Life in the Subjunctive

I’m taking an intensive Spanish class for 6 weeks. I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for more than 3 years and I can get by pretty well in Spanish but I am not as fluent as I would like to be after this many years. I haven’t been able to have tutoring or classes the whole time we have been here so I needed some help moving from “street Spanish” to something we a bit more sophisticated.
This week we are learning the subjunctive “tense.” It isn’t really its own verb tense but it is very important in Latin culture where directness and efficiency are considered rude and relationships and emotions are of the utmost importance. This tense deals with uncertainty and desires. We don’t have the equivalent in English which makes it a bit complicated to learn (for me anyway). The subjunctive, as I understand it, deals with things we hope for, desire, want, and long for but that there is some uncertainty whether it will happen. For example, I may hope that my kids will wash their dishes but there is always some uncertainty that they will. I may insist, suggest, council, want, support, need all sorts of things but I can’t be sure they will happen. Verbs that express doubt, hope, suggestion, desire, emotion, and influence all need to be conjugated using the subjunctive.
As I have struggled through learning this “tense,” I realized that we are living in the subjunctive ourselves right now. When we came to the DR we were full of much certainty (well, there was a lot of uncertainty too but we had a purpose we were sure of). Right now, we are uncertain about the timing of our adoption, and honestly there are days I can’t believe it will ever actually happen. We are uncertain of where in the US we will end up next year. We are uncertain what Harley will find to do for a job after this “time out” he has had while taking time to teach and serve. We long to be with friends and family but are uncertain when that will be. We use verbs and adverbs like “we could do …” or “probably next summer…” These are subjunctive days for us.
However, in days like these it is important for us to remember things we are not in doubt about. We know that God has a plan for us and that it will be good (not always easy, but good). We know He wants all children to be in families so we know He will bring more into our willing hearts. We know we were right to come here and we know that we have been blessed to be here. We know we will do whatever we do together. So maybe these days aren’t so subjunctive after all…

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Who will “come”?

I heard the screaming in the front yard and dropped what I was doing and ran. Tavin was lying on the ground crying after having a bike wreck. He was ok but bruised and scratched. I comforted him and helped him into the house. I got him some ice and his book and got him resting for a minute. As I kissed his forehead and prepared to head to the kitchen he looked at me and said, “I’m just glad you came, mom. Thank you for coming to get me.” I teared up as I said, “of course, Tav,” because I was thinking about how many kids don’t have someone to come, how we should be thankful to have a mom who comes. It isn’t “of course” for a lot of kids. Orphans and abandoned kids don’t have anyone to “come.” They fall and they learn to just pick themselves up. If you ask me today why we’re adopting, it is so that a few more kids have a mom who will “come.”

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Update Letter, April 2013

McAllister Family Update
Well, it’s been a busy couple of months. How time flies! We have enjoyed the Christmas update letters from many of you about your families and your year in review. So we thought we would send out the following in the spirit of a Christmas letter; let’s call it our Easter Update letter!
You may never have seen as much mud as Logan can pack onto his being. He loves to be outside as much as possible and in this country, that often means playing in the mud. Logan can spend 1.5 hours at his own soccer practice, head over to his older brother’s practice and join in playing with them, only to head home and ride his bike with neighbor kids for another hour or two. His energy is boundless and he makes the most of being able to play hard outside for the whole year. He does miss skiing and sledding and looks forward to living in the US again where it snows.
Tavin excels in all that he does. He is the current high GPA in the family! He is involved in Doulos’ first school play-slotted for middle schoolers (he’s in 4th right now), but really all the world is a stage to Tavin. He had his lines memorized long before the others and then offered to help them work on their lines. He is a good friend to the kids in his class and always sets a good example for them. He has a gift of empathy that is beautiful to see. He feels deeply for all those around him. His passions are still Legos (he is doing a Lego building academy to learn the tricks of Lego designers) and reading.
Our oldest, Kaden, is in 7th grade now and we are starting to see the first hints of the teen years to come. He is beginning to express some of his independence, most notably in his current hair “style” which the locals call “pajon” which is the word for a wild and unruly tuft of grass. We have also started to receive some quintessential eye rolls and heavy sighs. I think parenting a teen will be a whole new ball game! Despite those changes, he continues to excel in his classes too. We are proud of his work in Spanish (getting A’s) as this is his first year being in the regular Spanish classroom (vs. pulled out for tutoring). He also started French this year, which is a challenge to him, but he is doing well. He and Harley are busy planning his first hunting trip for this fall. They are planning to burn some frequent flier miles and go to Latigo Ranch (www.latigotrails.com –where Harley and I met) to hunt the wily mule deer. He is really excited (almost as much as his dad…).

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Update Letter, Jan. 2013

Consider the Risks
You may recall the parties we have held for the street children of our community, the “shoeshine boys.” At the first party we met an older boy named Marcos, and since then we have seen him occasionally in town. He often comes over to say hello, and we always offer him food. At the beginning of this school year he showed up at our new house looking for help, so we gave him some work to do for a little cash, and fed him a proper meal as well.
So, we weren’t surprised to see Marcos waiting in our driveway again last week. He said his mom had died earlier that month, that he was living on the street, and that he was hungry. The smell of him lent credence to his story, so we fed him a meal, made up a bed for him in our basement, and gave him a shower and toothbrush along with some clean clothes. The next day we were leaving town for an overnight camping trip, so we told him we’d pay him a bit to watch the house. We took our computers with us as a precaution, but the key he had only accessed our basement garage and not the house.
When we returned Sunday, the neighbor kids immediately informed us that he’d been out riding my motorcycle. Several parts of the motorcycle were damaged from an obvious, but minor, crash. When he returned to the house, we soon discovered that he had also stolen Tavin’s bike and sold it. He denied it all.
I went to the police, and they agreed to come talk to him. As we came driving up to our house, they recognized him immediately. They knew him as a thief, a ‘ladron’, and had encountered him many times. Calls to friends in other ministries confirmed that he had a history of mistakes and theft. That he had been offered love and grace by many, and had betrayed it every time.
So we told him that he was forgiven, but also that he is not welcome anywhere near our house anymore. We feel sad. Not for the money needed to repair the motorcycle, or the stolen bike that the police later recovered from Marcos’ confession. We’re sad because this young man is so lost, that even when people show him unconditional love, show him grace in action, offer him honest work, and show him a better path – he still chooses the ill gotten gains.
Some may question the wisdom we showed in taking the risk, in taking in a homeless man of 19, of opening ourselves to potential theft and loss. We knew those risks, we knew we could very well lose some ‘things’. Consider what a greater risk it would be to value things over people. What greater risk to be hard-hearted, and show concern only for ‘stuff’. What greater risk to stand at judgment and hear my Lord and Savior say, “Depart from me.”
Matthew 25: 34-46
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take you inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They will also answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life

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Update Letter, Dec. 2012

Cheap Energy for Orphans
Kids Alive is an international ministry that does community development and orphan care, and their presence in the Dominican Republic is headquartered in Jarabacoa. They have a local orphanage with close to 100 kids living in various homes on their property, and in the past the electricity bill for this property has been extremely high – averaging close to $2,000 USD every month. Electricity is very expensive on an island with few natural resources.
In response to this need, last year a man by the name of John Roman purchased and donated a bio-diesel manufacturing plant to this ministry – it makes 70 gallon batches on a roughly once per week basis. He also applied for a grant from the German government to purchase some solar panels, and as a result the orphanage is now close to being “off the grid”. They still have to spend some money to buy used vegetable oil locally, purchase methanol and potassium hydroxide, and employ one person to run the equipment. But these costs result in ~$2.50 per gallon diesel, as opposed to the $5.00 per gallon you pay at a gas station, and it creates local jobs. And better still, the orphanage bills are now approximately ¼ of what they once were.
John moved back to the states last summer, and as a result I (Harley) have been recruited to oversee this process in his absence. I’ve been spending a few hours every week checking the quality of the product, providing input on levels of potassium hydroxide to use, purchase of the oil, etc. It has been a fun project to be involved in, and satisfying to know that Kids Alive can put those precious dollars to better use serving orphans instead of paying bills.
By the way, if any of you are interested in getting started with bio-diesel, my consulting rates are very reasonable!  We wish you all a very merry

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Update Letter, Oct. 2012

Caring for Creation
In the fall of 2012, seventeen tenth graders and I went on an expedition trip to the beaches of Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. They were shocked to see the poor state of the reefs (almost non-existant) and the trash and silt from erosion that exist in that coastal town, home to one of the few national parks here. One reason they were so shocked and saddened was because one of our big rivers, the Rio Yaque, flows from our mountain town of Jarabacoa and empties into the ocean there at Monte Cristi.
As we stood on the banks of the Yaque and watched plastic bags and water bottles bob past us in the current, continuing their relentless voyage from the mountains to the sea, one student said quietly, “that trash could have been in front of my house yesterday.” Although I had told them the same thing many times, it was finally sinking in. You see, in my Biology class they were studying the interactions of eco-systems, focusing on our mountain town and how our actions here affect the rest of our country. These students came back forever changed. They were determined to change SOMETHING regarding the trash problem.
It might be hard to believe but when I go to the veggie market here, each item is placed in it’s own small plastic bag. All these little bags are then double bagged in a bigger bag. If I need handles because it is heavy, I am given another bag. Most people here then throw these bags into the streets, arroyos, or rivers. One of our trip experts said that plastic bags alone cause more damage in more ways than any other single source of pollution. So my students decided to focus on the plastic bag problem and stated planning how to bring reusable bags to Jarabacoa.
In the spring of last year they solicited friends, supporters, staff and work teams to bring/send reusable bags. They planned an educational campaign and how they would get the bags into use. They were able to collect almost 300 reusable bags! This fall they began to put their plan into action. Last week we had Outdoor Education Week at Doulos. These students, now 11th graders, asked if they could use the week to begin transforming their town. I was their supporting teacher but they did all the work. They planned and carried out all sorts of events. They realized that education was key and visited every High School in town and gave around 25 presentations about what they were doing and why. They held lunchtime booths for parents at Doulos, set up booths at local grocery stores and held a protest march through town, all the time handing out the bags they collected.
Each of these events took a lot of fore-thought and planning. They had to formally request permission for each, they had to have police support for the march, and they to visit schools and stores ahead of time to confirm plans and check venues. They each had to be educated on the issues and solutions themselves. They may not have had regular classes to attend that week but they worked at least as hard as normal. I have never been prouder.
After all that, we have had a few of the grocery stores asking us how to get more bags and students from the public schools asking to join our students in bringing changes like these to our town. These students are continuing to pursue change in this area by helping the stores find suppliers of reusable bags here in the DR and by asking them to offer incentives to customers who bring their own bags. They have formed a group (Jarabacoa Eco-Youth in English) composed of students from all the schools in town who are planning more events and working to change things in their own schools. These students are revolutionary in my opinion!
Thank you for the ways you support our family, Doulos and our students. You are helping to change lives, make communities better and cleaner, and loving your “neighbors” in a very real way.

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Update letter, Aug. 2012

A thief at the house
The thief began by breaking a window at the Students International (SI) campus next door to our new house. He went inside and took a digital camera and some other electronics before making a break for it. He then proceeded through the wooded ravine and onto our property, but we weren’t there. We were in the States for summer break, and so one of our older students was watching the house for us while we were gone. His name is “Peter”, and he is one of our favorite students, completely trustworthy and with a real servant’s heart towards his fellow students, teachers, and everyone he meets.
“Peter”saw what was going on and grabbed a baseball bat to give chase, eventually overcoming the ladron (thief), and holding him there until authorities arrived. The thief was taken to jail in nearby La Vega, and “Peter” became something of a local celebrity for catching the bad guy. This was the story that we heard via email this summer and thought that was the end… but as we arrived home in the DR we learned there was more.
It turns out the thief was a mere 16 years old. His parents pleaded with the director of SI that they not press charges and send him to jail, that they work something out. As a local ministry, SI wasn’t excited about this young boy spending 40 days surrounded by criminals, with perhaps only a single session with a counselor. And so they agreed to have him repay the damage to the window and work for them for 40 days instead. It began with 3 weeks of doing physical labor, and then they had him work at some of their ministry sites helping serve others. Slowly, they began to see a change. In his final week with SI he was involved in their sports ministry, under the wise direction of a local man named Raul. Raul worked alongside him, and took the time to talk to the young man about life, about direction, about decisions, and about the most important decision of all – how would he reconcile the sin in his life with a just and righteous God?
But there is good news for this young man (and all of us!). God has already provided a way to reconciliation, has already paid the price on our behalf. God is not only just, not only righteous, but also abounding in mercy. Just like Christ told another thief on the cross next to his “today you will be with me in paradise,” all we have to do is ask for forgiveness and place our trust in Christ’s redeeming work – and we are spared the punishment we deserve. This is the “Gospel” and it is good news indeed!And so the young man accepted Christ, and the course of his life has been changed forever.
This brings us back to our young friend “Peter”, whose course in life is also changing. You see, while he is beloved by all who know him, the first to volunteer assistance, the first to serve others, and who is kind, generous, and trustworthy – he struggles academically and failed his junior year of High School. “Peter”will not be a student at Doulos this year and our community will be lacking because of that.
Will you join with us in praying for him? Pray that he will find a new direction, that he will not lose heart, and that he will continue to grow in his relationship with Christ and reach the full potential that God has in store for him.
Harley, Abby, Kaden, Tavin, Logan

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