Thursday, April 15, 2010

The ties that bind...

I wanted to start this as a way of remembering & sorting through the thoughts in my head....turns out there are so many that they are all jumbled together in a way that I can't make enough sense of them to write anything...

I've been thinking alot about friends lately. I am becoming more and more aware of just how blessed I was in the DR for the 3 years before we left. Before that, by close friends and awesome women I looked up to had been scattered in different parts of the country and we saw each other only sporadically. Then, about 3 years before we left, Sara & Joey moved to town with baby Risa and we started getting close with keren & Luis Fernando. By the time we left, I had Kyla (and Jake & Judah) living right outside of my front door, Keren right below them, and Sara was a 5 minute walk away. Right there, 3 of my close friends & my model / mentor / awesome woman I look up to - all within a stones throw from my door. I'm sure the Lord knew I needed it to get through the first 3 years in Amelia-land. :)

Since I've been here, I've had very few moments where I actually feel "comfortable" - like I can just kick back & let my gaurd down, and semi-escape the eery twilight-zone feeling of feeling like I have no idea where I am, what planet I'm on, and what is going on around me.

I have met great people...lots of great people...but just seem to always feel distinctly aware that I'm different, don't feel at home with these strange creatures on this strange new planet - like we speak different languages, come from very different backgrounds, and are just standing on two very distinctly different sides of a glass window, through which I look, watching, feeling like I APPEAR the same in most ways to all these odd creatures.

It has even been weird for me with my beloved friends here. I have a few long time friends here who have been a cherished part of my life for more than 1/2 the time I've been alive. Being with them is comfortable & "easy" in the way it has been over the past 14 years when I would see them - because of the FOUNDATION OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS, which has remained unchanging over the years as we, ourselves, have each changed greatly. We still all cling to our Saviour, knowing that all we are is only because of who He is....which also sums up the basis of my great friends over the 9 years in the DR....maybe I'm getting to something here? For that, I am SSOOO grateful, because it gives me a great feeling when I'm with these friends...but then there are the details of life over the past 14 years. I know I'm a totally different person, as are how do you figure out the's like forging a new friendship, with someone you are already intimately known by.

I also struggle as I go about my weeks, meeting people, seeing old friends, or coming across old acquaintences. Many times my heart is drawn to certain women, aching to know them & be known by them, to walk with them, pray with them, glean wisdom from them, or offer them something that I may have to offer somewhere within me....but they already have their worlds, their friends, their lives, their routines, their....... As I stumble through my English sentences, feeling oddly aware that often what comes out is not what I am trying to say, yearning inside to know these women, though also feeling like it is hopeless in a place so big that I could walk for 50 minutes and never come across any of them. And so I feel alone...very alone.

I am so thankful for Tracy Paulino. She has spoken wisdom into my life since they day I met her. Being a not very outspoken person AT ALL, I admire her, and hope to be changed to be more like her, in the ways that she is like Jesus. The night Amelia jumped on her head and got a concussion, I was talking with Tracy. It was good for my soul to hear that I will probably not ever come across anyone to be friends with who will get me like my friends did overseas...they simply have lived very different experiences than I. This is not good or bad, just a fact. But...she did say that she has found during her last 3 years being back here on this crazy planet that it's ok. When you need someone who really gets where you're coming from & the crazy things you've been through & lived & experienced, you call one of those people. the meantime, you can be absolutely blessed by the friendships forged in this crazy place.

Today was a great day. My dear dear friend Catie Blackmar :) was going to the fair with her hubby, kiddos, & friends...and she let me tag along with my girls. It was a really hot day to me (not used to this dry heat - the girls and I drank a few gallons of water after we left, I'm sure!), the girls where too little to do much of anything, I still feel weirdly out of place wearing shorts (even though I've been here for 6 months now!), so I was hot in my jeans...but it was such a great day! I almost didn't go. I didn't want to intrude on their day...but I think that was just an excuse for my fear of spending the morning with mostly people I don't know. I knew I should go, but I'm right at this moment realizing it was just fear overwhelming me...and not wanting strangers to wonder about us because Amelia was a bruised head, fat lip, and cut up face (that's a whole other story). So, I did what I should always do - I went in and got on my knees and prayed...and immediately knew I had to go, so I threw a bunch of snacks, medicine, and 2 little girls in the car and took off.

It was great. I fet SO at ease with these other women who I talked to. I felt like I was with like-minded people. People I could be real with, in spite of not knowing them. I felt loved on by total strangers. I felt like for just one day I actually connected to someone I'm not related to! I felt relaxed, comfortable, encouraged that not everyone on this strange planet is of a totally different species.

Lord, BLESS my dear sister Cate & her beautiful precious babies. Bless her marriage & their ministry. Bless the homeschool group & ALL of the families involved. May those kids grow up to know you passionately. May their mouths praise you, their eyes see you, their hands be lifted up to praise you. May their bodies glorify you, may their feet NEVER walk away from you, and may you give them hearts that are truely in tune with YOUR heart - your heart for them, for the lost, and for the rest of this world.

If there is anyone who just read this whole post I'm impressed!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

October 09 (159 photos), by April Soberg

Here are the pics from our last days there and our first days here. As I uploaded them, my body filled with lead...and my heart feels really heavy. I miss my home, my community, our foreign family. But I know the Lord is near, has brought us here for a PURPOSE, and will continue to lead us.

Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the DESERT and streams in the wasteland. - Lord, help me to believe what I know is true!
Click here to view photos

Saturday, March 6, 2010

God's perfect timing

As we're here waiting on the Lord in so many ways, I HAVE to remember the way too obvious ways that the Lord vividly showed us that His timing is best just before we left. I still remember my dear soul sister Sara telling me, "April, you HAVE to write these things down so you never forget" - which is part of what prompted me to start the blog in the first place.

November of 2008, when we finally agreed to what we left the Lord had to us, moving to the US, we immediately had a plan of how that would go...and we were going to be back to the US sometime between April & June of 2009. We were going to have a great summer playing in the pool & doing all sorts of great stuff. :)

We came in October 2009...and only God knew why.

We had purchased 2 different properties over the previous years around Jarabacoa for investment purposes...and shortly thereafter wished we didn't have a loan to pay, and started trying to sell the properties. We tried everything, and prayed and prayed and prayed...for several years. We spent an intense week of really focusing on the Lord, what he had for us, and several big things going on around us during the last week of July. That Saturday we sold one of the properties...and sold the other one 3 weeks later. God's hand was all over it. Not only were we about to leave, but we REALLY needed some money!

In June, we had a retreat for the leadership of our church called Sendas Antiguas (Ancient Paths), which was absolutely completely life changing for me. I wouldn't trade that weekend for anything...and wouldn't have been there if we'd left on our own time.

March through May was probably the most intense time for Juan Pablo & I as a couple - really getting down, bare, raw, and real - working through some hard things....which would have potentially torn us apart in a move to a new country & culture. Only God knew that he wanted to work through that before we left.

I realy wanted to leave Jarabacoa when alot of my friends left in June, either permanently or for the summer - not have to go through hellos & goodbyes again in the fall - and not have to meet, invest in, love, get to know, and then leave the new community who would be arriving in August. THEY blessed my life!

In August I got to witness & translate for the first ever Young Life Latinamerica Area Directors School at Pico Escondido. It blessed me beyond imagination and filled my spirit in an amazing way. Not to mention seeing old friends!

I didn't really have anyone to pass the church finances to until June.

We got to be there when Judah was born & spend some great time with the Salmond family!

Because we were in the DR so long, my in-laws got to go visit us (from Colombia) one more time before leaving to come here to the US, where they are not able to visit us. Not only did we love that, but Amelia & Kali were in heaven!

Talk about God's timing - on September 3rd (same day my new nephew was born), Juan Pablo had his appendix taken out. My in-laws were there to take care of the girls while we were gone for 3 or 4 days. We had insurance. The DR has a great new hospital. There is NO WAY we would have been able to afford that in the US - espcially without insurance! And it would have been SO HARD if it hadn't happened when my in-laws were there! GOD IS GOOD and his timing is PERFECT!!

I could go on and on....I have to REMEMBER!

Monday, March 1, 2010


After being in Jarabacoa for 2 1/2 years, the Lord send me a breathe of fresh air. It came in many ways and one of those was Glad. I learned ALOT from her and we spent some crazy times together.

She lived out true trust and power of prayer. Glad is an LPN who came down to do the physicals for all the kids as the school year was beginning...and ended up staying for 4 months. She brought stuff for 4 weeks, but instead of having people ship her things, she decided to just pray. She prayed for clothes, shoes, financial support, where to live, what ministries to be a part of, even for toiletries.

We Americans are so self sufficient and individualistic that we often don't give others or God the chance to supply these everyday needs...because we don't live in a way that allows us to have these basic needs or we are not humble enough to receive what God sends through others, but would rather go out and get the right color or design or flavor...but that's a whole different entry...

I saw Lord's faithfulness in Glad's life. Glad ended up with more clothes, shoes, picture frames, and stuff than she could even use. THANKFULLY this ruthless trust and total dependence on prayer rubbed off on me.

There was a time when I was out of money for the month but I knew that I would be paid in 5 or 6 days. It was a Wednesday. I know what day it was because in the DR, our mail come every other Tuesday, so life was often measured by "maildays". I had received my mail on Tuesday night and, as always, had already opened and read through all of my mail. Oh beloved mailday!

Wednesday morning I ran out of toothpaste. I decided to trust God even for this and get on my knees and ask him for something as simple as toothpaste. I sort of giggled as I did it and felt like God was giggling too. I thought that it was silly to pray for toothpaste, but I also had learned alot about who my incredible, amazing, loving God was and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he wanted to, he would provide - even toothpaste...and if he didn't want to...I was wiling to just wait on Him and see what other solution He came up with.

So I prayed. When I got home from work, there was a box at my house. It had come the day before with the other stuff, but had gotten mixed up with the mail from another ministry, so I didn't get it until Wednesday evening. It was a box from the women's ministry at my home church. The women's ministry had put together little odds & ends into boxes and sent them to each of the church's missionaries. Amidst a whole box of stuff that I don't even remember, there was big old tube of toothpaste!! It was the only toothpaste I ever received in the mail as well as the only box SBC ever sent me.

I left it in the Lord's hands and HE took care of my needs in His own way. What I LOVE about the story is that God knew my need ahead of time and had already provided the answer - long before I even realized my need or stopped to pray about it. It had been put in the mail about 3 weeks before I even prayed for the toothpaste...and had arrived in the country the day before...but it didn't make it to my hands until after I'd spent the day praying and truly trusting.

God always knows our needs. I think he is often trying to send us a tube of toothpaste, but we don't feel the need, or we see the tube but it's the wrong brand or wrong flavor, or because we usually have SOME alternative to our problems - some other way for US to resolve things, and so we miss out. We miss out on seeing the visible expressions of our invisible God. We miss out on seeing tangible answers to our prayers and we miss out on the incredible awe and pure joy of spinning and dancing with our savior, laughing like a child because we just KNEW that he was going to take care of our every need, one way or another, and it makes us a child.

Monday, February 15, 2010

from Rubia to Negra

Anyone who took spanish in school probably knows that "rubia" or "rubio" means blonde....Only it doesn' least not in any of the countries I've been to. It basically means "light" person - in color, not weight - and is really in reference to skin, not hair. :)

This took me a while to figure out. I would naturally be called a rubia because although my hair is pretty dark now, it was very blonde when I first went to the DR. I think when I was on summer staff, probably in 2000, I first heard Dominicans referring to our whole group as "rubios" and it drove me crazy. :) We had several summer staffers who were light skinned but had dark hair.

Because of the pride that comes with being "educated," it wasn't even a possibility in my mind that we have all been taught the wrong definition for "rubio". Rather, they were wrong, or silly, or stupid, or not paying attention, or generalizing, or uneducated, or SOMETHING else like that.

So what does "rubio" mean? Someone will light skin...comparitively. Someone who would be called black (or african american?) in the United States may even be referred to as "rubio" in the DR because they are comparitively lighter than all the people around them. Many Dominicans are referred to as rubio, just like us foreigners.

In the Dominican Republic, it is very ok to describe someone by their color or shade or size or appearance, or use it as a sort of term of endearment. If you are at the phone store, the supermarket, the hardware store, or just out somewhere and someone wants to get your attention, it is very likely they will call out "rubio" (light person), "moreno" (very dark person), "flaco" (skinny person), "gordo" (fat person), "mi negro" (my black person), and noone will get in a fight over this, nor will anyone be offended (except the foreigners!).

So, I got very used to being called rubia by strangers and loved ones alike. About a year before I left, something else began happening that felt awesome to me. Every now and then, I'd be out somewhere and someone would call me "mi negra." This literally means "my black girl." I'm obviously not black. :) But, after years of living in a small town, where everyone knew me, as I became more and more Dominican - in all aspects EXCEPT color, and as I really became a part of the community, I was seen as just another Dominican, and thus lovingly called "mi negra."

It was awesome, but sad...since I knew I would soon be leaving and go back to being just another rubia.


What to say about Barranca. Barranca is representative of the DR in my mind. It is where I fell in love with the DR. It's where I fell in love with the Dominican People really. It's where SO many of my beloved Dominicans are from. And it's a place from where the Lord raised SO many awesome servants, who now serve Dominican youth...and it's a little nothing town.

Barranca is a small village really, that is pretty primative and has one major road. It comes in from La Vega, goes down & curves by the Veloz house, and then continues on to the next town. There are no stop lights. There is 1 gas station, 1 school, 1 catholic church, and lots of Plantains. The other "major" road is a terrible road that crosses through town and goes out to the middle of nowhere on both ends. Everyone's houses are literally plopped down in the middle of the plantains. If you have any yard at all, there are plantains behind it. If not, your house is just plopped in the middle of it all.
It's scorching hot and you almost NEVER have electricity. You sit on the porch, under a tree, or under someone's ramada or at their Colmado and hang out, commenting on how hot it is every 5 minutes.
SO many memories! Getting locked IN a house, getting locked OUT of an outhouse (maybe I'll share the story another day!), learning ALOT about culture! falling in love with the Donas - Teresa & Ana, first moto ride, first club talk I ever gave in Spanish (thanks alot Rafa), watching summer staff & work teams get stretched & fall in love with the people as well, take and learn to love bucket baths, swim in the river, LOAD my truck up with an INSANE amount of people (inside & in the back), spend countless nights with Julia & Dioni, build ramadas, pour floors, build outhouses, paint houses, paint the clubhouse, build kitchens, put up a roof, LEARN TO BE JESUS' HANDS AND FEET, learn to JUST BE, fall in love with Vida Joven club & the kids there.

In Barranca I learned that you CAN spend a whole night without sleeping because of the heat & mosquitos and then get up the next day and rely solely on the Lord to give you the strength to shovel dirt, mix cement, & work your tale off as well as give you a good attitude to lead a group of whining Americans who also didn't sleep, are hot, don't like the food, don't want to work, and are going through culture shock - all because I know the ending - I KNOW they will be challenged, end up falling in love with the people, and will be eternally impacted by the experience. I think that's why the Lord is so patient with us when we're whining & complaining. He knows the ending! He knows it's all molding us and growing us and changing us to be more like him. Praise God for places like Barranca that are difficult, get us out of our comfort zones, and teach us how to really live!

I saw the impact of a crazy gringa woman (Tracy Paulino) on a whole little village - they would ALL go nuts as they saw her jeepeta pulling up, and the fruit of her disciples was VERY evident. :) And then there was Rafa and Charro....but they'll need their own post later on. :)

I love Barranca. If you went there to visit, you would think I was insane. If you went there to stay, you would eventually understand.

Everyone is everything :)

Something that drove me crazy at times and at other times I really appreciated about the DR is that everyone is everything. Everyone is a mechanic, a cook, does construction, fixes whatever is broken, is a tour guide, etc... Now, most people really do know a LITTLE about most things....but nobody really knows ALOT about much. So, if you've got a minor problem, this is great because anything can get done. However, if you have a big problem, you're kind of up a creek.

This often came in handy. Nothing is thrown out. You just fix it all. It was especially nice in the first year, living alone, and later with 2 other girls, not knowing where things were around town really, and having NO idea how to do things for myself. But what did I have? Neighbors & all the guys I worked with at camp. It's MUCH better than knowing where a repair shop is. I had appliaces fixed, car problems fixed, my electricity hooked up after it had been cut, etc. :)

Once, sometime in 2001 or 2002, Kate, Gabby, Jorge and I were driving down to Santo Domingo for a staff retreat. About an hour away, driving down the carretera, all of a sudden the truck quit accelerating. At least it didn't blow up or anything, so I just coasted over to the side of the road.

Enter the Everyone is everything guys. :) Immediately we had several people there trying to help us. Jorge, who was with us, really did know quite a big. The other guys - who knows? But it was SO commical to us that we had to snap a quick picture.

I confess that I was thoroughly frustrated - not even really knowing how far we were from Santo Domingo (I had only been there about a year by then and didn't know the road so well yet), what was wrong, how much it would cost, etc. When you're still in the first year or so overseas, being stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, can really stress you out. Oh wait, that can really stress you out anyway! Anyway, God is good. We looked down the road a bit and saw a run-down house with a piece of scrap wood made into a sloppy sign that said "mecanico" and right about then, the mecanic had come out, saw us, and was on his way to help. God's always got our back. We had just come out of a stretch of highway where you drive for a good 1/2 hour without seeing any signs of human life, and then the truck just happened to break down across from a "mechanic." It did take them a while to get the truck running, but they fixed it, and we were on our way.

I guess Kate didn't think this was enough adventure for the day, but that we also needed to go on an adventure to find a bathroom. Now, when in a developing country, you never know what you're going to find. In fact, the side of the road is often better than any "bathroom" you may be offered. (and you really can't drive for more than 15 minutes in the DR without seeing a guy on the side of the road peeing) But Kate (who has lots of crazy peeing stories from the DR), decided to check out it. The mechanic's wife kindly led us to the bathroom and graciously offered to let us use it. I wish we had a picture. :) It was a wooden outhouse (common in the DR), but there was nothing to sit on...just a wooden plank floor with an open slit in the middle that you had to sort of hover over and hope you had good aim. I know we got a GOOD laugh out of her using the restroom and I decided I would wait.

EVERY single time I drove to Santo Domingo for the following 8 years, I would think of that adventure as I drove past that one little spot where it all happened. Adventure was an everyday part of life, and adventure inevitably leads to seeing God's hand on you, watching your back in one way or another. Driving past that house was a frequent reminder that God's got my back. :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Trapeze artist

I'm in a bible study at church. I recommend the book, (and class for that matter) to anyone who is moving or has recently moved....or maybe even anyone in a major transition. It is a ministry run by an incredible lady from my home church, Susan Miller. Her ministry is called Just Moved Ministries and the book we are doing is called "Moving On After Moving In." I'm only 3 chapters in, but I've cried through all I've read so far - because it gets right to the core. :)

In one of the chapters for this week, she quotes an excerpt from Paul Tournier's book A Place for You :

"I thought of the trapeze artists, swinging on their trapezes high up under the dome of teh circus tent. They let go of one trapeze just at the right moment, to hover for a moment in the void before catching hold of the other trapeze. As you watch, you identify yourself with them and experience the anxiety in the middle of the way, when they have to let go of their first support and have not yet seized the is the middle-of-the-way anxiety. It is the void in which they are going to find themselves before being able to seize a new support.

All this to say, we must always be letting go...leaving one place in order to find another, abandoning one support in order to reach the next, turning our backs on the past in order to thrust wholeheartedly toward the future."

I guess I just didn't ever think I'd be stuck in that void for so long! But that's where faith comes in. Susan goes on in her book to point out that just as the trapeze artists have a net waiting to catch them "just in case", that is what God is ALWAYS doing for us. So if we do get stuck in the middle-of-the-way void, and do happen to fall, we're going to land in our safety net.

So what did I learn this week????

- God places us where we are in order to prepare us for what He wants us to become
- Accept being where you are
- Let go of expectations that you'll move back! - that one really hit me strong....I'm not ready to let go of this expectation yet, but I guess I will supposedly be there some day.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Well, this blog has been a long time coming. Even before we moved to the US 4 months & 3 days ago, I knew I needed to do this. Call it therapy, call it a journal, call it a record of my life, a way to sort through all that I've experienced, seen, & lived in the past several years. Because now I am here, in what we often referred to as "the land of milk and honey", only it doesn't seem to be flowing with milk OR honey. It seems like a desert....well, it IS a desert, seeing as I'm in Arizona, but it feels like a desert in many other ways as well.

I have been burning to start this journey of remembering, but didn't know where to start. Then yesterday, a dear, dear friend, who sort of just gets things, had a link to an Anderson Cooper blog on her facebook. He was talking about being away from Haiti and said, "I spent last week in New York, but, the truth is, it felt very strange. When you know something monumental is happening so close to our shores, and yet you don't see it on a daily basis – it's an odd disconnect, and it doesn't feel right." And I realized those words described what has been going on inside of me for the past 4 months. Not only do I feel like MY life is going on somewhere else (which is weird enough already), but it seems like there are always so many monumental things going on in life in the DR, that I definitely feel that odd disconnect. I like to refer to it as living in the twilight zone. I KNOW that things around here matter, but at this point, I feel like I'm in a fake world where nothing I do matters and I'm missing out on all the monumental things going on back in my real life. Then I realize this IS my real life and I won't wake up from this dream, so I better start living it and looking for the monumental things happening around me here and be a part of whatever it is that the Lord must be up to around here.