Monthly Archives: December 2012

“Feels Like Home” (Dec. ’12 Newsletter)

 Aaron Roth – HOPE International – “Feels Like Home” – Dec. 2012

Hi family and friends, sorry this email about December is coming so late. I think we all get super busy during the holidays and for me I was also preparing to go to San Diego with Edify and then onto Nicaragua where I am now. I hope to send out my January newsletter about what we’re trying to do in Nicaragua before January finishes. Blessings, -Aaron

I had a whirlwind tour of the US during my 11 weeks back home. While I spent four weeks on the road in various parts of the country living out of suitcases, it was still nice to be back in the company of friends and family and to enjoy the cold. I’m still surprised we had a white Christmas back home in Broadway with my family. Our Christmas Eve service was almost cancelled due to weather, but we trudged on and made our way to the celebration on that cold, snowy December night. I’m sure the infant Savior of the world marveled at our arduous commute of 45 seconds (we live across the road.)

Dec-12-News-02On Christmas Day I called my Dominican family on Skype. I lived with them in their small home in a ghetto of Santo Domingo for a short bit when I first arrived to the DR, but had visited them every two or three weeks for the two years I spent in the DR. Talking with them on Skype brought back so many memories of my time in Santo Domingo, and though it had only been two months, it felt like a long time since I had been at home with them.

When someone asked me in Richmond where home was now, I tried to modify the common phrase with “Home is where my passport is, and I have no idea where I put it.”

In truth, I knew where my passport was, and when I had to pack for Nicaragua it was in the top-most part of my backpack, like always. But for me, the concept of “home” has been an odd one over the past few years.  I got used to living out of two backpacks, packing, unpacking, saying hello and goodbye so many times that it became much like the stamps on my passport. Show up, say the usual things, and you’ll be able to pass through to the next destination.

Dec-12-News-03It hasn’t bothered me though. When I made the decision three years ago to serve overseas, I knew that I was changing some things that would remain permanent. Having a stable “home” would be a temporary enjoyment and a future plan. What became home to me was a mission, and that’s where I put my focus.

I have kept a journal for 11 years, and much of what I wrote three years ago, consisted of trying to live into the “large arc” of my life story. That is, what did I want my life to be about when it was all said and done. Some things on that list were:

  • To do something that was more about others than it is about me.
  • To put my faith in Jesus into action.
  • To dedicate myself to something I believed in.

Dec-12-News-04I’ve written many times about my belief in the efficacy and strength of what we do in Edify, and what HOPE International does around the world. We have been helping people develop skills to provide more employment opportunities and income for their families, providing them the financial capital to get started, and sharing the hope of a loving God who believed that to redeem the brokenness of this world was worth sending his beloved Son to this earth. (I think it’s always important to point back to the real meaning of the holidays you know?)

More than ever I believe in this kind of economic development. Microfinance is a good thing, and it works.

I knew that the time I was in the States, I would be there temporarily, and in fact, I awaited the day where I could get back “home” – that is, where the mission is, to do good in the places that desperately need it. So when I arrived to the Edify training in San Diego, CA I knew that I was a few more steps closer to home. Seeing my good friends from the Dominican Republic, and the executive leadership that I have come to know over the past few years, was like walking back through a familiar door. These are the people I shared the mission with, anDec-12-News-05d those that I will continue working with this upcoming year.

A teammate asked me if I was worried about Nicaragua, and I said that as long as I had a clean, quiet place to sleep, I’d be fine. “That’s it?” They asked.

“Yeah, that’s usually it.” I responded.

Maybe now, I’ve developed the game plan for this kind of life. By no means am I perfect, but I’ve realized that as soon as I handle the few, crucial details I can focus on the bigger picture. And for me, this is working with Edify to see if we should enter Nicaragua, Honduras, and Peru and help to improve education for children in low economic areas, share the Gospel, and build more bridges out of poverty and into hope like we’ve been doing in Ghana, Rwanda and the Dominican Republic.

Upon arriving into Nicaragua, I was a bit overwhelmed. New culture, new city, new Spanish slang, and a new set of rules. When faced with so much stimuli it can be a bit shocking. I knew I had to keep it cool, because that’s on page one of the playbook. When we arrived to the house in Managua, Dec-12-News-06Nicaragua my host family showed me the room where I’d be staying. It’s separated from the house, has its own bathroom, and is clean.

Even though I’d never been here before, I had the sense that since this is part of the mission, and since this fits with the large story of my life, I knew that I was correct in saying:

“Feels like home.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:22-26 NIV)

I pray that you are finding your way back to the home you are being called to.

Skype: aprothwm05

“The Joy to Continue” (Nov. ’12 Newsletter)

HOPE International  edify_logo

 Aaron Roth – HOPE International – “The Joy to Continue” – Nov. 2012



It’s been just over six weeks since I left the Dominican Republic, and some part of me is still figuring out which country I’m actually in. After spending the past two years in a hot, humid climate, it’s more than the physical change that I’m trying to process. To think that I was able to spend my daily life with some of the most passionate and joyful people I have ever met, in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived, still astounds me and fills me with gratitude.

Thanksgiving has always been important in our family. A few years ago my cousin Andy commented about the nature of Thanksgiving having much less expectation than Christmas, “At Thanksgiving, you just Nov-12-News-02show up, and it delivers.” The last time I had sat at the family table was 2009, and I simply felt content to be there a week ago. To be around people that I loved, that loved me, and with whom I could share stories and crack jokes without having to fill in any back story or translate an unusual phrase was a blessing.

Maybe it’s odd to say this, but to me the best part of Thanksgiving is precisely when you’ve assembled that “perfect bite” on the fork, complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and gravy fighting gravity. You take ready aim and as you anticipate the cornucopia of flavors just seconds from hitting a sea of taste buds, you see the rest of your family in various stages of meal-making, eagerly awaiting to dig into their plated constructions, eyes fixed on assembling their own perfect bite.

Nov-12-News-03That memory is full and recent, and I can still taste it.

But just six weeks ago, I spent much of my life around people who didn’t have enough to eat. I played with kids with bloated bellies from parasites, orange reddish hair from iron deficiency, and sores on their legs from bacteria that could be wiped away with medicine that costs a few bucks.

I don’t bring this up to make you or me feel guilty. We are blessed to be where we are and live how we live, and I believe the right and mature response is to make more room at our tables. Poverty is still a crushing reality for millions of people in this world, and indeed, probably a few minutes from where we live. Unfortunately though, it can be an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of thing, where as soon as the image disappears, so does our preoccupation with doing something about it.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been concerning myself with trying to keep warm and getting all my ducks in a row for my next stage of life which includes Central America for eight months, and hopefully graduate school. What’s funny to me as I read these application essay questions about “a time in my life where I’ve been challenged” I’m a bit frustrated not over “what do I write about” but with “which story do I pick?”

Nov-12-News-04Questions like these, give me cause to think about how my experience over the past two and a half years might help make me a better candidate for the application committee. And certainly, if I get an interview, which would take place in Nicaragua or nearby Costa Rica, that would probably help my odds. But now I ask myself, “Is this why I did it? Did I do this for my resume, for my grad school application, for a great ‘life story.?’”

Many of the visitors to the Dominican Republic would comment on just how happy people were even though they were living in rudimentary or even ghetto-like areas. I would often hear the comment “They don’t have much, but they’re so happy!” Now, being back, it’s even stranger to think about that contrast in respect to our modern day life with that of a developed nation. I suppose we could say, “We have so much, and we still aren’t happy!” (Sounds weirder doesn’t it?) I would suggest that even with our piles of things, and credit card debts to fund them, we have trouble seeing that “things” still don’t make us content, like solid relationships with people we care about.

What I think we see behind the façade of material poverty are people who live more connected to each other. They have to. They have no choice. Poverty does not allow for separate bedrooms, individual computers, or text messaged reminders to sit down at the table. Consequently, relationships are stronger, people deal with conflict, because they have to, and something honest and pure emerges Nov-12-News-05when people find a true source of happiness.


It’s such a small word. It can get lost behind the big words of materialism or self-actualization. It’s so miniscule, but if you’ve ever seen it, if you’ve ever felt it, if you’ve ever tasted it at Thanksgiving because you were just so happy to be home with the loving people who raised you to be the person you are today, you’ll know exactly what it is. Joy carries a tremendous significance that is worth giving up the pursuit of things in the modern day race to the top.

Even experiences or hobbies, accomplishments or current positions in an organization can fall into the category of “things.” Where if we buy and show off what we’ve got, we’ll be happier overall. I mean, look at my previous question about what being abroad could do for me professionally, and what I really experienced over the past two years. It’s like I can separate “career moves” into two categories.

I look ahead to six weeks from now when I’ll begin a new assignment. One that will bring great challenge, and one that will test my strength and my commitment to what I believe. I think it would be silly to say that I’m Nov-12-News-05going to beef up my resume or grad school application in Nicaragua and Honduras to help Edify build up and empower small, affordable schools. Truly doing something good in life is worth more than a few lines on a piece of paper.

Maybe it’s a fear of inadequacy that makes us tirelessly climb the corporate ladder, speed up just because everyone else is speeding, or fixate on the the huge advertisements to keep up with the Joneses that diverts us from a true destination as we travel. I’ve learned that sometimes the best destinations on the highway are pointed to not with the most audacious lettering but often by meager, modest signs.

Joy is something so tiny, so pure, so innocent that once it makes an appearance its little light can destroy what once were monstrous distractions. You’ve seen it before haven’t you? In your kids, and in your spouse, in your family, in a job well-labored and well worth it, in a celebration of what is good and right, in a victory that comes after months or years of struggle and despair. I think when we see true joy we throw off all that slows us down.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)”

I want to continue God’s work with our local brothers and sisters in Nicaragua and Honduras to help children receive a better education, helping to make a place at His Thanksgiving table for everyone.

That is the joy I want to taste and see.

I pray that you are able to see the things that distract you and steal your joy, and that the Lord would help throw off the things that hold you down.

Blessings to you and your family,