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.

A visit from Mark & Nancy

Mark & Nancy Garrison came to visit us in March.  We were commissioned together 25 years ago.  They grew up in India and Nepal and then returned to India to serve the church.  We enjoyed sharing stories.  Nancy,2014-03-15 08.47.43 - Copy (2)2014-03-15 09.07.13 - Copy for example had a week long journey to get to school which included a 90 mile walk!  It was great having them.

While they were here, we visited a small church in a poor neighborhood known as Los Girasoles (The Sunflowers).  It was Saturday and Pastor Erasmo shared with 30 children about Daniel and the lion’s den.  They then had a songfest inviting anyone who wanted to come to the front of the church to sing a solo.  The children lined up but it was a 4 year old who got to go first, eager to share his talent. Continue reading A visit from Mark & Nancy

Insights: Dominican Republic 2014

Sept 2013 016Ardell and I have been trying to learn about some of the social realities in the Dominican Republic.  We recently sat in on some meetings where one of the pastors, Xiomara (pronounced Seeomara), shared from her experience as a family counselor.  We greatly appreciate her candor.

She began by saying that Dominicans tend to express themselves through dance but said that they use dance to cover their grief.  Dominicans love to party and celebrate which may well be because their identity is one of existential sadness.  Xiomara shared briefly about the history of the Dominican Republic.  The original peoples, the Tainos were decimated within 50 years of the arrival of Columbus by being enslaved and then sickened by European diseases for which they had no resistance.  The DR was eventually settled by the Spanish and Haiti by the French.  These European powers brought hundreds of thousands of slaves from West Africa to do the hard labor on the sugarcane plantations.   Over time they intermarried with their captors and masters.  The racial mix of Tainos, Spanish, and Africans is the heritage of the people of the DR today.

There is a strong tendency for Dominicans today to think that they cannot solve their own problems or create their own future with their own resources.  They look to the north, to the US and Europe to lead them because they consider themselves inferior.  The DR also has a long history of choosing to live under dictatorships, under strongmen who told them what to do, what to think, and generally decided what was ‘best’ for them.  This of course had disastrous consequences.

Much of what is done today in the name of Christian mission from the North still reflects this kind of dependency.  It happens so easily because our intentions are to do good, to share from our abundance, to give to those who suffer in poverty.  It feels good to meet an immediate need but we may be contributing to a long term dependency.

The truth is that the Dominicans are not inferior to their benevolent neighbors in the North.  The Dominicans have a different history and their own set of problems to overcome.  They are gifted, creative, and resourceful just as all peoples on earth created in the image and likeness of God.  It seems as though they are not fully aware of their potential that may be hidden even from themselves.  Genocide, slavery, and international exploitation have hit them so hard that they can no longer remember who they are or where they came from.

Our mission may well be to come alongside our Dominican brothers and sisters and encourage them to see what we can see so clearly in their eyes.  After all is that not what God is always doing with each one of us, helping us to see who God created us to be, and to use the gifts we were already given?

 

 

Sunday School Curriculum for Lent

2014-03-11 11.40.12 - Copy     “We need Sunday School lessons that connect the message of the Bible with our culture and our traditions.”

“We know that the Word of God is written for us, right now, today, in the Dominican              Republic but we don’t know how to communicate this with our children, youth and adults who are hungry to grow in their relationship with God.”

Four IED pastors and four lay people joined together to write and prepare curriculum.  It is a sensitive, challenging and very rewarding process.   We began with the task of preparing  six lessons for the Lenten season,  and ended up with eight lessons; six for Lent, one to prepare for Ash Wednesday and one to

Thank you to Pastors - Copy

celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We prepared a lesson for adults and young people, one for adolescent children and one for small children, three lessons for each of the eight Sundays.

Every Sunday the pastors receive enthusiastic, grateful comments regarding the lessons.

Water at Work Meeting

DR 012 - Copy

In February (2014) we had a meeting with two leaders of the Water at Work NGO and some of the pastors of the Dominican Evangelical Church who have received water purification systems.  It was a great time of fellowship, information sharing, and prayer.

One of the principal reasons for the meeting was to discuss ways to use this ministry of water as an inroad for evangelism.  The model that we use is the encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob.  Providing a steady and affordable supply of pure water to communities who have limited resources will be an opportunity to get to know folks who otherwise would not be likely to come to the local church.

Our task is to find ways to share the Good News as naturally as Jesus did while resting beside the well.  An important first step is to open a new door to the community recognizing that we all have a right to better health afforded by clean water.  Then we can form natural friendships in our meetings beside the ‘well’ where we can offer in many varied ways an encounter with Christ.

General Assembly of the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana

2014-01-26 10.52.302014-03-06 12.14.57Every year the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana holds its general assembly in January at their church camp in Bani.  There are 217 delegates who attend the assembly which include the national pastors, lay pastors and church leaders.  They share their church reports, elect heads of service areas, and fellowship together.  Every four years a new Executive Secretary is elected.  Reverend Miguel Angel Cancu has begun his second term as Executive Secretary serving the IED churches.

The missionaries and volunteers are invited to fellowship with the pastors during this time.  We are nine in total, spread throughout the country.  It has been fun for Gordy and I to get acquainted with many of the pastors and also exciting as we are beginning ministries together.