Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 Rookie Missionary Tip 040: Remember the Flight Number. Twice now I have forgotten to remember or write down the flight number of someone visiting us. Do this!

 Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sex Tourist For Coffee and What You Can Do

[Parents, this covers a sensitive topic. Use discretion when sharing with your children.]
A bar on Pedro Clisante for sex tourists.
Pic from GoMAD Ministries.

Rookie Missionary Move #1: Inviting strange men to coffee who are traveling to a sex tourist destination.

Rookie Missionary Move #2: Realizing what you did, acknowledging the potential for awkwardness, and going fully forward to engage the conversation anyway.

I am still unsure if these rookie missionary moves were mistakes or not. That remains to be seen.

The motivation for this blind coffee date was a) that I was suddenly curious about what goes through the mind of someone who travels at great expenses and causes such immeasurable harm, and b) how they react when they realize that we work in the ministry trying to repair the damage they cause.

Mind you, I did not create this moment.

$25 RD pesos to anywhere in Sosua.
It was quite serendipity that Marissa and I took one of the public buses, the gua-guas, at the hour we did. And that, on instinct, I closed the door, causing all of the Dominicans to laugh at my gringo move. Which opened the bus-ride conversation with the two blancos.

They were obviously American. The main gentleman had traveled extensively, several times to the Dominican Republic. Regardless, his knowledge of the Spanish language or appreciation for the culture were somewhat lacking.

He was nice enough. We jumped off the gua-gua at a coffee company in town and chatted on the way to the counter.

What tipped me off that he and his quiet-yet-amiable traveling companion were sex tourists was when we introduced each other. “Hi, I am John*. This is my friend, Steve*.” (*Not their real names.)

“Hi, I am Grant and this is my wife, Marissa.”

(Without missing a beat,) “Wow. Its not often someone would bring their wife down here,” said John quite boldly.

People will tell you what their own motive is by projecting their motive onto you. 
This is what John did.

In the moment, my mind asked:
‘Why wouldn’t someone bring their wife down here? It’s gorgeous. There is so much to see.There is so much good people can do. You could help the poor with sustainable housing. You could help with the sex touri...ah. 
Now I get it. HE wouldn’t bring HIS wife down, not because what people do, but because what HE does.’
Cabarete Coffee Company, a locally grown,
organic coffee shop off the choked main road.
It partners with the Mariposa Foundation.
“So,” I blurt. “We will be having coffee on the patio. Please join us!” [Internal glare from Marissa.]

Somehow we managed small talk for a while. I was wondering how to bridge the conversation toward why John and his quiet friend, Steve, would involve themselves in sex tourism when John offered it up quite blatantly.

“Well, I am sure you can guess why we are here.” 

He looked at his stoic friend, Steve, for someone to back him up, to tease about the topic, or chuckle as chums about it. Steve looked back at him with empty eyes.

John accepting the implied need for privacy, added, “well, you could guess what I am here for at least.” He looked down at his breakfast seeming to feel suddenly exposed.

I let the moment pass without saying anything, smiling and waiting for the explanation.

He went on to explain and unload his desire to find a companion, his continued disappointment to be able to build “lasting, trusting” relationships (the longest time he had spent with one of the local girls was 3 days), and how (give me some room here) he felt victimized by several of the girls who had stolen from him or asked for more money.

These are quite difficult things to hear. Let’s be honest. We all know the paradigm we generally have as a culture regarding the sex tourist trade.

Women are victims. Men are predators.
Women the oppressed good. Men the oppressive bad.

Yet, listening to this John, I began to see the depth of complexities and structured violence transpiring between all of the Johns and all of the prostitutes.

During our coffee, we shared that we were missionaries, that we worked with a group that serves to help women out of the sex tourism trade (GoMAD Ministries), and that we felt that many of these women were trapped in their situations.

John offered that he was not like the "normal" sex tourists. 

He took the woman’s children out shopping. He cared about building trust with the women; this he proved by sharing with us that some nights after they were quite intimate he would offer to simply sit together instead of having sex.

A sex tourist in Boca Chica.
Pic from
His biggest reason for “looking for companions” abroad was his age. “I am 58,” he complained. “They type of women who I can date in the States are all too old to have kids. I wanted kids with my last wife, but she didn’t want anyway. Now that we are not together, I still want kids. But who in the States could I be with?”

So, he searched abroad for a younger companion who he could possibly be with who could bring him children. He was just caught in a loop, he suggested, where he had trust issues between him and the women he, well, frankly, bought nightly.

We continued to try to bring the conversation around, positively, to the fact that it would be very nearly impossible to build trust in 3 days. I shared stories about building trust with our ministry in Haiti which took years. I suggested moving to the island, being involved in the community, serving and building relationships with people, and seeking a companion that way.

However, we never came to any reconciliation. He never recoiled at our work in ministry; quite the opposite. He got more transparent. It was not rebellion as much as confession.

But the words that Chantz and Renee Cutts shared about the ex-prostitutes they worked with resonated with me throughout: you cannot judge or condemn them. You can only love them into the right way and serve them.

Somehow we passed the entire time with even-headed talks, without anger or frustration and parted amiably enough considering the divergence in ideologies.

I figured that, even though we demonize the Johns (and Janes) that make the sex tourism trade possible, they need to be reached as well.


We were riding with Chantz Cutts as he drove us down Pedro Clisante, the well-known road that was home to the majority of the bars which target sex tourists and prostitutes.

He pointed out one bar owned the leader of the Hell’s Angels was opening a bar with rooms on the premises. We drove by another bar where they were opening a live strip show and, since there were no walls on this bar, it was effectively a public strip show.

He stopped in front of one hotel. “Look inside. Just above the check in desk. Do you see that wall plaque that looks like shoulder badges?” he quizzed us.

“Sure,” I said.

“Those are badges of American police officers, fire fighters, government workers, and all sorts of officials who have bought sex here. It is appalling to know that we are contributing to this that much. It is much more appalling to know that the American’s are bold enough to allow it.” He said.

I just took it in my stoic way, wanting to joke away the heavy reality but not wanting to be cavalier about the plight of the locals trapped in the trade.
Women also travel as sex tourists.
They hook up with men called 'sankies',

Throughout the night he unraveled the different “degrees” of the sex trade. Girls start at age 12 - 14. Boys and men are involved, called sankies. There is a dynamic with “reputable” pornography companies to transition men from watching porn to attending sex tourist events. There are dynamics of locals selling each other because of medical treatment bills or market debts they cannot pay.

Chantz and Renee have committed their lives, their families, their futures, to making a difference here. They have a home to receive women who want to escape the sex trade, a girls group to help the girls before they enter prostitution, an community building.

Chantz & Renee's awesome family.
They are doing a huge work here. And, as Marissa and I realize how much MORE needs to be done, we are considering diving in and helping their ministry that already has so much momentum.

But there is something that we are already doing.

We are in the process of developing 'The Top 100 Dream Igniter' goal-setting system. We wanted to make this available to you to give as a gift for Christmas in preparation for the goal-setting New Year. We may miss the opportunity for you to give this as a gift for Christmas; life on the field, Dengue Fever and lack of solid internet have challenged our ability to deliver it on time.

But Chantz and I have agreed to also develop a Spanish version for the women in their transition house (called Oasis) and for future ex-prostitutes developing a vision for their life.

Every copy sold will help us to deliver a Spanish version to women attempting to escape the prostitution cycle. Let us know if you are interested in being notified when we launch the 'The Top 100'.

Though the Dream Igniter is still being completed, you can make a difference in helping bring prostitutes out of the sex tourism trade and prevent young girls from being sucked in.

GO MAD! Go Make A Difference in a young girls life this year.

If you want to be notified of when 'The Top 100 Dream Igniter' is ready, fill out the information below.

If you just can't wait to help, you can Pre-Order the Dream Igniter by clicking the Buy Now button in the sidebar.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 039: Duct Tape

The Ultimate, indispensable tool of the mission field...

Rookie Missionary 039: Duct Tape. Is there any more diverse tool out there to help you on the mission field?! I just don't think so.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rookie Missionary Tip 038: Deck of Cards from Natalie Kale

Natalie Kale, a frequent traveler, missionary, and all-around friend, stopped in to visit us in Bayahibe. Here is her Rookie Missionary tip.

Rookie Missionary 038: Deck of Cards. Natalie Kale noted that sometimes, you just gotta have something to do to pass the time pleasantly and have fun with friends.

Grant and Marissa Nieddu, live from the mission field on the Island of Hispaniola, offer their daily Rookie Missionary Tips and Mistakes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Story of Marissa's Dengue Fever & Other News

Our Dear Friends and Family of the Mission!

We are so glad to be writing to you! We want to update you on our time in the D.R. so far, Marissa's Dengue Fever, and our (your and our) direction forward together. So without further ado, let's rock! BAM!

Our Time In the D.R. So Far

Marissa and I landed in the Dominican Republic on faith with a semblance of a small plan with big intent. 

We arrived in late August. We knew that our vision for the island is long term. We also knew that we want to support ourselves until our vision was refined.

So, Marissa went to work finishing her Dive Instructor certificate. I went to work making connections and networking with ministries already in motion here. (I also finished our book, got traction on our other tools for launching missionaries, and launched Rookie Missionary.)

Us meeting pastors in Higuey, DR.
For the first 5 weeks we were in the tourist city of Bavaro. We met interesting people and became acquainted with the country. Then, we moved to Bayahibe with little notice for the remaining 8 weeks of Marissa's classes. This was a move toward a more authentic, though not yet scary, Dominican experience.

We had two awesome visitors, Natalie Kale and Yvette Carrigan. We really got embedded with the local culture. We continued to discuss how God was shaping our vision for how to serve this island.
Natalie Kale visiting! FUN!
Marissa fought through her exams and my impatience to get ministry going, and finally approached her dive instructor certification. To do her final exam, she and her classmates rode the 50 minutes away back to Bavaro. When she came back, she was happy to accomplish this 5 year goal, yet she felt under the weather.

  • That Monday we reasoned that she was just feeling a release from all the pressure. 
  • Tuesday we were confident that she had a flu and needed to let it process. 
  • Wednesday we grew concerned, but, not wanting to panic and desiring to be those faithful missionaries who trusted God, decided to give it a day. 
  • Thursday she was shivering and blazing hot. I would place cold towels on her feet. The heat of her feet and forehead would warm up the wash cloth quickly to the point where it was warm to the touch. I felt weak and unable to relieve her pain immediately. 

We deliberated what to do as we had reservations to travel on Friday to the north of the island. She felt decent in spurts, but overall was just trying to be tough through the aches and extreme fever.

Friday we did, in fact, move. She showed few signs of the fever, kept a smile (probably for me!) and we made the 6 hour journey north. By the time we arrived at the bus stop, she was exhausted, and resting her head on our luggage while we waited for our new contact, Chantz Cutts, to pick us up.
Marissa being tough for me at the bus stop in Sosua, DR.
I was hopeful that her fever was breaking. More and more, all she could say was, "I just want to sleep." The more she said it, the weaker she got, and I was afraid.

That afternoon, we finally made it to our hostel. The owner was nowhere to be see, so we simply sat outside. Marissa was nodding uncontrollably, slouching, craving to sleep with no rest. I finally told her to pick an empty room and sleep until the owner showed. She did. The owner finally arrived, told us to stay in the room Marissa was already asleep in, and we crashed.

That night, she tossed and turned; hot, sleeping but not resting. The next day, she was extraordinarily worn. I woke up, got around and realized we had no food, juice or fluids for her. Reluctantly, I left for groceries.

It tore me to leave her in a feverish state in a strange place, but we had no cash for taxis or buses, no phone minutes, and I did not know where a hospital or ambulance was. Did I mention we barely speak the language? Regardless of these obstacles, I had not choice but to overcome them, and leave Marissa alone for a small time to do so.

So, I retrieved some juice and small items for her and a few apples for me. All the while my stomach was in knots about the increasing desperation of our situation. In tears at my inability to help her, I made my way back to the house.

I finally had to lift her to get to the restroom. I made a wet wash cloth and washed her with it. She kept drifting off with the phrase "I just need to sleep a little", not giving me permission to take her to the doctor, reasoning that it cost too much and where would we go.

As I washed her and tried to convince her to let me get medical care, I noticed that her back was breaking into an extreme heat rash. My fear took over, and I pressed her about going to the doctor.

She clothed, and I walked her to the corner. We were too far to a taxi or road for her to walk and I fretted to leave her again when some boys came by. They offered to find a taxi for us and to come our way, and left down the road. Time passed with no sign of them.

Seeing Marissa sitting on the curb, holding her head, trying to stay upright, knowing the pain she was in, I tearfully tore myself away to follow the direction of the boys to find the taxi. Halfway, a taxi came up with the boys in it and we made it back to Marissa.

I lifted her into the taxi-van and away we went. We pulled into the Centro Medico Emergency room and Marissa began to be afraid. She broke down, afraid I would be mad at her for getting sick, afraid of what the staff may do (with their needles), or concerned that the final bill would cause us to return to the States too soon.

These fears broke my heart. I began to be afraid and cry thinking that these fears were torturing her when she desperately needed medical care. I wept at her strength and will to endure. I wept to see her weep.
A deep, penetrating needle in the arm. Marissa crying out. The breaking of glass vials. The sticking of an IV. Thermometers in her armpit. Doctors asking us questions in Spanish. An English translator. The request for insurance. Insurance didn't work. Request for other form of payment. Credit card disappears. Request for passports (in case you try to leave the country without paying the bill.) Marissa weeping, falling asleep, shivering awake to start over again. Another needle that sends searing heat through her body. Panic. Temperature leveling off.

Finally, her temperature evening off. The shivers slowing. The doctors recommending admitting to the hospital for a few days. Blood tests return, indicating Dengue Fever. Doubts and distrust of these foreign doctors. Marissa showing small signs of relief.
Marissa finally unable to stay awake.
Phone calls to insurance. Discussion on costs to return to the States for treatment. Doctors saying she is not strong enough. Me doubting their motives. 
Finally, yielding. Giving up. Taking a risk with our other insurance. Accepting. Admitting. Marissa in a bed. Out. Me watching her ever so intently. Then began the long slow road to recovering.
All the next day she was checked every few hours. Her IV was injected with antibiotics, medicine for fever, and medicine for nausea caused by the medicine for fever. All hours of the day, the lights never went off. 1:30 a.m.: How is her temperature? 5:00 a.m.: Is she bleeding anywhere?

The next Monday nausea set in. Marissa spent the entire day feeling better from fevers, but then she began to vomit. She could not keep anything down. We began to watch massive amounts of television to distract from the discomfort. We could not sleep much, yet she was not feeling good enough to move around.

That night, however, the nausea lessened. Marissa finally slept for almost 5 full hours. I, finally realizing that I had neither slept nor eaten in a day or so, crashed. I slept whenever Marissa did, waking to listen to her breathing.

During the day we tried to stem the boredom by having her sit up. We took it one minute at a time. We rubbed her legs so they did not get stir crazy. I climbed into her mosquito netting (to keep her from spreading Dengue) to rub her back.

Marissa's mosquito net or, as I called it, our love cocoon.
Finally, Tuesday her nausea slowed down to waves, eventually disappearing entirely. We were able to talk finally. She was getting stir crazy, but still not hungry.

Wednesday, she woke feeling fine. The doctors cleared us to leave at 9 a.m. We waited for the final bill as the insurance company deliberated until 5 p.m. We paid the final bill ($2,500 USD). Marissa and I rode on the back of a 'moto' (motorcycle taxis). She left the hospital in a wheelchair and we rode home on a motorcyle!

Thursday, back our our room, she slept. As she slept, I thought about the miracle that she is to me. I also thought of the miracle of the cost. Even though it was high for here in the D.R. (the 'gringo price'), I think we were blessed to be able to pay it. I thought of the miracle that the clinic was even there and able to handle it.

The biggest miracle has been the people. Obviously, you all were praying for us. Yet, there were a string of unexpected, uninvited, but welcome visitors.

One man poked his head in. He was an American and a 7-year missionary here. His wife was a few doors down with their newly adopted Haitian baby. He just came by to pray and wish us well and introduce himself and his missionary family. It turns out that he is from the Lakeland area and knows, oh, about 3 families we know from Lakeland.

The next day his pastor came by. These were powerful prayer warriors. They had been on the island 7 months, though they had an established church in North Carolina and had been coming to Cabarete for years.
Chantz Cutts with his awesome ministry team.

Chantz Cutts of GoMAD Ministries has been indispensable. He took me to the local store while Marissa slept. He prayed with us. He introduced us to people. He took us to church to meet more of the local community people.

The nursing staff sat with us and talked. They would see Marissa watching her comfort-show, Ellen, and would come in quietly, sit and then leave when their 'jefe' yelled for them. Even our hostel manager offered to come down to the clinic to help with anything!

We were truly blessed. The D.R. was, like, "Hey, welcome to the mission field! Here's Dengue." The people were like, "Hey, we'll help you out." We have been so blessed in Marissa's recovery.

Now, she is resting up. We take walks to the beach to build up her strength. We walk and talk about the vision we have building for the ministry, and we think you are going to be super excited about it!

Currently we are in a hostel. It is rustic and owned by a Swedish-Canadian woman who is 70 years old but acts 50.

Marissa and I have committed to serving one of the several missions organizations here to continue to serve and become familiar with the area. During the month of December we will focus on shaping the long-term vision for the area.

We want you involved in that process!

A Sneak Peak At the Vision We Need Your Help to Shape

In the next 3 - 5 years we want to have established The PhilanTropic Village. This is a place where we have built 10 self-sustainable houses for the poor. Aquaponics, tilapia farms, and a permaculture garden/co-op will be up and running.
The sustainable house design we are working with.
This is the one built in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
We want to have a powerful educational system in the community, access to clean water and clean sanitation. We want to have a small local library, weekly courses on economics and civic involvement, and to be in the position to "export" the systems of our community to other villages in the area.

This month Marissa and I are shaping that master vision. From that we will derive a proposal for our first phase of fundraising.

It is a grand vision. We believe that we have the powerful network; this includes you. We believe that we have the skills, background, experience, and local connections to make it happen. We believe we can build it.

Part of phase one will include forming a strong advisory board, establishing a foundation (paperwork with the IRS), and setting up meetings Stateside for speaking and fundraising.

Our vision includes you.

We want you to feel like our project here is open to you to work and be involved when you can. When life in the States is too busy, we want it to be something that you are proud to be partnering with, proud to sharing with your friends and family, and confident in our integrity in serving the poor.

As our awesome support network of friends and family, we wanted to share this with you. We want you to begin to dream how you can help partner with us in your area of expertise. Some of you are doctors, educators, nutritionists or general missionaries. Your expertise and areas of interest will be an active component of our smart-growth village.

In Conclusion

I know this has been a lot to take in. We wanted to convey the story of what happened with Marissa and where she is at today, alive and healing up quite well.

Along with that, we wanted you to know that we are taking the next month to shape a comprehensive vision plan; one you can be proud to be partnered with and share with people.

We will keep you informed as this shapes up! Please contact us with any ideas or questions. We will be in touch soon.

With the Deepest Appreciate and Gratitude,

Grant & Marissa Nieddu (aka "The NiedDUO")

Marissa getting better, but plain ol' sick of being sick.

Our book, H.O.P.E. From Here To Haiti is now on! Learn more about our adventures in mission & how we learned about hope along the way.

We are on the island of Hispaniola, setting down roots to further our ministry in Haiti and Dominican Republic. Follow our blog, get free resources, or check out more about Grant and Marissa on the mission field on their website.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marissa, Dengue Fever, & Rookie Missionary

Most of you know by now that Marissa has come down with Dengue Fever.

You can imagine how scary such an extreme illness is in a foreign country, especially in a developing or under-developed country.

She arrived at the centro medico with 40 C temperature (about 104 F), a white blood cell count of 1.4 per mL (normal 5-10/ml), a platelet count of 20 mL (normal 150 - 450/mL), and a fevered rash all over her back. Now she has an even temperature (though it peaked at 100*), a white blood cell count of 3.4/mL, platelets of 50/mL and her normal, beautiful skin. She is just completely over being here, as am I.

We have been quite blessed. We are at a fantastic clinic. We have stumbled upon encouraging, involved local relationships. And, of course, we are happy because Marissa is getting much better.

Needless to say, there will be many Rookie Missionary Tips that come out of this. I wanted everyone to rest assured that we have not forgotten about them. We have plenty more prepared and, with going through this ordeal, will have plenty more interesting tips and suggestions.

From what insurance to use, what to pack for your hospital stay, to a shade-tree remedy for Dengue Fever with chicken feet; we will dowload what we have learned so far!

Marissa is quickly recovering and is even pushing herself to do things on her own. I am researching my own local insurance here on the island. And we will give you updates as soon as possible!

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Most Gratefully,

Grant and a slowly recovering Marissa

P.S. This post we wrote a day or so ago. We are home now. Of course, I will writing an update soon!--GN