Category: Photography

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

 

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

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!

Heart Too Big

“We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children
that makes the heart too big for the body.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, yes! We get it! Here at Doulos our hearts are overflowing because God has entrusted us not just with the education of our students, but more importantly their tender hearts. Discipleship is woven into the fabric of what we do at Doulos – into the academics, the events and the activities – people walking alongside people in pursuit of Christ is evident all around. There is the powerful combination of love + intention at Doulos, combined with the LOVE of Christ that is threaded throughout, which has the power to transform a country from the inside out. If you’ve been here, you’ve seen the glimmer and sparkle of kids thriving in a creative, challenging, loving environments that both grounds their feet and lights a fire in their minds. It is invigorating to delight in the beauty and happiness of children!

We would love for your heart to swell outside of its bodily boundary by partnering with us through sponsorship! It is an amazing way to participate and delight in children we pray will grow spiritually, academically, physically and mentally for the glory of the Kingdom of God!

For more information about sponsoring a student, email rachel.sawyer@doulosdiscovery.org or you can go directly to the give link and sign up now! Everyone can help someone!

Servant Leadership

We lead using power, authority, and influence to love and serve others because Jesus first loved and served us.

— Mark 10:45

The past six weeks of school we have been focusing on our Servant Leader code of character. This code reflects someone who leads “using power, authority, and influence to love and serve others because Jesus first loved and served us.” We kicked off the school year with a chapel talk from our school director Bob Phelps on the story of The Good Samaritan from Luke 10:30-36. This man had compassion and acted upon it. He did not let the cost of time or money prevent him from helping and caring for this traveler.

Servant leader: Someone who puts other people’s needs before their own comfort to bring healing or to help them flourish.

So how have we been applying this concept? We have been striving for our students to cultivate a culture of putting others’ needs before our own. We watched our students go out into the community during Doulos Service week and put their education on hold to lend a hand to students at other schools. They got their hands dirty and spent hours.

Every Revolution, our teachers choose a student from each grade level they feel lives out our code of character in every day life. They are then recognized for their representation of that character trait. Friends of Franciso Mata, an 11th grader, noted that he is always willing to lend a hand in the classroom and often stays after to help the teacher clean up. Jemima, a kindergartner, serves her teacher by following instructions and encouraging her classmates to follow suit. Hanna Abad, a first grader, shows her classmates how to serve with a happy heart and shows God’s love in her actions.

The following list of students from each grade were selected by their teachers as exemplary in the character trait of “Servant Leadership”

12 – Ysmayar Castillo
11 – Frandi Peralta (Francisco Mata)
10 – Mayelin Tiburcio
9 – Brian Abreu
8 – Frayluis Almonte
7 – Robert Castillo
6 – David Ovalle
5 – Sebastian Uribe Pina
4 – Angel David Matos Acosta
3 – Jailynne Fernandez
2 – Debora Ortiz
1 – Hanna Lara Abad
K – Jemima


God Sponsors Us

Sponsorship is near and dear to my heart because I believe it is near and dear to God’s heart. Obviously, God loves children and He tells us to have faith like them, relentless and pure belief unclouded by adult practicality and cynicism. He tells us to love others as ourselves, to not show favoritism, to live humbly and to give generously, which is not dependent on our wealth or lack thereof. He adopts us, though dirty from sin, and makes a way for us to become clean through the blood of Jesus, so that not only can we approach Him, but also so that we can inherit the kingdom of God. In short, He sponsors us. He covers the costs. He invites us into the kingdom and provides for us a bright future with Him. God is the author of Sponsorship.

In the month of October, Doulos will launch a Sponsorship Campaign that we invite you to be a part of! The purpose of the campaign is to highlight the reason for sponsorship, the relationships that are cultivated due to it, the rewards that are reaped because of it, and the response that we hope to receive from others who are eager to enter into it. We invite you to follow along this month, and to prayerfully consider sponsoring one of our world changing students.

For more information about sponsoring a student, email rachel.sawyer@doulosdiscovery.org or you can go directly to the give link and sign up now! Everyone can help someone!