Fun with Cookies

dsc00882Whenever I have made cookies, or any dessert for that matter, in the last four years, the Dominicans love it.  So this Christmas, we decided to give cookies in a jar to the folks we work with in the church office.  For those who don’t know what these are, you put all the ingredients for a certain cookie in layers in a nice jar and then include a little note that says what to do with these ingredients and what is lacking so they can add them when they bake the cookies in their homes.  I chose an oatmeal cookie because it is the favorite of the pastor who I work with.  I added chocolate chips and a handful of M&M’s to the jars to make them colorful.  The little note told them they then needed to add an egg, ½ cup of butter and a tsp of vanilla.

We gave away 9 jars and each person seemed so happy and thanked us.

Yesterday, Rev. Betania shared with me about her experience with the cookies.  She laughed hysterically the whole time she was telling me the story.   Betania has three college age sons and they were all in on the baking together.

First, she had to light her gas oven, which she told me she had never used before so had no idea what would happen.  She ordered the boys outside since no one ever trusts gas stoves here. She was very happy with herself that all went well.

She then ordered her sons to figure out the temperature in the oven, since this is the second big problem with gas ovens here, they run very hot.  They told her there was nothing they could do.

Now she had to find a cookie sheet.  I don’t know how she solved this problem but I imagine she used the closest thing she had in her cupboard.

She then mixed the cookies just like I had indicated but when she was finished she decided they were too thick, even though I said on the recipe that they would be. She and her sons looked at the dough and decided in needed another egg.  Then she thought about me and trusted I knew what I was talking about, yet she still had doubts, so told her sons that she thought the cookies needed just a little milk added to the dough.  Luckily before she added it, she called another person we work with, who had also made the cookies and Rada assured her that NOTHING else was needed.

She said they then had a great time making the little balls and placing them 2 inches apart from one another.  When the first batch came out of the oven, they all cheered and had to make sure they were good so all tried one.  Betania felt very confident finishing the dough and baking all the cookies.  She put them in the cupboard and said they would have them for dessert after their meal of rice and beans that night, which was New Year’s Eve.  She then went to visit another person in the church before coming home to start cooking.

When she got home, there were no more cookies, not even one.  She calmly asked the boys, “Where are the cookies?”  They all just smiled.

God’s Hope for Us

Dear Friends,

dsc00885Gordy and I walked to the Malecon last night, which is the sea wall in Santo Domingo.  It’s about a 20 minute walk for us.  I wanted to show Gord the life size nativity scene that sits at the foot of a monument that the dictator Rafael Trujillo built. It is in the middle of a roundabout on an extremely busy four lane boulevard. If you face the nativity scene and look down the boulevard, on the right side are huge hotels and casinos as far as you can see and on the left side is the Caribbean Sea.   I was so disappointed because the scene was not in perfect condition.  The three wise men were blown over and the wind had moved the donkey from its designated place.  I wanted to run out in front of all the cars zooming by and set everything back up and make it the perfect nativity scene we all know.

The lesson that Reverend Betania and I wrote for the children for Christmas Day this year was that the children themselves would take the Christmas story of Jesus birth and name all the characters in Jesus’ life to be people and animals from today.  And then the children did a drama sharing the birth of Jesus today in their reality.

Jesus is born to us, not in the midst of a perfect world.  This is our reality.  God came to earth as a new born baby and is with us, in the midst of all the hurt and confusion and suffering of the world.  We are not alone. This is our hope.  We say that we love God and love Jesus and if our words are alive we can share love and compassion and mercy to ALL those around us.  This is God’s hope for us.

dsc00892Gordy and I are so grateful for all of you.  We are so blessed to be together with you in this mission as we begin a New Year, 2017.  Jesus is born anew and God is with us.  We can speak of hope to others, live with hope in our own lives, and share this hope with everyone around us.  Immanuel !

Solar Oven Partners, Barahona, DR, December 2016

so-6-12-16Prior to the arrival of the team it had been raining for weeks which is not a good sign for a mission that requires lots of sun to be successful.  We were worried.  We even had thoughts of rescheduling the event.  But we decided to move ahead and adapt to whatever sunshine was available.  We had 6 full days of sunshine and 6 amazing solar oven cooking demonstrations, thanks be to God.

so-4-12-16so-12-16We hosted another fine group of South Dakotans and one from Michigan, hardworking and dedicated volunteers.  We traveled west and south to the Barahona region and visited Cabral, Fundación, Canoa, and Vicente Noble.  It was a first time visit to each of these villages and all who attended the workshops were enthusiastic about solar oven cooking.  The doors are open wide for follow-up visits planned for next year.

so-10-12-16Solar Oven Partners sent two board members, Gene Bethke and David Silbernagel, to make a covenant agreement with the Dominican Evangelical Church.  The covenant for solar oven ministry in the Dominican Republic was signed by the bishop, Rev. Miguel Angel Cancú, by the president of social action, Rev. Maria Bock and by Gene and David.  Our common mission is now official and we anticipate many years of service together to get solar ovens into the hands of people who need it most, with the love of God as our bond.

so-8-12-16We are very grateful to the volunteers for all their work and for sharing themselves with us.  Our thanks to Gene and Wanda, David, Dale, Darci and Zach, Paula, and Wade and to the Dominican team members: Rev. Maria, Rev. Erasme, Pedro, and Mario.  After 10 days together of hard work, laughter, devotions, worship, breakfast sandwiches, Pedro’s antics including arm wrestling with Gene at the Pizzeria, getting thrashed by ocean waves, David’s magic phone that translates languages, watching a strange assortment of videos on the bus – Pedro’s picks, we came away with the feeling that we have been touched by God, that we have treasures in heaven.

Curriculum for Advent & Christmas

advent-croppedReverend Betania and I are happy to have finished a five lesson set of curriculum for children and adults for the Advent and Christmas season, which begins next Sunday, the 27th of November.

cropped-advent-workshopWe were able to organize 3 workshops so far to share the materials with the IED teachers and pastors to help them to understand the lessons.   All the lessons are dynamic and interactive.

cropped-san-cristobalTeachers here are used to holding the book and reading to their students so this is a very new methodology for them.  They are happy yet not at all used to it.

In Memory of Amarilis

cropped-amarilisAmarilis (the first person on the right) was hired to clean our church office but she did so much more than that.  She cooked lunch everyday for those who stay over the noon hour.  The staff persons who stay for lunch often have very little money to put into the hat for even a basic lunch.  And some of the staff members have dietary restrictions mostly from having diabetes.  Amarilis took on this task with grace and humility, her chance to share the love of Christ.

Amarilis lived in a distant part of Santo Domingo, a two hour bus ride each way on four different buses.  It cost her over half her salary to do so.  After paying her bus fare she was left with about $50 for a month of full time work.  She has four children.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people as we all know.  In the case of Amarilis there is no way to even imagine any kind of reason for her tragedy.  She was doing laundry at her home at 11:30pm because the electricity had just come back on.  Power outages are so common that one must take advantage of the few hours that it is available.

Amariilis was hanging her clothes on a wire connected to the neighbor’s home and to hers.  Because of faulty wiring throughout her neighborhood somehow there was high voltage coming through her clothesline from her neighbors iron window bars.  It never had done that before.  She was electrocuted.  Her husband rushed to her not knowing why she was on the ground.  When he touched her he too was electrocuted.

Amarilis lived her faith quietly as a servant, and in humility took up the towel and basin to love like Jesus loved.  Her extended family will take up the task of raising the children and her church community will pitch in also.  The pain will subside but the loss cannot be recovered.  And even though this tragedy shook all of us who knew her, we will forget and move on.

It seems to me that this story is not uncommon among the urban poor of Santo Domingo but those of us with better fortunes rarely see it or even hear of such accounts.  We know poverty as statistics or we do not even know it at all.  I know Jesus was and is present in a special way in the life of Amarilis and her family and her community.  That gives me comfort.  I also know that I overlooked Amarilis at the office, it took me months to even get to know her name.  That makes me very sad.

Christian Education Themes Workshop

cropped-pastor-groupThe Christian Education department of the Dominican Evangelical Church held a workshop for all the pastors of the denomination.  The purpose of the workshop was to utilize the wisdom and experience of the pastors to determine the Christian education themes that will be used in all the churches in the coming years.

cropped-rev-cancuWe all stayed together at the church camp in Bani.  Someone wondered aloud the first night about who would be the first one to find a tarantula in bed with them.  I did not look forward to going to sleep that night.

The first evening we met to share a devotional and ask for God’s inspiration to be with us.


Rev. Betania directed an activity using a passage in Romans 12: 1-8, the new life in Christ.  The second verse received the most attention:

             Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

cropped-solar-ovenI shared a visual using the solar oven and how this oven will not function without the sun’s rays and that these rays can then be transformed and used to cook food and  provide sustenance to others.  I believe God’s love also transforms us so that God can use us to serve others.

dsc00789dsc00795Three church leaders gave presentations on the 15 foundational beliefs that the Dominican Evangelical Church has as their theological roots which come from Methodist, Presbyterian and the Moravian traditions.  We asked that the pastors individually and in groups suggest Christian education themes based on their collective wisdom and experience.  These themes will be used for Bible studies, Sunday School lessons, Extension Bible School lessons, and continuing education for the pastors.

cropped-christian-education-groupThe workshop was a greater success than we had imagined.  The four of us working in the area of Christian Education:  Reverend Betania Figueroa, Rev. Jeremias Brafett, Jose Rafael Peguero and myself are pleased with the results.  At the same time we are very challenged to now organize these themes for a 6 year cycle of Christian Educational curriculum that all the churches will be able to use as their guide.