Category: Behind The Scenes

“Joining Jesus” in the Doulos Sponsorship Program

One Family’s Experience in Relationship Building

We began sponsoring Doulos students in 2013 when we moved to a church in Minnesota where there was a partnership with Doulos. I was first drawn to this partnership with a school in the DR simply because my second language is Spanish. Then, as I learned more about Doulos Discovery School, especially the mission, and met people who were directly involved in the school/ministry, I knew I wanted to “join Jesus” in what He was doing in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic.

There are so many ways we can join Jesus on His mission to restore all people to a right relationship with God. One way, of course, is being a good steward of the finances He has given us. In the U.S., we often find ourselves easily giving money to help feed and clothe the world. And we are called to do that. But we can’t stop there! Those are the basics – the ones that tug at our hearts because we don’t want to see anyone live without food, water, clothes, and shelter. It makes us feel good when we give in this way. But joining Jesus on His mission is more than that. It includes developing relationships and, within those relationships, encouraging one another in the Spirit.

Busch Family Sponsor Student, Andry (wearing red)

When we first started sponsoring Doulos students, I was not thinking about “developing relationships.” I simply loved the mission of the school—and that this was a long-term commitment to helping not only individuals, but, ultimately, an entire nation (one person at a time!). The school values of Christian discipleship, expeditionary learning, and mixed economic student body (along with the amazing dedication and passion of the school staff!) plant “seeds” in these Doulos kids – and their families – that God waters. The Doulos graduates that I know (and I have developed a relationship with) are rich in the fruit of the Spirit! They are blessings to the Dominican Republic and will continue to positively impact their country. (I should mention that we as a family – my husband, 2 kids, and I – decided to not only be sponsors of Doulos kids, but also to be missionaries working for a year on the Doulos campus. This gave us a great opportunity to really develop relationships with some of these kids and their families and to experience, first hand, the dedicated staff.)

So, though developing relationships was not my initial intention when we started sponsoring students, I have come to see the great value in them. We can encourage each other and build each other up as we join Jesus in His mission to restore this broken world. Sponsoring Doulos students is a part of this great mission!

Love from Minnesota!

Michelle, Randy, Benjamin, and Caroline Busch

Outdoor Education Showcase [PHOTOS]

OED MONTH HeaderWe recently wrapped up our Outdoor Education Month—one of the most exciting, interactive and adventurous months of education at Doulos Discovery School. empty classIt’s also a month in which many of our classrooms are empty (besides the occasional lizard that finds its way in) because our students are out in nature putting their learning to use; experiencing God’s creation in a hands-on, guided environments.

Matt Brown, our Expedition Specialist (and All-Around Swell Guy) gives us a sneak peek at what OED Month is all about.

[For those of you who just want to see photos of our precious students learning about God in His very creation, skip down to the PHOTO GALLERY at bottom.]

Here’s Matt Brown on some of the nitty gritty behind our Outdoor Education Month planning, prep, and production…

Outdoor education month is a very unique experience that we offer to our students. As the coordinator of all these trips, it can be easy to get caught up in the details—the planning, funding, food, substitute teachers, any number of things—and forget what a special opportunity it is to offer these experience to our students. Time and again we have been able to challenge, educate and grow deeper relationships with our students through exploring and challenging them in the great outdoors.

kids outsideHighlights & Celebrations

This year some of the highlights include further improving our execution of all of high school and middle school going on their respective outdoor education trips, students leading and taking ownership of their own outdoor trips, and reducing the stress on finding substitutes.
Proudly, we continue to increase our outdoor supplies and tools such as doubling the amount of backpacking packs we have, as well as utilizing walkie talkies to further communication on the trails and increase safety.
Introducing new trips such as whitewater rafting, service in the community, and student planned and lead trips has deepened bonds with students and helped develop tools to overcome fears and challenges.  It’s through applying these skills that aren’t easily learned to every day situations that we can teach them to persevere and be servant leaders, brave and so many other characteristics.
outdoor education

Constant Improvement

We are always looking to improve on previous years’ trips and the specific educational content while outdoors is one of our main areas of focus, along with clearly outlining and planning for future Outdoor Education seasons. In doing this we can minimize the learning period for future student leaders, staff and expedition specialists as much as possible and continue to facilitate safe, fun, and educational outdoor ed experiences for our kids.
Another goal we have looking beyond continually improving our students’ experience and fostering a love for the outdoors, is on supply and gear. We take dozens of trips each year and have (proudly) stretched the use of our gear and need to continue to expand our supply. Our goal of sustainability and continuance of our rich outdoor experiences hinges on our ability to continue growing our inventory of high-performance outdoor good for our students.
[Dan: Matt has done and AMAZING job facilitating in-kind donations of outdoor gear that continues to build on and enrich our Outdoor Education and fieldwork elements of our educational model. If you feel compelled to help by donating or giving gear to this department of Doulos, please don’t hesitate to reach out.]

Outdoor Education Photo Showcase

How Budgets & Board Meetings Can Change Lives [Behind the Scenes of Doulos]

[This post was originally written by Trevor Plankenhorn for his personal blog—you can find his missionary blog here.

Trevor and Kathy Plankenhorn are on their third year serving as missionaries at Doulos.  Trevor is the Finance Director and Kathy is the PreK 4 teacher.  They have two kids, Luke and Emily, who are students at Doulos.  This post was originally written by Trevor for their supporters, but we felt it did a great job of painting a picture of our ministry from two different perspectives; behind the scenes and loving on kids.]

Enter Trevor…

To be honest, I struggle with what to write about when sending the monthly missionary update letter. I totally understand that our supporters, friends and family want to know what’s going on with our family. They also want to know how to pray for us and what needs we have. I sometimes wish the work I did more easily translated to these types of updates you see all the time. For example, “Here’s a picture of me loving on some kids.” Or “Here’s a baptism in the river.” “Here’s the new church building we renovated.” Funny thing is, we’ve actually done all of those things in the last year (the baptism was my own son :)), but that doesn’t represent the majority of my time as a missionary in the Dominican Republic.

My wife’s day is much different than mine. Kathy loves on 4 year olds every day. Half of her class of 20 is in the Doulos sponsorship program, where this year the families earn an average of $491 US per month. The lowest income families earn less than $200 US per month. She’s teaching them to read and write (in English AND Spanish), how to get along with their new friends, how to walk in a straight line, and to go to the bathroom in the bathroom. She offers them an option every morning before they come into class of a “hug, handshake, or high-five,” and I don’t have the actual numbers on this, but most of them opt for the hug. It’s truly the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in your entire life.

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My day is very different from hers. For example, yesterday I spent every minute of my day finishing up fiscal year end budget reports for the school. I have to prepare them for this month’s board meeting and they have to be accurate. That meant combing through a years worth of transactions (in Spanish) and making sure they were properly categorized and accounted for. I then had to turn that information into a narrative about the financial health and success of the school. For a highly analytical (nerd) person like myself, it was a long task with a great feeling of accomplishment at the end. It’s also a job that’s really difficult to communicate with any sort of emotion or story. But I’m going to try and pull some nuggets from my “financial year in review.”

Doulos Discovery School operates on a budget that comes partly from tuition fees and partly from donations for the students in the sponsorship program. Half of the staff at Doulos are North American missionaries, and the other half are local Dominican staff. The average cost of “Educating and equipping servant leaders through Christian discipleship and expeditionary learning to impact the Dominican Republic” (Doulos’ mission statement) is $139/month per student. By comparison, the public school system in the USA spends $1,000/month per student. (Which is crazy.) One of the ways Doulos can do so much with so little is because of our missionary staff. All of our missionaries raise their own support through their family, friends and churches back home. If Doulos had to pay these salaries from it’s budget, we would have to spend almost $600/month per student to operate the school.

Knowing that Doulos has limited funds available is key to this next part. Our School Director, Danae, and I just finished meeting with all of our local Dominican staff this week. We were so honored to tell them that salaries were increasing for every single staff member. We also got to share with them that Doulos will be covering 100% of their private insurance costs and that all of their school-aged children can now be a part of our scholarship program and their cost for that is 100% covered. In the past three years, we’ve increased total Dominican salaries by 40%. So not only is Doulos giving back to the students in the community, but we’re working hard at making it the best place to work in all of the Dominican Republic.

We also made significant advances in our resources available for students this last year. We added 10 iPads, 24 laptop computers and we now have a projector for every classroom. I’ve built new schools in the US and I know this is commonplace for schools there, but for the DR and Doulos, this is huge. Our students are learning to work with technology that has escaped them for years. We just had a meeting last week where we discussed the 2-3 year plan for the technology curriculum and it’s only going to get better.

These are the wins that I get to see on a daily basis. If you dig through the numbers and can understand the significance of what’s happening here, it’s truly special.

Visit Kathy & Trevor’s Blog