September 8, 2014

our plans vs. god's plans

el plan - [el pl-ah-n]
spanish for "plan".

I've been here for nearly four full years now. I left for the DR on September 15, 2010, as a 23 year old single girl thinking I'd be gone for 3 years and that I'd live and work for Young Life in the large city of Santiago.
Instead, four years later, I'm married and living in the mountain town of Jarabacoa, and, while I still work for Young Life (in a different city than originally planned), I've recently started working on my Masters through an online seminary program.

Our plans aren't always God's plans.

If it had been up to me- asking my 18 year old self what the next ten years would look like- my life would have been very different. I would have met someone in college and married him a week after graduation. We would have moved to the Dominican Republic right away so I could work for Young Life. Certainly, we would have moved back to the Chicago suburbs by now and had at least one or two kids. Maybe we'd own a house and a dog. The details start to get fuzzy around the projected age of 28.

But our plans aren't always God's plans.

I'm 27 and a half. I don't have a dog (although I can't wait to have a golden retriever!) and I don't own a house. While I want to have kids someday, the idea of having them right now seems crazy. I can't imagine my life without Brad, who, incidentally, I did not meet in college, but a year after graduation when I was living at my parent's house, waiting tables and fundraising to be on Young Life staff in the Dominican Republic. (Living at home and working at a restaurant also wasn't in my original plan.) I'm still in the DR and in a year, I don't know exactly where we'll be.

Like I said, our plans aren't always God's plans.

And looking back, I'm glad that they're not. Brad keeps saying that his life is like a fine wine: it's just getting better with age. And while there have been bumps- and even huge potholes- along the road, I'm happy to say that God knew way better than I did when God was planning my life. The verse from Jeremiah 29:11 was my favorite in high school: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.'" Oh, how I want to always know that is true and rest in the hope and goodness of our great God. It's hard, but I'm trying.

Does anybody else feel that way? Has anybody else been blindsided by the goodness of God's plans?

written by Emily

August 15, 2014

Happy New (school) Year!

As this new school year is about to begin, here are a few highlights from last year. Along with a few ways you can get involved this year!

One of my favorite parts of this second year at Doulos has been the growing and continued relationships with students at school. It was fun to watch relationships with students grow in various different ways. One way that relationships were growing was in the classroom. Getting to teach students a second time around not only made teaching more effective, but it made it more fun too.

Beyond that, Emily and I got to share our marriage and our life together with students by teaching a devotional class together. Two days a week Emily would join me in class as we talked to students about different topics from the Bible. It was really fun to share our different strengths together.

Here I am celebrating the craziness of Doulos’ math madness week by doing and obstacle course with Oliver.

Without a doubt one of our favorite parts and richest blessings was our community. We often had a chance to share fun things like meals, games, and movies. As well as help each other out in times of loss, transition and change.

Here we are enjoying some time off with friends, at Spirit Mountain, a coffee farm that supports Doulos.

Among the other highlights was “campaigners” (Bible study) with a group of high school boys. Every other Tuesday I had the great joy (with the help of my co-leader/friend Tim) of having 3-5 boys over for a time of hanging out and sharing. Our time was usually comprised of eating some burnt hotdogs, sharing stories from the week, making fun of each other some, and a time of reading and discussion.

Certainly the most challenging part of this year was the death of one of our students, Gabriel. Gabriel was fun-loving student who brought smiles and laughs to all of his peers. I had the great privilege of getting to know Gabriel through many laughs in class, crazy dance moves and singing songs together at Young Life, serving together at WyldLife Camp (a camp for middle school students), and times of hanging out over ice cream. Please continue to keep Gabriel’s family and the other students in your thoughts and prayers.

This is Gabriel playing around as usual, celebrating alternative energy which he was learning about in class.

Thank you for all of your continued love and support for me, for Emily, and for our students and friends in the Dominican Republic, without you everything we do we truly be impossible.

This is a picture from the “Vida Joven” (Young Life) Dominican Republic summer camps.

Finally, Emily and I have decided to continue working here for another wonderful year. In order to continue to live and serve here in the Dominican Republic we need your help. I have been richly blessed by the generous giving of other so much so, that much of money for this year is already taken care of! However, in order to meet my budget for this year I will need to raise $3,000. I would love if you would consider joining me in prayer and/or financial support this year.

If you are interested in giving you can do so through our website be sure to fill in “Brad Holehan” in the box.

Thanks so much!


March 10, 2014

a 60 year old man in a graphic tee & red pants

normal - [nor-mal]
spanish for "normal".

What is normal anyway?

I'm realizing more and more throughout my time here that there are some things that I've forgotten aren't normal.
Like seeing 60 year old men hanging out at a corner store wearing an Aeropostale graphic tee and bright red pants.

Wait, what? Yeah, that's not normal.
Or is it?

I'm no longer sure. After living in the Dominican Republic for nearly four years, I feel like my barometer of normality is off. I find myself not even thinking twice about things that would turn heads for a regular Chicago suburbanite and good Midwestern girl.

This horse is being towed by a man on a motorcycle
on the shoulder of a major highway.

- There are more motorcycles than cars.
- Traffic lights and laws seem to just be suggestions.
- In our little town there are often horses on the streets and motorcycles on the sidewalks.
- The back of a motorcycle can carry anything from a hundred loaves of bread to a washing machine.

There are palm trees everywhere.
And I don't even notice anymore. Yes, this might be normal for some of those southern states, but this girl is used to snow banks and pine trees during the winter months. Now, I see palm trees everywhere I look, and when I think about, that's just strange.

- 60 year old men who wear Aeropostale graphic tees and bright red pants.Yes, this happens. All of the time. And not just red pants either- purple, yellow, green, royal blue… you name it, they wear it.
- Wearing jeans in 95 degree weather (and feeling super chilly when it's 70 degrees out).
- High heels: whenever women get dressed up, high heels are a must. (A little difficult for this girl who has worn high heels 3 times in her life!)

Around the house.
- Turning on the stove or oven by turning on the gas and lighting a match (no electric starters here, folks).
- Flipping a switch to turn on the hot water heater before hopping into the shower.
- No power for the majority of the work day, most of the time. The city power goes out about 3-5 days per week for about 4-7 hours a day. 

I think this might be one of the biggest ones. Right now, if I really listen, I can hear the following sounds:
- roosters crowing
- dogs barking
- loud motorcycles on the street
- the neighbors blaring Latin music
- men working: yelling at one another in Spanish and the clunking of machinery
But again, I hardly notice it anymore. If you've ever talked with me on Skype, you know what I mean. My mom is constantly pointing out the squawking chickens, noisy neighborhood kids, the never-ceasing barking of dogs, and I just smile and say, "oh, really? I hadn't noticed."

And there's so, so much more. 
What's your normal?
Or even better, where are you seeing a new normal in your life?

(written by Emily)