by Richie Sparling, Outreach Director
June 15, 2016 we will celebrate the completion of our third year of marriage. Who would have ever thought we would be teaching a marriage class to couples who have upwards of 15 years of marriage under their belts? Certainly not us!! And yet this is a door that God has opened for us and we have stepped through.
In the fall of 2012 Gabrielle and I were privileged to participate in a fantastic premarital class with our home church. The title of the class is 2-1 Premarital ministry, but the roots of the class go all the way back some 15 years or so to a Divorce recover class. With the success of the Divorce recovery ministry, the facilitators began to realize that rather than just minister to those suffering from Divorce and broken marriages, they had a responsibility to prevent this terrible end result to marriage. Therefore they worked backwards, using all the research from their time navigating various situations of divorce, and put into a premarital class all the reasons for which couples get divorced. What they realized was that if they could help couples communicate through these issues prior to marriage, in the long run they could help prevent those same issues from resulting in divorce years down the road. They have also helped couples realize the purpose of marriage, its eternal impact and God's design, and the seriousness of the commitment and pact they are making with another sinful human being. In this way challenging couples to truly discover their compatibility and loyalty to the idea of commitment with each other for life.
Needless to say, the class is incredible. It had a profound impact on our relationship and marriage. Not to say that without the class we would be failing in our marriage, but the benefit to our marriage has been amazing.
We brought the class materials with us to the Dominican Republic because we planned on continuing to use them in our marriage. Not two months into our time here, the Lord opened the door for us to break out our binder and share with a young couple about to get married the information that had been given to us. Essentially we went through the entire class with this couple and they loved it! From there, and from their own personal testimony, the word spread and we had more opportunities to share our knowledge. I even spoke at a Valentines day dinner for couples of our church here in Montellano ...almost ALL of the couples from our church. Then I was asked to offer a mini conference to couples from the church.
With all of these opportunities, and how incredibly receptive the couples who sat through these sessions were to the teaching, including the church leaders from various churches, I felt like the Lord was opening the door for me to offer the full 11 week class. I went to the pastors and proposed a plan, invited a young couple from Makarios about to get married, several newly married couples, a couple Gabrielle and I had been mentoring and also asked the pastor to select other couples from leadership in the church to take the class. In my proposal to the church leaders, I laid out a vision for the church to continue the class and offer it as a premarital class to couples from their church and outside the church, that it would not only be a blessing to marriages, but a tool to share the gospel as marriage is presented as an image of Christ and the Church.
Five weeks ago we started with 16 couples and Pastor Pedro Marrero stood before the class and announced that many of them had been invited to take the class, not just so that it would benefit their marriages, but so that after taking the class they could then teach it as the church is planning on making it part of their regular ministry.
Wow!!! What a privilege to have a front row seat to God's working! We are simply the instruments God chose to use to accomplish His work, because there is nothing special about who we are or our background that sets us apart and that anyone would look at us and say "with all your experience you should teach a marriage class". But we praise God for the work He is doing and are so thankful for how He will continue to use the ministry started almost 20 years ago for His glory.
We are into our 6th week and each session has been more and more incredible! Praise the Lord for what He has done and will continue to do!
Outreach happens in various forms within Makarios and we are excited to see how this area develops in the future as relationships are forged and fortified through time, effort, energy and love.
by Adrienne Christian
I joined the Makarios family officially in October of 2015. As a Christian and missionary I have been called to share His gospel to those lost, to encourage those who may be young in their faith, and to educate those who may otherwise not have the opportunity.
In the midst of an environment of broken families, physical and spiritual poverty, and the lack of education, I often wonder what exactly it looks like to love those in my community well. What does it mean to love like Christ loved me? He, being God, became a man and died on a cross to pay for my sins. What does it mean for me to sacrifice? What does it mean to love my neighbor as myself or to love my enemies? How does it look to make sacrifices in order to walk alongside those who live in my neighborhood? How do I love my neighbors who don't know Christ? How do I love those families who are struggling spiritually or those with whom I come in contact who are sick? How do I love my students as Jesus would love them even when it is hard?
In Luke 10, Jesus tells a lawyer that the way to eternal life is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind and he concludes saying love your neighbor as yourselves.
How should I love?
I should love God first… and I should love Him with all of myself.
The most important thing before serving, before educating, before anything else is to love God with everything we have.
For me, that looks like reading daily and stretching myself to know God more and more and grow in my trust in His holy plan. Sometimes it means going against the grain to please God instead of man. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul says that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God… and that we should not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds… and then we will be able to discern what God's good and perfect will is.
We show love first by loving God.
Later in the parable in Luke, Jesus tells the lawyer something that is hard and sometimes even uncomfortable. He says that a close second to him loving God first is loving his neighbor. And, not that he should just love his neighbor but he should love his neighbor as himself.
In this community, when coming across poverty, the broken hearted, spiritual dryness, spiritual warfare, and lack of good education, I think to myself, how would I want to be loved? How would I feel loved? What makes me grateful to others when I'm sick, or hurt, or sad?
Jesus explains what it means to love in Luke 10 by telling a parable so that the young lawyer to whom he was speaking could understand better. He tells about the Samaritan who found a severely injured man on the side of the road. Unlike a few others who passed by and ignored the injured man, the Samaritan showed mercy and compassion.
Loving my neighbor means following the Samaritan's example.
The Good Samaritan stopped.
He gave up his donkey.
He sacrificed time.
He sacrificed money.
He sacrificed reputation in helping someone that was from a rejected culture.
And he sacrificed whatever his plans were for that day.
How then should I love?
I should love God first, and then I should love those around me as I would want to be loved… showing them mercy, compassion, and sacrifice. I should stop, listen, relate and sacrifice.
At Makarios, everyone has their own story of how they came to know the Lord and how they came to serve here. Everyone is in a different place in their spiritual journey. But first, we all love God. We are thankful for who He is and what He has done, and we strive to know Him better by reading His word and growing in our understanding of who He is. We pray together, read the Word together, and praise together.
Second, we love our neighbors. Whether it's missionaries walking alongside newlyweds by advising, comforting and spending time together, staff providing for the sick, neighbors providing transportation for those in their community who don't have a vehicle, or even relating to those who are the cultural outcasts, the Makarios family strives to be a blessing to the community around us. I see the compassion shown to the students who are struggling and the teachers who take extra time to help with their homework. I see the mercy shown by disciplinarians who forgive even when it's undeserved, and I see the sacrifice made by all staff to be able to serve those in need here in Montellano.
How should we love?
If we have accepted Jesus Christ, God has shown each of us compassion, mercy, and sacrifice by dying on the cross for our sins. We should love Him. Then, we have the choice to stop, listen and make a sacrifice to love those around us just like the Good Samaritan did in Jesus' parable.
The true question is will we take the challenge and love like God first loved us?
by Adrienne Christian
Pancho Mateo and Chichigua are two of the communities that Makarios serves where the majority of Makarios students live. Here are some fast facts about each community along with some prayer requests given by some Makarios staff who live in each one.
NAME: comes from the name of the first man who lived in the community
POPULATION: unknown (possibly between 1,000 and 2,000)
NATIONALITY: Haitian and Dominican
CHURCHES: 4 (one that is in creole)
HOW THEY GET TO MAK: walking, crossing the river, or taking a moto taxi
HOME LANGUAGE: Haitian Creole or Spanish
MAK STAFF IN PANCHO: 3
FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: soccer and basketball
PANCHO & MAK: It’s the community where Makarios started teaching kids English and Bible classes out of a little house
FAST FACT: Pancho has had 24 hour electricity for two months now. The director of the Electric Company is part of the Mateo family.
NAME: Chichigua is the Spanish word for “kite”
NATIONALITY: 99% Haitian; 1 Dominican family
CHURCHES: 1 (service is led in Creole)
HOW THEY GET TO MAK: in the Mak van
HOME LANGUAGE: mostly Creole
MAK STAFF IN CHICHIGUA: 1
FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: soccer, dominoes, and spending time together
ELECTRICY: around 12 hours a day
FAST FACT: The Haitians in Chichigua were originally brought into the community to work the sugar cane fields. The second and third generations currently live there.
EDUCATING, EMPOWERING & LOVING OUR COMMUNITIES.
Did you know that Makarios has a monthly outreach program for parents in order to share Biblical truths about how to live healthy lives, take care of the environment around us, and raise kids?
And did you know that teachers visit families once a month with the purpose of updating parents about their children and also to share about Christ?
And did you know that Makarios kids 5th grade and above attend a local Christian school attached to a local church?
by Rachel Sawyer
There are four distinct communities that Makarios serves in: Chichigua, Pancho Mateo, Tamarindo and Los Ciruelos. Each of these communities has a special place in the hearts of Makarianos, one represents the inspiration, one is the site of the first Makarios school, one is the current neighborhood of the school, and the other is the location of lodging for our groups. Today, we are going to look a little closer into the two fruity ones: Tamarindo (a sweet and tangy fruit) and Los Ciruelos ("the plum trees".)
Tamarindo is the neighborhood immediately surrounding the current Mak school. With many houses peeking in just feet from the school and all around the perimeter, Tamarindo is a maze of closely linked houses just on the edge of Montellano. The majority of the students that currently attend Colegio Makarios are from Tamarindo. Interestingly enough, Tamarindo was not initially part of the scope of neighborhoods that Makarios planned on working in. However, when the availability of land coupled with the availability of an already established building foundation, which is the most expensive part of any building project, happened, Tamarindo came into focus front and center, and is now truly the hub of many Makarios functions.
Colegio Makarios clearly has the cutest neighbors (and in this case, students) ever! The window from the back of their house is inches from the Makarios fence line. Not all of our neighbors in Tamarindo are quite this close, but atleast a handful of them are reach - out - and - touch distance. Photo Credit: Rachel Sawyer
Los Ciruelos was also not originally a part of the picture of Makarios because the neighborhood is comprised of mostly middle class Dominicans who already had other options for schooling. However, when affordable land was found in this bustling little neighborhood, Makarios expanded its reach to Los Ciruelos, bringing in hundreds of people throughout the year to serve alongside Makarios, staying in the MAK house. Along with the MAK house host couple, these visitors, while only here for a week at a time, have been instrumental in loving on and providing activities and bible teaching for the kids of Los Ciruelos. Almost every group spends their "down time" playing with neighborhood kids, and providing a Mak.comm (Mak community) experience with bible stories, skits, crafts, etc.
The size of Mak house is matched in heart by the size of the relationships that past and present staff have built and continue to build within the community of Los Ciruelos. Every single host couple that has done life in the Mak house and in the community of Los Ciruelos has intentionally poured into relationships in this neighborhood. One of these relationships that has been a constant thread in the life of the Mak house hosts has resulted in the "adoption" of a particular community member, not in terms of legality, but in terms of love, discipleship, accountability and shepherding a heart for Christ in the life of someone special, a Makariana Extraordinaire. If you've met S, you know that her English is fabulous (thanks to a former Mak house couple that taught her!), her personality full of vigor and her heart tender for the Lord beats strong.
All of our communities are as special as the people living in them. We are privileged to love and serve in such gracious, hospitable places. Come on a trip to serve with Makarios and you will see for yourself how blessed we are to love, educate and empower in these communities!
By Briana Sadowski, Cedarville University group member, guest post
We’re on the way back, and for me this time on the plane is always one of
reflecting on all that I saw, heard, and learned here in another country. First of all,
it’s important to mention that not all countries in one region are the same. There
can be a tendency to think that – for example – cultures are the same in all of
Central America, a region not too large. However, each country and people has
their own culture. This I learned since my first trip to the Dominican Republic.
When someone asks me how to describe the people and place of the Dominican
Republic, I always answer with the same word: community. The idea of
community is not as common in more individualistic countries. I mean, we have
neighborhoods – a concept of living close to other families.
But what does community mean? The Dominican people know how to define it
well. For them, community means three things: sharing generously, living
together (physically and figuratively), and loving others.
First: sharing generously. It is so clear from the moment one arrives at a
community that all the members share what they have. If someone is sick,
another comes to prepare them food. If one child goes to a neighbor’s house, this
neighbor treats him as one of their own children. Even when someone is selling
goods or services (this happened to me as well), they give without thinking twice
about the cost. One woman that braids hair on the beaches for a living offered to
braid mine. I responded that the braids were indeed beautiful but that I hadn’t
brought money that day for anything, so I could not. Without even hesitating, she
answered me saying that she would prefer to do a favor for someone because
life is not all about money. So I sat down for a time with her, and as she braided
my hair we talked about her and her family. She did not have to offer me
anything, but she desired to show me love.
Next: living together. When we visited the communities, often we saw that they
were caring for each other all the time. We came to a house to help clean it out
with the man, and the neighbors not only came out and helped, but also were
making decisions for him. We would ask the neighbors questions and they would
respond in his place. Why? Because they all live life together, and know the
needs, preferences, and persons that they are living with.
Finally: loving others. Even though the community members literally have been
born and grown up in the same community (and therefore know each other quite
well), they open their doors so that other visitors or new guests can come in. I
think this part could be the most difficult to implement. They are very close to
each other, and have no obligation to allow or invite visitors, but they go ahead
and do so with love and care. They build and maintain relationships not only with
those within their own community but also with those outside that desire to get to
know them. This impacted me greatly because, being my second time visiting, I
saw that I could continue the relationships that I had the privilege to make with
those there, and I also had the chance to meet new people who with joy invited
me to share in their lives and begin to get to know them.
Dominicans have shown me a great picture of what a community looks like, and
although I do not live in towns built such as theirs, I too can invite others to enter
into my life, with the hope of maintaining relationships and sharing whether it be
materials, time, encouragement, etc. We have the power to create community
wherever we live!
"We have the power to create community wherever we live!
What have you observed about community where you are? If you've served with Makarios in the D.R. in the past and have a special take-away about what community looks like here, please comment!