Amarilis (the first person on the right) was hired to clean our church office but she did so much more than that. She cooked lunch everyday for those who stay over the noon hour. The staff persons who stay for lunch often have very little money to put into the hat for even a basic lunch. And some of the staff members have dietary restrictions mostly from having diabetes. Amarilis took on this task with grace and humility, her chance to share the love of Christ.
Amarilis lived in a distant part of Santo Domingo, a two hour bus ride each way on four different buses. It cost her over half her salary to do so. After paying her bus fare she was left with about $50 for a month of full time work. She has four children.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people as we all know. In the case of Amarilis there is no way to even imagine any kind of reason for her tragedy. She was doing laundry at her home at 11:30pm because the electricity had just come back on. Power outages are so common that one must take advantage of the few hours that it is available.
Amariilis was hanging her clothes on a wire connected to the neighbor’s home and to hers. Because of faulty wiring throughout her neighborhood somehow there was high voltage coming through her clothesline from her neighbors iron window bars. It never had done that before. She was electrocuted. Her husband rushed to her not knowing why she was on the ground. When he touched her he too was electrocuted.
Amarilis lived her faith quietly as a servant, and in humility took up the towel and basin to love like Jesus loved. Her extended family will take up the task of raising the children and her church community will pitch in also. The pain will subside but the loss cannot be recovered. And even though this tragedy shook all of us who knew her, we will forget and move on.
It seems to me that this story is not uncommon among the urban poor of Santo Domingo but those of us with better fortunes rarely see it or even hear of such accounts. We know poverty as statistics or we do not even know it at all. I know Jesus was and is present in a special way in the life of Amarilis and her family and her community. That gives me comfort. I also know that I overlooked Amarilis at the office, it took me months to even get to know her name. That makes me very sad.
The Christian Education department of the Dominican Evangelical Church held a workshop for all the pastors of the denomination. The purpose of the workshop was to utilize the wisdom and experience of the pastors to determine the Christian education themes that will be used in all the churches in the coming years.
We all stayed together at the church camp in Bani. Someone wondered aloud the first night about who would be the first one to find a tarantula in bed with them. I did not look forward to going to sleep that night.
The first evening we met to share a devotional and ask for God’s inspiration to be with us.
Rev. Betania directed an activity using a passage in Romans 12: 1-8, the new life in Christ. The second verse received the most attention:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I shared a visual using the solar oven and how this oven will not function without the sun’s rays and that these rays can then be transformed and used to cook food and provide sustenance to others. I believe God’s love also transforms us so that God can use us to serve others.
Three church leaders gave presentations on the 15 foundational beliefs that the Dominican Evangelical Church has as their theological roots which come from Methodist, Presbyterian and the Moravian traditions. We asked that the pastors individually and in groups suggest Christian education themes based on their collective wisdom and experience. These themes will be used for Bible studies, Sunday School lessons, Extension Bible School lessons, and continuing education for the pastors.
The workshop was a greater success than we had imagined. The four of us working in the area of Christian Education: Reverend Betania Figueroa, Rev. Jeremias Brafett, Jose Rafael Peguero and myself are pleased with the results. At the same time we are very challenged to now organize these themes for a 6 year cycle of Christian Educational curriculum that all the churches will be able to use as their guide.
This was our first experience of having one of our children get married. Jenny, our oldest, married Robert Simek in Munich, Germany on September 10th. It was also our first time in Europe. Jenny and Robert were legally married in a civil ceremony according to German law, so the wedding ceremony, two days later, was a time to bless this young couple in the presence of God with the witness of family and friends.
It was a time for everyone present to commit themselves to support them as they go forward. As a sign of our commitment many of us gave Jenny and Robert a weaving, a blanket, or a tapestry to cover them and assure them that they will never walk alone, that God and the community of faith will always be with them.
In August we had the honor to co-host a team of volunteers who came to build a water purification plant in the town of Jaquimeyes. First UMC got interested in the water purification ministry here and raised enough funds for a water plant and then some. First UMC not only raised the funds for the project but also sent a team to help with the construction.
The weather in the Dominican Republic in August is just plain hot. We drank gallons of ice water and Gatorade to stay hydrated. A number of the team members seemed able to deny the heat and work right alongside the Dominican masons. Others of us did our best but often had to seek shelter under a shade tree to avoid heat stroke. This team of Americans along with their Dominican counterpart raised the walls of a new water house which will soon be able to offer pure drinking water to a grateful community.
Our thanks to Pastor Ashley-Anne, Leigh, Angela and Steve, Kimm, James, Stephen, Eric, Stacey, and Sarah. And thanks to Donna Bearden for her leadership along with Pastor Alfreda and her husband, Pastor Elias. You have stored up treasures in heaven.
August 24, 2016
Last week we took a step of faith to attempt a solar oven demonstration without the oversight and participation of a Solar Oven Partners Volunteer team from the US. We put together a rather unique team with four Dominicans and four ‘others’. The others were Ardell, Gordy, our son Samuel and our daughter Hannah. The 4 Dominicans were Rev. Maria Bock, Rev. Erasme, our driver Mario, and Alexis, son of a Dominican pastor. Three first timers and 5 of us still in the training wheels category.
Our driver Mario took us safely to the north side of the island to a small town called Sabaneta de Yasica. Upon arrival we unloaded our equipment and assembled 10 solar ovens which took us until after dark. We stayed overnight in missionary housing made ready for us by the local Dominican Evangelical Church.
The next day we began preparing food with the local ladies who came to learn. We put out 16 ovens in a neighbor’s yard to ‘preheat’. The sun was fully available and August hot making for excellent solar cooking. A good crowd of learners showed up to help cut up vegetables, mix cake and bread batter, cut up chickens, and prepare pots of rice and beans.
And finally while the food was cooking, Maria, Erasme and Gordy gave a workshop on solar cooking to the assembled crowd. We talk about this as a blessing, an outreach ministry which we hope all will pass on to others, especially those who have few resources to spend on fuel. We talk about the science of solar cooking, the methods and the need for patience and practice, the origin of this ministry and the large family of Christian brothers and sisters who volunteer time and resources from the US and the Dominican Republic.
The food cooked more rapidly than usual because of the abundant sunshine. There were a couple of solar surprises, we took out the baked potatoes too soon and an egg exploded. But all in all the food was well cooked, delicious, and enjoyed by everyone. We distributed 21 ovens which is pretty good for our first time out as trainees.