Montecristi

Last night I dreamt all night about assembling solar ovens.  It was not a nightmare but disturbing and I awoke this morning feeling exhausted.  The dream originated from a week spent in Montecristi on another Solar Oven mission.

A team of volunteers from the Dakotas and Minnesota joined forces with brothers and sisters from the Dominican Republic to distribute ovens in three communities.

It was our most fruitful outing to date as we circulated new solar ovens to 164 Dominican families.

 

It is a joy to be a part of such a successful event but it came at a price.  We were not prepared to build and distribute so many ovens.  All the ovens that we had brought with us were gone by the third day so we had to get about 100 more out of our storage facility in Baní, 7 hours away.  The team assembled 140 ovens during the week, a daunting task that left us bushed, zonked, bagged, and hardly able to get our shoes off before falling into bed at night.  One of our members, a classical pianist, was seen with her face squarely pressed against the lunch table as if she had done a nose dive.  I had never seen anyone rest their head like that but it seemed fitting given the pace we had set.

 

We did have a couple hours on Sunday afternoon for an excursion to the beach and a hike up the Morro, a tall flat topped hill somewhat similar to a Dakota butte.  Another of our members, a professional translator, sought to scale the Morro and got half way up and decided that was  enough.  She sent the other hikers on ahead and took time to take some photos of the surrounding landscape.  Three of our Dominicans, the chauffeur, the chemist and the cook were observing the hikers from below and beheld their team member apparently stalled half way up the Morro.

They feared she was in trouble because her camera seemed to be reflecting the sunlight in such a way that the chemist thought perhaps she was signaling a call for help in Morse code.  At that point another team member, a horticulturist who speaks no Spanish arrived and tried to tell the worried chemist that the stalled member was ok and was just walking down very slowly.  She communicated this by doing a slow walk pantomime.  Enter the journalist team member who comes to the scene and asks, “Are we playing charades?”

You see when a group of people get too tired their minds play tricks on them, their imaginations can take them down the rabbit hole where there is bound to be adventure and comic relief.

Our special thanks to the volunteers in mission from the Dakotas and Minnesota: Marj, Scott, Colleen, Chris, Deb, Wally, Carol, Lori, Rachel, Kathryn, Emily, and Zona.  Your presence with us is your greatest gift.  Your dedication to building the Kingdom of God is a testimony to the love of God for those who are hidden but not forgotten.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Amen.

Night Sweats

In January of 2018 we were doing solar oven demonstrations in Neyba, located on the western fringe of the country.  We stayed in a small hostel in the downtown area.  There was lots of noise with all the motorcycles and party bars up and down the street.  In the middle of the night when the noise had quieted down I heard a loud, BANG, just outside my door.  A gunshot for sure and I froze in fear not knowing what to do.  The hostel has no security but the other team members in adjoining rooms were not stirring.  Did they not hear the gunshot?  So I just stayed put, listening, and then came another BANG, and I thought we were in for some terror.  I felt helpless and dared not open the door.  After an hour or so I went back to sleep.

Next morning I came down to the lobby and my teammates were gathered talking and laughing like all was normal.  I told the proprietor about the gunshots I had heard in the middle of the night, and asked what happened.  He said he hadn’t heard any gunshots and after thinking about it awhile said it was probably just mangos falling from the trees and hitting a tin roof.  I thought to myself, “Mangoes, are you kidding me, no way!”

Next night I hear it again, BANG!!  But this time after the BANG I hear the sound of something rolling off the roof, like a mango. 

First Home Visits in Tamayo

Good Morning Friends,

As I write this,  Gordy and Erasme are in Neyba doing a second Solar Oven demonstration.  Neyba is one of the cities on the southwest side of the country where we went for the first time in December with our U.S. Solar Oven director, Marj and the international team.  Neyba doesn’t have an IED pastor but they do have a dynamic lay leader who all week long holds services in the tiny church, built with wood slats that can’t keep the rain out.

As I write to you this morning I remember January 5th and 6th, which is All King’s Day around the world.  We were in Tamayo, sharing a second demonstration with folks who requested a second visit.  This was our first follow-up visit and we had an amazing time.

The second day of the demonstration, we got to cook with ladies who have become familiar with what the ovens can do, confident even.  They were both serious and happy to be with us.  We could tell they were soaking up as much as they could and asking lots of questions in order to work with the ovens they would receive.

The day prior, the sun was hiding behind clouds.  In lieu of not having our primary energy source, we walked through the workshop and then went to visit folks who received ovens when we were first there in December.  Jairol, Pastor Elsa’s husband, knows everyone and took us to visit six different family homes.  These times were incredible.  It was so humbling to be received in their homes and hear about their experiences with their ovens.

At one point I had to laugh hearing Jairol tell about how one person after another brought their solar-oven-cooked-food to share with them:

They ohhed and ahhed at the ginger cookies Jaciline baked,

Migilin showed off her fluffy rice,

and one day as Jairol was walking by Abuela Jovani’s house, he yelled in,

“The chicken on your roof sure smells good!”

As we finished our family visits, we arrived at Jairol’s gate.  Elsa came out of the house to meet us.  Jairol stopped and said very seriously, “Now you have to hear about our cooking.”   We burst out laughing.  He then turned to Elsa and said, “Tell them!”  Elsa proceeded to tell us everything Jairol had cooked in the past three weeks in their new oven.

May God Have the Glory!

A Pastor’s Dream Sunday in the new Chapel in Monte Cristi

Today was a pastor’s dream Sunday, but it wasn’t Sunday, it was Friday December 22nd, the Friday before Christmas.   Gordy and I rode to Monte Cristi,  a 5 hour road trip from the capital to the far northwestern part of the country, with Rev. Cancu, who is the Executive Secretary (Bishop in United Methodist terms) of the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana(IED).  .

This is where Deisy and Lorenzo are now pastoring a new IED chapel church.

They were able to build a new sanctuary with the help of Kim Bland and Volunteers-in-Mission from the United Methodist churches in the southern U.S.  The new sanctuary has a tin roof with open spaces between the roof and the walls.  Lorenzo had fallen off the roof during construction and slit open his foot.  He had to receive surgery and stitches in order to begin healing.  There was a home-made wooden cross on the altar that Lorenzo made, and a smaller cross on the pulpit with words in English from Psalm 23 that a medical VIM team brought from Pierre, South Dakota.

Julio was painting the words:

IGLESIA   E V A N G É L I C A  DOMINICANA

on the front of the church as we drove up.  There were about 50 second hand chairs set up and Loredi and Dairy, 2 of Deisy’s children had gone to find more plastic chairs.  As the church filled with children and moms, many were standing outside.

Kim shared the sermon.  Rev. Cancu dedicated the new sanctuary then blessed and dedicated 8 small children.  He baptized 10 youth and then lectured them about the meaning of their baptism and his expectations for them.  He welcomed 2 new members from other churches and accepted their transfers.  We all shared communion and sang lots of choruses.   Rev. Cancu then introduced the missionaries to the congregation and prayed for everyone.

As we left the service we received little packets of broken candy canes and crackers.  Deisy and Lorenzo took all the children home in many trips in their little car because by the time the service finished it was dark and it wasn’t safe for them to walk.

We ate boiled bananas, boiled yucca and scrambled eggs together.

Pastor Deisy shared with Gordy and I that many of the children and youth who came are very poor, some live in houses with dirt floors, and some are orphaned.  She shared that the group of 10 who were baptized are very committed to the church already.  She has many dreams for a community library and a Solar Oven ministry.

Let’s be in prayer and solidarity with Rev. Deisy and Lorenzo.

Solar Oven Mission to Tamayo, Uvilla and Neyba

Ardell and I arrived back in the Dominican Republic on Monday, December 4th in the afternoon.  A solar oven team from South Dakota was due to arrive that same night but they got delayed by a snow storm and did not arrive until Wednesday afternoon, December 6th.  That delay gave us a day at home to begin to resettle, a blessing for us but a pain in the neck for the South Dakota team.

When the team arrived we decided to go directly to the worksite in Tamayo, about a 5-6 hour drive to the west.  After dark we arrived to the home of Pastor Elsa and her husband Jairo  and were served a light meal of plantains and yucca with passion fruit juice.  Plantains and yucca are the Dominican equivalent to our potatoes.  And passion fruit, well, we have no equivalent to that intensity of sweet and sour.  We ate our fill and bedded down at the local econo-hotel.

The following night our team was visited by a prowler at 3:00am who stole a wad of cash from two rooms of team members while they were sleeping.  There was quite a stir that began about an hour later with the arrival of police, detectives, the town mayor, and other official types.  A chunk of money was lost but no one was hurt and so we checked out of the inhospitable inn and found other accommodations about an hour away in Neyba.

Elsa and Jairo were grieved over the incident and so ashamed that we got robbed in their town.  But we assured them that we were ok and would not be deterred from our mission.  The work of a solar oven demonstration is intense and requires a singular focus of thought and energy as to leave no room for rumination over small misfortunes.  We moved on and had a great week of solar oven activities.

God is gracious and always present with us but that doesn’t guarantee that we will not hit some jarring potholes in the road.  Remember the journeys of the Apostle Paul who was often in danger, whipped, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked.  It seems that our resolve to follow Jesus will be tested from time to time.  When we get knocked down, we hope to get back up, dust ourselves off, and continue on, not discouraged but rather blessed.

Three Months in the USA

Ardell and I traveled home to the USA for 3 months (Sept. – Nov. 2017) of church visitations mostly in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

How would we best describe this time?  Looking back one might say it was intense and yet restful, stressful and yet refreshing, feeling homeless yet always welcome in the homes of family and friends, wild and fearful driving in big cities and then long stretches of road across the prairies that would bring sweet memories of times past.

In our 3 month journey there was a quiet flow of goodness through our lives, the grace of God that came to us through other people – local church congregations, family, and friends.  Maybe it’s a sign of age but life seems most abundant when we listen to one another’s stories.  Most of our conversations are stories of one sort or another that we need to tell in order to feel that someone else understands and cares.  We had lots of conversation on this trip, time to listen and to tell.  And now that we are back in the Dominican Republic we can unwrap and enjoy these stories and memories like Christmas gifts.

We told our mission story many times but it did not become tiresome because you listened and you asked questions.  You are interested because we are connected by a common desire to be in mission together.  What we have to share is not earth shaking but rather a quiet good news of God at work in the Dominican Republic.

Thank you for all your hospitality: for opening your homes, for sharing meals (especially all those wonderful potluck feasts), and for giving us space in your churches and your schedules for our presentation.  You made us feel welcome and we hope you found new information and inspiration.