One of the great gifts the Lord has given me in this life so far here in the Dominican Republic one friend in particular.
Now I’ve made many relationships here already, and for those of you who know me know that I am all for relationships… New ones, old ones, deep ones, meaningful ones, peculiar ones… So I don’t think it is a surprise that the Lord would have one so deep and profound waiting for me here.
Her name is Keren.
Keren was an intern 9 months for New Hope before I got here.
She is from Colombia originally and she has been involved in missions since she was 11 years old.
Her parents are pastors. She is part of a large church network in her country and is also a YWAM-er at heart and did her DTS in Peru and has served in many different areas in Latin America.
She has so many stories that have gripped me over the last month we have been sharing and doing life together. The first time we spent hanging out was going to ice cream and on the way home we got caught in a rainstorm and found ourselves sharing a raincoat soaking wet walking down the muddy, soiled, pot-hole streets for what felt like miles.
We then shared a time the following weekend going to the beach where we talked for hours upon hours straight to the point where everyone around us was asking that we would “take a break”… I don’t think we ever took their advice because when we are together it is a total talk-fest.
Keren is a musician. Keren is a dancer. Keren is a lover of language. Keren is a great teacher. She is a missionary and a dreamer. She is a creator and studying journalism. She is creative. She is smart. She doesn’t stop and is very social.
Yes. All these things are true. But one thing is for sure:
Keren loves God. And God loves Keren.
She listens to Him. She receives His wisdom, she receives His correction. She loves that He is the writer of her story and she is believing Him for more and more each and every day as He too answers her dreams in ways that are greater and grander than what she had imagined for herself.
It has been so sweet to have been able to learn from her over the last month… I have cried with her, I have shared my heart with her on several occasions. She has prayed for me, she has shared with me the way God has poured into her and encouraged her in this ministry that we both know can run you down in an instant if you are not living in the calling that the Lord has placed for you specifically. Her testimonies have given me goose bumps, her words have offered me comfort, her life has been a picture of strength, provision, grace…
We have acknowledged that yes, though our adventures here in the Dominican Republic already have looked different during our over-lapped time she still assures me and reminds me that she too has gone through so many of the emotions, fears, difficulties, questions, and weaknesses that I am experiencing right now. I have soaked up as much as I have been able to in our times of encouragement and story-telling and her life is truly a blessing that continues to be poured out into mine.
She even gifted me a bilingual bible... The exact translation that I had been praying for that the Lord would provide for me. It is an NASB and has both English and Spanish side by side. I haven't been able to put it down since she gave it to me and it is such a sweet reminder of how the Lord knows and works all things together.
Keren and I have gone on some adventures together during my time here.
We went to the beach, we went on a PACA tour (paca’s are “thrift store’s” here in the Dominican because wouldn’t you know that we both have a love for clothing, especially the used, old, worn and abandoned because we know that there is so much potential for rediscovering beauty), and we just made our way to the capital city for an adventure I would have never seen coming.
Keren recently went to a communication conference that was being held in the capital city, Santo Domingo here in the DR. It is the biggest Christian communication conference here in Latin America and it just so happened to be held here in the country she has been serving in for the better half of the year.
At the conference she met these individuals that have a television program here in the DR called “Mas que bueno”.
It is a Christian program that is kind of like a talk/variety show.
When she got to talking to some of the staff members they asked her if she would like to be on their show at some point in the future to interview her about the mission work she has been doing in the Dominican Republic. Little did I know she had also mentioned to them that there was another intern at New Hope right now and they also invited me along as well.
We made our plans pretty quickly, especially since it was one of her last adventures in the Dominican. We set out and left early in the day for our evening interview and explored a Spanish corner of the city. I whipped out my camera and took countless pictures of my dear friend. It has been difficult for me her to take photos because of the safety aspects involved in the more risky areas I am living and it felt INCREDIBLE to have such a freedom to shoot, enjoy and create.
One of the goals of the day was to find some really good natural juice to drink and we went to a fancy hotel and ordered fancy pinapple juice and waited for our taxi to come to take us to the television station.
We ended up waiting and waiting because of the combination of traffic and our latent planning and ended up at our destination an hour late… However the peace of the Lord gave us for that day combined with our excitement overwhelmed me.
The station looked much more official than I could have ever imagined and reality began to set in: I was about to be interviewed in Spanish, being asked questions on the spot and expected to give accurate/thorough answers. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, especially myself, but at the same time I could smile and rejoice because this was indeed another adventure.
We walked in in the middle of a segment and stayed in the back till the program host came and started talking to us. She was so excited to see us there, remembered Keren from the conference, and began to give us the low down on what we were going to be doing that day.
Now its important to know that I understand about ½ to ¾ of Dominican Spanish, especially when I am talking to individuals I haven’t interacted with yet. While I was listening to her, I started picking up that there was going to be an interview of some sort on dating relationships. I just listened, and nodded, and uttered something like “Si, si, si que bueno” and the next thing I knew a man came over to me and began to put a microphone on me. I wasn’t yet confused because I thought that they were just getting us ready for our segment that was to come, but then I looked over at Keren and realized that no one came over to her to put a microphone on…
Then she asked me the question, “So are you ready for this?”
“Ready for what? Where is your mic?” I asked her… The confusion began to set in. Karen began to explain…
I had just agreed to be on a panel talking about long dating relationships and giving my opinion on the subject and my perspectives. The only needed one of us, and through all my nods and casual affirmations I had agreed to be the one.
I began freaking out... “Keren! How did you let me say yes to this!”
“Well I thought I would be the person for the interview myself but I didn’t want to stop you if that was something you were up for doing!”
Within minutes I was on stage with two other individuals and our interview was just about to begin. Needless to say I was sweating, had to go to the bathroom, and freaking out in all kinds of ways on the inside.
When the interview began the host was so full of energy and explained that we were going to dive into one of her favorite topics: Christian dating relationships. The first question was asked and I didn’t understand what she was asking until AFTER I gave my answer… So I prayed and asked the Lord and gave the most generic one I could but it still wasn’t fitting for what she was really asking… But they all laughed it off and continued on and made a joke out of my confusing answer.
Throughout the rest of the questions I was able to take myself less serious and have fun with it and I ended up understanding and answering every question in a way that made sense and they could follow!! We finished our time at the station with our interview and it was a beautiful, quick time of sharing our stories of how the Lord had brought us here to this country and the heart He has given us for our girls here. They were so appreciative after we finished, and the host told me that she wanted me to come back every month and that I would surely boost their ratings… I think that’s probably because I was the only American there and probably provided some ample entertainment.
We left in a rush because we were 30 minutes from missing the last bus that would take us home to our city and luckily a couple who were also featured on the show were able to take us back. They are amazing worshippers of the Lord who just came out with a worship album and it was so wonderful to hear there stories of the Lord’s provision in their lives and the journey He has taken them on through their musical process.
We made it to the bus station with 5 minutes to spare and begged the bus driver to let us run to the cafeteria because we hadn’t eaten since 12 and our bus was taking off at 8pm… He agreed and we ran our way to grab our dinner and headed back to find our seats on the bus that would take us home.
There was such favor poured out on that day. It was so beautiful, it was crazy, it was messy and it was a work of God. We were running all over the capital, being interviewed on a television show sharing our hearts for missions, and not to mention sharing more time of sisterhood and friendship.
The next day we had a surprise going away party for Keren and I was able to keep it quiet the whole day before. It was a morning of honor as we gave her gifts, shared treats and songs and dancing and of course many pictures as I named myself her personal photographer for the time.
It was amazing to see how many individuals she has poured into during her time here. I felt honored that I got at least one month, and it was incredible to see what God had done and evolved throughout her journey.
Truth be told: It hasn't been easy for me. Living in the barrio. Living with the girls. Feeling defeated and so wrong for the job countless times. Crying out and having difficulty sleeping because I can’t help but pray and intercede and ask God to intervene in the messiness. But then there are those individuals that remind you it is going to be a work of GOD, not of yourself… For His glory, and that He also promises us in His word that we too will one day be glorified with Him. Karen has reminded me that yes, I had vision and dreams and ambitions before I came here but it is okay to "change my strategy," to ask the Lord to show me a better way in humility and surrender, and to ask for His anointing because that is what TRULY will carry me through and give me the authority of the Spirit of God that is within.
Thank you Keren for being a friend. For laughing with me and crying with me and sharing your stories and listening to mine. I am grateful for such a strong sisterhood, and I am grateful that you too are a dreamer and we will continue to dream greater and brighter and bigger with Him.
We will be seeing each other… In Colombia, in the US, back here in the DR, or somewhere else… But one thing’s for sure we have eternity to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. That is a promise I will cling to when the days are hard and I will wish that you were still here.
Nos veremos pronto.