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South Dakota Medical VIM Team to the Dominican Republic

Julia Jones from First UMC of Pierre, South Dakota brought her third medical team to the DR in May 2017.  Bishop Cancú of the Dominican Evangelical Church asked that we work in a town called Montecristi with Pastor Deisy and her husband Lorenzo.  Montecristi is in the extreme northwest corner of the DR very near to the Haitian border.  It is where Deisy and Lorenzo are planting a new church so hosting a medical team is a great way to demonstrate God’s love for this community.

We worked out of Deisy and Lorenzo’s parsonage which is also their provisional church building.  In a crowded space we had three doctors seeing patients, a pharmacy, and a small set up for distributing reading glasses.  Three fans saved us from the stifling heat.  One afternoon the electricity went out and we had to move the clinic outside and worked under the shade of a tree and a tarp.  Not ideal conditions but God’s grace made it all work like a fine tuned sewing machine.

The medical team provided medications, vitamins, new tooth brushes, and reading glasses all of which was received with gratitude.  But above all the team was care giving, sharing smiles, hugs, and words of assurance and hope.  In return the patients shared the very same things with their care givers.  All of us were touched by the presence of Christ.

 

We took a day off to tour an incredible event.  We drove to Dajabón, a nearby market town on the border of the DR and Haiti.  Twice a week the border is opened to allow marketing back and forth between the two countries and it is wild!  Deisy wisely made sure we were safe by sending a Dominican ‘body guard’ with each of us.  There was a crush of humanity that we could not have navigated without our helpers.  It was seemingly impossible to actually stop and shop and buy something and after about 15 minutes of being herded through the endless market we were all ready to leave or perhaps to flee.  It was one of those experiences that we really appreciated but do not need to repeat.

On behalf of the Dominican Evangelical Church, Pastors Deisy and Lorenzo, a host of Dominicans from Montecristi, and two UMC missionaries we would like to thank Julia, Kathy, Ann, Tom, Cindi, Nelson, Deb, Dairy, Loriedy, Dan, Terry, Carissa, and Mario for sharing their lives and talents with us so graciously.

Solar Ovens in Samana

Dear Friends,

In the first week of April we were able to carry out a string of solar oven demonstrations with our Dominican team.  These demonstrations were filled with enjoyable new experiences and also challenging as we were a small team of only 5 people.  But all the hard work was rewarding as the people who attended were so enthusiastic and receptive.

Our director Pastor Erasme, Rev. Maria, Gertrudis, Gordy and I visited three villages on the Samaná peninsula, El Limón, Villa Clara and Mt. Rojo.

 

After our final demonstration in El Limon, we weren’t all able to fit in the pickup with our supplies so our pickup went on ahead without us to take the load of tools and equipment to our next place which was Mt. Rojo.  The plan was that he would return for us in an hour.

In the meantime Erasme invited us to the local river.  The water was cool and clean and we were hot and dirty so we all jumped in with our blue jeans and t-shirts to play with the children and get totally refreshed.  The pickup didn’t return until 3 hours later.

Since we had sold all the ovens that we had made, we needed to assemble at least 15 more ovens to be prepared for the next morning. Instead of going back to Samaná to rest, we traveled directly up the mountain to where the Mt. Rojo church is located.  In the cool evening air Erasme, Gordy, myself and a handful of local volunteers built 20 ovens finishing at 10:00 pm.

We all know the ladies from the Mt. Rojo church, so they feel very comfortable with us.  When we arrived the next morning, over 30 of them greeted us, excited and ready to cook. They brought a bucket full of tubers with them wondering if the ovens would also cook these.  At that very moment there was a complete cloud cover.  Gertrudis said I kind of jumped with panic when they asked me, but I wanted to have faith the sun would appear so I enthusiastically said, “of course!”   We cooked mapuey, ñame, yautia, yucca, rice with coconut milk, tayota, moro with coconut milk, coconete, bread from their recipe and of course, platanos.

I am happy to report that the sun did come out, everything cooked just right, the women were in awe, and we all celebrated.

1st set of Extension Bible School curriculum

On March 23rd, a Tuesday morning, Rev. Betania and I took our first set of curriculum for Extension Bible School to be printed.

This set, with four months of lessons, has taken us 3 years to prepare.  We have visited many of the 39 Extension Bible School sites around the country that the IED church hosts.  We’ve watched the children and talked with the volunteer teachers and volunteer church members where the classes are hosted, always in a cramped space around the person’s home.

I even had the blessing of being involved with beginning a new Extension Bible School in one of the IED churches on the northern cost of the country.  It was held in the mom’s fluttered yard with dead tree trunks, branches and bushes everywhere.  There were approximately 20 children from ages 3 to 15 years old.  There were no chairs for the kids to sit in.  The class was totally dynamic and the children were thrilled and 100% engaged.

This series of classes is written to help the children understand their own reality in the Dominican Republic in the light of the gospel.  The teachers and church leaders shared 12 themes with Rev. Betania and I a year ago that affect their society and their children.

The four themes chosen to begin the series are:  Identity, Carnaval, Safe & Healthy Entertainment, and Education.

The methodology we have used for this curriculum is to focus on one theme each month.  The first week we address the reality of this theme.  The second week is dedicated to study this theme in the light of the gospel.  The third week the children are able to invite their parents and they are then able to formulate their learning and present it to their parents.  The fourth week they are involved in a mission in relationship to this theme.

Please say a prayer for these churches and moms involved in reaching out to their children.

Walking in Santo Domingo

Walking in Santo Domingo has many challenges. In this city of 4 million people, pedestrians seem to have no rights and there is a stigma against people who walk instead of ride in a vehicle.  We are considered to have no worth, second class citizens.

Gordy and I consider it a privilege to be able to walk here yet we are always aware of the dangers and difficulties: the broken sidewalks, posts sticking out ready to impale, random holes, and piles of construction materials.  The wide open storm sewers are filled with garbage belching out nasty odors.   There are garbage piles on the sidewalks which attract rats that occasionally run out in front of you.  And there seems to be no law against parking cars and trucks on the sidewalks.   In addition, the motorcycle drivers are increasingly using the sidewalks as their very own speedway.   And to cross the street, any street, most often means being on red alert.

But there are gentler times also.  One day as I was walking home, trying to be careful, a couple walked in front of me.  They were both blind, holding hands, with their guiding sticks in their opposite hands.  They were in a particularly tricky part of the sidewalk and were attempting to cross one of the very busy streets at the same time.  I stopped walking to see if they needed any assistance, while at the same time trying not to be maternalistic.  Others responded to the couple also and immediately came to their aid.

I understand that Lent recalls the time when Jesus was in the wilderness and there were many struggles and dangers that threatened him.  This was a time of growing and standing firm in His faith.  As I continue to wrestle with supporting the pastors and lay leaders with curriculum writing, I find myself struggling to find a way to share the faith and the Bible stories with the children of the church.  I think one of the strongest messages that God tries to teach us, and I always want children to realize, is that we are not alone as we walk.  There are many real hazards out there, yet God is always with us and we can encourage each other to keep on walking.

VIM from the Dakota and Minnesota

In February 2017 we hosted a team from the Dakotas-Minnesota Conference.  We traveled to the north coast of the island to the Samaná region.  There we worked with Pastor Pedro at the Villa Clara Church where he serves.

We painted, did various sewing projects, visited the local school, walked the community, visited two chapels with gifts of school supplies, helped with a new extension Bible school start-up, and survived an excursion to the El Limón waterfalls.

 

 

 

 

 

When we take an excursion we seek an experience of the local culture.  We knew a visit to the falls of El Limón involved a 45 minute horseback ride to get there.  Sounds nice.  It wasn’t.

It was a harried adventure involving steep rocky muddy trails that only a horse or mule could navigate, followed by a half hour descent on foot down another steep muddy crude stairway to finally reach the falls.

 

 

The beauty of the falls was tempered by thoughts of having to return the same way we came.  By the grace of God and resilience of our team there were no injuries and we all escaped with only sore muscles and a good story to tell.

 

 

One afternoon we walked about a 1/2 mile to the home of a parishioner who is sponsor of a new class of extension Bible school.  This class is designed for kids in poor communities who are not part of any church.  About 20-30 kids showed up full of excitement.  The outdoor space we had was limited but we somehow made it work.  Together we sang, prayed, made name tags, played a jump rope game, and listened to a brief talk about God’s creation.  What was impressive was the children’s focus and attention to the program.  What appeared a recipe for chaos was instead received with an ordered excitement.  What a joy to witness these children fully enjoying their new Bible school class.  Each face tells a story and reflects the glory of God.

We would like to thank Carol K., Carol J., Wally, Jiggy, and Lois for sharing their time, resources, and love with all the Dominican people they encountered.  We hope that they also received a full measure of love in return.  You have new treasures in heaven.  Well done friends.

 

Volunteers in Mission from Reno, Nevada

If you want to get to know someone in a short time spend 10 days with them doing mission work.  When I first read the list of names of the 14 volunteers from the South Reno team I could only guess what kind of people they are.  After reading their biographical sketches I had at least a small window into their lives.  Now after working with them I read their names again and feel a warmth and fondness, like we are part of a big family.

We invited the team to work in La Jagua, a small settlement of former sugarcane cutters.  We worked on building a small apartment for the local pastor, teaching the children in vacation Bible school, and assembling and distributing solar ovens.  Here are two verbal snapshots:

Construction:  We had to move hundreds of cement blocks from the street to the second floor where the apartment is being built.  Next door to us is a place that plays music loud enough to change the barometric pressure and that attracts young boys to hang out.  They watched us moving block and sent over a couple of reps to make a deal to move the block for us.  As older men we gave it some thought, maybe 30 seconds worth, and decided that “yes” we would allow these young energetic boys to share the load and would happily pay them their price.    We are not lazy but neither are we blind to a smart win-win opportunity.

Christian Education:  Carol Oliver from the Reno team has been working on her Spanish and was looking forward to putting it to use.  The team was teaching the children the stories of Jesus healing the sick.  Carol took great pains to explain the story to a young girl from La Jagua.  In her best Spanish Carol said, “Jesus healed the sick.”  The word sick in Spanish is enfermo, but Carol used the word enfermero, just slightly different, which translated is male nurse.  So what the girl heard was, “Jesus healed the male nurse!”  This did not make any sense to the young girl who then emphatically told Carol, “No te entiendo por nada!!!” (I don’t understand you, AT ALL!!!)  As she said it she made a gesture with her hand as if casting words out of her mouth.  Carol stood corrected but with a smile on her face.

These were two lighter moments in a week filled with a lot of hard work in an impoverished community.  By the end of our time we were exhausted but also invigorated by sharing life and love with the people of God in La Jagua.

Our sincere thanks to Cheryl Eckert, Dawn and Dennis Blundell, Eleanor Raispic, Annie Hodge, Dave and Carol Oliver, Gay and Boyd Jeffrey, Bob and Ellen Thomas, Susan and Bill Boon, and Margery Marshall.  It is a blessing to be working with you in mission.