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Stories from West Beach, August 2009

Dominican Republic poor school girl
Meroly Domínguez Félix , young resident of West Beach in the Dominican Republic

“West
Beach,” or “Playa Oeste” as it is written in Spanish, sounds
like a tourist resort. But West Beach is actually a squatters’ community on the
outskirts of the city of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. Tiny
shacks—built of rough concrete blocks, salvaged lumber and rusty tin
sheets—are crowded side-by-side along a polluted waterfront. The streets
are dirt, or mud when it rains. Prostitution and drug abuse fuel the local
economy. Children are sent out to work each day to help broken families
survive. They couldn’t attend school if they wanted to, because they don’t have
birth certificates. Neither do many of their parents. As far as the Dominican
government is concerned, the people of West Beach don’t exist.

God, however, has not
forgotten them. Six years ago He sent missionaries James and Maria Jones to
West Beach to plant churches. Yet West Beach is not a place where you can
just preach the
gospel. It must also be lived.
So James and Maria started a low-cost Christian school for kids ages 4-12. Each
weekday, about 140 children attend Vision in Action Christian School to learn how to read and write—and
how to follow Jesus. Adult hearts have softened. James and Maria have planted a
number of house churches in West Beach and nearby neighborhoods. Lives are
being transformed.

poverty slum in Dominican Republic beach
A view of a small section of West Beach from the uncompleted third story of Vision in Action Christian School

Heaven’s Family has been helping fund the construction
of a new building for Vision in Action Christian School since part of the old building was
destroyed by tropical storm Olga. We’ve also met some other pressing needs that
are highlighted in four stories within this update. Your compassion is
answering prayers in West Beach. On behalf of our spiritual family there who
have benefitted, thanks so much. — David

Slightly Slow Angel
The
Critical Medical Needs Fund at Work

miracle teacher receives critical medical needs
Neiroby Vurgos, less than two weeks after being shot in the face by a 38-caliber handgun at point-blank range

Neiroby Vurgos, only
fourteen, is in eleventh grade and at the top of her class. Since last
year, she has also been teaching the third grade class in the afternoons
at Vision in Action Christian School in West Beach, for which she is paid about $75 per month, a
huge blessing to her. She loves her job, and all of her students adore her.

Just a few weeks ago,
as Neiroby was walking home from her teaching job, she was confronted by a
young man with a 38-caliber pistol. He demanded her sunglasses, and she
complied. He looked them over and then grumbled, “My sunglasses are better
than yours!” Pointing his gun directly at her face, he pulled the trigger.
She fell backwards, and he walked away. Neiroby lay motionless on the
ground as blood streamed from her face.

A few of the residents
of West Beach carried her unconscious body to the local hospital on the back of
a motorcycle. Her face was so swollen that she was unrecognizable. Doctors
assumed the worst. The bullet was likely in her brain. But when x-rays were
taken, everyone was stunned to see the bullet lodged under her nose in a sinus
cavity. It had not penetrated or damaged any of her facial bones. It seemed to be a
miracle, as if the bullet had been stopped by an angel (who could have done
better, by the way, and stopped the bullet even sooner)!

critical medical needs miracle skull bullet Dominican Republic x-ray
Actual x-ray of Neiroby’s skull showing the location of the bullet in her sinus cavity

Doctors did not want
to attempt to extract the bullet until all the swelling in her face and sinus
cavity had subsided. So they patched up her nostril where the bullet entered
and sent her home for a few weeks. When I met her two weeks later, the bullet
was still in her sinus cavity, and I was given an x-ray to prove it (see photo
at above). Unfortunately, the doctors’ fees along with the hospital expenses of
$416 were beyond the means of Neiroby’s family. Thankfully, however, it
was not beyond the means of her spiritual family. Heaven’s Family provided what was needed,
and Neiroby no longer has a bullet in her head. A happy ending!

once blind now can see happy sight
Marcos Nuñez, happy to have his sight back

The Bigger Picture: We receive a regular stream of
communications regarding critical medical needs from around the world, but we
only respond to communications from members of our spiritual family whom we
personally know and trust. Besides helping Neiroby, last month we also helped
pay for cataract surgery for an elderly Christian man in the Dominican Republic
named Marcos Nuñez, who was almost blind. We also met critical
medical needs of believers in Rwanda, Myanmar and Mexico. We meet every
need we can through gifts to the Critical Medical Needs Fund, of which 100% is
sent overseas for their designated purpose.

Learn how you can help

 

Ana the Entrepreneur
The
Widows & Abandoned Women Fund at Work

entrepreneur small business widow micro-loan Dominican Republic
Ana Sarita, entrepreneur from West Beach

Anna Sarita is one of
those people in West Beach who don’t exist as far as the Dominican government
is concerned. She never had a birth certificate or any I.D. Neither did her
mother or grandmother. So Ana could never attend school. She never learned to
read. At age fifteen, she moved in with her boyfriend and, a year and a
half later, had her first of three children. As best as Ana can guess, she
is now about thirty-two years old.

Five years ago, Ana
came to the Lord at one of James and Maria’s house churches in West Beach.
Eventually, her promiscuous and alcoholic husband became very intolerant of her
“religion” and gave her an ultimatum. Ana chose Jesus. Her husband
threatened to kill her and their children, so James and Maria provided her
sanctuary in a tiny house outside of West Beach, where she currently lives with
her three children.

James offered Ana a
job as a teacher’s assistant at Vision in Action Christian School. Although Ana tried to keep her illiteracy
secret, James said he was fairly sure Ana couldn’t read when he noticed that
her Bible was upside-down at the weekly Bible class. Yet Ana applied herself to
learn to read along with the children she was helping to teach at Vision
School
, and once she mastered
the basics, she read the Bible constantly until she became a
very proficient reader. James, a former army medic, also
trained Ana in some paramedics, and soon she was able to fill in for James,
helping the steady stream of poor people who came to him for medical diagnoses,
advice and treatment.

With James’
encouragement, Ana started studying hygiene and preventative
medicine. She began learning that there is a correlation between nutrition and
health. Before long she was selling vitamins door-to-door, which enabled her to
do even better at providing for herself and her three children. But she had one
more dream. With the help of her oldest daughter, Ana wanted to open a retail
health food store and restaurant that would serve healthy food and help change
the eating habits of her clients.

Although Ana is
technically not a widow, we made an exception in her case, providing the $350
from our Widows & Abandoned Women Fund that she needed to start her new business. She is bound to
succeed.

brothel widow dominican republic beachThe Bigger Picture: Through contributions to the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund, Heaven’s Family is
helping Christian widows around the world with business start-up grants. Last
month in the Dominican Republic, 63-year-old Mercedes Martinez also received a
grant from the Widows Fund. Mercedes formerly ran a brothel in West Beach
before her conversion to Christ. She will be opening up a kitchen and
restaurant where she will prepare food to sell to local construction workers
and fishermen. Mercedes and her great-grandson are pictured at right.

Learn how you can help

Free Indeed!
The Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund at Work

drug rehab changed man
Ramon, now a different man. Inset: Ramon before his deliverance.

Holding a well-worn
copy of the Spanish version of The Disciple-Making Minister, pastor Jose’ Martinez was
passionately exhorting a group of almost fifty former drug addicts. They
listened attentively to him talk about the power of Jesus. He stood in the
center of a rustic hall, right in the middle of a raised circle of concrete.
Just a few years ago, the scene in that same hall was much different. Then, a
crowd of men also gathered, but rather than recovering from drugs and alcohol,
most were consuming both. And rather than listening to a sermon, they were
paying to watch women strip under flashing lights, in the very spot where
pastor Hose’ was now preaching the gospel. Quite a contrast.

I told missionary
James Jones that I would never have thought I would be sitting in a former
strip club listening to the gospel being preached by a man who was
very enthusiastically using The Disciple-Making Minister as a manual to teach former drug addicts.
Not to be upstaged, James told me that when he was patronizing that strip club
years ago, he would have never dreamed he would one day be sitting in the same
place shouting “Amen” to a sermon! God is in the redemption business.

James introduced me to
one of the young men who is living at Compassion Drug Rehabilitation Center.
His name is Ramon. Six years ago, James was preaching on the streets of
Javillar, a community adjacent to West Beach. He was invited by Ramon’s parents
to visit their small home, and there he was introduced to their son, who was
then about age eighteen.

Ramon was insane. He
would not communicate, except when he yelled profanities at his parents. He had
not bathed, shaved, or cut his hair in fourteen months. His stench
permeated the house. He had a monstrous afro, and his fingernails and
toenails were so long that they curled under. He would eat, but he would add
grass and leaves to his food. He was violent.

James, along with
several believers, took Ramon to another location to minister deliverance to
him. Ramon cursed and mocked James and the other Christians in English, a
language he did not know (and still does not know). But the demons all came out.
Ramon was completely delivered. In his right mind, he then agreed to receive
Christ as Lord. From that moment, he was a different person.

One week later, James
returned Ramon to his parents’ house. His hair and fingernails had been
trimmed, and he had bathed and shaved. When his father saw him and heard him
speak intelligently, he fell on his knees, raised his hands to the sky and
exclaimed, “I want to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior!”

Ramon is now living at
Compassion Center to study the Bible and learn how to minister to drug addicts.
Those who enter the program must commit to living at the center’s very
primitive facilities for a year. The dorm rooms are impossible to describe by
North American standards.

drug rehab center the disciple making minister
Trophies of God’s grace: Pastor Jose’ Martinez and most of the current residents of Compassion Drug Rehab Center. Pastor Hose’ is holding his well-worn copy of The Disciple-Making Minister. Behind them is their gathering hall, a former strip bar and brothel.

Using gifts to Heaven’s
Family’s
Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund, I
was blessed to leave money that will provide a replacement for the very leaky
roof at Compassion Center’s main building. I also left funds for a used
transmission for the Center’s broken-down old van, which is used to deliver and
sell shampoo and disinfectant produced by the Center’s residents, by which the
ministry is partially self-supported. Thank you for making these blessings
possible.

drug rehab center the disciple making minister
Pastor Jose’ with his well-worn copy of the Spanish version of The Disciple-Making Minister. So far, almost 1,000 copies have been distributed to pastors and Christian leaders in the Dominican Republic.

The Bigger Picture: Contributions to the Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund have been used so far to assist effective Christian drug rehabs in
Siberia, Russia, and Havana, Cuba. If the Lord has delivered you from drug addiction, this may be a fund to which you
would like to regularly contribute. We’ve made it easy through monthly bank
auto-withdrawal or monthly automatic credit card charge, which can be set up by clicking on the blue button below.

Learn how you can help

A Vision for Darianny and Carmeli
I Was
Hungry’s General Fund at Work

christian school students in the slums of poverty sticken dominican republic i was hungry general
Missionary James Jones with two students of Vision Christian School, Darianny and Carmeli

One morning I visited
the West Beach “homes” of two of the students who attend Vision
in Action Christian School
.
Darianny and Carmeli, pictured with James Jones in the photo above, started
attending Vision School five
years ago by entering the pre-school program. Both have learned how to read and
write, something that they now use to help their illiterate mothers, who never
had an opportunity to go to school. (Neither of their fathers live with them.)

Our first visit is to
Carmeli’s “house.” It is difficult to describe. It can’t be more than
ten feet wide and twenty feet deep, and it is crowded between two other similar
homes. The walls are built of concrete block and the floor is rough-poured
concrete. There is no ceiling, and I can see the roof rafters and underside of
the corrugated tin roof. There is some old furniture. Out back is a latrine
with a shallow well beside it. We find a little shade there to take photos of
Carmeli.

Carmeli is the
product of her mother’s hopeful relationship with a man whom she later
discovered was already married and whom Carmeli has never met. Her mother,
aunt, and grandmother, who all live with her and her siblings, survive by
selling coffee and cooked beans in front of their house. I ask them all about
their relationship with the Lord, and all respond with smiles. James tells me
that they all are attending a house church in the neighborhood.

christian school student that lives in poverty sticken beach dominican republic
Carmeli

Our next stop is
Darianny’s house, where we are first greeted by her great-grandmother, who is
67 years old. The house is much like Carmeli’s. Darianny is also age
eight, and she has two other sisters who live at home with her. The three of
them share the same mother, but different fathers, none of whom live with them.
Darianny is exceptionally bright and is an honor student at Vision School. With pride, her mother shows us her report card
and honor roll certificate.

If it weren’t
for Vision Christian School,
it is very likely that both Carmeli and Darianny would be going out to work
each day, and that they would ultimately end up in prostitution. But their
mothers are hoping for a better future for their beautiful daughters.

christian school student with mother that live in poverty sticken slum of Dominican republic beach i was hungery general
Darianny and her mother

i was hungry general christian school in construction
The third and second stories need completion

The Bigger Picture: Using gifts to the general fund of
our I Was Hungry division, Heaven’s
Family
has been helping to
fund the construction of Vision in Action Christian School’s new three-story building in the heart of West
Beach. When completed, it will serve 140 students each day and also function as
a community center for adult education in the evenings, all in the context of
the gospel of Jesus Christ. About $8,000 is needed for completion.

Learn how you can help

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heaven's family blog updates

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Parting Shot
Miniature
People of West Beach


Photogenic West Beach sisters: Yamilet and Oriana Franchesca De Los Reyes Santos love to see their photos on the back of a digital camera