Montaña Redonda 

About a month ago, we were still on summer vacation so we decided to do something that everyone at the school has done at least once—we took a trip to Montaña Redonda near Miches, Dominican Republic. I believe the reason it took us so long to finally make this trip is because I (Alex) hate doing things that are sensationalized and overly touristic, but the views are so amazing that we couldn’t avoid it any longer. We went in an off time after all the veteran teachers had gone and right before all the new arrivals got here. 

The road up to the top of the mountain is not paved so it was a wild adventure driving to the top to see these amazing views. At the top there are a few swings and some props for people to pose with and take pictures. Being on the swings felt like being on the edge of the world and at any moment you could fall off into oblivion. 

Here are some of the pictures we took:




That same day, we went to Macao, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic, at least in my opinion. It is definitely a must see if you are ever on the island. Macao is part of the Atlantic Ocean so there are waves that are fun to swim in and play around in. 

At one point, a huge wave came and crashed into both Leslie and me and threw us about in the water! The ocean is a powerful thing and we forget that often. Especially for those who have never grown up near a beach, like myself.

Macao:

Later that night, we had to vacuum Leslie’s hair out because so much sand had gotten in it from being tossed about by the waves! For those of you who don’t know my wife, she has really curly hair due to her heritage. It was a recipe for disaster! She was still shaking sand out even after a few weeks! 

In the end, we had an amazing day filled with adventure and relaxation—a great ending to our summer vacation. 

In God’s grip, 

Alex and Leslie

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Rest

It is interesting how we can get so anxious about things in life. Even Christians, who believe in a sovereign and loving God, are bogged down by the trials and monotony of every day life. We forget that we have a God who is for us and not against us, a God who is fighting for us.

As I sit here at our kitchen table, listening to Lorde’s new album, Melodrama (which is amazing by the way), with my wife, I am reminded that resting in God isn’t something we are simply able to do. Resting in the Lord is something that takes practice and commitment and hard work. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true nonetheless. Right now we are resting in God.

It’s easy to write this out at the tail-end of stressing out about Leslie’s tourist visa last week. Our constant prayer was this: “Father God, we know that you are sovereign. We know that whatever happens, whether we receive the visa or not, you are in control and you know what is good for us. You know better than we ever will what is good for us. Help us to remember that you are good, that you are for us and not against us.”

We were so stressed out because the visa holds so much weight. It determines a lot of things about our future, not just allowing us to visit family and friends for Christmas this year. Thankfully I can report that we did receive the visa. We honestly didn’t even have to worry. Leslie had told me that one person’s reason for wanting a visa was that they wanted to see the Statue of Liberty in New York, and they were granted a visa! So being married to a citizen and having family in the States was reason enough for the government.

For those of you who don’t know, I (Alex) will be staying behind in Utah in December in order to start working and getting ready for Leslie to join me after we get her green card. The road for both of us being back in the US is still a long one. Please pray for us, we need it! Luckily, Leslie will get to visit me when she has holidays (we enjoy a lot of holidays living in a predominantly Roman Catholic country) and during the summer of 2018, and soon after that we will hopefully have her green card.

We want to thank everyone who was praying for us while we were waiting to see if we would get the visa or not. We really appreciate all your prayers and it is comforting to know that God hears the prayers of his children!

In God’s grip,
Alex and Leslie

 

 

A Visa for Travel

We want to give a quick update and ask for prayers. We are meeting with the Dominican government this Monday to see if Leslie will be able to get her tourist visa. This will determine if we are able to come visit our lovely friends and family for Christmas this year. Please be praying with us that God’s will would be done, no matter what the outcome, and that He would give us grace to accept whatever he chooses for us. We love and miss our family and friends and hope to see you all during the Christmas holiday!

In God’s grip, 

Leslie and Alex

Hospitality

We all go through seasons of life where we feel like we are being called to work on something specific. After knowing that we would be moving, we were dealing with a lot of self-focus. We needed to get a lawyer for me (Alex) so that we could get my visa and residency process ready. We had to downsize all of our belongings to decide what we wanted to take with us and what to leave behind. We were upset that we would be separated, even though it would only be a few weeks before we would be reunited. We were upset that we had to move.

Once reunited, we faced grief over what we had left in Utah: friends, family, and an amazing church. That was challenging for us. We had to learn to depend on God and each other for strength and comfort. Following this period of grief we moved onto acceptance, rest, and settling in. We started to get used to our new surroundings,  make friends, and transition into our jobs. We were setting up our little apartment to be a home.

We always enjoyed visiting friends in their homes, eating their food, and hanging out with them and their kids. However, we didn’t have a place to call our own to invite people over as we were living with my parents before moving (and we selfishly liked going back to our own space after hanging out with friends). When we finally got our own place, with which we could do whatever we wanted,  we wanted to build a shrine to our own self-comfort and create this nice little bubble. But if you have ever read The Bible, you will know how God likes to tear down our idols. It was at that point that God provided opportunities for us to grow in hospitality.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…”

-Hebrews 13:2

Our first visitors were Anny and Rebecca. They came during our period of grief. They had done some mission work in Santo Domingo and had come to Punta Cana for some R & R (we actually had to look up what R & R meant, which for those of you who don’t know, is rest and relaxation), and needed a couch to crash for one night.

Then we had a man named Gherzon, a full time Colombian missionary to Mozambique, stay with us a few nights. It was very encouraging to hear about the work that God is doing through him in the mission field. This was not a planned visit. Leslie was at work and got a message from Anny (same Anny as above) asking if we would be willing to host one of her good friends who would be arriving into town that same day. So you could say that it was on pretty short notice! It was during this time when we realized we were struggling with the idol of self-comfort, and we did not like it. I told Leslie we would only keep him for one night, because I wanted to have a weekend. However, after getting to know him and exchanging testimonies, I told Leslie I was okay if he stayed both nights. Needless to say, we really liked him, and so did Zeus.

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Soon after having Gherzon, we went on our anniversary trip to a hostel in the mountains of Jarabacoa. We had a great time and we were planning on coming home alone. However, we met some cool people that needed a ride to Punta Cana. Their names were Camila and Manuel. Camila is from Brazil and Manuel is from Italy. One of the interesting things we learned about Manuel was that, even though he is Italian, German is his first language because he lives so close to the German border. We ended up riding back home with the two of them and Camila crashed our couch since she was flying back home to Brazil the next day.

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All of our guests had been invited by God up to this point. So we decided we might as well start inviting people. We did and they started coming. Our next guests were our good friends Cody and Cindy. It was great getting to see them again! We had lots of meaningful conversations along with great food and Piña Coladas. We got to explore Santo Domingo and relax at the beach with them. Seeing some familiar faces was extremely refreshing and edifying.

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Our most recent visitor was Miss Mary. The last time I (Leslie) was in the same state as Mary was three years ago. She had met Alex when he was one of the youth students at the youth group where we both volunteered (about 5 years ago), but hadn’t seen him since. When I told her I was dating Alex, her response was, “Is he of age?!” a very “Mary” response. Suffice it to say, we had a lot of catching up to do. Mary came bearing gifts– beer and Sriracha. Both were very appreciated! Mary is the lowest maintenance guest ever. She let us sleep in till noon, let us drag her to the beach and feed her whenever we pleased. Thanks, Mary!

As we said previously, God likes to tear down idols and conform us to his image more and more, day by day. I think the idol of comfort is one that God constantly has to tear down in his children because we don’t like to be uncomfortable. During this season, we have seen God conform us more into his image by helping us grow in hospitality and we hope to have more visitors in the future, invited by us and/or by God.

In God’s grip,
Leslie and Alex

 

Life: A Light Blog Post

I don’t know how it happened, I guess time kept turning or something, but we have now been in the Dominican Republic for 6 months. It feels like home. We have our routines. We know where to go.

I think that’s part of the reason why we haven’t blogged in a while. Everything seems normal now and who wants to write about normal, let alone read about normal? I’m grateful for normal.

November and December were jam-packed with one special date after another— Alex’s birthday, our anniversary, my birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. We were able to spend all of those days together and, some of them, with my side of the family. What a huge blessing!

Along with all the celebrations, we got a girl kitty to be our big boy’s little sister. Her name is Jules and we absolutely love her. Those two keep us laughing.

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You know how when it’s winter you wish there was at least one warm day, so that you could stop hibernating? Let me tell you something, all of our days are relatively warm (62 degrees Fahrenheit being the coldest I’ve seen during the night), and we’re still hibernating.

We’re looking forward to having some really dear friends come visit us during this first part of the year! Let us know if you’re coming to visit too. We’d love to have you!

In God’s grip,

Alex + Leslie

Apicultor

First, I want to thank everyone who has been praying for us that I would find a job soon. It is pretty incredible to know that we have people thousands of miles away who care about us and pray for us. Your prayers are greatly appreciated and we have definitely felt God’s comfort through all those who have been praying.

Secondly, I am pleased to say that I have finally found a job! It felt like I was out of work for so long! Before we left, I put my two weeks in at my previous job at Starbucks a little more than a month before I was set to depart, so that I could have time to finish up last minute packing and errands that I needed to do. When I finally got to the Dominican Republic, I wasn’t working for another two months! Now that I have something to fill my time with, I haven’t been such a Debbie Downer (I’m sure Leslie could tell you stories!).

The title of this blogpost is my job title. I work for a beekeeper. It is a testament to how God intimately knows us and our hearts, because he knows that a conventional job is not something that would fit well with me. When we first arrived, I heard that there was a beekeeper living in the apartments with us and that he was looking for an assistant as he had to fire his previous employee. I thought to myself, “What a coincidence, I have been interested in beekeeping for a while now.” So I got in contact with him (his name is Jonatan) and told him that I was interested in working for him. I worked with him for a week, visiting the sites that he has the bees kept and doing projects in the office. Unfortunately he was unable to pay me for this first month because he was still having to pay his former employee. Here in the DR, there aren’t government assistance programs like unemployment, so it is up to the employer to pay their former employee a set amount of money while they find a new job. I thought that this was a closed door.

We were still emailing my resumé to several places in the area and I tried to apply for some online work. We hadn’t heard from anyone and none of the online work worked out. There was also the incident with the Hard Rock Hotel that I wrote about a while ago. I was starting to get discouraged to say the least.

The end of September rolls around, and I still hadn’t been contacted by anyone. It was then that I felt I should reach out to Jonatan and see if he still needed an assistant. At this point he would be able to pay me. He did still need someone, and so I started working with him in the beginning of October.

My first day on the job, we cleaned out the storage shed on the property that he keeps the bees. We moved out old hive frames that needed to be burned, we moved out all the unused hives (which are just wooden boxes), and we needed to sweep the place. During all this we encountered all sorts of critters! We saw three rats, a big spider, an even bigger tarantula, and countless cockroaches. Jonatan had a machete and was trying to cut rats in half! He got the tail off of one of them, but there wasn’t much carnage after that. Just a lot of stomping on cockroaches. We assume that the rats snuck out while we weren’t looking because we didn’t see anymore of them the rest of the day.

After we were done cleaning out the storage shed, we checked on the bees. There are several things that you want to check in each hive to make sure that it is healthy. You want to make sure that there is a queen in each hive. At first glance, all the worker bees look like they are just randomly going about their day, and there are so many of them that it just looks like chaos. But there is an order to how the hive works and runs. Once you can recognize that order, you can tell the difference between a hive that has a queen, and a hive that doesn’t. When a hive doesn’t have a queen, the bees seem lost and have no orders to follow. They look even more disorganized than a healthy hive to the naked eye. The next thing you want to look for is if the queen is laying eggs. Egg cells in the hive look different than the rest of the cells. They are either filled with larva or are capped off as the larva turn into bees. There are also honey cells, food cells, and drone cells. The next thing we want to look for is to see if there are drones (male bees) in the hive. We don’t want there to be too many of those, but every hive needs a few. Drones are bigger than the worker bees. They are longer and wider. The queen bee is long and skinny compared to the worker and the drone bees. We want to make sure that the hive has food, and if it doesn’t, we will feed the bees. We also look to make sure that the hives are free of intruders. We check to make sure that there aren’t any mites, ants, or other insects. Here are a few pictures that I took while working with the bees one day:

We also do a lot of projects in the office. Right now we are focusing on trying to get a clientele so that we can sell the honey to more people. Something interesting about Jonatan’s honey is that it is flavored. I had never encountered this before, so I thought it was very interesting. He uses natural and organic ingredients to make coffee honey, cinnamon honey, ginger honey, chocolate honey, moringa honey, anise honey, orange honey, and of course he has a classic honey as well. We have been filling orders for a gas station and we have been making product for sampling for a super market and the Punta Cana International airport.

We have been incredibly blessed to have found something that not only allows me to provide for my wife, but also something that really interests me. The work is not easy, with hot days and sometimes physically demanding tasks, but I have enjoyed it a lot and it is cool to get to work with God’s creation. Bees are so interesting to watch and to see their natural order. It’s almost like peeking into an entire different world, even though they are part of our own. Thanks again for the prayers!

In God’s grip,
Alex and Leslie

P.S. #SaveTheBees

 

Hurricane Matthew

We have been getting a lot of people who are concerned about our well being as hurricane Matthew rips its way through the Caribbean. This is just a very quick update on how we are. Hurricane Matthew’s path is headed between Haiti and Cuba. Because we share the island of Hispañola with Haiti, we are getting the very edges of the hurricane. We have been getting a lot of rain and a lot of wind the past few days. Other than that, we are perfectly okay! We really do appreciate everyone’s concern and appreciate your prayers even more! 

In God’s grip,

Alex and Leslie