a “close up” opportunity like they have right now. Knowing them, however, and their commitment to Albert, no amount of distance will prevent them from continuing on in encouraging and supporting Albert’s education. After all, they are already planning to celebrate together at the Graduation Ceremony 2029!

The Plankenhorns desire to follow in the footsteps of legendary sponsors who started investing in relationship with their student when they very young all the way until they received their diploma. Regardless of whether or not a sponsor started from the very beginning or came into the picture later with an older student, we are grateful that sponsorship is something that we can celebrate together! A big “MUCHAS GRACIAS” to all those who give towards sponsorship from all of us at Doulos!

Something About Mountains

Doulos Staff Member, Tim Pack, has blogged about his experience accompanying the 9th Graders to the Caribbean’s highest peak. Source: www.packspen.com

Siri awakened me Monday morning at 3:14 to a groggy beginning of an anticipated adventure.
The coming series of new experiences and discoveries was inaugurated by the discovery that we had no water, so there would be no shower. Oh well, I thought, to hike to the top of the Caribbean’s highest peak, I should think that body odor will likely be my lot for the next five days anyway.

With my backpack stuffed and ready, I rendezvoused with my fellow adventurers at school and prepared for our nighttime bus ride to the Dominican Republic’s famous peak. In the restroom just before we left I noticed a rather large wild-eyed tree frog eyeing me from the opposite wall—just before he leaped on me and made me scream like a girl.

15 hours later I was standing alone, drenched, muddied and exhausted in a cold puddle in the fog and rain wondering if I’d make it to the day’s destination before it was night, and if the symptoms I was experiencing made me a candidate for exposure. Thinking I just had to be close, I was dismayed to be contradicted by the sign that indicated 4.7 km to go. Fatigue, blisters, and the grace of God were my three companions as I soldiered on, reproaching myself that I had let a little miscommunication separate me from the group behind me and the group already there.

When at last I spied lights in the deepening dusk, I knew the joy of a weary traveler finding a port in the storm. My relief was altered a bit by the discovery that the entire contents of my backpack were sodden and dripping. There seemed to be no place to hang anything to dry, so a few selected garments and sleeping gear were hung in the damp communal area and some by the fire. I found them later as wet as ever under mounds of soaked clothing placed over my items by later arrivals. I slept a little, despite the cold, the hard floor and the occasional braying of the pack-mules.

On the following day (Tuesday), with everyone rested, we were eager to ascend the remaining 500 meters and 5 km to the summit. On many other days I suppose one could have seen a spectacular panorama seated by that bust of Juan Pablo Duarte. But we could see little more than he could, perched on an island of rock that appeared to float in a sea of cloud. Yet, undaunted we returned to La Compartición where the sun had been shining and our clothes were left drying. It was raining when we got back and it kept on falling into the late afternoon.

Having already traversed 28km, my feet were angry and not eager to pack up on Day 3 (Wednesday) and hike a rugged trail for 18.5 more km to Valle del Tertero. There we found a quiet wide valley, the forecasted rain held off and we looked forward to a rest-day for Day 4 (Thursday).

Day 5 (Friday) and our weary, battered feet and our rented bus brought us back to Jarabacoa with a renewed sense of it’s value and importance.

And as I reflect now on the experience of these five days, I wonder at the impulse we have to climb mountains. What is it that motivates us to persecute ourselves in this way? What makes a man give up his comfort and buffet himself for nothing more than the glory of enduring the struggle, the joy of hard-forged relationships, breathtaking scenes and pulsating rainbows? Can encouraging and helpful staff and students carrying each others’ loads (literally) somehow make it worth it? Can the laughter of a tight-knit group leaping from rocks in the sun into a cold river balance it out? If not, perhaps, a crystal clear view of the Milky Way galaxy stretched from horizon to horizon across the center of a serenely beautiful valley, interrupted only by streaking meteors, answered by choruses of gleeful screams and shouts of praise?

Would it be considered worth it all if some of those young students overcame fears with courage? What if they showed unexpected patience, acceptance and kindness to one another? What if some responded to the God who made all this wonder by the words of His mouth and trusted his Son? Isn’t life itself a series of challenging difficulties? Who better to guide us up this mountain and take us to the summit?

What a grand time we had!