Easter in the Dominican Republic

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The season of Lent is preceded by the celebration of Carnaval, two days of merriment prior to Ash Wednesday.  There are colorful parades that are historical theatre and lavish excess of dance, costumes, stilt walking, floats, and garish devil masks.  It is a feast of the flesh designed to prepare for a time of abstinence associated with Lent.  Ardell and I attended the parade two years ago and it was a lovely family event until about 6pm when the drinking got excessive and 2014-03-02 15.06.18 - Copythe crowd aggressive.  Not a good situation especially for foreigners so we made a quick exit.

In the Dominican Republic Holy Week is a national holiday where the majority of people return to their place of origin, mostly to the countryside.  It is a dangerous time to travel the highways as horrific accidents are multiplied because of the increase of traffic and impaired drivers.  Again we tried to stay out of the way and kept close to home.

We did notice that on Easter weekend, the streets are quiet with little traffic and few people.  So this has become a time for inner city families to set up the plastic kiddie pools for their children on the sidewalks.  We saw many happy children splashing around and laughing and we supposed that this may be the only weekend of the year that they get to play in water.  It seems ironic because they are only an hour away from some of most beautiful beaches in the world.

2015-04-02 15.01.21 - CopyWe celebrated Holy Week with the Dominican Evangelical Church (IED).  On Thursday we attended the Mexico IED church a block from our apartment.  It was a united service of 7 congregations from around Santo Domingo and each congregation took their turn to read scripture, pray, preach and sing.  The service began at 3:00pm and ended at 8:00pm!  Ardell and I only lasted for 3 hours and couldn’t sit any longer.  It was very worshipful and so many lay people had a chance to share a prayer, a song, and deliver their appreciation for what Christ did for us through his death and resurrection.  One elderly woman shared a song that was a bit mournful but also hopeful as she helped us remember the first Holy Week.

2015-04-03 09.07.14The next day we attended a Good Friday service at a smaller IED church with only about 20 persons gathered to remember the last 7 words of Jesus.  Again we recalled together Jesus on the  cross, humiliated, beaten, and tortured to death.  Jesus the Nazarene had the courage to stand up to Roman oppression and the Jewish religious hierarchy, both institutions so powerful and yet so helpless against a man who offered no resistance.  Jesus accepted all their hate, their fear, their arrogance, their love of power and money, their oppression of the poor and took it upon himself until he was dead.  What a crushing weight to bear their sins, our sins.

DSCF1032On Easter Sunday we attended yet another IED church located near the Colonial Zone.  The sermon was delivered by Samuel Grano d’Oro who has worn many hats: a retired pastor, seminary professor, executive secretary, and United Methodist missionary.  He gave a powerful message on the resurrection of Jesus and our own ultimate resurrection.  All of us present were filled with hope and our faith was strengthened.
321Easter is a reminder that Jesus the Christ lives and has overcome the power of evil, sin, and death.  As his followers we can have the courage to face what we are called to do.  Jesus continues to lead us to where we dare not go without him, the mean streets of life.  He is present with those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, homeless, in prison, abused, lost, addicted.  We can go there together knowing Christ not only leads us but waits for us there.  Amen.

 

 

 

Thank you

IMG_3624 - CopyThank you Carol K., Carol J., Lori, Wally, Jiggy, David, Mary & Pastor Thom  for coming to work with us as our first volunteer-in-mission team in the Dominican Republic.

IMG_3596 - CopyThank you for your willingness to come and serve in this heat and humidity, to meet the church in Mt. Rojo with open minds and hearts, to learn about the reality in the DR and to work alongside God’s people.

IMG_3342 - CopyIt speaks of your compassion and passion for mission in other lands.  May we all continue to remember those moments together, continue to allow God to work in our minds and hearts, and continually give God thanks.

Acts of Kindness in the Dominican Republic

It is so incredible to be in the presence of a kind and humble people:

IMG_4215 - CopyWe were preparing for the arrival of our first volunteer-in-mission team from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.   We were planning for the team with Reverend Cancu who is the Executive Secretary, our bishop.  We were discussing the team’s daily schedule.   Reverend Cancu said he would have Rada, the office secretary photocopy the schedule.  Later I found out that Rada was too busy.  So Reverend Cancu walked our schedule to the photocopy shop, got us 20 copies and walked back.  He is a very busy man but also a humble servant.
IMG_3607 - CopyWe lived in fellowship with the Monte Rojo church for 7 days;  painting, sewing church banners, sharing food, and growing in relationship.  The last 2 days we spent back in the capital city of Santo Domingo before the team flew back to the frozen north.  I took them for a short walk to the sea wall before they left the city.  The highway that runs along the sea is a four lane highway that has no stop lights so the constant roaring stream of traffic can make it impossible for pedestrians to cross.  As we approached the interstate,  I saw the traffic and thought,

DSC02946“How in the world am I going to get this group of folks across these solid four lanes of traffic travelling at 50 mph????”

We stood there with the ocean just across the highway but with the solid traffic keeping us from crossing. Then, a man appeared in his tourist carriage being pulled by a pathetic, bony little horse.  He saw us and understood our predicament.   He stopped his horse and carriage exactly across the four lanes from us and then slowly began to maneuver the little fellow to come up against the traffic one lane at a time.  We all stood watching in awe and trepidation as the scene unfolded.  We were amazed to see all four lanes of traffic come to a stop.  We could not believe this was being done for us as we ran across the street right past the man and his horse.  A smiling thank you hardly seemed like enough to recognize his kindness.  The man drove off with his carriage, waved and was gone.

It was a joy for us to visit Reverend Betania’s church last Sunday morning.  The people are loving and sincere in their faith and Betania is a testimony to us of God’s  grace.  As we left the church, the folks told us to walk to the corner to try and find a taxi in this very poor neighborhood.  As we approached a taxi driver, two little children,  a boy and a girl ran up to us,  all out of breath and said to the driver,  “They are from our church and we ask that you charge them a fair price.”

Return to the Dominican Republic. Vamos a trabajar.

2014-11-27 10.19.09We are back in the Dominican Republic after eight months in the U.S. visiting churches.  We are grateful to all of you for your hospitality and enthusiasm for this mission.  We did our best to inform you of the transition that we have been through leaving Bolivia and starting fresh in the Dominican Republic.

We left Minnesota with below zero temperatures and returned to this tropical island of eternal summer with temperatures in the 80’s.  It is winter here too, technically speaking, but there are no heaters needed, no winter clothing, and no snow in the forecast, the 80’s is about as cool as it gets.

042 - CopyArdell Cancu, Pedro, Jeremias - Copy041We work with the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana, the Dominican Evangelical Church.  They welcomed us back with their natural sense of hospitality and seem genuinely glad that we are here with them once again.  We are here to help and support them in their local mission.  There is plenty of work to do, the needs are endless, and they are happy to have a couple extra pair of hands.  If you have ever been part of a harvest you know the feeling when new recruits show up.

IMG_4129005We look out at the tasks ahead of us: writing Christian Education materials for hundreds ofchildren who are searching for God; setting up water purification systems for all who thirst for clean water and the waters of life in Christ that never end; receiving UMVIM teams from the U.S. so that two very different cultures may share their love and faith with one another; organizing a Bible school program that reaches children and their parents in their own communities where life is lived on the edge.

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These are the tasks that God has placed before us.  This is what we signed up for and we are really glad that we are not alone.  All of you have chosen to covenant with us to gather in this harvest.

Our Dominican brothers and sisters look at us and say, “Vamos a trabajar!” translated,  “Let’s get to work!”

Devotional Writing Workshop

2014-03-24 14.51.00 - CopyFranklin, Leo, Esmiralda, Ambar, Maria Luisa, Clinton, Nayeli, Mark, Alberto, Meybi, Esperanza, José, Genesi, Yolanda, Santa. In front, Jenny, Annika, Keila, and Ardell

I believe every person on this earth is brimming with beautiful gifts and talents.

I was blessed by God the end of March 2014 to have the opportunity to work with Mark & Jenny, friends and fellow missionaries with the Dominican Evangelical Church (Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana). We joined twelve teenagers from Batey 7 who had the task of writing devotionals to share with the other families in their community.

There are over 200 batey communities in the Dominican Republic.  Bateys are shanty towns where Haitian farm workers come to live when they arrive in the DR.  They work for 200 pesos ($5) a day cutting sugar cane.

IMG_3301  mark with the groupThese young folks along with others from their batey chose their topics of concern.  The issues are: spirituality, hygiene, employment, self-esteem, adequate housing, agriculture,  the community’s environment, the right to be recognized as citizens and to have legal documents, sexual health and education, and the rights of children and adolescents.

The mission of these young people was to connect these themes with, in Leo’s (who is 14 years old) words,  “what Jesus would say about these topics”,  in hopes of building relationships, educating and being in solidarity with the families of the batey in order to foster community development.

2014-03-25 18.05.30 - CopyJose told me the last day we were together, that when we first met with him he thought to himself, “we are never going to be able to prepare devotionals”.

I said, “And yet you did, and so beautifully.”

He just smiled.

Please read more about Mark & Jenny’s powerful ministries:

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/hare-mark/

Jenny Bent:  http://jennybent-pcusa.blogspot.com/

&  Mark Hare:  http://markandjenny–pcusa.blogspot.com/

Volunteer in Mission Medical Team to Pedro’s church

2014-03-29 12.35.04We all gathered in Pastor Pedro’s church in Neyba, an impoverished Dominican community near the Haitian border; 11 medical folks, 6 interpreters, and 4 technical people.  We met in the church building, a space of 25’x 40’ with old wooden slat walls and a tin roof.  It was hot and humid outside and all the more inside.  150 local people stood outside the open wooden doors, waiting and hoping to share their medical concerns with the doctors.

Pastor Pedro called us twice in the following week to share people’s testimonies in relationship to that day.  They had come with a host of problems; high blood pressure, skin diseases, diabetes, blindness, flu, heart problems, and more.  They cannot afford to see a local doctor so this was an opportunity to get some much needed medical attention.  It is perhaps only a ‘cup of cold water’ but to be heard and cared for was very important to them.

It was a day full of compassion and hope.