Surprise VBS!!

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Our one month team in the Dominican focuses on evangelism for the first two weeks and then helps with the medical clinics their third week. Once both of those teams leave, we plan a special project for the one monthers to complete during their final week.

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We often leave this project up to our partner pastors as they know the greatest needs in their community. Examples would include building a house, painting a playground or installing a water pump.

Except, this year, SURPRISE!!

Pastor Tito decided that his community’s greatest need was… THE GOSPEL for their children. He organized an impromptu VBS for 2 days and told our team about it the night before. When they asked how many children to expect, he said, “at least 90, maybe 400.”

FOUR HUNDRED!! 

That might seem amazing, until you realize that RIM’s two week team and medical team have both already gone home, leaving only SIX team members to plan, organize and run this program.

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Our quick-thinking team made a quick call to the RIM office in Georgia, where we provided them with a curriculum and spent an hour on conference call training them how to run the program.

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Then they dashed off to the store to buy supplies, and they stayed up half the night prepping posters and crafts.

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Back at the office, our hearts were torn… 90 kids sounded manageable, but 400 kids to share the Gospel with would be incredible. But could the team do it?? No worries however, this amazing team didn’t even break a sweat…

BRING IT ON!! They felt ready for whatever the Lord had in store!

Meanwhile, RIM staffed tapped our prayer networks and asked people to pray for these two days. And hundreds of folks agreed to help – people shared our prayer posts of social media, commented with prayers, and promised to keep this team before the Lord the whole time. We’re so blessed and encouraged to see such an incredible community back home support those on the field! 

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When the VBS program began the next day, 300 KIDS showed up.

THREE HUNDRED CHILDREN!!

And they heard the Gospel, and they responded… Our team knocked it out of the park sharing with them and praying with them. What an awesome time! We can’t imagine a better way to have finished out this trip!!

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Except of course for a beach day… Our team spent their final moments on the beach reminding each other of all the Lord has done this summer and encouraging each other about the transition back to home.

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Temple Tour / Monk Chat (Chiangmai)

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While in Chiangmai this week, our Thailand team went up the nearby mountain to Doi Suthep, a huge Buddhist temple to prayer walk. As they arrived, they saw 4,000 Thai students waiting in line to receive blessings from the monks. This really impacted the team because we saw how spiritually hungry the Thai people are but also how lost they are. They’re seeking blessings from monks when they could be beginning relationships with Christ. This reality truly motivated our hearts to pray.

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Afterwards, we did a “monk chat” – basically the Thai culture reveres monks as so incredibly wise that the monks set aside time to share their wisdom with the people. Missionaries use these times to engage the monks in conversation and share Christ. This is something our teams do every year. Sometimes we are able to share the Gospel and see seeds planted. Other times we walk away with a deeper understanding of the spiritual lost-ness of this culture.

This time, our monk chat was awesome! A monk we were talking with displayed the most openness and interest in Jesus that I (Dan) have ever seen from a monk. As a Project Director for RIM, I’ve been coming to Thailand for 8 years and I’ve done many monk chats. We’re all really encouraged that the Lord divinely opened up this opportunity for us, and we ask for your prayers that this man will come into personal relationship with Christ.

Overall, Chiangmai has been a wonderful experience with a lot of fruit!! We’re so encouraged by the depth of sharing about Christ that we’ve been able to do with the monks and in the bars, and we were so privileged to work with the ministry that helps trafficked children (even though we’ll have to tell you most of those stories once we get home). God has really moved in a powerful way here in Chiangmai!

Today, we’re off to visit the elephants (literally!) and then we’ll have one more night of bar ministry before we head to Chiang Kham, our final stop on this trip. There, we’ll work with Home of Blessing, a house for poor, orphaned or abandoned girls, many of whom are being protected from trafficking by living there. These girls are given opportunities to know Christ, be discipled, and receive an education so they can move on to better circumstances than their families of origin. We look forward to encouraging them, working alongside them, visiting their schools to teach English, and helping them plant rice (which will provide food for the home for about six months!). Please keep us in your prayers as we finish the last 10 days of our time in Thailand!!

Red Light Relationships (Chiangmai)

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We’ve had some exciting ministry in Chiangmai over the past few days. Our primary activity here is working in the Red Light District, where all the bars are. One of the main things we’ve learned through orientation by our ministry partner, Emmi, is that the girls who work here end up in this industry for a wide variety of reasons… Poverty, abuse, neglect, trafficking. Our compassion grew as we began to understand the back stories.

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While we’re here, we partner with Emmi’s ministry and go into the bars at night. We seek to build relationships with the girls while they’re not with other customers. This can look like buying cokes and sitting around a card table playing Jenga or Connect Four (there are lots of games available) with them and chatting about life. Sometimes we just stand there and chat.

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Ultimately, we try to build enough of a bridge that they’ll meet with us outside of work hours. Emmi has a cafe that serves coffee, dessert, salad, soup and other light meals. It’s part of a program/ministry she runs to develop job skills for people who leave their work in the bars. However, it also makes an ideal spot for us to meet with girls during the daytime.

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Over the last few days, we’ve built solid connections with several girls. Saturday afternoon three girls who work in the bars met two of our girls at Zion, and Emmi met them.

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Then Sunday at Starbucks, four of our girls met a different set of three girls who work in the bars, along with one girl’s baby. Both scenes seemed powerful with what appeared to be lots of genuine interest and openness to Christ.

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On Friday, we also visited a ministry that provides serious help in the child trafficking scene. We can’t take pictures there as it is at a secret location, but we were so privileged to learn more about what is being done and to serve alongside of them for a few hours!

100+ Kids Welcome Us

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Sharing the Gospel in the DR at a School

On a typical RIM trip in Central America or the Caribbean, we spend the first two weeks with our summer teams presenting the drama at school assemblies, 3-5 schools per day.

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This blast of evangelism sows a lot of seeds for our contacts to follow up with after we’re gone. It helps bring visibility to their ministries and increase their reach into the community. 

Presenting the Gospel in the Dominican

With the DR, one challenge we anticipated is students being on summer vacation during the month of July (unlike other countries, they have a similar school calendar to the US).

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So far, we’ve had an awesome time taking the Gospel more directly out into communities, and our host contacts have worked really hard to strategically place us for the greatest impact.

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One of our main contact’s friends has a church and a school nearby to where our team is living this month, and he saw RIM’s drama when another team visited the area last March. When he found out about our team, he requested us to spend a whole day at his church–performing the drama and doing children’s ministry.

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Initially, we felt skeptical that he could gather up many kids during their vacation time, but WOW did he surprise us. When we arrived yesterday, more than 100 children eagerly welcomed us and could not wait to spend the day with us!!

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What a phenomenal day! We presented the drama and the Gospel, and children responded. We also broke into small groups with them to really get to know them, share our testimonies, hear about their lives, and minister to them.

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In addition, we had a blast playing games, singing songs and building relationships in all kinds of creative way. God is so good, and we loved seeing Him at work in this community!

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Gospel Under the Bridge

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RIM Journeyman Drama in the DR

Our second performance took place under a bridge. Our audience? A group of construction workers busily repairing an intersection nearby.

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Once we began, the construction workers paused from their labor and came to watch.

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They took some heat from their boss in order to see our presentation, but you could tell the Gospel affected them.

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Afterwards, one of the construction workers shared his testimony with our team. As it turns out, our illustration helped him to share his own faith with his co-workers! It continues to amaze us how powerful a visual demonstration of the Gospel is to those who watch.

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Please continue to pray for the Lord to stir hearts and draw people to himself!

RIM Journeyman Drama in the DR

If you missed our first blog from today, be sure to read Dominican Baseball Player Shares His Faith. Also, good news… this afternoon we finished up painting at the church!

Construction Project in the Dominican
So much painting – finally finished!!

 

Here are a few pictures from when we attended their worship services on Sunday:

Dominican Church Service
Pastor Tito introducing our team!
Gospel presentation thru drama
Performing the drama during church