Busy Christian Education season

Dear friends,

We are preparing to come and visit the second half of our covenant churches and are very much looking forward to another visit this fall.

This is the busiest time of the year for us in Christian Education.  The children are on school vacation and the IED churches are busy planning and preparing for Vacation Bible School and summer camp.  We have also received the fourth set of Sunday School curriculum which just arrived from the printers in Korea.

We have been holding training sessions for the Sunday School teachers and preparing them to use this curriculum.  We are also in the midst of writing new curriculum for the Extension Bible School programs that reach children with the good news of God’s kingdom in their own neighborhoods.

Thank you for walking with us in this ministry.

Reading Between the Lines, South Dakota Medical Mission to the DR

What happens when a team of 7 volunteers from South Dakota come to a tropical island, the Dominican Republic, to do a medical mission in a town called Montecristi?

 

We could write a 40 page treatise on this experience that would give all the details, names, and statistics.  That might be interesting to anyone with the time and patience to read it but it might not get to the heart of the story.  To uncover or discover the heart of the story it is often necessary to read between the lines.

 

 

 

In the book of Matthew, Jesus calls us to seek first the kingdom of God and God’s justice.  The mission of Jesus was to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to all people but especially to the poor.  “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20.  In other passages the kingdom of God is like the tiny mustard seed, like searching for a lost coin, like yeast spreading    through bread dough, and it is here and now but somehow not yet.  It seems that the kingdom of God is near to us, all around us, but at the same time hidden from us until we search for it.  We have to read between the lines.

 

 

The medical team had four doctors, two from South Dakota and two from the the Dominican Republic.

 

 

As a team they saw more than 600 patients in 6 days.  That is a statistic, impressive but we must go deeper.

 

 

 

They also had the privilege of looking into the faces and deep into the eyes of many people who bear the heavy weight of poverty.

 

They came to the our medical post for some relief.  The doctors heard their spoken words and they also read their unspoken words between the lines.   You may ask the doctors what they ‘read’ and I would guess that in many cases they could not tell you.  Sometimes communication is deeply spiritual and there are no words except these, “I was sick and you visitied me”.

In our time together, all of us participated in the work of the clinics in our various capacities.  We communicated with each other and with the Dominicans with words, laughter, prayers, through shared meals, shared stories, hugs, basically through all of our physical and spiritual senses.  We became more familiar, more family, with each other.  But because there are language and cultural barriers we often had to read between the lines.  Our hearts are filled with all that we ‘read’.  We will try to tell you in words about our encounter but we may not be able to find the words.  Maybe all we can say is for a time we entered into the kingdom of God.

There are so many people to thank: Julia, Noel, Terri, and Terry, Francesca and Ana and Ann, John and Chris, Erasme, Maria, and Altagracia, Gordy, Ardell and Deisy and Lorenzo, and Dairy, Lori, Kris, and Loreidy, Loli, Genesy, and Noami.  Urania and Damary and Juana and Julio. And Mario too.

Blessings abundant to all you servants of the Lord.

Devotionals for Pastor’s Retreat on the Theme of Violence

My little room had 3 mangos on the bed, geckos running around on the walls, tiny mosquitos everywhere that bite like monsters, horrendous heat and humility  and a fan that sounded like a roaring train coming at ya.

I was asked to lead a series of 3 devotionals during a pastor’s retreat where the theme was violence in the society.

I decided my goal would be to try to get them to connect with their context in the Dominican Republic and to the power that God gives us all to respond to the issues around us. We especially wanted to focus on the reality of violence, which they are very concerned about.  One of their statistics is:

The Latin American Bureau:  “domestic violence, the biggest source of violence against women in the Dominican Republic”. 

The latest data from the Procuraduría Fiscal del Distrito Nacional (Santo Domingo) puts the number of complaints of domestic violence in the past two years at over 15,000, with this type of crime making up 23% of total offences reported in the capital alone – the single most reported offence. Of the 199 femicides in the past 12 months, 46% were as a result of domestic violence

Gordy made me a wooden frame measuring 16 feet X 3 feet X 6 inches deep.  We used 2 of the heavy solar oven tables to hold it.

I chose items from nature to represent the dynamics of the devotionals, such as:

Soil represented their culture, the context in which they live.  They had a lot of fun with this part of the dynamic as they named historical facts, political facts, the religions on the island, the languages spoken, the different groups of people living here, the geography and environment, the agriculture and of course their music and food. With every example they shared they put a glass full of soil in the wooden frame.

They then filled tiny glass vials with water and placed a leaf in each one as they shared about words that describe God’s character, Jesus actions with people, and the Holy Spirits presence with us all.

Rocks and stones were placed in the structure as they shared the issues they deal with every day. Shredded garbage was distributed in the scene as they began focusing on the types of violence they all experience and wilted petals were spread to represent specific people and families they know who are suffering and struggling in the midst of the violence.

We then placed each of the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana churches,  little wooden blocks with painted windows, in the scene with their crosses made from tiny branches woven together with yarn.  Different types of seeds; tiny pine cones, rice seed, pia pia seeds and cashews seeds were used to represent men, women, children and the elderly in their congregations.

Each one then light a candle, made a vow of committed to their churches and communities and placed themselves in the midst of the scene as we bowed our heads and listened to the prayer of Teresa de Avila,

“Christ has no body but yours. 

No hands, no feet on earth but yours. 

Yours are the eyes with which He looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. 

Yours are the hands with which He blesses the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

 

North Dakota, Minnesota, Florida; Methodist and Lutheran Team to the DR

February, 2019:  Every volunteer in mission team is unique.  They bring something new which we get to discover as the week unfolds.  How to put that new thing into words will always be a challenge and never capture the full picture, like any photograph which only catches a momentary still shot of life.

Even when our great plans go awry, God blesses our best intentions to serve with all of our being.  There are times in solar oven demonstrations that the sun is blocked by clouds and we begin to worry.  In addition there are times when the multitudes we expected to attend don’t appear leaving us with a small circle of local people, and we begin to fret.  In times like these we seek courage and comfort in remembering that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  It is so very small as to seem insignificant.  But somehow this small seed can achieve something great in spite of its size.

A team of five Americans, namely, Carol, Lois, Wally, Jiggy, and Grace joined with our Dominican group of five, Erasme, Mario, Gertrudis, Louisa (Ardell), and Gordy.  A group of 10 which at times was reduced to nine and then eight, took on a labor of love.  We did solar oven demonstrations in Neyba and Tamayo, two small towns in the southwest of the Dominican Republic.

These towns are located in a dry, sunbaked, thorn infested region that seems more suitable for goats than people.

 

 

In spite of the odds against us we planted our mustard seeds in faith.  God was with us and we were met with the smiles, the excitement, and the hopes of God’s children that we had the privilege to meet.  We served them and they blessed us and the joy of God filled our souls.  We have confidence that these mustard seeds will grow and bring life.  Something new has happened as we have loved one another as Christ has loved us.

Our thanks to you who came from afar to share God’s love in action.

Christian Education meeting with local IED Christian Education leaders

Dear friends,

We are the Christian Education department:  Rev. Betania is the director, Antonia, who was nominated by the national church assembly this year, is the president and myself.  Jose Rafael advises us in regards to Dominican society and edits our curriculum lessons.   Every year we meet with the Christian Education leaders from the local churches to share with them what we are doing, train them with new sets of curriculum and find out how we can best support them.

Last week, our meeting with the 34 leaders in attendance, started out with them drawing their local church’s vision for Christian Education, blind folded.

We then asked them to write each of these visions on a piece of paper.  This exercise of drawing pictures of their visions and then writing them in words created some very lively discussions.

 

I think one of the most exciting parts of our meeting was that a majority of the Christian Education leaders who are selected by their local churches are young women.   I could feel their passion, commitment and openness throughout the meeting.

We ended the meeting with them decorating a clay pot

 

 

 

 

and coloring a picture that was chosen from a violence curriculum that we had designed for the adolescent camp held last summer.

 

 

 

This new curriculum on violence is written in response to the rise in violence in the Dominican society and more specifically violence in the family.

 

 

 

We ask you to pray for these young women as they share their ideas and convictions with the children in their congregations.