The Boat Ride

Christmas of 2018 brought the Graners together in the Dominican Republic: our family all in one place, Ardell and Gordy, Jenny and Robert (son-in-law), Samuel, and Hannah.  We are not able to be together very often, maybe once every two years so we are especially grateful for our reunions. We decided to take a week on the north coast of the country at a remote village called Las Galeras on the northeast corner of the Samana peninsula.  It is a tourist area but not very developed and never crowded, a nice place for a quiet relaxing vacation.  And so it was until we went on ‘the boat ride’.

Ardell and I wanted to take our ‘kids’ to El Fronton a secluded beach on the other side of the peninsula, a nice place for a picnic lunch and some snorkeling.  The journey to El Fronton is taken in a 20 foot skiff operated by a local Dominican and is about a 30 minute ride.

Our driver was Lelo, a young but seemingly experienced boat captain.  We each put on our life jacket, crawled into the boat and prepared ourselves for a casual ride on a bright, sunny and breezy morning.

We soon moved beyond the calm waters of the bay and into the more serious waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.  The boat began to rise and fall on 3 to 4 ft. waves and within minutes the waves were 10-15 ft.  The boat would climb up each wave and then fall into the deep trough with a slam that rattled our bones.  Up….SLAM…up…SLAM.  We grabbed for whatever we could, the sides of the boat and the seats and eventually each other.   Up…SLAM…Up…SLAM…lurch to the right…SLAM…lurch to the left…SLAM!

We were all taken by surprise and could not believe what was happening.  Three young Russian  women were in the boat with us and one of them was terrorized, and visibly shaking.  There was nothing we could do but hold on and pray we wouldn’t capsize.  And then it was over, we arrived at the beach.  The Russian women immediately asked the captain if there was a way to walk back.  There is a path to walk but it takes hours and is very strenuous.  They decided to beseech the captain to take them back by boat right away and they were off again in 20 minutes.  We stayed for our picnic lunch and quietly contemplated having to return in the same fashion as we had arrived.

Lelo had left us in the hands of Daniel, another Dominican boatman, younger and more reckless.  Daniel had a new romantic interest in a young English woman that he had met a few days before.  She was now with us in the boat for the return.  Daniel apparently wanted to impress the young lady with his superior skills in maneuvering a small boat through the high seas.  Wow!  Daniel drove like he had the devil by the tail.  I have wondered at times what it would be like to ride a bull in the rodeo.  It cannot be too far removed from what we were about to endure.  It was a feeling of terror mixed with exhilaration.   The return passage was even more wild, a slam fest, a test of our bones, a flirtation with present danger.

And then as we finally passed through the gates of hell we entered the relative calm of the bay.  But what does Daniel do?  As a parting shot he whipped us around in a high speed circle as if to say, “I am Daniel, and don’t you forget it!”

Don’t worry Daniel, we will never forget this day.  The six of us did not talk much for the rest of the afternoon as if quiet contemplation of our safety was all we had left.  Thanks be to God.

Dominican IED pastors and lay people meet to write a one-year curriculum

Nineteen of us met, along with bed bugs, scorpions and swarms of mosquitoes at the church camp in Bani.

No one seemed to give the critters notice since we were all so busy with the task at hand – which was writing Sunday School curriculum for all the congregations in the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana (IED) churches in the Dominican Republic. It was a very busy and exciting 2 1/2 days.

In the past these folks have four sets of  six-month curriculum under their belts but we have never all met to work together, to take on the task of writing for one year.  We organized into three groups of writers, took 6 blocks of themes and Bible passages and wrote a common objective for each block plus individual objectives for each lesson which are all connected to the objective for the central yearly theme.

The work was difficult.  The challenge is always to contextualize their faith, traditions and customs in the midst of the Dominican reality and struggles. The groups were hugely successful  and everyone felt fulfilled with the work.We were blessed to have special times for devotionals and worship to ask for God’s blessings and wisdom and to be unified in this ministry. In our opening ceremony together we asked folks to bring bottles of water from the areas where they live.

We then asked them to pour the water into a common bucket and share the reality of their lives.  One pastor shared that this water represents the tears of the people in her neighborhood.

 

At the end of the workshop we washed each other’s feet with this same water as a sign of solidarity in our common effort to serve the IED church in this ministry of writing curriculum.

We then gave each person a little bottle of the water to take home as a reminder of the unity we share as IED curriculum writers.

There were fun times too as we participated in dynamics that tried to tie in to our challenges.  Laughter always seems to bring insight and relief in the midst of stress.

 

Each writer received a beautiful stained glass lapel pin and assembled a stained glass cross together  to honor their work.

 

These days have laid the base for this set of curriculum.  All the writers are committed to continue studying, praying and writing until the completion of these materials which is projected for mid-April. 

Thank you to Caleb and Julio.  These two young men have drawn beautiful illustrations to be featured in the lessons.

 

I especially want to thank Lisa Crismore, Cathy Alexander and Lucas Endicott.  Your presence, accompaniment, and support to all of us is greatly, greatly appreciated.Thank you all for your prayers and support of this ministry.  Ardell

 

Pedernales: A bustling border town

Monday, October 29, 2018, Gordon Graner writes:

On market days this dusty town on the Haitian border becomes a beehive of activity.  But instead of bees there are hundreds of motorcycles at work moving people and goods to market.

We were working out of a church building on the main route to the market.  We had to dodge the motorcycles as we were constantly crossing the street to set up and use 12 solar ovens.

We had relied on a pastoral couple to gather what was promised to be a large group of people who wanted solar ovens.  However, while those who gathered were enthusiastic, many were adolescent girls and just a handful of women.  With hopes somewhat deflated I asked the pastor what we could do to attract more people.

 

His answer was to go immediately to the radio station and broadcast a message about solar ovens and invite the masses.  So we did.  We drove to the radio station, hopped out of the jeep, and marched directly into the radio booth.  Three men were seated at three microphones doing a live broadcast and were unfazed by our sudden presence in the room.  In less than two minutes I was invited to sit at a microphone to tell our story, live.   We had no appointment, paid no money, and apparently only needed the pastor there to authenticate our mission.

It was so cool.  I could only laugh at what seemed both marvelous and ridiculous at the same time.  When we got back to our solar oven site, I told the crew that I was just on the radio.  What I wanted to say but did not say was that we should prepare ourselves for perhaps a hundred women for tomorrow’s demonstration.   Inside my soul I was excited about the possibilities.

Next day the same group of women showed up, perhaps one or two more.  This was far short of the 100 women I had envisioned.  But we went ahead with the demonstration taking full advantage of the clear skies and hot sun.  Oven temperatures went as high as 335 degrees F.

 

Then about 11 am an apparent VIP appeared with his entourage.

He is famous in these parts as a journalist who has put Pedernales on the map.  He was very friendly to us and recorded the entire solar oven cooking scene for about 20 minutes.  Why did he show up all of a sudden?  Could it be he was listening to the radio the day before?  Stay tuned.

Back in the Dominican Republic

On Oct. 3, 2018 I arrived back home to the Dominican Republic after a 10 week stay in the US.  I was in Atlanta where I underwent two surgeries to fix my right shoulder that I had injured last May while hiking.  The torn rotator cuff has been repaired and seems to be reattaching to the bone.  Now it is a matter of allowing the healing to continue while at the same time doing physical therapy to recover my range of motion.  I will not be able to do any heavy lifting for some months which will limit my usefulness for solar oven demonstrations.  But I can accompany the teams and lend a hand (my left).

Christian Education in Samana, Dominican Republic

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Rev. Betania and I rode the Caribea Tours bus to the Samana peninsula to share a Christian Education workshop with the IED teachers and leaders there.  It was pouring rain for the whole weekend yet folks still came out and it was an amazing weekend.

Rev. Betania shared about the liturgy of the church, which is always a hot topic for them because the Dominican Evangelical Church was born of three mothers, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Moravian.

I intended to share five Sunday School lessons with them so they could learn the format we are incorporating into the children’s lessons.   I walked through one lesson with them from Mark 7: verses 24-30.  It’s the passage of the Syrophoenician woman talking with Jesus.  The lessons for children 3-6, 7-12 and the teenagers each involved a different dynamic or activity.  By the time we had done all three of these dynamics, they had so many questions and comments and got so involved in the lesson that we had no more time to walk through the other four lessons.  I guess this was a success in spite of the time limit.  Without a doubt though, we all learned a lot.

We were then invited to attend the harvest festival at one of the country churches up the mountain in Monte Rojo (Red Mountain). You can see the Caribbean Sea on one side of the mountain and almost see the Atlantic on the other, just on the other side of a lush green valley.The service rocked, almost literally from the beginning to the end with the rhythmic choruses sung with fervor and gusto.  The harvest crops decorated the whole sanctuary lying on the alter and hanging from the ceiling (ayame, platanos, guineos, ñame, yautia, ajis, yucca,batata and coconut) as a testament to the blessing of God.  The topper was a drama with the ladies of the church portraying

the 10 virgins in the passage from Matthew 25: 1-13 about having oil in their lamps.

A serious passage but homegrown drama is always good for some sidesplitting laughter.

Betania and I traveled back to the capital in Caribea Tours with joy and satisfaction in our souls.