It’s a sunny Spring day here in Portland, and as you can see from the photo, Spring is beautiful in this city. Our last update was at Thanksgiving and so much has changed since then: seasons, presidents, the Covid and political situation, just to name a few. We hope this letter finds you well with the Lord and anticipating the celebration of His victory over sin and death!
Hard to believe that just over a month ago, Portland was experiencing so much snow and ice that most people were homebound for several days. We were thankful that we live close enough to our Afghani friend and her daughter that when Ben walked to the store for some groceries, he was able to get some for her too and later that day, Melody and I trudged through the snow in order to deliver them.
I have continued to enjoy volunteering with We Belong PDX, the club for underserved children which I mentioned in the last update. My relationships with the children have grown. Recently I have begun having Nazira, a young Syrian refugee girl who has been hampered this year in completing her online schoolwork due to the fact that she is unable to read English, over to my house and giving her reading lessons. It has been a joy to work with her more one-on-one, and I hope to extend the help to her siblings as time permits.
Melody has been able to come with me sometimes to We Belong; here she is pictured along with 3 of the girls who regularly attend. They were working with Legos at the Building station.
As a reminder and a point of clarity, Abby’s Garden is the daycare ministry I am helping to start in La Vega, the town where we were living in the Dominican Republic. The daycare will have several purposes:
1. First and foremost, we’d be providing excellent care for babies and toddlers of at-risk teenage mothers. Human trafficking in the Dominican Republic is the third largest international crime enterprise in the Caribbean, and we seek to combat that by providing care for the children of adolescents, who can then pursue their education and therefore be less prone to choosing prostitution as a way to support themselves. We witnessed prostitution many times while living in the DR, and it is a sad reality for girls and women in an economic situation where there are not many job opportunities.
2. To provide classes on parenting and to share the Gospel with the mothers who bring their babies to be cared for.
3. To provide jobs for women in the DR, who otherwise don’t have much opportunity for finding good employment. Recently this has become a more urgent need, as several of the women we knew in La Vega have lost their jobs due to the current president making a sweeping change, firing all of the current government daycare workers in favor of replacing them with employees of the same political party as his.
In light of reason 3 and the urgent need to provide jobs for Dominican women who have lost theirs, I will be making a trip to La Vega in June. I will be meeting with the director of the daycare and we will be making hiring decisions as well as choosing the location to have our daycare, as she will be scouting out our options in the next couple of months.
Please consider giving to Abby’s Garden, which will not only provide employment for women who now have none, but also lessen the risks for adolescent mothers and their precious babies.
We are working on a video to promote Abby’s Garden and are hopeful that it will be completed soon. If you have a church, small group or Bible study where you could share the video, please reply to this email and let me know. We would like to show the video to many people this Spring in hopes that it will help launch Abby’s Garden. It would be so awesome to get it off the ground and running by the time I make my trip in June! Also, if anyone knows how to insert English subtitles for the segments where our director will be sharing our vision in Spanish, please let me know.
We have projected that it will take $3,000 US dollars per month to run Abby’s Garden, including paying employees and rent. That breaks down to $200 per month to cover the cost of one child receiving loving care, food, and hearing stories of Jesus and His love. Please prayerfully consider whether you are able to cover a whole month’s care for one child, or perhaps you could give $50 a month, which would be enough to cover one week’s care. One-time or occasional donations also help greatly. However you feel led, please click on the link below, then click on missionary directory, and find Abby’s Garden (under Storment) in order to give online.
Thank you so much for praying and giving toward the ministries we are a part of, both here in Portland and the Dominican Republic.
As always, we remain grateful,
Ben, Tonya, Jolie, Ivan, Samuel and Melody