Where to start? How about the boy meets girl and falls in love, which happened for us way back in 2002 when we both happened to step into the same 15 passenger van to go on a short-term mission trip to Chicago. Never knew then that the guy who made me laugh all weekend while painting in the projects and making soup at the homeless shelters would become my soulmate, the love of my life, and my best friend. Neither did I know the rollercoaster of adventures that were ahead of us. In August 2007, we got married and started our lifelong journey together.
As soon as we were married, we were quick to jump into the application process to join the Peace Corps together. This was something we talked about together since the first day we started dating (and that I almost went and did without him before he talked me into waiting for him!) However, due to economic downturn and budget cuts, we were continually cut from the programs the Peace Corps nominated us for. We were devastated, as it had been my dream since I was a teenager to move to a 3rd world country to help children with special needs. Little did we know, God had another plan for us in which I would be able to do just this, and He had big plans for both of us as a couple. So in summer 2009, we hopped a plane to the Dominican Republic and haven't looked back since.
After looking for other opportunities around the country, we both found jobs in a Christian school in the small mountain town of Jarabacoa. I took a position teaching first grade, and Dave would start a new Art program for the school for pre-school through 12th grade. We were excited about branching out on this new adventure and plunged into opportunities to help in our community. Dave became a youth group leader with Wyldlife and did after school sports clubs, and I started an ESL program, tutored, taught dance classes and OANSA classes for local low-income children. Dave called our apartment the neighborhood orphanage because it was always full of local barrio kids who made leaving the orphanage we had been at before a little easier to swallow.
Throughout this time, we also became more involved with the Alianza (an organization here against human trafficking) and began volunteering more with this organization and getting more involved. We felt God speaking to our hearts and decided to become house parents for victims of sex trafficking, and put our plan of starting a family on hold for the year while we started this project. And wouldn't you know, as soon as I threw out all the pregnancy planning charts and kits and committed to being a houseparent of the safehouse, I found out I was pregnant. I guess God does things on His own timing right? Sometimes I think He has a sense of humor about it too.
So we are now finishing the school year (I'm on my maternity leave now), getting things ready for baby girl who will be arriving in early June, and are getting the safehouse ready for girls to move in. We are still determined to start this home for girls and have resigned from our teaching jobs for next fall. We plan to have a house full of girls next fall, God willing, and it is our dream to help them rebuild their lives and have a fresh start at achieving their dreams.
With the birth of our daughter Kenya this past summer our lives were turned upside down when we learned first-hand of the horrors of maternal healthcare in the developing world. We didn't understand at the time how badly everything was mishandled, but I soon found myself left with severe birth injuries and our daughter Kenya was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and severe epilepsy. In a NICU in the DR, we found her comatose from the heavy cocktail of meds she was on and with heavy hearts we called on God and everyone we knew for prayer and support (which you can read here). What we never expected was the outpour of love and support and a total miracle from God. When we arrived stateside, her MRI and EEG came back totally normal and we could not be more thankful (which you can read more about here).