February 1-10, 2019: a volunteer in mission team from First UMC Sartell, MN came to the Dominican Republic and they claimed to be the best team ever (wink). When we first laid eyes on them at the Punta Cana airport we thought to ourselves, ‘yes, they do look hale and hearty but the best team ever ???, we shall see about that.
This is the first volunteer team that we have welcomed at the Punta Cana airport. Hundreds and thousands of people arrive to Punta Cana daily from all over the world to vacation at some of the best beaches on this earth. The difference with the Sartell team is that they did not get on a shuttle to go to a nearby pristine beach.
Rather they got on a bus that took them miles and miles away from paradise to begin a week of intense, no frills mission in an impoverished corner of the country. It was a clear example of the Biblical call to enter by the narrow gate.
The Sartell team came to work and were not disappointed. The solar oven ministry is labor intensive and circumstances often require us to put in overtime. We had to put in long hours to the point of exhaustion and many pushed their immune systems too far and fell ill for a day or two.
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To counter such a draconian workload, the team leader, Pastor Randy, wisely encouraged us to take some time after our dinner each evening to tell jokes. The jokes were to be short, clean, and funny. All the jokes were clean, most were short, and a precious few were funny. Many jokes were about Ole and Lena. You know like the one where Ole is on his deathbed, smells fresh cookies baking and Lena tells him he cannot have one because she made them for the funeral. Yeh, that kind of joke.
And we shared lots of stories. I wanted to tell the team about the time Ardell (Louisa) entered the lutefisk toss at the Hoosterlingen Winter Games in Norway. She threw a three pound gelatinous gob of cooked lutefisk 73 feet, nine inches. Turns out it was a new world record for an ex-Lutheran woman over 60. (And she likes everyone to know that it was against the wind.) But we didn’t tell it cause we were brought up not to brag.
And speaking of records, the Sartell team built and distributed 171 solar ovens in five days. They have set the bar high for any teams that may have the fortitude to try and beat it in the future. I told them not to brag about it but imagine they probably told it to strangers on the airplane on their way home.
It is impossible to tell the Sartell story in a few paragraphs. But we must decide, were they the best team or not? Well let’s put it this way, Pastor Randy, Sy, Rick, Amanda, Amy, Peggy, Mark, Joan, Rachel, Brendan, Gene, and Chuck gave the people of the Dominican Republic their best selves and that was just right, just what God had hoped for. And God only sends the best.