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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

Literally and/or figuratively, have you ever been in darkness so thick that there was no trace of light? A veil of inky blackness that consumes your sight, whose depth of darkness leaves you squinting for the slightest break of pattern in the blackness so as to be able to focus . . . but to no avail?

Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness can not define itself, it needs light to do that. The second that the smallest amount of light interacts with it, it is no longer dark. At daybreak, the darkness does not turn itself off, but is pressed in upon by the light – thus no more darkness. Light triumphs over darkness and not vice versa.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:5

Recently, a group of Doulos staff (& company) visited a remote part of the island, 7,000 feet above sea level in a hidden away spot thriving with blankets of flowers and tucked in by forests of pine and cedar trees. This refreshing spot is untouched by human hands for the most part, dappled with a few small cabins, where the sounds of sheep bleating, turkeys gobbling and fresh air wafting through the mountainside is the music of tranquility.

Away from electricity and high up in the clouds, the air is cold (for a tropical island) and solar powered lights, a cozy fire in the fire place and the moon are the only source of light once the sun drifts away. When the fire burns out, and the lights lose their juice, it is very, very dark. The darkest dark I have ever physically experienced. Though I’m a grown woman, the extreme darkness was overwhelming for me, and I began to anticipate, hunger for, deeply yearn for the light. When I opened my eyes to dawn each morning, I became giddy in my spirit. LIGHT!

It was there in that place where the truth and message of Jesus, the light of the world, met me in a fresh way on the brink of this advent season.  We are in the season of celebrating Jesus’ birth of putting on human flesh so that He could walk among us, die on behalf of us, and save us from our sinful selves by receiving Him as Savior.  Jesus is the LIGHT, and when we accept and receive him, He is in us. The LIGHT is in us. We have the LIGHT because we have HIM.

This season of anticipation and hope has little to do with great deals, cyber sales, gatherings, good food, Santa, elves, reindeers,  or “home,” – though those are all fun things. It has everything to do with the fact that we were in total darkness, consumed by the inky blackness of sin, self and flesh, and then the Light of the World was born unto the earth, offering those who would receive Him the gift of eternal life.   There is not a single fact more hope filled than this!

Is there someone in your midst who may be living in darkness, someone who is yearning for LIGHT? Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if you have Jesus, you can shine His light that is in you and point them to Him.

Are you living in such comfort that you’ve ceased yearning for Jesus?  Let us not be consumed by the things of this world, but remain steadfast, focused and plugged into the hope that we have that is Christ Jesus. I pray more than anything else that you would be giddy with Joy because of the LIGHT that you have received and that you can now offer to others!

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

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:

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 or you can go directly to the give link and sign up now! Everyone can help someone!