Aaron Roth Support Letter for HOPE International 2012
A day before I left the Dominican Republic to come visit for Christmas, I had the opportunity to enjoy a Christmas celebration meal with the HOPE’s on-the-ground partner, Esperanza Internacional. I was sitting next to the staff that works in the northern part of the capital. Ramona Gonzales had just been named loan officer of the year for the country, and in her acceptance speech she said, “None of this has been my own effort. I am grateful to the Lord for his strength and his grace, and also to my teammates, my friends and coworkers of my office.” Ramona visits all her 500 microfinance clients on a bi-weekly basis. She was my first microfinance teacher, and most importantly, taught me that it’s not just about making micro-loans.
Yes, we provide small loans to individuals, but I believe, just as Ramona does, that the real work comes in the relationships we build. The real work of Hope is forged in friendships, in conversations, in prayers, in walks to and from home. I have met hundreds and hundreds of people that rely on our financial and educational services, and they are incredibly grateful for our partnership as we work together to overcome the crushing force of poverty. Quite often we are the only organization that travels to these remote communities to visit them because HOPE believes in this work, and I do too.
What the Lord has taught me over the past year serving in the Dominican Republic (DR) would be impossible to condense into a letter, but I believe it’s important to highlight a few lessons:
1) The Economic Need is Enormous, and We Can Help.
It is true, we live a nation that is blessed with economic prosperity. Even in our darkest economic slumps, we are still better off than 80% of the rest of the world that try to live on just a few dollars a day. We have the ability to attend good schools, walk around our neighborhoods safely, and drink water from the kitchen tap.
This is not the reality for the rest of the world. I’ve sat in bank meetings and spoken with our clients of HOPE about the consistent challenges of trying to provide three meals a day for their children, the expensive costs of going to clinics for medicine (usually just a few dollars), and saving enough money to send them to good schools (about $7-9 a month). They have told me, that simply by me being present with them, working with them directly and also with the people who sent me – you, my friends, my family, my church – it is an honor for them, and our work makes tangible improvements in their lives and makes them feel connected to the communities where they live.
2) We All Work Best With Inspiration.
The work of God’s kingdom, whether locally or internationally thrives on inspiration and encouragement. Shame or guilt serves no purpose in motivating those to participate in overseas work. I know that I get to shake the hands of the grateful clients and see their smiles, but I wish that you could as well. I am grateful to be the messenger, to be your hands and feet on the ground, knowing that we all do this work unto Jesus.
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Mathew 25:35-36)
3) The Local Church Accomplishes God’s Work, Home and Abroad.
We meet in local churches and homes all across the country. In 10 offices in the DR and four in Haiti, we have impacted more than 50,000 people this past year in 2011. On the ground there are over a hundred local staff of Dominicans and Haitians and just five Americans. Working together as God’s local church, we believe in the mission that God wants to redeem all that is broken and hopeless, that all may know the hope manifested in his Son, Jesus who came to this Earth, and that we should shine with the joy of the Lord.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mathew 5:14-16)
4) When Traveling, Eat at the Local Cafeterias with the Longest Lines.
Slight change of topic: by sticking to venues with long lines, it’s a signal that the locals approve of the food; it’s affordable, safe to eat, and most likely delicious. Many foods and fruits are seasonal, and half the joy is hearing how they describe the sweetness of a ripe mango, or the succulence of savory “mofongo” with roasted pork 😉
5) Hearing Someone’s Dreams for the Future is all the Motivation I Need.
Sometimes I find myself spending an extra hour in a school talking with a teacher or a student about their goals and aspirations for the future. I’ve realized that there’s something contagious about hope. When I hear someone really share what’s on their heart, I too get a taste of the joy and excitement for that day when they graduate from high school, make a better home for their family, or even attend a university. Hope keeps us all moving forward, you know?
My Role as a Dominican Fellow in 2012
As I have mentioned in my monthly newsletters, I have been working in the area of educational program for Christian schools throughout the island of the DR. My role with HOPE in 2012 will be to continue to work in the partnership with Esperanza Internacional and a Christian Microlending organization called Edify to help build more classrooms and computer labs in Christian schools throughout the poorest communities in the DR.
We have built classrooms and made improvements in 20 schools and have started programs for Biblically-based curriculum and training resources for administrators and teachers throughout the country. Over 2,700 children have been impacted by our work and thousands more will have the opportunity to attend a good school, learn about the love of Jesus, and learn the skills they need to thrive in school and beyond.
Timeline & Resources
As I prayed about my plans for 2012, I was led to continue serving in the DR as a full-time volunteer. HOPE has established a budget for the 8 months I will be in the country. I will need $900 a month for living costs in the capital city of the DR, Santo Domingo. I am asking friends and family to prayerfully and financially support me in this opportunity to participate in the work of the Lord.
I’d like to 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 listed below. Some of my supporters have found it easier to make a small donation ($15, $25, or $50) with their credit card that recurs every month, you can find out about that below. If you’re interested in knowing more about HOPE International’s work in the world and the Dominican Repubilc, I’d love to talk with you about it over email, Skype, or a fresh cup of Dominican coffee – I know a great spot!
I hope you’ll consider coming alongside me in what God is continuing to do in the DR. I am excited for the opportunity to serve again with HOPE International in the Dominican Republic in 2012. My prayer for you is that God would encourage and inspire you every day, like He has this past year for me, and that you will listen to His Spirit moving in your life.
Bendiciones y que Dios les bendiga mucho,