Author Archives: Leoeli

November News

Heading north, Minnesota here we come!

So, we’ve been on a holding pattern in Iowa waiting for Leo’s oath ceremony to officially become a citizen since he passed his citizenship test on Sept. 3, but have decided to head to Minnesota this week.  We’re planning on heading north tomorrow (Tuesday) and being in the Cities at least through Sunday (Bethel Homecoming & 10 year reunion stuff this weekend)

Is there a time that would work to see you? Let us know by email ( or a text or call to 712-267-0064.

Hope to see all you up north friends soon!

Link to most recent News from the Dominican Republic

Summer Intern Jesse Gearhart’s Reflection on his summer at the Boys’ Club

A Masterpiece by Jesse Gearhart

Well I never know how to start these “reflection” papers, so I guess this is how I will do it! Spending the summer in the Dominican Republic was more than most words in the English language allow, so I’ll do my best to reiterate it onto paper.

I worked in the Social Work Boy’s Club site with the ever famous Leo Escalante. Upon arriving for the first time, I felt slightly out of place. As un unathletic, awkward, loud, English speaking boy I couldn’t have been placed in a more alien world. The world was definitely at odds with me. Of course being the guy that I am, I charged head on. Realizing that I could not keep up with the sports or the Spanish, I began to do what I do best: be super crazy and weird. I’m not sure how the boys in the club took me at first. I imagine a slight sense of awe as I became completely oblivious to any social standard that the Stars and Stripes had taught me. Whether it was dancing on first base, or singing a song with random Spanish sentences as a complete thought, I began to embrace who I was with these boys. Through this, the boys began to accept me for who I was, and even pick me for their team.

Now, time to get a little serious. I came into the summer with deep emotional struggles with masculinity, wanting a girlfriend, and being more insecure than geek at a strongman competition (hey I said a “little” serious). Naturally, I felt because I was bad at sports that I didn’t feel like much a man, and at first, the Dominicans reassured me. In America, everything has to be “politically correct” with “participation trophies” and no “red pens” and “everyone’s a winner” attitudes. Much to my surprise, this didn’t apply here. In the Dominican, they tend to tell things like they are. I was repeatedly mocked and made fun of due to my lack of sports ability. It was very difficult at first, but as I foreshadowed earlier, things became great with the boys. God used the very things I struggled with to grow me and make me into a true man. I became an “acceptable” baseball player, and by Dominican standards, thats not bad at all! I came to love the boys dearly and to my best to speak through the language barrier.

God had provided many strong bonds with Leo and the boys. I’m truly grateful for Leo, Elizabeth, and the ministry they do in Jarabacoa. Working with Leo all summer was so much fun. Seeing Leo’s passion for the boy’s is unlike any. Leo can preach the pants off Mark Driscoll! Seeing him preach to the boys one on one and pour the Gospel into each of their lives. Many boys have come to “confesar a Jesus” as Leo would say! I’m truly blessed to have been a part of this ministry.

Time for some favorite moments!

5. Prayer walks in El Callejon. Spending time praying for the community and worshiping with the boys in club was an awesome way to let the Holy Spirit work. Truly could see hearts transformed and allowed me to show the boys my true talents!

4. Visiting the river. Loved doing this! Hiking to the river and having mango fights, can you ask for more? I had a great time getting out with the boys and doing something different, and not sweating for once!

3. Climbing Mogote. Took an hour and a half, but the view was incredible. Was a great time to hike with the boys and spend personal time with them. Plus hitting golf balls of the summit was such a blast!

2. Leading the site for a couple days. Leo had to leave unexpectedly and left me in charge. The Lord guided me and even led to preach to the boys! I did it all in spanish as well. It was a bit stressful, but got to come alive as a leader and brother amongst them.

1. Earning the boys’ respect. I don’t recall a specific moment in time when it happened, but at some point during the summer, the boys began to love me and really enjoy my company. I’ll never forget that in every town we worked, I would hear my name shouted from all corners from people I never even met sometimes!

At the end of it all, I want to give God the glory for all things. For it is only because of Christ that these things were done, and that I had the privilege of being His chosen instrument of bringing the Gospel to these boys in this specific way. Perhaps the most fitting way to end this paper is with one of my favorite songs, The Doxology:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost



Well, just over a week here in my new home! Everything is going fairly well, expectedly so as life ebbs & flows as it does anywhere else. Today, “Thanksgiving Day” for all of my North American friends, is just another normal day here on the island. I’ve been meaning to write earlier, as well as post some new photos, but so it goes that last Friday my computer fell off of my new nightstand as I was taking the plastic off of my new mattress (maybe the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever owned), and Praise the Lord that everything in the hard drive is still working, but the screen is broken, so there’s slight hassle & inconvenience now for me to have to connect to another screen & work that way so I can see what I’m doing.

I’m realizing as I’m here, a completely different world in which I lay down everynight tired, satisfied & with aching cheek muscles from all the laughing we do (no one would ever be correct in saying Dominicans don’t know how to have fun & laugh), that it truly is beyond me why I’m here. What truly do I have to offer or bring? I’m a sinner saved by grace like any other!

I’m reading a great book right now, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. In the second chapter Miller includes a poem written by C.S. Lewis:

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.I never had a selfless thought since I was born.I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;I talk of love–a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Miller writes two pages following:

I know now, from experience, that the path to joy winds through this dark valley. I think every well-adjusted human being has dealt squarely with his or her own depravity. I realize this sounds very Christian, very fundamentalist and browbeating, but I want to tell you this part of what the Christians are saying is true. I think Jesus feels strongly about communicating the idea of our brokenness, and I think it is worth reflection. Nothing is going to change in the Congo [or the Dominican Republic or anywhere] until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror.

If I may be so bold, I’m in the middle of a battle that each of us has to choose to face or forever run away from. Our purpose, rather, God’s purpose for us, is to be changed by Him, we’re just the broken vessel that by His grace & mercy, as He changes us, the world around us sees Him at work, and so He can touch the world (Congo, Dominican Republic, or USA)! For this I give thanks; if the Lord will change me more into His likeness here in the DR, it’s worth the discomforts of coming & going electricity as the government dictates, a day or two without water & showers, frustration with language as Dominican Spanish is something to adjust to & continue learning, a broken computer screen, and all else that lies ahead to test my patience & character. By His grace may we seek to be faithful to that which the Lord calls us!


The last 24 hours Stateside

It’s quite a surreal place knowing that the majority of the last 24 hours in the States before moving to the Dominican Republic, will actually be spent in the air looking over the United States of America (or maybe more like sleeping in a plane while flying between the numerous airports I’ll be visiting). This past weekend was an incredible time. There’s a worship song by Charlie Hall which my a dear friend from MTI blessed us all with at training, and the last few weeks here in Denison, sharing with different churches, being comissioned & blessed by my home church in Kiron, Iowa yesterday, and the time spent with family & friends in person, on the phone & via other modern telecommunication has been a blessing in abundance of ‘sending off’! The lyrics to the song are:

lay down all riches for the pearl of great cost
count it as nothing for the sake of the cross
pour out an offering of our lives for the lost, send us out
channel our passions into pleasing Your heart
come consecrate us, come and set us apart
hope of the nations, we lift high the cross, send us out

It’s about three hours from when we need to leave for the airport… nice & early! I really am fairly close to ready to go, but even if I laid down to sleep, I don’t know that my body would allow it.

One incredible thing about today, 11.16.04, is that exactly one year ago today, in the middle of a somewhat despairing point with doors all around me recently slammed shut, the God of the Universe reached down & His Holy Spririt spoke clearly into my life as I was crowd control in 3rd Grade Sunday School, reminding me who I was created to be, and in the service at Park Ave spoke to me again sending me to Urbana 03. Here I am, a year later. I’m overwhelmed at the Lord’s faithfulness as I look back at the whirlwind of this last year! Humbled & amazed that the Lord of Heaven & Earth loves each of us, His creations, so much that He desires to have relationship with us broken sinners that He sent His Son to die for us & then everyday is faithful to be the lifter of our heads! Praise the Lord & may we learn a little something about true faithfulness from our heavenly Abba Father whose name is Faithful.

One week from today…

Holy guacamole! One week from today I’ll be waking up in the Dominican Republic! I just received the schedule for my first week of orientation in Jarabacoa. Let’s stay focused on the present though… Many of you may have heard be use the analogy of the perverbial carrot out in front of me. That ‘carrot’ so to speak which has had a date on it for the last two weeks is now about to hit me smack between the eyes. Such a crazy reality! Such a paradoxical reality! I’m so excited, and altogether at the same time mourning all that I’m leaving for at least the next two years, and then there are the moments when I ask God & myself, “WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I DOING?”

All that said, it has been blessing after blessing as details have been falling into place. My insurance was accepted & coverage began yesterday. Time with family & friends in the area has been falling into place to be able to see them. There has been an incredible support network made up of you my friends & family around me who have encouraged me & prayed for me, more faithfully than I’ll probably ever know or be able to thank you for. Jesus has been real & alive to me as everyday, in grace, He’s been showing me how He desires to draw me close in His love. Thank you dear fellow journers in this world that is not our home for lifting me up in your prayers & encouragement! The emails which have filled my mailbox faster than I can reply, the few calls I’ve received, & the simple knowledge that there is such a willing network out there if needed has blessed and strengthened me to press on through this time of transition into so much unknown.

Truly, as my hours Stateside continue to dwindle, I realize that I’m to the point that even with my long list of things I’d like to get done, as long as I get things in a suitcase & get on my plane next Tuesday morning, the rest is not composed of life or death things which can’t be done from the DR or are simply frivolous anyway. With that I’d ask for your continued prayers in the rest of this time & below include my flight schedule. (May all my luggage neede make it along with me through all the flight changes…)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004 
Delta 606 
7.00am Omaha – 10.11am Atlanta 
Delta 206 
11.32am Atlanta – 12.14pm St Louis 
Delta 5651 
12.50pm St Louis – 4.15pm New York JFK 
Jet Blue 425 
9.10pm New York JFK – 1.45am (November 17) Santiago, DR



There are sometimes those plans out in front of us that always seem to theoretically seem like they’ll actually come to fruition. Well, as real & exciting as the call I’ve felt to go to the Dominican Republic, it’s incredible to be able to announce that it is a reality with dates and plane tickets as opposed to the “theoretical someday.” Students International’s policy is that financially I be at 90% of my Mandatory Support Goals in order to purchase my tickets. I praise Jesus that I’m able to write that I’m now beyond that! Aleluya, Jehovah Jireh is our Abba who faithfully provides for us!

I just purchased my tickets to make the move to the Dominican Republic! I have a full day of flights NOVEMBER 16 flying from Omaha to Atlanta to St. Louis to New York to Santiago, Dominican Republic (arriving at 1:45am on the 17th). The irony of departing on November 16 is that it is exactly one year from the day Jesus renewed His call on my life in the midst of a few despairing days & He sent me to Urbana ’03! That means three weeks from today I will be starting to settle in in Jarabacoa. I’ve been in contact with our staff leaders on the field. They will be arranging some temporary housing for me as I will spend that first week doing orientation along with some house/apartment hunting, car shopping, getting a cell phone, and everything else involved in “getting settled.”



As my days Stateside are now numbered, there are also many things that need to be wrapped up here. Highest importance to me is relationships! The extreme paradox of excitement & grieving are swirling about inside me as I’m so excited to go to where I know I’m supposed to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say goodbye to those who have shaped and formed my life by their presence in it (it’s not death, but there is going to be physical separation, and that is “grieve worthy”).




This is a promise that the Lord has sweetly spoken into my life, & it is one of the amazing promise & truths I’m clinging to through all this transition. May it be so in each of your lives too! Thank you for your prayers & support! God bless!



I can’t put into words how incredible training was! Friday I flew back to Iowa where I’ll be for the next indefinite amount of time in the end of my support raising process.

As I reflect on my weeks in Colorado, I’m blown away by the Truths that have been brought back into the Light about who the Lord is. God is God! God is good! God is not always safe, but He is faithful! I wouldn’t want to head to the field without going through this training during which I was allowed to grow in self-awareness, and be equipped by hearing stories of the realities of life as a missionary, as well as learning practical ways to deal with different situations as they arise.

So now I’m in the indefinite land of waiting. I have a few speaking engagements set up during which I have more opportunities to share what’s on & in my heart about the Dominican Republic & what I feel called to. I’ll highlight the following prayer requests in more detail on the prayer page, but I ask for your prayers as support continues to come in, that it would all be according to the Lord’s divine timing, as He lays on the hearts of His children when & how much to commit to. Also pray for me in the mundane of the last minute details (ex: immunizations, insurance, packing, housing, etc.), as well as in saying good-byes.

PS – As I know you must care for me if you’re checking this website for updates, I’d encourage you to learn more about how you can partner in this ministry. A great book that’s been brought to my attention is: Serving As Senders Neal Pirolo it focuses on “How to care for your missionaries while they are preparing to go, while they are on the field, & when they return home.”





“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
-Galatians 5:22

Please pray for humility to accept the truths about myself that the Lord wants to continue to reveal to me in this unique time.

The community here amongst us in training has been incredible. Praise Jesus for the friendships & connections in authentic & life-giving relationships between brothers & sisters here. May dissension not be stirred among the ranks, but may we face conflict as it arises in healthy ways. The truth is that the number one reason that missionaries leave the field is that they can’t get along with other missionaries. May the Lord have His way & may what rules our relationships with one another be the love of Christ at work in our lives as opposed to our differences.