Carol Knodle’s visit

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Carol Knodle from the Flame of Faith UMC in West Fargo, ND came to visit us in the Dominican Republic.  Carol has a long history with mission and has led many Volunteer in Mission teams in the past to our previous mission site at Thiu Rancho in Bolivia.  She would like to continue leading teams and came to see first-hand where we might do volunteer mission work together in this ‘new’ land.

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Carol and Rev. Cancu
Carol and Rev. Cancu

 

 

 

 

 

 

We toured some of the church sites where we are placing water purification houses in La Jagua and Doña Ana.  These are sites in poor communities that will offer purified water to lower income families at a minimum cost.  This ministry is modeled after Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.  It is an opportunity for the local church to reach out to persons in the community to meet a physical need for potable water and also offer an encounter with Christ and the Water that wells up Eternally.

We also took Carol to an Extension Bible School class at the home of sister Milagro, in the barrio of San Luis located in the outskirts of Santo Domingo.   There were about 20 children and adolescents present on a Saturday afternoon, bright eyed and excited to be there.  It is touching to see these kids respond to a brief Bible lesson and how readily they participate when asked questions.  There were no frills on this occasion except a packet of crackers for a snack.

The Extension Bible School meets a need of children who are hungry for a Bible story.  Hermana Milagro offers her very modest home as a refuge that is safe and a weekly reassurance of the love of God.  It is perhaps the only chance that these children have to hear the stories of Jesus.  It is a sorely needed refuge for children who feel lost in the chaos that surrounds them day to day.  We would like to find a way to support this important ministry throughout the island both with volunteer teams and offerings through our new Advance Special #3021935, Lost and Found: Children of the Dominican Republic.

We are grateful for Carol’s heart for mission and hope to host a team from the Dakotas in early 2015.

The Faith of a Child

Abraham Kim picked us up on Sunday morning, July 14th.  It took us about an hour but we finally found Pastor Maria’s little church.

When we walked in the church, they were in the middle of Sunday School.  There were two very small rooms alongside the sanctuary.  One room was about seven feet by twelve feet in size and twenty little tiny kids were there in their tiny chairs.  There were no desks and the teacher was using surplus materials from another church.  Not every child received a copy of the materials and there were no teachers’ guides.  This affected me deeply.

The other room was a smidgen larger and there were twenty five older children in that room facing the same lack of materials as the younger children.  I just smiled at their teachers, two very young girls, I didn’t know what to say to encourage them.  I am so thankful for their commitment.

This church was started eight years ago by a seminary student.  The community is one of many struggles.  It is where the Dominican Republic prisoners from the United States are released every year.

The church service started right at 11:00 am.  There were about fifteen adults in the service, a mix of older folks, grandparents, and young adults along with ten children.  There was one family of three generations with aunts, uncles and cousins,  whom I met after the service.  One teeny two year old – Francisca -had her little chair and was carrying it from one side of the center aisle to the other,  depending on whom she wanted to sit by.

One young adult man got up to read the gospel and we realized we had met him before at the central office.  His name is Omar.  He walked to the front of the congregation and began reading.  Francisca, picked up her chair and walked to the front following him and set her chair right beside him, right at his feet, facing him, and stared up at him as he read the gospel.  I have never seen anything like it.

Rev Kim proceeded to share the sermon.  He was very attentive to his audience and his sermon became more of a Bible Study as he included the adults.  The most elderly woman was so engaged in the sermon with him, it was like they were having a private conversation together.

Then came communion.  We all went to the front of the church to receive the sacraments, and so did the two year old, Francisca, and her older sister.  As we were being served by Rev Kim, she followed him on the altar with her hands held out, saying, “Here! Here I am!  I’m ready!”  She just kept saying this.  Her older sister was very quiet and respectful yet watched each one’s every move.

I was so touched by how God is so obviously working in these 2 little girls’ hearts.  They were so engaged,  so open, so expectant, and so eager.

Please God,  work in my heart that I might be the same.

So, how was church?

Sunday School class meeting under the tree.
Sunday School class meeting under the tree.

 

Ardell & Rev. Luisa
Ardell & Rev. Luisa

Ardell and I do not have a home church yet in Santo Domingo.  So this last Sunday we decided to attend a Dominican Evangelical Church (IED for short) in a not too distant neighborhood  known as Ensanche Luperón.  We know the pastor, Rev. Luisa, a wonderful spirited woman very dedicated to her church and community.

At 10:30am we arrived.  Ardell visited the Sunday School classes for children meeting outdoors and I went into the sanctuary for the last half of Adult Sunday School.  Even at mid-morning the temperature is near 90 degrees with 85% humidity.  That is why the kids meet outdoors under a big shade tree.

Surprisingly, the small sanctuary is air-conditioned, it has to be, we found out.   There is enough seating for about 80 people max but somehow 160 persons would cram in.  At 11 am there was a steady stream of brethren looking for seats and a flock of laughing, jumping children from the Sunday School.

The ‘tias’ (aunties) are enlisted to ride herd on the kids who need to sit down but just cannot seem to land as they bounce around and squirm, so filled with energy and excitement.  The ‘tias’ are patient but it is something like trying to persuade pigeons to stand in order on park benches, “Hey, get back here!”

Adoration is the first pillar of worship in the IED church.  Once it starts, momentum builds as the musicians with ascending gusto take to African and traditional drums, electric guitar and bass, a trumpet, tamborines, and something that looks like a large vegetable grater.  A few young ladies lead the singing with microphones that lift their voices above the instruments.  It is all amplified enough to clear sinuses and vibrate internal organs and so it goes for an hour and a half.

It is now 12:45pm and the sermon has not yet been given.  The sermon is the second pillar of worship and can easily go for a full hour.  Only 45 minutes this time.  And then the Lord’s Supper, the offering, a special song, and greetings.  Ardell and I are asked to say a few words being we are visitors.  I commented to the brethren that their sanctuary is too small and they need a bigger one.  A shout went up and then applause.

After the benediction, many handshakes and hugs, we flowed out into the street in the full heat of the day, now 2:15pm.  Our heads were still buzzing.  Three and one half hours of religion at high volume left us a little stunned but with a good feeling inside that along with our Dominican brothers and sisters we had indeed worshiped God.

A New Church is Consecrated

Rev. Cancu at his childhood home.
Rev. Cancu at his childhood home.

 

during the church service
during the church service

 

IED church in Samana
IED church in Samana

I had an opportunity to travel to Samana, which is a city located on a peninsula on the northern side of the island, to witness the consecration of an IED mission church.  As we were driving to the church, we stopped at Rev. Cancu’s boyhood home to greet his 101 year old mother.  She was a bump on the bed, yet took my hands so strongly and ever so quietly whispered that she is still on the earth to ‘eat a little and pray a lot’.

His sister served us a sweet, heavy cornbread with hot chocolate as we began on our way up the mountain to the mission church.

The Monte Rojo church has been a mission church for years and was consecrated as an official church that morning at 10:30.  I was so surprised to see that the church was packed with people on a Tuesday morning.  They sang many choruses and the church seemed to ‘rock’ with the movement and dancing.  They even sang 2 songs in English, “Give me That Old Time Religion” and I have no idea what the second one was because I couldn’t understand the words.  The sermon was on following God and while they were collecting the offering,  a group of young girls spontaneously stood up, went to the front of the church and began dancing in a circle.

In the midst of the celebration I was greeted warmly.

After the service we had a huge lunch of fish, okra, rice and beans and sweet potato salad.  No one left hungry.

We drove through the town of Samana on our way back to Santo Domingo and they took me past the first Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana church on the island, which  is now 189 years old.  The church was disassembled in England, shipped to the Dominican Republic and reassembled.

As we drove back to the city through the palm oil plantations, I sat in awe knowing I had witnessed the faith of many people.

Greetings

015 - CopyDear friends,

We are grateful for your prayers and your support, especially now as we begin a new mission journey with the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana (IED).

We were in a meeting this week with two national pastors, one who is the head of the seminary and a previous executive secretary for the IED.  They expressed to us that they believe it is God’s will for us to come to the Dominican Republic. It was encouraging to hear that as we seek to find our way in a new mission.

As we listen and learn from the Dominican people, we are beginning to understand what the needs are and how we can support the ministry of the church.

We do this knowing that we are together with you in mission and are aware of your prayers for us, daily.  Ardell & Gordon

Please continue reading to find our most recent newsletter,  the first from the Dominican Republic.

Vacation Bible School in Santo Domingo

July 2013 016 July 2013 010 July 2013 005 As part of our orientation process Ardell and I have been visiting some VBS programs around the city.  Our immediate observation is the masses of children that attend, 200 to 400 kids in each church.  The noise level is roaring as the teachers try to keep order and attempt to manage the presentation of a program.  It is not chaos however and the children are in their own way being attentive.

The children love to sing even if it sounds more like shouting.  There are smiles all around and a general mood of joy.  These are children of poverty and one can only imagine the circumstances they face day to day.  But at VBS there is a time to focus on God’s love and grace expressed by the caring teachers and helpers.  The sandwich and juice that are given are not the main attraction but a close second for children who are never sure of their next meal.  Singing, drama, Bible study, a bite to eat, and lots of love combine to bless a multitude of children.