Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dominican Republic Arrival – (Jan/Feb Newsletter)

(Download this support letter here: “February 2011 Update.pdf“)

Aaron Roth – Prayer & Support for HOPE International 2011

A week before I came home for Christmas I attended a Haitian church in the Dominican Republic (DR), and had to introduce myself in Spanish to a community that, for the most part, spoke Creole. I announced, “You all are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and today I am glad that I have the opportunity to worship the Lord with you.” The congregation responded “Amen!” A church member came up to me later and said, “You speak Spanish well, and I think God wants you to learn Creole.” After I chuckled a bit, I said to him, “Well, if that’s what the Lord wants . . .”

I suppose if you would have told me a year ago that I’d quit my job in July, work at an orphanage in Nicaragua, spend three months learning Spanish with a local Mayan family in Guatemala, and get ready to spend a year serving a Christian Microfinance organization in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, I would not have believed you. After spending six months in Central America, I am truly convinced that listening to the Lord’s voice, and being obedient to Him is the best way to live and serve.

HOPE for Eradicating Poverty: Tiny Loans for Small Businesses

In the DR, it is reported that 42% of the population lives below the poverty line, meaning that a few million people live on just a few dollars a day. Upon arriving in the DR in late fall, I witnessed first-hand the community banks and small business training that HOPE International (HOPE) created to serve the poor communities. Right away, I knew that God was calling me to this place.

I heard His voice when I spoke to a woman named Isabelle in a Haitian community and learned that for the first time in her life she was able to feed her children well and send them to a good school with the small business that she started. She spoke with hope, not in the profits of her business, but in the eternal hope of Jesus. She gave credit to the Lord for His faithfulness, and to the work that HOPE had done in her community. She’s required to attend bi-weekly bank meetings of HOPE with other women, where they pray, read the Bible, learn business skills, and sing praises to the Lord.

Sounds pretty weird for a bank huh? It seems odd in the eyes of the world, but the method that HOPE uses to share the Gospel and to make disciples of Jesus is by facilitating small loans to the poor. They are the only lending institution that is willing to come to such destitute areas and provide Biblically-based business training, critical medical services, and low interest rate loans to communities.

What’s different about Microfinance as a form of ministry is that HOPE practices a “hand up” instead of a “hand out” approach. They equip, empower, and encourage individuals to create a personal sustainable solution for poverty. In the DR, HOPE has partnered with a local Christian microfinance organization called “Esperanza” (which means “Hope” in Spanish). Together, they have lent almost 22 million dollars. 98% of those funds have been paid back and have been made available for new community bank clients. With these recycled funds, HOPE has been able to help almost 50,000 families in the DR and Haiti.

What about the Spiritual Condition of the DR?

Economically, it is clear that Microfinance changes lives, but at the core of HOPE’s mission, Microfinance is simply a method to bring the good news of Jesus to people who not only are economically poor, but spiritually poor as well. Approximately 90% of the DR is Catholic, but the majority are said to be non-practicing. In some areas, the Dominican people still practice a form of Voodoo called “Santeria” where members believe that poor harvests are the fault of curses on the land. Throughout the country, many poor communities turn to crime, prostitution or drugs to make money in a struggling economic climate. HOPE believes that the solution to these widespread problems requires more than just providing quality business training and affordable microloans.

I remember a conversation I had with Josue, a Dominican HOPE loan officer, where I asked him what he enjoyed the most about working in these community banks. He said that before he started working with HOPE, he sold books in a small shop on the street. Daily, he enjoys reading business books, and loves to read stories of hope to his kids, but he told me that there is only one book that has the power to change lives. He said that the Bible, the Word of God, contains the real hope and the real power to change a community.

My Role as a Dominican Fellow in 2011

HOPE stresses the importance of creating a partnership with an individual like a bond between Christian brothers and sisters that reaches into all areas of their life. HOPE currently makes loans for groups, individuals, and housing projects and is looking to expand their services to include educational loans for Christian schools throughout the 11 community banks on the island of the DR and Haiti.

My role with HOPE will be to create a new partnership with a Christian Organization called Edify. Edify is looking to partner with a Christian Microfinance Institution to help create and improve Christian schools in some of the poorest communities in the DR. They bring Biblically-based curriculum and training resources for schools in the developing world. Groups of children from poor, overlooked, rural communities will have the opportunity to attend a good school and learn the skills they need to earn a sustainable income, and possibly attend college.

Timeline & Resources

After finishing a month of training at HOPE’s central headquarters, I headed back to the DR, to serve as a full-time volunteer. HOPE has established a budget for the 11 months I will be serving there. It’s estimated that I will need $1,000 a month for housing, food, transportation, health and dental insurance and miscellaneous expenses to live and work in the capital city of the DR, Santo Domingo. This amount also includes transportation costs to work in the community banks throughout the island. I am asking friends and family to financially and prayerfully support me in this exciting opportunity.

I’ll follow up with you about this letter within two weeks. Any amount you give is tax deductible, and you can find information about writing a check or donating online at the bottom of this page and in this pdf: February 2011 Update.pdf If you’re interested in knowing more about HOPE International’s work in the world, I’d love to talk with you about it over email, the phone, or a cup of Dominican coffee.

I hope you’ll consider coming alongside me in what God is doing in the DR. Whether or not I end up speaking fluent Creole, I know for sure that he’s asking me to follow Him. My prayer for you is similar: that you will encounter God daily, and that His voice will lead you in your walk with Him.

With blessings and gratitude,

-Aaron Roth
(540) 421-8683
Skype: aprothwm05


Online Contributions:

  • Go to and select the “Donate Now” green tab on the right-hand side of the screen (or click this link: “HOPE International – Donate Now”)
  • Under “Allocate your Gift,” find the “Contribution Preference Amount” drop down box
  • Select “Other (please specify below)”
  • *In the box beside “Other Gift Designation”, write “Fellow: Aaron Roth”

Contributions by Mail (send a check):

HOPE International
Joan Bauman, Donor Care Administrator
227 Granite Run Dr. – Suite 250
Lancaster, PA 17601

Please make all checks payable to:

HOPE International and put “Fellow – Donation: Aaron Roth” in the memo line.

According to IRS regulations, all contributions are treated as donations and are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Traveling is the Excavation of Character

Near the office of Esperanza (HOPE’s office here in the DR), a construction crew is finishing the exit ramp of highway overpass. I walk past the crew every day and see the progress they are making. In one area, they are digging heavily into the ground exposing every good and bad thing found below the surface.

I think that’s what traveling is like.

A group of dedicated laborers goes to work unearthing everything you thought you knew about yourself and things you’d prefer to keep hidden. The heavy machinery crew labors throughout the day and late into the night. At times, the sheer force of the demolition leaves you shocked and speechless. You have to call in your advisors (via Skype) and ask them what the heck is going on. Sometimes you feel like the job site changes, even though you know this is the same place being worked on every day. Other times, usually at night, some specialists wake you up with probing questions about which pipes need servicing. Usually, you have to answer them immediately, they can’t wait until tomorrow. (I’ve tried arguing to postpone the meeting, it just doesn’t work.)

All this demolition and excavation is for a good purpose. Everyday you can see things a little more clearly in the sunshine. It’s amazing to hold mysterious, yet familiar objects in your hands and flip them around and see all their facets. Some things you know you need to clean up if you’re going to continue carrying it around on the journey, and other things you know are meant for the junk pile. You realize your pockets are only so big and your back is only so strong, so you must be judicious in what you continue to carry. Airlines at most, only allow two bags, which is never enough space. You’ve really have to decide what baggage you’re going to transport back home.

If you talk with the foreman on the jobsite you’ll get a better understanding of what the new structure is going to look like. I’ve found that I need to check in daily to have a better idea of what’s yet to come. Sometimes it seems like there’s a new set of blueprints every week, but you trust that whatever is going to be built is a whole lot better than what existed before. As far as time and money is concerned, it’s going to take a lot longer than you thought, and cost way more than you anticipated, but it’s all going to be worth it.

Know that someday in the future, you’ll invite your family and friends over, and you’ll sit and have lunch in the plaza in front of the building. You’ll tell them about the hilarious and insightful construction crew made up of international workers who excavated nearly everything underneath, but nevertheless helped you build and improve this marvelous structure that you enjoy today.

And for that, I am grateful for traveling.

(Currently though, I’m in the middle of a construction zone and I’m trying to reduce my velocity. No sense in getting fined for excessive speed, but really, I just want to be able to see what’s being dug up.)

What Are You Running From?

When I was little, I loved to run, just for the sake of running. I think there’s something beautiful about running with reckless abandonment, without worry, and simply for the joy of how the wind rushes past your face as your own energy carries you forward. I used to run with a simple passion: to be in motion. I ran fast because there was nothing to lose, and everything to gain. The faster I ran, the more I felt alive, the more I wanted to keep going, and the energy inside me kept growing, and I was always amazed when I looked back, because I was able to see the great distance I had traveled.

“What Are You Running From?”

Quite a few people have asked me this question over the past year: “What are you running from?”

I think it’s a fair question. Sometimes, when people choose to quit a job, leave the country to travel and start a new chapter of their life, they are trying to escape something.

I never saw this life decision to leave Richmond to travel, learn Spanish, and volunteer in an international organization as an escape. My life in Richmond was good, and God blessed me with an amazing life. I had an apartment with awesome roommates, I played on a successful soccer team, I attended a solid church and had a good community there, and I liked my job and the people I worked with.

The Real Question: “What Are You Running Toward?”

So when people asked me the question, “What are you running from?” I usually responded with “You mean, what am I running toward?”

I think this is an important distinction, and maybe a suggestion on how to handle a major life event, so I’ll say it now: “When you have a good idea of where you’re going, run toward it.”

See, I think that most times when we choose to make a big decision, we kind of creep toward it, unsure of how it’s going to pan out. We’re afraid of how it will change our lives, our friendships, and our comfortable living situation. I think this anxiety comes from a good basis, and it is important to seek advice and wisdom from the good Lord, your friends, your peers, and your family – the kind of people who know you, and can tell you if they think this fits in with what “you” are all about. But once you know where it is you’re going, do you wait for someone to take you, slowly walk toward it, or do you run?

It was a little more than a year ago that I chose to leave Richmond to pursue volunteering opportunities overseas, and almost immediately I felt that I was on the right track. It was as if I was swimming against the current for awhile, and as soon as I started heading in a different direction, everything became easier. I could feel the wind at my back.

I set up the plans to finish my job in July, and to head to Nicaragua to work with my church at an orphanage in Managua, and then onto Spanish school in Guatemala. It all just seemed to fit in place. And here I am in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ready to volunteer with HOPE International.

Run Like There is a Tomorrow

Now that I know where I’m going, I want to run like I used to run, without worry, without pain, just fully and passionately alive and full of joy because I am in motion.

Maybe that’s the final point I want to make,

“When you have a good idea of where you’re going, run toward it and sprint with all that you’ve got inside you. Run without worry, or fear, and run like you’ve got everything to gain.”

It is only with energy, passion, and momentum that helps us get through the transitions in our life, but more importantly, they make the fuel that helps us get to where we’re going. And if we never let ourselves run, how far will we let ourselves go?

More importantly, if we let ourselves run, how far can we go?

Tomorrow is my first day in the office – me voy a correr . . .


This post is dedicated to everyone who’s spurred me to run as far and as fast as I can. (And to you mom & dad, but I don’t have pictures of y’all on Facebook.)

Thank you, I love you all!