Friday, July 17, 2020

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens
…………..a time to plant and a time to uproot,   Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

We hope this letter finds you in good health and in good spirits.  We have some difficult news to share, and it is with a sad heart that we share this with you. But, after much prayer and seeking the guidance of the Lord, we know this is the right decision. We have finally decided to say our good byes to our church family here and come off the mission field for good.  

For the past year and a half we have been praying for God to grow this church spiritually and to help us to set up a stable church.  We have been praying for a building, the right people to train in ministry, and for the finances to operate the church. At one point we thought if we don’t understand God's will by April of 2019, maybe it is time to leave.  But then, we were surprised at the numerical growth that was happening.  People were coming and calling Journey International their church, but we struggled with the fact that we still needed a building, key people to train, and more finances for the ministry. 

Fast-forward a year later, and we are still praying for the same three things. We thought hiring our translator was an answer to one of the three prayer requests, but this did not turn out as we planned.

One of the bigger fears we had was losing momentum.  After starting the church, we could only return home for a two-week visit at Christmas time each year (not much time to see family).  We made a short visit out of fear of losing the few people that were consistently coming. We feared the people of this community would consider us like all the other expats who come and go.  Prior to the Coved-19 virus hitting, we had to cancel church for two week due to rains and high winds, and then the virus caused quarantine until who knows when?  We are certain when the quarantine is lifted it will take a very long time for people to feel comfortable enough to return to the church, if they return at all. We would be starting all over again.  

This was not an easy decision to make, but we are sure it is the right one.  We were so blessed to be a part of the many lives God directed into our path here. Bruce loved preaching and teaching every Sunday.  Janine enjoyed many more things like teaching the children, preparing music, and creating all the props each Sunday.

Through the church: infants were dedicated to the Lord, some children received Christ and were baptized, children memorized verses and were gifted a Bible as a reward, the Gospel was preached every Sunday,  many of those who attended recommitted their life to Christ, others began a relationship with Christ for the first time, and Bruce performed a couple of weddings as well.  Those are just a few of the highlights we will remember while on this journey.

We had the privilege of meeting and sharing a meal with people from various parts of the world like: Brazil, Spain, Canada, America, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Norway.  Through the church we have built some life long friendships that we will always cherish.

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (NIV) After finally making the decision to go home, we knew the next step was to sell our belongings.  This step was going to be tough. There were no people left here in Costambar. It was like a mass exodus here when the virus hit.  Everyone returned to their own countries or their own villages here on the island. Those who were still here lacked funds to buy food, let alone our belongings.  Well, this is how God showed up!  We made a list of our belongings and sent it out to a few people and everything sold within 48 hours, including our car! This was simply a miracle!  To us, this was confirmation that we had made the right decision. 

We know that many of you will wonder, just as we did, why? Or, what if ?  Some of you will not understand, and some will be happy that God used us for a period of time here, and that now is the time to return home to be with family.  All we can do now is ask for your prayers and emotional support as we start this next chapter. 

The virus has caused financial chaos for many, and some of you have had to cancel financial support to us.  We understand! You have families to care for!  We want to say, “Thank You for your faithfulness through your prayers and support while we were on this journey together (with you) for Christ!!!”  

We have booked airline tickets for May 8th, but are not sure if this flight will actually happen.  Please pray for this!  The airport is closed, but they tell us they are still allowing a few US airlines to ferry passengers back to their country.  So far, we haven’t seen any planes actually coming here. So, please pray for this miracle!

Thank you for being a part of our lives and this mission! We could not have done this without your love and partnership!

Bruce & Janine

Friday, April 10, 2020

March 2020 News! Covid-19

This has to be one of the craziest times in history for many of us. We are not making light of the massive loss of life throughout the world. But how many times have we wished for more time? Time to do projects around the house? Time to spend with the kids and our spouses? Time to spend reading the Bible and or to pray? Time to rest from our stressful jobs? Time to start a workout routine and get in better shape?

Well, if you are like us you are now faced with more time than you know what to do with. And may we encourage you to stop worrying about the future and take control of the present. Now is the time to accomplish those to-do lists.  Matthew 6:27 says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.” (NIV)

Many of us have all heard the saying, “Worry about the things you can change. The things you can’t change stop worrying about!” These are times for us to be mindful of those who should be worried. There are people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible says believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. This is a decision that must be made by each individual and must be made before we die or before Christ returns.

We are seeing many posts on Facebook and hearing from many people that this is the end times or the return of Christ is coming soon. Yet, Jesus said no one knows about that day or the hour, not the angels in heaven, nor the Son of man. Matt 24:36 (NIV) So, in reality, the return may come tomorrow or in a thousand years from now!  The most important thing for us to do is to stay calm and do the work the Lord Jesus called us to do. Share the gospel! And live a life worthy of our call.  (Ok, now I’m done preaching.)

The month of March seemed to be a time of Isolation for us.  We had to cancel church the first two weeks due to heavy rains and strong winds. We were able to have church on the 15th and then the Covid-19 caused the country to shut down, as many of you are already experiencing. The virus also forced many expats to return home earlier than normal and Costambar has now become a ghost town. I mean the houses and the streets are empty.

We were so blessed to have our friends Roger and Sandy come for a short visit before the lockdown. We were able to spend some quality time with them playing games and visiting the beach. On one of their final days here, we planned a day at the beach. When we arrived at the beach the police told us we had to leave and that we couldn’t visit any public places. It was this day that we realized their stay had to be cut short.  We had to have them transported to the Capital city, “Santo Domingo” in order to catch one of the last flights leaving the country. We praise God they were able to catch the flight home to be closer to family and friends.

The Dominican Republic is now on total lockdown as are most countries. Borders are closed for incoming and outgoing flights.  We have a curfew and can’t leave our houses from 5 PM – 6 AM.  No going out except for food and medical needs  (Could become stricter soon).  I am asking you all to please pray for Janine because she is locked up… you know…with Me J.   I thought of it as a blessing for her, but Janine, doesn’t see things as I do.  Lol

 So what are we doing to pass the time? The same things we are encouraging you to do! We are spending more time reading, studying the Bible, preparing Messages and Sunday school lessons for the glorious day we are released from our homes.  

We are staying connected with the few people who are still here. We try to assist each other when shopping or by sending a quick note here and there.  We have been able to help some in our neighboring community by giving help so they can buy food.  We were unable to find masks in the pharmacy, so Janine started making masks and giving them away. We will reach out financially until the funds are depleted. 

These are some very tough times for all. Isolation! Lack of food! Disconnection from families! Shortage of medications! Seeing those we love suffer from the virus! We can look back in history and see similar tragedies. By studying these past tragedies we can see they made it through. God did not cause this virus. God did not cause people to die.   But, God is in control! He will use these circumstances to bring glory to his name.

Let us count our many blessings! What we are experiencing will soon pass and things will get back to normal. Here is your homework. Finish this statement. “Now that I have the time, I will _____?___”.  Now it’s time to get busy!

Covid -19 has surely changed how all of us are doing life right now, and  it will have an impact that will not be forgotten.

May we all continue to be united in PRAYER and place our Hope in our God who Loves Us!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands..." Psalm 90:17

“MY GOD is so big, so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do”.  Our Journey kids have been learning this song in English with the movements and it is such a reminder to us how God has shown up in GREAT and MIGHTY ways this month!  It has been an Amazing month of new and fun activities, new faces, new friendships and multiple blessings.

 As most of you know this is an area where many foreigners come to escape the cold.  Some come for a week, others are here for up to 5 months.  With that, we have had record numbers here at the church; 55 - 70+ attending each week.  Every week we have welcomed new faces and have loved meeting and hearing a little bit of their stories, what brought them to the island or resort, and how they found the church.  Some faces we only get to meet and talk with one time; with others we have built special friendships over these weeks and months of their stay.  And with many, we have already had to say our, “see you again later” with hugs and memories we will treasure.  

 Because there are many that come here for the longer stay, we have started a weekly Women’s gathering and a biweekly Men’s group.  Each week approximately 10 women have gathered for coffee, a short devotional or craft, and have spent time laughing and encouraging each other. One week the ladies made prayer bracelets and another week they helped sew Bible bags for our kids’ that earned new Bibles.  

The Men meet down on the beach for coffee, fellowship and a short devotional.  It has been a good place to be seen by the community.  Last week two men were sitting at a nearby table and were listening as well.  At the close of the meeting they came over and said, “Thank you for what you are doing, it is a great thing.”  

The season for travelers is short lived and will be pretty much over by the beginning of April.  So, we are taking advantage of this time and loving the extra activities we get to do.  We had a movie night showing  “War Room”. We have shared many meals together and have had many coffee dates with people getting to know them and hear their hearts.  Many come with a heart to share Jesus and could possibly help us in the future.  

We had a special time of recognition for 13 of our kids on Sunday the 23rd.  Each week our kids are given points for attendance and points for memorizing Bible verses.  Every 3 months they get to spend their points in the Journey store.  But this month they all worked extra hard to earn their own Bibles.  The littlest ones received a VeggieTales Bible, others received Adventure Bibles, and the oldest received a Bible for Young leaders.  Most of the Bibles of course were in Spanish, but we have two young students that are fluent in 3 languages so they were given English.  It was a wonderful day to highlight them and the work God is doing in them!

Serving Together for the KINGDOM
Bruce & Janine

Friday, February 14, 2020

Janine and I have been on one long Journey of Faith and Answered Prayers these past 2 1/2 years ministering here in the Dominican Republic. It is while we were living in the community of Costambar, Puerto Plata that we received the direction from God to plant a church. 

Months before the opening day of the Journey International Church (JIC), we received a divine appointment. We met up with a friend at McDonalds in Santiago to pick up some materials he had translated into Spanish for us. While we were meeting he happened to notice a girl he had in his class at University named Lindsay. We were introduced and it just so happened she also had just moved to Costambar.  Of course, God’s plans are always perfect!  We became instant friends.

We worshipped on a regular basis with Lindsay in another city while we were putting things together for the opening day of JIC. We had been looking for a translator to come along side of us and help minister to the Spanish speaking community. We had interviewed a few people, but they were just not the right fit.  Then one day, Lindsay introduced us to a man named Miguel. He was a Dominican believer who had translated for Lindsay’s mission team when they visit this country.  He was perfect!  We knew God sent him to us!

We spent some time in prayer and some time practicing what we would be doing on Sunday’s. Miguel started with us on the opening Sunday, October 14, 2018 and he has been faithful to the Lord and to service every week. I have a brother who communicates the Word of God from English to his native language of Spanish. I know I can trust him because his English is also better than mine. Lol  Many people who have visited JIC, who are fluent in English and Spanish, attest to the fact that he is accurate in both languages. He has been a perfect fit!  

We have been praying for God to send people whom we can train in ministry. We have also been praying for someone who is as fluent in both languages like Miguel that we could use to reach out in this community and expand the ministry.Miguel would be perfect, but we could not take him away from his full time job because we felt we couldn’t afford to pay the wages he needed to support his wife and three daughters, and we wanted God to speak to him directly and Call him into ministry.
Flash forward to December of 2019, Janine and I started to call out to God for his provisions in our ministry, according to His will.  We needed Him to provide the correct people for us to train in ministry to reach the people He has us seeking. We needed answers as we entered into 2020.  Our God is the great provider! He Answered!

We weren’t home even one week when we received a call from Miguel saying he needed to talk to us personally. Miguel shared that God has been pulling on his heart for some time now to serve him on a full time basis. He said he finally realized this is God’s will for his life and he wants to yield to Him.  But, He was not sure what to do. To make matters worse for Miguel, he attempted to take a better job and gave notice of quitting to his place of employment. He later found out the new place was not a trustworthy place. In a strange turn of events he found himself unemployed.

Well, after spending much time in prayer, and figuring out the church finances.  We made an offer to hire Miguel on a full time basis. Miguel and his wife, Miriam also spent much time in prayer and have accepted the offer. We are so excited to share with you that Miguel Angel Victoria Castillo is now the full time Assistant in Ministryat JIC.

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  God did answer our prayers, but he did so in his time, the perfect time! 

We prayed, laid hands on him, and commissioned him into service to the Lord this past Sunday, February 2, 2020. Please be praying for Miguel, his wife, Mariam and their 3 daughters, Libni, Arlyn and Angely as they serve our Lord and savior here in the D.R. with us in a new way here at the Journey. We are excited to see what God will do - in us and thru us - with this Team in 2020

Serving Together for the KINGDOM
Bruce & Janine

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Blessed and Thankful

Colossians 4:2 (NIV) – “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

November is the month of Thanksgiving.  A time to reflect on the many blessings that we have: life, family, friends, health, jobs, etc. and most importantly it is a month to Thank God for all the love He pours out on us! 

We are praising God for a somewhat uneventful or could we say a “normal” month.  We are feeling at home and settled in our new house. It is an older cement house that is a little rustic, but it is spacious and airy and just has a good homey feel. We never thought being a missionary would require us to be so flexible and ready to shift to where he wants us next.  That’s Ok! It is always good.

This house has helped greatly with ministry!  Every Saturday we set up 30 chairs (and we have the space for more if needed) outside under our carport, and show family friendly movies in Spanish.  We have been averaging 15 people every week, children and adults.  It has been a fun time just to get to know our neighbors and share our love for Christ in small ways.

Sunday’s we turn that carport into a place of Worship too.  Neither of us are worship leaders, but God has provided us with a way to sing and get into the spirit of worship together by using worship song videos in Spanish and English.  We love to learn Spanish songs and they love to learn English ones as well. Then Bruce preaches a message in English and Miguel, our translator, translates in Spanish.  

One Sunday the weather looked quite threatening and we weren’t sure if a storm would roll in from the ocean or not.  With this house we have the option and space to set up church inside if needed.  So we did!  It was awesome to see this group of people from Spain, Italy, Dominican, Haiti, California and us all worshiping together in our living room!

Janine finished her sewing classes at Esperanza School for this year.  Four young girls learned some basics and made a pretty cool book bag.

We have two Canadian, Christian, friends that live just down the street from us.  It is funny how we met months ago in Santiago.  We say, “It was truly a God ordained meeting.”  And we have been blessed in so many ways with this friendship.   They live here 7 months of the year and then have a team from their home church, close to Toronto, Canada, come and do mission work here for 2 weeks. We joined them and the team for a few of their outreaches.  We went to a nursing home in Puerto Plata for a Special Christmas Party for the elderly.  Santa, singing, dancing and gifts for all!

One little serious elf!
We headed to the mountains and participated in a worship service with the team one day as well; beautiful ride there and beautiful people.

The team threw a Christmas party their last night here for all their friends (us included): their driver, interpreter, pastors and their families. The party started at 2:00 and we left at 11:30. You would have loved the pastor’s dance that Bruce was a part of.  Lucky for you no pictures or videos are included.  Eating, swimming, singing, laughing! Pure fun! We had so much fun together and were extremely blessed to have this time with other Christians, and mostly English-speaking friends.   It did wonders for our soul!

We are truly Blessed and Thankful for how God leads our lives and has given us this opportunity here. We wind down our time and ministry here over these next 3 weeks.  And we are excited to be able to come to the states for a two-week visit over the Christmas holiday.  This will be the first Christmas home with our family in 5 years.  We are excited beyond words!  Hope we will remember how to drive on snow J Brrrr…
And we hope to run into a few of you too!

Happy Thanksgiving! 
Blessed because of Him!
Bruce & Janine