Our Family

I'll write this in chronological order...

Mom and Dad (Kathy and Matt)

My dad had a real estate agency and my mom was a stay at home mom for many years but now is an ESL middle school teacher. They were extremely supportive of our endeavors growing up and even though they haven't liked me moving away and have worried about the risks I have taken, they have remained supportive. When I think of our house in Frederick County, VA, the house I grew up in and they still live in today, I think of comfort, abundance, warmth, and beauty. I will always be thankful for their careful and constant presence that protected us and guided us.

My dad passed away on May 22nd, 2012 after a run in with lung cancer. Miss him (with joy) every day

Brother Matthew

Matthew is a mountain biker and all around extreme sports enthusiast. He lives an interesting lifestyle where the American dream is not his goal. He loves to argue and is responsible for “toughening me up” throughout our childhood, which I actually really appreciate. My sisters, mom, and I.. and I guess my dad at times too.. would all get tired of him practicing his wrestling moves on us, but I also remember fully engaging in matches on the trampoline, living room floor, etc., and fully enjoying it!

Uncle Matthew bought a piece of land with a little house on it that is in our neighborhood and oversees Puerto Plata, so we now are neighbors during the winter time! 

Sister Sarah

Sarah & I at the fort in Puerto Plata, 2005.
Sarah & daughter Blake
Sarah was my roommate growing up, as well as playmate, teammate, and just the person that I shared the most with because we were so close in age. Many say that we are as different as night and day in looks and personality, which I have to agree with, but at the same time, we have some of the same core characteristics that I think come from our upbringing, as well as many of the same interests. She is now a teacher, a wife, and a mom. I think of Sarah as a partner in achievements because our achievements set standards for each other, challenged each other, and pushed each other. I am so thankful to have had her as a litter mate. 

Sister Bridgette

Bridgette was and is such a joy to have as a little sister. Growing up, she provided us with so much entertainment and an object of adoration. Matthew, Sarah, and I were so close in age, then a five year gap after me before Bridgette was born, so we noticed that she grew up a little differently...almost in a different semi-generation. She found a knack for horseback riding and seems to be turning it into her career, which I am proud of her for. I see her as an organizer, a goal setter, an absolute people person, and she has all the potential to be very successful at whatever she dedicates herself to. Bridgette married Steve in September 2013 and they have a few dogs as their kids.

Jeres along with Ilayas and "lost boys", May 2011.
Husband Jeres

Jeres & Maraya, Feb. 2012.
Someone once referred to me as “the real life Wendy” because I flew away to a distant island and began caring for a group of “lost boys” who desperately needed a mother.. or a motherly big sister at the very least. Well, if I am the real life Wendy, then Jeres is the real life Peter Pan. And our story is one where Wendy did not return to live with her parents in the civilized world but instead she stayed in a land full of pirates and fairy like characters and truly partnered for the long run with Peter.. with the lost boys by their sides. It's a highly unlikely life that seems to bother some and intrigue others. But despite inexplicable challenges, I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else. It's also a relationship based on a covenant that was made early on and proved to be extremely binding, which has been necessary due to, again, the unlikeliness of our relationship and life. 

Son Ilayas Joseph
Ilayas, June 2010
October, 2011
(Ilayas pronounced Elias in English, after the spelling of the prophets in the Spanish Bible. Joseph after the prophet - a prophet name all around.

Ilayas is one of those kids that was born at a time when things seemed too difficult for the parents to get by...or at least without giving in and moving to the U.S. We were just poor and living in a land of little opportunity, trying to create opportunity. But I think that with every picture and video sent home to the US of a thriving baby, my family started to see that we are okay, and perhaps that many things that are said to be necessary, are not exactly necessary. Ilayas is comfortable in most any situation because he is constantly in situations with people of different nationalities, races, speaking different languages, etc. He is such a joy, a gift from God, and I thank the Father for him every day.

Daughter Maraya Jenèz

Sept. 10, 2011
(Name in English: Mariah Genesis - Mariah, a beautiful spin from Mary, the obedient and fearless mother of Christ
Maraya was once again, born at a time when things just weren't quite ready... but in God's plan, they were. Our house didn't barely have running water, we couldn't keep mice out of our stuff, and we all four still sleep together sideways on a queen-sized bed, (or it may be a double, I'm not sure). This may sound like a pain, and it is at times when compared to comforts and conveniences of the US, but the most important thing is that I get to sleep between those two little squirmy bodies each night and wake up to them each morning. When Jeres, who was a God-given friend, started pursuing me romantically, I prayed and was still for three days looking for an answer. On the third day, a neighbor woman brought me to her small wooden house where her 6 little children beamed up at me, full of life and joy while lacking all things material. "This is the life I want," I told God. This looks like life and life to the full. (To me, maybe not to everyone.) I thank God for bringing Maraya into our life and making it even fuller.

September 2011

The Boys (out of chronological order)

Willy in yellow 2007.

We live next door to the group home that began in 2007 after the census among youth in the streets in 2006. Chinaider was the youngest original member who is still with us. We have a mother-son relationship. Although Willy has come of age, he stays still to help out
Chinaider in black, 2007. (Babi) Bobby in blue, Jonel in white.
with the younger ones. We are too close in age to be mother and son. We have a sister-brother relationship. There is a rolling average of 7 or 8 boys. Those who "graduate" often stay nearby. They are our family. 

Junior and Ilayas, 2012

Junior moved into the group home when his family fell apart in January 2012. He had been a student of ours in Munoz for years. We also took in his baby sister at this time and pay a neighbor to foster her. He was the youngest in the home and spent most of his time at our house. I longed for another baby and my prayers yielded a reoccuring answer of, "Won't you love these boys I have entrusted you with?" My response was, "Yes, I love them, but I want a baby." Shortly after this conversation with God, a strong love came over me for Junior. I began to love him like my own son. I used to buy a snack for Ilayas but not for him, right in front of him, thinking that I didn't have enough. One day I stopped doing that and opened up my heart. When his sister Yenilove moved in with us in February 2013, he moved in as well. Though he has been a challenge, he is very smart and helpful when he wants to be, and has a lot of potential. I pray for the brightest of futures for him. I have learned so much through being his mom. 

*When we constructed the group home and "house parents" house on a property the organization purchased in 2013, we all moved into simple wooden structures by the mountain with no running water (yet) and compost toilets. Although it's all clumped together, the house parents house lacked space Junior is in the group home side now.



Princess Maraya and Princess Yenilove, 2014
I loved Yenilove since before her father died and her mother disappeared. She stood out to me as a little student. She is Junior's biological half sister. When we took in Junior and Elisenia, she and two other siblings were passed around from house to house in the batey. I didn't feel able to intervene. I felt overwhelmed. An opportunity arose a year later and I was grateful to be able to invite her into our home. Never have I seen a six year old wash dishes so well. I had to forbid her from washing them. She had been made to work quite a lot in her few years. She took a solid year before she started being able to remember much of anything in school. Now she is sharp, has picked up on lots of English, is a great big sister to Ilayas and Maraya, and aspires to be director of Project Esperanza one day! She is a gifted ballerina and gymnast and I hope to turn her into a volleyball player in the near future! 

Viola (also out of chronological order)

I got Viola as an 11 week old puppy at a free spay and neuter clinic that I volunteered at in Viola, TN in 2004. She spent years sleeping in my bed and sitting on my lap while driving. She moved to the Dominican Republic with me in 2008 after having to have left her behind for a few months. She was stolen at one point in 2010 and we found her and stole her back 8 months letter, thankfully! She "protects" the house. She is my little girl.   

**Viola passed away in the endless rains of the fall of 2016, coming up on age 13. Just months before she died, we took in four puppies that were dumped out in the river bed. She taught them well to protect the house before passing on. We buried her by the river bed and sang Amazing Grace.**

Wevli Alex
Maraya with "her" baby.

Through working in the community of Padre Granero, we ended up with Mr. Wevli. We took him in full time on January 1, 2016. He is a bit developmentally behind due to malnutrition during his first year, but he is coming along now! He partly has to be tough with so many big brothers around, and partly is spoiled rotten by the girls!

Gabriel Dwayne

I can't believe we had another one! Ilayas begged for us to have another baby. "I just want to see what it looks like!" I always told him and the girls, "After I finish law school". I said that but I actually meant after I finish law school, do the bar exam, get some lawyering experience, Daddy saves up some money... I did not mean as I finish up with the last few months I would start experiencing morning sickness and pop a baby out just four months after graduating! I guess that was God holding me to my word. He is an angel of the highest order. Don't get me started. Ilayas picked the first name and Daddy picked the middle name. 

Of course my biggest baby is Project Esperanza! I am willing to mother any other babies God will bring to me... but on his timing.