Dog Rescue: A Passionate Tale about Tails

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Alex and Pepper

Shine Ministry Spotlight: Step into the World of Rescue with Alex Davis


Spotlight gives ministries and volunteers the opportunity to share their passion to connect with others who may want to contribute or partner with their mission.


Does your heart ache when you see the photos of sad dog faces, some of whom are bruised, battered, and starved? Have you wondered how you could possibly help those poor souls who have no voice? You can. Learn more about the rescue world and how you can make a difference in the lives of both rescuers and their forever families—one foster, one adoption at a time.

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You’ve probably heard the horror stories of raids on puppy mills, properties of pet hoarders, and dog fighting rings. Maybe you’ve encountered a hungry dog rummaging through garbage on the side of the road. Texas and many southern state shelters are full of unwanted animals who’ve grown up on the streets, were dumped on the side of the road, or owner-surrendered to a local high-kill shelter. The euthanasia list is a continuous tally of dogs who are days, hours, and minutes from their last breath. Yes, the stories are sad, but there is hope for many of these dogs. Just a few states away, in Colorado the local shelters and Human Societies are relatively empty with many families wanting to adopt a life-long companion.

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States such as Texas and New Mexico have supply and Colorado has demand—a perfect solution. But how do we get these dogs to their forever families? The heroes are the non-profit rescues and their dedicated volunteers who step in to fill this void. Their sacrificial stories are amazing—joyful, heart-wrenching, tiresome, and heart-warming. One young woman’s story will both inspire you and leave you feeling exhausted. My prayer is that Alex’s story will move you to take just one small step deeper into the rescue world where your efforts will be personally rewarding.

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Alex’s Story

When Alex was 6 years old, her mother asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She replied, “I want to be a seal trainer, have 10 dogs, 10 cats, and 10 kids.” In middle school, Alex slept in the garage for a week on a blow-up mattress with 2 stray dogs she nick-named Scooby and Spice. You could say she was babysitting those two until she could find their owners. In high school, Alex volunteered at the Houston SPCA. Now at 25, Alex is a certified veterinary technician with 3 dogs and 1 cat. She’s fostered over 200 dogs in nearly 4 years and directly touched the lives of thousands of rescue animals. What does the future hold for Alex? Who knows, but it may be too small to fit in those 10 kids.

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Alex and Scooby [2004]

She adopted her first dog in 2013, followed by a second and a cat in 2014. Based on a New Year’s resolution, in January 2016 she submitted her foster application to New Hope Cattle Dog Rescue (NHCDR) and got her first heeler, Juno, that March. Over 50% of first-time fosters adopt their rescue, and Alex almost became one of those statistics. She refused to become a “foster failure” and pushed through her tears to let Juno go to another family, so she could once again foster and give more dogs a chance at a forever home.

Today she searches social media sites for dogs to tag, runs short- and long-haul transports, provides basic medical care, screens adopters, does adopter home checks, evaluate fosters, helps with behavioral training, attends and sets up adoption events, serves on the Board of Directors of NHCDR, and works collaboratively with many other rescue non-profits.

How Does Rescue Start?

As Alex became more entrenched into the rescue world, she became aware first-hand of the struggle in springing a dog out of so-called Texas prison. There are multiple hands that touch a dog’s life from when it’s pulled off the Texas streets or shelter to its forever destination in the home of a Colorado family. The most critical need in the system is available foster homes—especially in Texas where the process begins.

SpotRescue starts when someone posts on social media, commonly Facebook, a dog found dumped on the streets or when volunteers post photos/video of available shelter dogs. Yes, there are volunteers who walk the Texas shelter aisles—whose sole purpose is to put those adoptable dog faces behind wire cages on social media, so someone’s heart can be tugged. A Colorado rescue can commit to take the dog but will only do so if it has a short-term foster in the shelter area that can hold the dog for about 1-3 weeks while out-of-state transport can be arranged and the minimum vetting completed to take the dog across state lines.

Two PittiesShelters will routinely allow registered 501c3 rescues to pull dogs for free by submitting their nonprofit incorporation papers or completing shelter forms. Ideally, the local foster will provide a home environment, learn of the dog’s behaviors and personality, take it to a vet to secure its health certificate and vaccinations (at rescue expense), and ensure it makes its transport to Colorado when space has been secured.

SprinklesColorado volunteers will pick up the dogs off transport and typically take them to their next foster home until they are adopted. Fosters take daily care of the dogs, which includes helping with training (crate, potty, behavior, and basic commands). Dogs are also spayed and neutered before their adoption. On average fosters give a loving home to these rescue dogs for a couple days to a couple weeks and commit to taking them to scheduled adoption events, vet appointments, and meet-and-greets with potential adopters.

OxAdoptable dogs are posted on the rescue’s website, social media pages, and available at the adoption events. Potential adopters must fill out an application and are screened, which includes home and vet (if family own other pets) checks. The adopting family must typically agree that the dog spend most of its time indoors. Although each rescue has its own rules, most have a trial adoption period to make sure the fit is right. At any time if the family can no longer care for the dog, the contract stipulates it must be returned to the rescue. This process delivers a high permanent adoption rate.

The Price to Adopt

Most rescues require a $250 – $350 adoption fee, which barely covers the cost of vetting (vaccines, heartworm test, deworming, spay/neuter, etc.) and transporting across state lines. Behavioral training, food, supplies, and special medical care (orthopedic surgeries, Distemper, Parvo, etc.) are typically covered by donations—not the adoption fees.

OakMany people don’t understand why the adoption fees are so high for unwanted rescue animals. The truth is that rescues want to make sure they put a happy and healthy dog in the home of its forever family. With that end goal, rescues are just covering their basic costs in the adoption fees.

Fostering Makes You a Rescue’s Hero

Rescues are looking for fosters with big hearts. There aren’t any special requirements to be a foster other than a willingness to open your home and show patience as a dog acclimates to its new trauma-free environment. As Alex says, “If you can love a dog, have patience, and be understanding, you can be a good foster.”

IMG_6318Fosters may find they work on crate and potty training as the history of the dog is mostly unknown. If the foster/dog fit is too strained, rescues will do their best to find another foster home. Fosters must realize rescue organizations run solely on volunteers, so nothing happens overnight.

Many families help the system by joining the ranks of relief fosters—helping long-term fosters who need to go out of town for a couple days or week. Rescues are always happy to have fosters who can relieve other fosters on a case-by-case choice which keeps the dog in a home environment and saves the kenneling of $15 to $40 per night.

Rescue Comes with a Personal Price

How does a young rescuer fit in the demands of rescue while earning a living? Not very well. Rescuers like Alex pay a heavy price to rehome these dogs. She’s lost personal relationships, forgone work hours, and self-funded expenses (gasoline and wear and tear on her personal vehicle) from her own meager vet technician salary of $25,000 per year.

IMG_6224Although Alex has gained an incredible support network of friends who have a common passion and knows the pure joy of connecting the family and rescue, the price has been expensive in both money and untold hours in the field.

How many hours does she dedicate to these dogs? On average Alex spends 4 hours a day on social media—tagging shelter dogs, responding to texts and calls of dogs in need, arranging transport, answering foster questions, etc. Because of her reputation in the rescue world, she routinely gets calls from locals for help with a dog they found abandoned or a neighbor who wants to get rid of a dog.

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Every 3 weeks she donates one of her days off for a 15-hour transport run. After cleaning crates and loading the van, she may travel to New Mexico to pick up 20 dogs and drive them up to Denver. There are 1-2 adoption events per month which usually involves 5-6 hours of her time for travel, setup, and tear down. None of this includes her time for taking dogs for vetting, supplies to fosters, and meet-and-greets with potential adopters. Oh, and she cares for upwards of 5 rescues in her own home.

Alex’s Future

Alex has a heart for the working dogs (cattle dog/heeler) and bullies, because people misunderstand these breeds. Many adopters don’t realize the energy level of working dogs who require lots of exercise or a “job”—otherwise, they can get destructive. She favors pit-bull mixes because the press has turned the American Pit Bull Terrier, once referred to as the loyal American family dog, into a villain.

DeliahToday Alex is serves NHCDR, breed specific for heeler mixes, and she tags pitties with From Forgotten to Forever Rescue (FFTF). She has a dream to own property to build kennels as backup to her own foster-home rescue. Her passion is to save death row dogs—those minutes from euthanasia—victims of shelter overcrowding. Alex is truly the champion of the underdog of underdogs.

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A Simple Request

Please be a foster. Why? Because fostering adds so much joy to your life as you see these dogs’ personalities come to life. You can be a change agent who can help a dog go from being traumatized to thriving.

DiamondIf you have a dog or two, the rescue will require that your pets are spayed or neutered. No one wants an oops! If you’ve ever thought of fostering, do it. The upside is how fulfilled you’ll feel in helping an underdog, and the only downside may be some adjustment in a temporary living situation.

You Can Help in Other Impactful Ways

The innocent victims are the dogs, and the heroes are those volunteering in the rescue world. You too can be a hero, and there’s many ways to help:

  • Reach out to a local rescue and offer to be a short-term foster.
  • Offer to be a substitute foster for a long-term foster going on vacation
  • Offer to transport dogs from foster to transport
  • Donate money and/or supplies to a local rescue
  • Help a rescuer with expenses for gas, oil/filter changes, gift cards for services, or money to help defray their own out-of-pocket expenses

Any amount helps. If you’d like to learn more about rescue, send a word of thanks, or gift a woman who cares too much, you can reach Alex at alex.davis11_94@yahoo.com  or 281.881.1826.

Ruby


About the Author: Sandra Dillon who has a heart for ministry and servant leadership and can be found in the mission field coaching on relationships and marriage strengthening, drilling water wells, installing filtration systems, and teaching hygiene. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Invest in a Couple’s Marriage and Change a Family’s Future

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James Odhiambo Ageng’a and Faith Chege


Our Ask

If you live in the United States, you’re blessed to have ready access to information and services to help you with your relationship whether dating, engaged, or married. Self-help is only an Amazon book order away, a call to your Employer Assistance Program (EAP), or a conversation with your pastor. Most people in countries across the globe don’t have access to relationship help that can radically improve their marriage and change the course of their family legacy.

I’m personally asking you to help another couple, who wants to invest in their marriage, by simply funding part or all of their materials and/or the trip expenses for Darin and me to travel to Kenya and Tanzania, where we will hold several marriage conferences and train-the-trainer workshops. Will you help us achieve a big vision to help others who are willing to help themselves?

“We’re not meant to walk alone into our vision. As long as we are connected to the source and others, God uses people to do God’s work.”

– Sandra Dillon


The Big Vision: To Put Marriage Tools in the Hands of Every Couple

Developmental mission is the name of the game and sustainability is its goal. Back in 2013, God called Darin and me into the mission field to do long-term, partnership changing work to improve communities across the globe, while locally investing in marriages. These two parallel paths have now converged into the vision God placed on our hearts for 2020: go to East Africa and help marriages and families through the power of relationship coaching. Let local marriage leaders take these tools and shape them for their community.

Our big vision is for everyone to have access to relationship coaching—every couple who is married, engaged, and dating as well as those about to date. We want everyone to be empowered with self-awareness, perspective, and tools, so they can choose to create a successful relationship. Aren’t you excited to be a part of this vision?

“One of life’s greatest rewards is knowing you helped change someone’s life for the better.”

– Sandra Dillon


The First Big Trip

Our big step into this big vision is to fly to Nairobi, Kenya, and put on several conferences on marriage strengthening and host train-the-trainer sessions. We will return to the first church we visited in October 2013, now called International Christian Center Woodlands Rongai (www.facebook.com/iccrongaicampus) where we met Faith who was the music leader for Woodlands Church Nairobi. Recently, I had the privilege of taking Faith Chege and James Ageng’a through premarital coaching via video calling. James belongs to Life Changing Sanctuary (www.facebook.com/lifechangingsanctuary). Their churches are welcoming us in 2020 with open arms.

IMG_5760Prior to departure, James and Faith will become SYMBIS (Save-Your-Marriage-Before-It-Starts) trainers by completing their online training program. They will identify couples who will be part of the train-the-trainer program and also take the SYMBIS survey prior to our arrival. They will benefit from SYMBIS and possibly be the next generation of marriage mentors.

The conference will focus on God’s laws of marriage and marriage mission/vision. The train-the-trainer program will take couples through their own couple SYMBIS report and cover finances, love, attitudes, sex, parenting, blending families, spirituality, goals, communication, conflict resolution, etc. We will answer questions and enhance their training with supplemental materials and situational stories. Darin and I will empower them and pass the torch to James and Faith as the future local SYMBIS leaders, who will then put reports into the hands of mentors and couples across their communities.

Then we are off to Tanzania with Vine & Branches and more marriage coaching….

We need financial support for training and the on-going mentoring program. SYMBIS survey prices, which seem reasonable in U.S. terms, can be astronomical for a couple who makes only $150 per month. Facilitator training is $200, and the surveys are $35 per couple. We’re creating a World Changers on Mission Fund, and asking U.S. friends, family, and supporters to contribute toward couples’ SYMBIS reports, relationship books for couples and African church libraries, and expenses to cover conferences and train-the-trainer sessions.

“It’s not enough to say you’re not part of the problem. Will you commit to be part of the solution?”

– Sandra Dillon

Our goal is to raise an initial $15,000 to start the “good works”. The first big step is to make a 2-week trip that takes us from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, Tanzania. We dream of going to Uganda in 2021, because we already have pastors and community leaders inviting us to bring marriage strengthening to their communities.


How You Can Help

A marriage has the power to make you miserable (when bad) and fulfilled (when good). Please invest in a married or engaged couple by donating to our big vision. When you invest in a couple, you not only help them, but you also play a role in developing a healthy family legacy and to break generational curses. Your investment pays dividends for generations and helps communities thrive. Here’s no greater return on investment than to see a person or family flourish. When spouses and families are healthy, they can then go and be servant leaders.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

No amount is too small. You can give through several options:

  1. Donate via PayPal using email: worldchangersonmission@gmail.com. Sandra Dillon is the name associated with the account.
  2. Donate via Zell to shinecrossings@gmail.com.
  3. Venmo money to Sandra-Dillon-4
  4. Mail check made out to Shine Crossings. Text me and I will provide a mailing address.

World Changers on Mission is not yet a 501c3, so all donations are a true gift. We will honor our donors’ gifts with accountability and transparency as if they are a donation. In all cases, please make a note for any restrictions on this initiative which may include:

  1. Unrestricted: use wherever needed most
  2. Use for couples’ surveys, training, and materials
  3. Use to defer expenses for your trip such as airfare, hotel, security, and in-country transportation

All donations will be acknowledged, and if you provide your email, you will be included on blogs, news, and updates so you can see the workings of your investment. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Sandra Dillon at 281.793.3741 or worldchangersonmission@gmail.com

If financial giving is not a possibility for you, we would ask that you share this post with your friends, family, and network.


Your Request

If you know of an organization in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, who wants to connect with World Changers on Mission, please email their name, contact, and a bit of history. We’d love to reach out to them for a conversation and see how we might connect with them and include them on a future trip.


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How to Strengthen Your Marriage When Your Spouse Is Incarcerated

DSC00765I struggled with a title that would do justice in describing my experience volunteering as a relationship coach at a marriage seminar for 30+ couples in Lockhart’s Women’s Prison. What words could I share that would capture your attention to read and embrace the incredible impact that Greg and Melissa Alvis have every month on the couples who spend a full day in prison with the intent of strengthening their marriage.

Statistics show that the likelihood of a couple divorcing increases by 32% per year for every year that one spouse is incarcerated. With an average divorce rate already nearing 50%, you can safely assume that most marriages never survive through a spouse’s incarceration. Prison truly tests the strengthen of a marriage, and Greg and Melissa are slowing down that divorce rate to keep families not only surviving but thriving.

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The Ministry

Greg and Melissa travel the state of Texas with their self-created marriage strengthening seminar–knocking on prison doors and selflessly offering their personal testimony, program, and time. Spouses are invited to spend a Saturday with their incarcerated partner as the Alvis team and volunteers lead the couples through powerful material delivered in the form of lectures, exercises, and small group discussions. Oh, and the seminar ends with the couples renewing their vows! Wow, you can’t help but shed a few tears of joy.

DSC00786Greg and Melissa relate to these couples, because they are the heroes and authors of their own marriage story. The defied the marriages statistics. Greg was incarcerated for over 20 years, entering prison at the age of 26. Without a doubt, they struggled to keep their marriage alive, but their marriage survived 22 years of incarceration. They now have a powerful marriage testimony to share with other couples, who can travel their own path but end up in the same position as Greg and Melissa. Under the ministry of Ephesians 521, they taken their powerful learnings on the road, and the feedback is both emotionally moving and priceless.

The Ministry Impact

I could share my thoughts, impressions, and the words shared with husband, Darin, and me, but I’ll let the couples own words, in the form of direct quotes from the evaluation forms, sing praises for the program and its impact on their lives.

What was your favorite part of the day?

  • Spending time with my husband, incorporating God, being given healthy tools to meet our needs moving forward, and the volunteers’ perspective. Learning to love my partner the way he needs.
  • Tools on how to make my marriage better while incarcerated, because I was in fear of losing my husband.
  • I enjoyed the small groups, because we were able to learn more about each other’s needs.
  • Besides seeing my wife for a full day, receiving the training we both know will help us and the encouraging stories.
  • Renewing our wedding vows. I think it is exactly what we needed.
  • The renewal of our vows, because it was what we needed to move forward in our lives.
  • Looking into my husband’s eyes and holding his hands as we re-affirmed our love and commitment for one another.
  • Group discussions. I loved watching and listening to my husband talk about his opinions and feelings about our relationship, and it opened up our communication.
  • Spending time with my wife made us realize how important family is to stay together.
  • Enjoying my husband and renewing our vows and learning more about our needs and where we stand.
  • Eating lunch with my wife.
  • The gathering in small groups and finding out about others’ experiences.
  • The renewing of vows. I believe I have a new beginning in my life and my marriage.
  • Identifying personality types and traits. It seems helpful for day-to-day living.
  • Holding and touching my wife.
  • Spending the day bonding with my husband. We needed to have the physical touch.

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What is one thing you can take from the day that will help you move forward?

  • All that we have been through has made us stronger. Now we get to go from this with a stronger relationship and faith in one another…
  • I am not alone, and I have tools!
  • We’re not alone in our struggles.
  • Knowing how we still feel about each other in our relationship and what we have to look forward to.
  • Knowing we are not alone, and it’s only going to get better.
  • That my husband was committed to our marriage so much so that he put everything on hold in his life to be here with me, for us, for an entire day.
  • Listening to his feelings and working on his relational needs.
  • The book Growing Together as One. Learning about it and taking this advice home and practicing it towards our life.
  • Not lose faith in my spouse and enjoy life and the love we have for each other.
  • The actual real stories they spoke encouraged us.
  • To keep believing and staying together through it all–iron sharpens iron.
  • Knowing that I can move forward in faith and work with my husband and have a new relationship.
  • What my wife requires to feel loved.
  • Five love languages—learning to love him the way he needs.
  • Our commitment.
  • Recommitting and learning my husband’s feelings and our future is growing stronger.

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Importance of Marriage Support in Prison

Supporting any marriage is important, because so many relationships are at stake. If the marriage is strong, the family is strong. If the family is strong, the children are strong. If the children are strong, there is a greater chance the children will continue the legacy of a strong family. Keeping families together in a healthy marriage helps with mental health, financial security, and general well-being.

DSC00864AAs a marriage coach (www.shinecrossingsministry.com), I have a passion for strengthening marriages. As an executive volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (www.pep.org), I have a mind to invest in felons who will eventually be released and need a hand up. As a marriage volunteer (www.ephesians521.org), I have a heart to help prison inmates take what is surely a first big step in investing in their marriages.

The Future

If I had to boil it down to its core, what Greg and Melissa bring to prison for the incarcerated and their spouses is hope–hope that their marriage can not only survive but thrive. They are the walking testimony of this fact. Go back and re-read the messages from the couples. They primarily speak of hope for a better future in their marriages.

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There aren’t many ministries that have this magnitude of impact in just one day. If you are as moved as I am on what Greg and Melissa are doing in the local mission field, I encourage you to visit their website (www.ephesians521.org) and make a donation of any amount. They are funding these seminars, primarily from their own resources and could use your encouragement in both word and donations.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

Will You Use Your Influence to Transform a Life?

2019-04-02 Sandi 1Everyone has an opinion on the U.S. prison system, thoughts on how it should be run, and whether felons can be rehabilitated? I know, because I’ve had enough conversations over the past 6 years on this topic. Most people’s opinions aren’t changed through conversation but through personal experience. So, I’ve invited quite a few people to spend a day in prison with me, and as is usually the case, my friends and colleagues walk away with a different world view.

Where Can You Volunteer?

PEP is transforming lives. Although originally focused on incarcerated men in the Houston and Dallas areas, they started a women’s program inside the Lockhart Correctional Facility (southeast Austin). The program teaches not only business skills so they can start their own businesses after release, but they also spend time learning and practicing servant leadership.

I feel fortunate to have been invited to the women’s unit between graduating classes to lead half-day workshops, helping these women do deep personal dives into their character, beliefs, and behaviors. They learn about core values, worldviews, personal boundaries, visioning, goal-setting, and communication.

Consider this your invitation to join me in prison to shake hands and give the PEP students encouragement and feedback on their business plans that are under construction.

They Will Thank You

When was the last time you received a hand-written thank you card—not an email? While the speed and ease of technology has driven our appreciate to email and text, the art of hand-writing a note of appreciation hasn’t gone out of style—at least by those enrolled in PEP.

“I am so glad there is people like you in this world…people who still believe in us and still believe we have a future and something to offer…”

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“There are few moments in this life that we can bookmark as life changing…but it is people like you who care and who selflessly give of your time to encourage others and to see lives changed.”

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Let these penned words resonate with you in terms of the difference you too can make in the lives of these temporarily incarcerated men and women. With your help, they can become upstanding men and women of their communities. You too can inspire someone through your words and actions.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

 

The Call to Help the Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia

World Changers on Mission: Part 4 of 4

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are stepping out in faith to serve the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

Half the world’s population is located in Asia, dominated by the world religions of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Animism. My 2 hands and 2 feet joined those of 9 other Christians to deliver encouragement and training to a spiritually dark country in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA). ARNA comprises the world’s unreached people, mainly because of the governments’ opposition to Christianity. Ethnos Asia Ministries is one catalyst for change—supporting local pastors and Christians to bring The Good News.

Don’t miss the earlier blogs of the mission team’s travels, challenges, and successes

Thailand: A Breath of Fresh Air in the Persecuted Christian Countries of Asia

Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

Mission to a Christian Persecuted Country in Asia

Before our team would depart to our God-chosen county, a speaker at the EAM conference reminded us of the eagle’s story of determination and struggle to survive. If an eagle is brave enough, persistent enough, and willing to get uncomfortable enough, it can live for nearly 70 years. However, to do so it must make some hard decisions in its 40’s, requiring it to transform its body to live a second half.

By its mid-life, an eagle’s long and flexible talons become curled, so it cannot grab prey. Its beak becomes mangled, so it can’t tear and eat food. Without a functioning beak, the eagle cannot pluck out its old-aged feathers that stick to its chest and can make flying difficult. An eagle is left with two options: die or go through the painful process of renewal.

If it doesn’t transform, the eagle will not survive. When an eagle chooses to live, it flies to its nest to undergo a 150-day process by tearing out its talons and beating its beak against the rock until it’s knocked out. Eventually, a new keratin beak and talons grow back, so the eagle can then pick out its dead feathers. This is the rebirth of the eagle! Biologically this story doesn’t hold water, as a bird cannot live without food for 150 days; however, this story has circulated the internet for years based on its ability to inspire the human spirit.

I love this eagle story, because it represents so well the transformational work that EAM is undertaking in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia. Traditional ways of sharing the Gospel in religious tolerant countries don’t translate well in ARNA. EAM has to continually transform itself to make this life-long journey and catch the wind of the Holy Spirit.

Who is EAM?

Ethnos Asia Ministries’ mission is to strengthen and serve the Body of Christ in ARNA. Their visionary goals are to:

  • Mobilize the Body of Christ worldwide for ministry into ARNA
  • Provide training, Bibles, and other Christian literature to national leaders
  • Help meet the physical and material needs of Christians who are persecuted and in difficult situations

Do any of these goals tug at your heart? Can you see your passion and gifting coming to life in supporting the following goals?

  • Network with local and national churches and other Christian organizations to develop missionary partnerships
  • Leverage prayer mobilization programs [prayer conferences, monthly prayer guides, prayer net, and prayer journeys] to minister to the ARNA
  • Develop and host mission conferences, creating an opportunity to hear and respond to the voice of the persecuted Christians in Asia
  • Launch national and regional leadership training and other programs through the Church Empowerment Program (CEP)
  • Mobilize Christian business communities who have a heart for serving ARNA
  • Implement relief and development programs as a result of believers’ persecution, poverty, political unrest, calamities, famine, and illnesses

Could you see yourself involved in any of these initiatives? EAM is looking for partners. What is God putting on your heart? What do you need to say yes to?

Visit http://www.ethnosasia.org to learn how to get involved in Ethnos Asia Ministries


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Mission to a Christian Persecuted Country in Asia

World Changers on Mission: Part 3 of 4

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are acting as the Lord’s hands and feet in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

As I learned from attending the Ethnos Asian Ministries (EAM) conference in Thailand, spiritual darkness is the norm in many countries in Asia, especially those identified as the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA). My mission journey continued after the conference to one of those not-to-be-identified Asian countries, further referred to as “Country”, that was suffering from severe spiritual oppression. I was blessed with the opportunity to experience what it’s like to walk among Buddhists while cloaking my Christian faith under the disguise of a tourist.

Our mission was to encourage and bring 2 days of training to Christian pastors across the Country. Luke [pseudo], the EAM Country Pastor, called in 50 pastors of the underground church from across the country to convene with our team at his church. Our team sponsored their transportation, lodging, and food for this time of connection.

When our team of 10 arrived in Country, I was impressed with its beauty and how the people welcomed its guests. We got to explore the town, settle into our hotel, and ask lots of questions about the culture.

Saturday: First Day in the Country Mission Field

On the first morning I wondered where we would be training. We drove a short distance and parked in front of a multi-level tenement. Where were we? We’re here! Where’s here? The guide pointed toward an open doorway.

We walked breathlessly up 5 flights of stairs until we reached the top-level. Piles of shoes were scattered in front of a closed door on the left. Behind the door in front of us was a bathroom. And the third door to the right was open with much food prep and conversation by women cooking in the kitchen. This enclosed area also included a bedroom, office, and more bathrooms.

The fifth floor of the building, which would normal house 2 apartments, had been converted into a church and its administration areas. We heard music coming through the door on the left and took off our shoes to enter. What would have been an apartment with several rooms was converted into one big area with a small stage of instruments and pulpit and carpets laid out for the congregation to sit.

The praise and worship on a Saturday morning had already started with the voices of 50 pastors and 20 church members. With only an estimated 12,000 Christians in this country, we felt awed to be fellow-shipping with so many at one time. We were told some pastors spoke English, but we had hired a translator, Kevin [pseudo], to ensure our messages were understood. Kevin was originally from Indian, 10 years a pastor, with a wife and son living in the United States. He was working towards a VISA so he could join his wife. I couldn’t imagine being separated from my husband for such a length of time, but these are the common stories of those with restricted freedoms.

The initial plan was team introductions, then half the team would stay to train, and the other half would tour the city. The next day the team members would reverse after the church service. After the greetings and team introductions, John [pseudo] led an ice-breaker to get the pastors interacting as many did not know one another. He asked each pastor to share (1) a personal fact, (2) a gift or passion, (3) a hope/need for the training, and (4) a hope/need for 2019. I loved hearing the cacophony of conversations in the room as the pastors opened to one another.

As everyone settled cross-legged on the floor, Andrew [pseudo] and Sarah [pseudo] delivered a combined message about fear and our identity in Christ. I briefly added how I too had an irrational fear of public speaking. Satan will always attack you where God wants to use you most for His glory. I knew I had to overcome my fear of public speaking, because God wanted to use me to help others through my training, words, and messages.

The remainder of the day was earmarked for Darin and me to share on the topics of (1) leadership, (2) marriage strengthening, (3) sharing the Gospel, and (4) spiritual warfare. Having a marriage ministry, we decided to start with relationship strengthening. Little could we have imagined that we’d be closing the day without even finishing the topic. The pastors were thirsty for this information, and Kevin couldn’t have delivered the content any better with his humor and passion.

The touring half of the team returned to the church, and we ended the day by breaking the team into men and women, so we could minister to their gender needs. I wasn’t privy to what the men did with the pastors, but the women crammed into one big bedroom with their children, and Nancy [pseudo] led a discussion about the Father’s love through the concept of love letter. The women were excited to receive their Love-Faith-Hope necklace and small gift bags. Because women are treated as second-class citizens in this culture, they are in desperate need of encouragement. It’s common for husbands to have mistresses with wives getting seconds, and we wanted to make these women feel special even if only for an hour.

The team was happily exhausted by the end of the day, because we were able to serve our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Going into this mission, I thought “leadership” would have been the most sought after topic. Who knows, it may have been, but we never got the chance to deliver it. Marriage strengthening was definitely on their minds once the pastors got a taste of it.

We said our good-byes, grabbed dinner, shopped, and then drove back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest. As Darin and I laid in bed about to turn out the light, our room phone rang. Hello? It was our team leader. Mary [pseudo] said she’d just gotten off the phone with Pastor Luke, who’d debriefed with the pastors. All 50 pastors said they only wanted to hear more about marriage. Others team members would give up slots, if Darin and I would dive into marriage strengthening for a second day. We were there for the pastors, so yes, we would make it happened. I hung up the phone and turned to Darin, “We’ve got some brainstorming to do.” Within a short period of time, we’d developed an outline of more material we could cover.

Sunday: Second Day in the Country Mission Field

“Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory!” Excited for another day in this beautiful country, fellow-shipping with beautiful people. I just wished I could take them home to the United States, even for a brief time, so they could experience the peace of openly professing and sharing their faith. I can only imagine how wonderful the contrast must be to someone who must always suppress their beliefs.

When we returned to church the second day, the team was greeted with smiles and many more faces. A Sunday service and the message that our team was in town, drew more women, men, and children into the church. It was standing room only with about 120 people. After praise and worship, Mark [pseudo] gave a sermon about love, and then Susan [pseudo], along with the Sunday school teacher, escorted the kids to the big bedroom for an age-appropriate lesson. I knew there was a reason I packed my favorite fable, The Three Trees. Susan used the story as part of her time with the kids.

Darin and I were up on stage once again, writing on the white board while the pastors took notes. We continued with the 5 Love Languages and His Needs/Her Needs. We were surprised to learn that the local language didn’t have a word for “romantic”. In this culture there are few romantic terminologies. Sorry ladies!

We then talked about Biblical marriage, and I emphasized that Christians need to look to the Bible for God’s definition of a successful marriage and how to treat our spouse. Satan owns the earthly world and will distorted the role of man, woman, and marriage. Afterwards, the pastors wanted our notes and told us that they felt more equipped to handle married couples, who were coming to them with marriage problems.

When Pastor Luke wrapped up the day, I did appreciate his “assumptive close” as he shared that the pastors were looking forward to our return next year, so they bring their wives. We’d love to host a couples’ workshop, but unfortunately, God put a vision on our hearts for next year to bring marriage strengthening to the African nations. I would love to return to this country within the next couple of years to further invest in these folks who so enthusiastically want more.

Our goodbyes were bitter sweet. What a wonderful journey to this country to meet so many of my geographically separated brothers and sisters. I will miss them, but at the same time I know that I’ll see them again. They are family who just live half way across the world and where we don’t get to spend every Christmas and Easter together.

What Did God Show Me?

God always shows me a truth or gives me a message when I go into the mission field, and this mission was no exception. He showed me once again how thirsty the third world countries are for marriage strengthening. We had an indication of this when we went to Bogota, Columbia in July 2018 and were guest marriage speakers at the Coffee for Two church event. The EAM mission solidified that marriage message.

About 9 months ago, God also put a Marriage Vision 2020 on our hearts to take the perspectives and tools that we use for our marriage ministry to east Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania). The thirst of the pastors in this country overwhelmingly validated what we are called to do. Although Africa is in our sights for next year, we told our team leader we could return to Asia in 2021 to deliver more marriage strengthening and spend 2-3 days in 3 or 4 ARNA countries.

When you cry out to have a meaningful versus a comfortable life, God will stretch you and take you places beyond your imagination. I expect to be stretched in how to develop and unfold the marriage strengthening material into third world cultures where (1) women have a different status than men, (2) tribal affiliations create barriers, and (3) where socioeconomic caste systems create divergent lens in how to view marriage. As confident as I feel about delivering marriage strengthening to America couples, I believe I am early on the learning curve to take it to the nations.

To learn more about Ethnos Asia Ministries and their work in the ARNA field, visit www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

World Changers on Mission: Part 2 of 4

If you got out a world map, would you be able to place your finger on the country of Nepal? What about Bangladesh? Or what about the small country of Bhutan, which is the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Like most Americans, I feel geographically challenged with countries half way around the world, which explains why I also feel disconnected from what’s going on in that region. Ethnos Asia Ministries (EAM) changed my perspective through the stories told by underground Christian pastors from each of the countries in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA).

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I’ve been a Christian for almost a decade, heard accounts of Christian persecution, and attributed most of the horror stories to radical ISIS followers. What I learned was the ugliness of Christian persecution is wielded by Satan’s grip on the hearts and minds of government leaders and citizens who live in fear. At the EAM conference, stories unfolded of the struggles and successes in bringing the Gospel to the unreached tribes. My learning curve is steep, and my words limited, so in the interest of only starting the conversation, I will share a few points about each ARNA country with the hopes that your heart would be stirred by the Holy Spirit to learn more and act on God’s calling.

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are acting as the Lord’s hands and feet in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

East Asia

China: Socialist Republic—1.3 billion people—50% don’t identify with any religion

  • Christianity still growing despite the government’s control; the middle class has a strong spiritual hunger for the Lord
  • Anyone preaching the Gospel without a government license can be fined $1500 US and a property owner, where underground house church services are held, can be fined $3000 US
  • Facial recognition cameras are installed in all churches so pastors cannot leave the country

North Korea: Socialist Republic—25 million people—99% atheists

  • Rampant poverty and 80% of children are undernourished
  • Christians considered hostile elements in society with the government as the primary driver of persecution
  • Freedom of religion and its ceremonies are constitutionally guaranteed but are government restricted. Only 4 government-sanctioned churches exist and are used as a showcase for foreigners

Himalayan Region

Bhutan: Constitutional Monarchy—0.7 million people—75% Buddhist

  • Wangchuk dynasty has ruled Bhutan for over a century and only allowed its first tourists in 1974
  • Bhutanese Christians face loss of citizenship, free education, health care, employment and access to utilities. Despite harassment and beatings, groups of believers are increasing
  • Buddhism, animism, and mysticism have dominated the country since the 7th century with a non-Buddhist typically practicing Hinduism

Nepal: Parliamentary Republic—29 million people—80% Hindu

  • Over 125 languages spoken among 125 ethnic groups/castes
  • Christian population small but growing with each of the 75 districts having a church plant
  • Fastest growing Christian population in the Himalayan region
  • Religious freedom is allowed under Nepalese law, but restrictions are imposed on non-Hindu groups in which Christians can be fined and imprisoned for sharing their faith

Northeast India: Parliamentary Republic—45 million people—55% Hindu

  • Many young people are moving to mainland India for study and work
  • No opposition to spreading the Gospel but experiencing a general spiritual decline
  • The three major Christian denominations are Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterians

Indian Subcontinent

Afghanistan: Islamic Republic—34 million people—99% Muslim

  • Widespread child marriage and serious drug problems with the country growing 90% of the world’s opium producing poppies
  • Blasphemy is punishable by death for males over 18 and girls over 16 years and conversion of Islam can be punishable by death
  • Majority of Muslim’s are Sunni (80%) and Shia (15%) with limited numbers of Christians
  • Most Afghans live in poverty with little employment, so those who fight for the Taliban do so for wages

Bangladesh: Parliamentary Republic—159 million people—90% Muslim

  • Country is quite secular although culturally the citizens observe Muslim festivals like Ramadan and take the pilgrimage to Mecca
  • The constitution permits freedom of religion but conversion, openly sharing the Gospel, and criticizing Islam is not allowed
  • Bawm tribe celebrated 100 years of Christianity in 2018

Maldives: Presidential Republic—0.3 million people—99% Muslim

  • Has one of the highest divorce rates in the world with rising crime, gang activity, child abuse, and pervasive drug use
  • While some freedoms have expanded through democracy, Islam is the official and only religion
  • Traditional belief in spirits combined with Islam leave many citizens trapped in fear and no access to the Gospel in these isolated islands
  • Visitors can bring their Bible and practice religion at home but cannot invite a Maldives citizen to join

Pakistan: Constitutional Republic—207 million people—96% Muslim

  • Most heroin-addicted country in the world
  • Has the most notorious blasphemy laws against Christians and is the center of the unevangelized world
  • Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, this is the world’s most persecuted nation for Christians
  • Most women have never been to school and children are arranged to be married at 7. Wives see their husbands on their wedding night and can be returned because of their skin color

Sri Lanka: Constitutional Republic—2 million—70% Buddhist

  • Significant increases in alcoholism, suicide, violence, and rape
  • Converts from Buddhism and Hinduism suffer the most discrimination in the form of harassment, discrimination, and marginalization from family and community
  • Converting a Muslim to Christianity can invoke capital punishment

Indo-China

Cambodia: Constitutional Monarchy—16 million—97% Buddhist

  • Rapid adoption to the Western lifestyle of materialism in the city and rampant drug use
  • Freedom to worship and preach the Gospel with young people comprising 80% of the church members
  • Islam is perceived as gentle because Islamic militancy has not yet influenced Muslims in the country

Laos: Socialist Republic—7 million people—65% Buddhist

  • Run by the communist party and led by eleven people
  • Thai culture has a heavy influence because of similar language
  • Government-approved Lao National church plants numbered 100 in 2018 and hundreds more of underground churches
  • Buddhism is considered a Lao religion and Christians need government permit to celebrate any Christian festival

Myanmar: Constitutional Republic—55 million people—90% Buddhist

  • Drug production second to Afghanistan; opium and methamphetamine are widespread
  • Many churches have buildings but fail to reach out to surrounding areas
  • Rohingya, refugee community, are Muslim minority of 1 million not recognized as citizens
  • Infighting for Buddhist positions between older and young monks

Thailand: Constitutional Republic—68 million people—95% Buddhist

  • Thai, Buddhism, and nationality tightly intertwined which hinders the conversation to Christianity
  • Monks receive special status and government benefits

Vietnam: Socialist Republic—97 million people—no faith declaration

  • Persecution is not as intense as it has been in previous years
  • Buddhism is still the predominant religions along with Cao Dai and Hoa Hao

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What Now?

Pray! Across these 15 Asian countries, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslim are keeping their citizens in spiritual darkness by squeezing tighter around their minds, hearts, and souls. Pray for the people of these nations who live in fear and ignorance, that they may hear the Gospel and know the love of Jesus. Pray that Christians will be invited and willingly go into these countries to share the Gospel. Pray for spiritual revival and the Holy Spirit to sweep through these Asian countries. Pray that the lives of Christians will shine in contrast to the hatred and prejudice of extremists and draw people towards Christ.

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To learn more about how Ethnos Asia Ministries, their mission, vision, and goals visit www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Thailand: A Breath of Fresh Air in the Persecuted Christian Countries of Asia

World Changers on Mission: Part 1 of 4

I belong to the tribe of America, which means I enjoy the rights of free speech and choice of religion without government interference. Having been born and raised in the United States, to a certain extent I take these freedoms for granted. Why so? I suppose because I haven’t had to personally fight for them like the Pilgrims did when they fled Europe and crossed the Atlantic hundreds of years ago to escape religious persecution.

IMG_9334AI recently attended the Ethnos Asian Ministry’s (EAM) conference in Thailand which opened by eyes to the persecution that most of the world faces with regards to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only Thailand, a country that sits in the middle of the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA), retains a spirit of religious freedom. You may wonder how Christians suffer in neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

Some ARNA Christians are labelled traitors to their culture, family, and community. Persecution can range from rude comments to physical violence, property seizure, church destruction, and eviction from their homes. Arrest and imprisonment are all common retribution. Many cannot trust their own families, who are encouraged to turn them into the authorities for a reward. Many believers in Indochina have lost everything but their faith in Jesus. Would you have the strength and courage to believe and serve Jesus in the midst of this type of persecution? How uncomfortable are you willing to be for the love of Jesus?

In this multi-part series, I’ll share more about the dynamics of countries that restrict or persecute Christians, what it’s like to go into an ARNA country as a devout Christ follower, and an organization whose mission is to strengthen and serve the Body of Christ in these countries. Do not be discouraged, because even with all these challenges, the Lord of the Harvest continues to win soles.

Thailand: A Breath of Fresh Air

On my first day in Thailand, a religiously tolerant country within ARNA, I took a bike tour around the city to learn more about the culture, its religious tendencies, and celebrations. In comparison to other Asian countries, it boasts more tourism and shopping destinations with above par infrastructure and mass transportation systems. I also found the people friendly, helpful, and hardworking, which might be explained by their belief in Karma—a person’s actions in this and previous lives decide his or her fate in future existence.

Thai people, Buddhism, and their nationality are inseparable with 95% of the population claiming to be Buddhist, 4% as Muslim, and a mere 0.5% as Christian. I asked our tour guide, Wit, how the Thai would respond if another Thai claimed to be a Christian. He answered, “They would say, wow. They would be amazed, because it’s so uncommon.”

Our tour took us into a few Buddhist temples, and Wit helped us navigate through the rituals so we wouldn’t offend a Buddha. Take off your shoes, step over the threshold, bring your offerings of food and flowers to place before Buddha. Monks wearing red cloaks walked everywhere. What can monks do and not do? It depends on what religious order they belong to.

DSC02617Similar to other religions, which have denominations ranging from orthodox to liberal, monks have similar hierarchies. Some cannot touch money or women and are dependent on others for gifts of survival. Others embrace the use of cell phones and buying food as a necessity of the times. One thing is certain. Monks get special treatment by the government including free use of public transportation and special seating status equivalent to pregnant, elderly, and injured.

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Who can become a monk? Any male can become a monk. Many parents encourage their sons toward the monastery, so they can ride their son’s coat-tails into heaven. How long do monks have to serve? In recent times and with the pressure to provide for their families, some men take only 2 weeks off from work to become a monk. Although his plan was to be a monk for 3 months, Wit said he lasted only one week. It’s fashionable to be a monk at least once in your lifetime.

Our tour of the local markets overwhelmed us with food, flavors, and flowers. Flowers are shipped into the cities from the countryside to be used for offerings to Buddha and weddings. I thought of Biblical times when families brought their best sheep to the temple as a sacrifice. With Buddhism it’s less messy and more colorful. Thailand has a whole economy sustained by the growing and offering of flowers to Buddha.

Why is it difficult for me to embrace Buddhism? My tongue in cheek answer is that my memory just isn’t good enough to keep track of all the gods. Wit told us there are 37 gods. Another person told us there were millions of gods. Did Wit forget some?

I’d rather nurture my personal relationship with Jesus. It feels real, close, and loving, and I only need to keep track of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I can manage that.

Learn more about the Access Restricted Nations of Asia by visiting Ethnos Asia Ministries (EAM) at http://www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

El Salvador Water Drilling Mission: God’s Timing Is Perfect

November 30, 2018


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Friday’s Scriptures

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Acts 1:7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”


IMG_8388Enrique and the boys will finish drilling the well next week. Although we hit water which would normally be enough for normal living activities such as drinking and cooking, our goal was to hit ~ 150 barrels a day to sustain the commercial fish and agricultural projects. No drilling today but that didn’t mean we wouldn’t celebrate. After breakfast we headed into the compound where the boys were sitting in white plastic chairs awaiting our team’s arrival. The podium and band were setup.

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Let’s Celebrate

The LWI and prison staff had developed a formal ceremony to celebrate all that we had done together this week. I was honored to open the ceremony in prayer. Each speaker gave thanks. Eventually, the American team were asked to line up in a single row facing the boys. As we sat looking out toward the boys, Enrique lip-synced: “Thank you for giving to the Lord.”


Songwriter: Raymond H. Boltz

I dreamed I went to heaven; You were there with me; We walked along the streets of gold; Beside the crystal sea; We heard the angels singing; Then someone called your name; You turned and saw a young man; He was smiling as he came; He said friend, you may not know me now; But then he said but wait; You used to teach my Sunday school; When I was only eight; Every week you would say a prayer; Before the class would start; One morning when you said that prayer; I asked Jesus in my heart; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave; Then another man stood before you; And said remember the time; A missionary came to your church; His pictures made you cry; You didn’t have much money; But you gave it anyway; Jesus took the gift you gave; And that’s why I’m here today; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave; One by one they came; As far as the eye could see; Each one somehow touched; By your generosity; Little things that you had done, sacrifices made; Unnoticed on the earth, heaven now proclaims; And I know up in heaven; That you’re not supposed to cry; But I was almost sure; There were tears in your eyes; As Jesus took your hand; And you stood before the Lord; And He said my child look around you; For great is your reward; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed; Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave.


Usually, the kids would reach out their arms when the song gets to “Thank you, for giving to the Lord” but only a handful made the gesture. I wasn’t surprised that many kept their arms by their side to maintain their “tough” crowd mentality in front of each other. I was proud of those few who follow their hearts. As Enrique closed in song, eleven boys walked out, and one stood in from of each of the team. A gold crown made of yellow construction paper was placed on our heads.

Then many of the boys formed a line and gave each one of us a hug. Some hugs were heartfelt, others superficial, and some boys didn’t approach at all. That’s okay. All we can do is plant the seed and let God do His work. It’s all in God’s timing. Father knows best.

Certificates and plaques were given out to acknowledge those who completed their Bible lesson book. As each boy was called to the front to accept his certificate, Pastor David and Norma shook their hand. I thought of PEP graduation and how thrilled the graduates were in their cap and gown, shaking hands, and in many cases receiving their first diploma.

Most of the boys who talked to the front hadn’t graduated from high school or ever received a certificate for accomplishing anything. You could tell by their faces how proud they were as we clapped. The drillers were given separate certificates for their hard work and contribution this week.

20181130_151229478_iOSCarlos’ proudly accepted his plaque, and of course, no group was to be left out. The Dillon’s Friends received a certificate for coming all the way from America to help Freedom’s Path. I loved how everyone who contributed was recognized. And Casey received a special reward—an El Salvador scene painted on wood with the drillers’ names signed on back. A prized possession by any definition.

IMG_8345The boys cheered when the Director mad the announcement that our team was gifting each boy a pair of white Crocs and a toothbrush/toothpaste [Thank you to all the people back home who contributed to the gift]. Glad we could give them a little extra on top of the well. What they didn’t know was their best gift was yet to come, a sermon delivered by Angel who is the poster child of a man brought back from the abyss by a loving Jesus.

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Last Lunch in Prison

At lunch Casey shared a beautiful story of what this mission trip signified in her promises to God. After her trip to Honduras in 2014, she committed to God that she would drill 10 wells and sponsor 1 well within 5 years. She wore 2 rings—one of titanium and the other of tungsten (two hard indestructible metals)—as symbols and a reminder of her promises. This trip, three and a half years later, fulfilled those promises. She didn’t need her rings any more and decided to leave them behind with Enrique, so he could place them above Hunter’s plaque on the well pad when it was poured next week.

I am reminded that God’s timing is perfect. I know many of us were slightly disappointed that we couldn’t finish the well this week and see the fruits of our labor. We know the well is in good hands and will be finished by Enrique and the boys. I take comfort in my belief that God has a bigger plan than we can see in the moment. Perhaps we’re not meant to finish this well, because the boys needed more time with Enrique. Perhaps more time will continue to soften their hearts to accept Jesus. Maybe they needed to feel more love next week to know that change is possible. I don’t know what God has planned, yet what I do know is that I trust God.

Last Praise and Worship

My favorite group of boys [yes, I have favorites] asked if the team would stay after lunch and have one more praise and worship service. We couldn’t say no to a request like that! So, we returned once again to the small building setup with a keyboard and rows of white plastic chairs. Luckily the whole team got to experience a service and converse with these boys.

IMG_8405Before leaving, we were asked to form a circle. Then the boys made a circle around us and started praying and laying hands on us. Afterwards, both the team and boys were hugging and crying. Many boys desperately wanted us to stay—to be a light in their days of darkness. I wish I could stay.

Robert seemed incredibly moved by his experience in his own country, which isn’t surprising for someone taking his first mission trip. For one whose been on multiple trips, I understand the emotional impact of the first-time experience. Robert learned more about the Director’s plans for Freedom’s Path and wants to return and advance the fish and agricultural projects. The prison needs an electrical pump estimated to cost $1,500 to deliver the water to the project site, and he’s interested in pulling together a team to help with the cost and construction. God calls Darin and I to take people on mission trips to break their paradigms and see how God will move them. I love hearing Robert talk about leading this initiative and learn what comes of his passion to invest himself and others in this facility and these kids.

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Transition to Home

We walked out of prison. We are alive, refreshed in spirit, hopeful, and a bit tired. After souvenir shopping in Ilobasco, we made a several hour drive to the beach hotel near the airport. I felt blessed to have a real bathroom, warm shower, and cold A/C.

These last 5 years of mission outreach have blessed me with new perspectives, knowledge, and numerous connections. I consider myself a Christian nomad, who enjoys meeting people and connecting across the globe. My Living Water Trips have been special, especially to El Salvador, and I’m sad that I won’t likely return until 2021. In 2019, Darin and I have our sights set for the Asian mission field, and if God has His way, we will be in Kenya/ Uganda/Tanzania on a Marriage Vision Tour in 2020.

There is a reason and season for everything. Ask Moses after he led the Israelites out of Egypt. One thing most of our team agreed on during our time together is that God never gives you the whole plan; he only shares it in pieces. We can’t get to far ahead of ourselves.

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Several Days Later

Success! The well is complete! Living water pours through the pump. We have the photos to prove it! Glory to God!

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Photos were restricted. For the safety of the staff and youth no photos of their faces are allowed on social media.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and finances. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can visit Sandra at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

El Salvador Water Drilling Mission: Perseverance through Adversity

November 29, 2018


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Thursday’s Scripture: James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”


How Will You Be Shaped?

Will Abel shared a morning devotional where he pulled out a handful of compressed clay from the drill site. He suggested this large clump of clay symbolized us and asked, “How will you be shaped?” How will adversity work on you and how will you respond?

Lack of a father figure has certainly shaped each boys in prison and probably contributed to their incarceration. Carlos previously mentioned that prison in El Salvador focuses on punishment only and not rehabilitation. For this reason, we were encouraged in the Freedom’s Path Program. Give them skills! Give them hope! Marcus shared his thought that Freedom’s Path may be focusing on skill development to help the boys be successful on the outside, but the real solution is a heart change. Give them skills and Jesus!

This discussion made me think of Dwayne, a Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) graduate, who shared that the transition portion of the program contributed most in keeping his life on the stairway to heaven as opposed to the highway to hell. He wanted to do right after release but was prepared to go back to his old criminal ways to survive. I believe a heart change with support that makes room for better choices is the winning formula to reduce recidivism. The good news was Dwayne got the support he needed to do better.

How Deep Is the Well?

The boys and staff were grateful for the sustainable volume of water we planned to provide with the borehole and pump. Their plan future goal is to clear the acreage at the fence line near the pump site, build tilapia ponds, and farm the land. This well will provide the sustainable volume of water needed to execute the projects that will provide work skills for the boys.

Although the team hit water at 230 ft last night, we needed to go farther to hit a large underground stream of sustainable water to support the commercial projects. Unfortunately, the drilling capacity of the rig had already been exceeded, and we needed a new rig that could go upward of 300 ft. LWI had a second rig in the shop that could handle the depth and had to get it to the site.  Ugh!

20181129_171519305_iOSThursday was mostly spent undoing and doing what we had spent the week doing [tongue twister]. The team pulled out over 200 feet of pipe and placed the second rig to continue drilling. The process wasn’t easy for several reasons. The second rig was in bad condition and needed a major overhaul. We bandaged up the rig as best we could and then re-drilled through the same hole. The second drill is never a perfect fit, so the bit hit the sides of the wall based on the drilling angle. With that said, re-drilling the same borehole is definitely easier and goes much faster than the first time.

20181129_191824873_iOSIf all went according to plan, this morning would have been the installation of the pump guts and well dedication. We would have been saying our “good-byes” and heading home with the satisfaction of a job well done. God had a different plan.

The entire team hung around the drill site drilling, watching, or talking, because the boys had their weekly visitation. No praise/worship or classes for us to lead today. Eventually the diesel tank sprung a leak near the end of day. Really? It was now obvious that the well would not be completed before we returned to the States. We called it a day. The LWI staff and boys would have to come back next week to finish it without the American team. The team was disappointed in not finishing what we set out to accomplish, but the bright side was we would come back tomorrow to celebrate with the boys.

Future Dreams

The team had a dream. A dream to bring sustainable, clean water to Freedom’s Path. What I love about mission is that we go with one dream and come back with many more. When I asked some of the team members where they thought this mission was leading them as next steps, both Audra and Casey talked about fostering kids. Audra was especially interested in emergency fostering.

20181130_151229478_iOSRoberto was able to talk with everyone due to his fluent Spanish and English. He shared how the Director and staff of Freedom’s Path invited any and all of us back without Living Water. She said that other local ministry groups come regularly, but they don’t have the impact that we’ve had with these boys in this short week. We have an open invitation to return at any time and in any capacity. I guess the prize isn’t the well and the physical water as much as it is that we moved these boys’ hearts and brought living water.

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Photos were restricted. For the safety of the staff and youth no photos of their faces are allowed on social media.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and finances. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.