Thursday, Feb. 25

Thursday, Feb. 25

We did not see the kids today,  :(  but had Alfredo of Endeavor drive us to ICC.  (Iglesias  Communtaria Christiano or in English, Christian Community Church).  Pastor Raphael met us and escorted us to the main office of the private school that the church runs.  There we settled in to here how the school, 2 yrs. old to 3rd grade, is filling a need for the community.  They accept students on a sliding scale, but everyone must pay something every month.  So the fee for the poorest, for example, may be $10; and for the ones who can afford the full tuition it is $85/month.  

ICC also feeds about 90 homeless people every day at lunch time.  Pastor Raphael said it is like feeding Jesus 90 times.  Our team assisted in serving.  This was started by one lady in the church who, on Saturdays, went out into the streets and gave the homeless sandwiches.  Without a budget or a plan, the church began serving lunch, and always the Lord has met their financial needs to keep this ministry growing. Volunteers cook, serve and clean-up.  This is an incredible story of faith that the Lord will provide.

ICC dreams are to offer a addiction recovery program in the near future because there is such a great need.  

We all squished into the big van and left ICC to have lunch at a restaurant close by.  It was very good -- a special chicken marinated in lime or orange, olive oil, parsley or oregano, garlic and water called wasakaka, rice, pasta salad, fried plantains. and french fries.  Most of us had a yummy drink made with pineapple juice and milk over ice.   Others, who wanted caffeine, had Pepsi.  

Full and happy, Alfredo drove us to the IJM (International Justice and Missions) office.  We were met by Johnny and Fernando, who run the office in the DR.  There primary focus is to educate the police, judges and attorneys about child sex traffic.  There second goal is to rescue girls under 18 and prosecute offenders.  This is a monumental task as they meet with a great deal of resistance.  

We ended our day by visiting the Colonial City -- the original city where Christopher Columbus (known here as Christopher Colón) began the settlement.  It is a typical tourist site with lots of shops and restaurants, with a big square and a big cathedral.


Friday, Feb. 26

Today was FUN DAY! with our sponsored child.  We met them at the Compassion International building, and then the 2 busses drove to a water park outside of the city.  Each child and their mother or teacher had an interpreter, so it made it possible to get to know each other better.

The pictures will tell the story, but we played in the pools, played on the swings, had lunch, swam a little more, played a little basketball, and before leaving had the kids open up their new backpacks with gifts in them.  After one last group picture, we sadly split up with the kids and their moms or teachers in one bus to go back to the school/Vision Celestial; and us, their sponsors, into the other bus to drive back to the guest house.


¡Hola de DR! (Hello from the DR)!

Tuesday, Feb. 23 was so much fun!  

Before arriving in the DR the team prepared and practiced a couple short puppet skits.  One skit was about the one lost sheep and the other about building a house on solid rock, not sand. 

Before, in between and after the skits, Pastor Jeff played guitar and directed the kids in a praise song while Gary Cederwall played the keyboard.  Jeff engaged the children by having them sing in a whisper and then as loud as they could. Sometimes we sang loud and fast.

The team performed 3 times in the morning and once in the afternoon.  The children's smiles and happy faces were our reward. 

After the last puppet skit we were able to visit our sponsored children in their homes.  There is so much to say about these home visits that can only be shared in person with one of the team.  It is one thing to know that poverty exists in our world, and quite another to see and walk among some of the poorest of the poor.  

As is true with every evening after dinner, we gathered on the rooftop balcony for devotions, song, prayer and to reflect on the day.  It is a beautiful time spent together.


Wednesday, Feb. 24

Today was a work day for the men and Jessica, the youngest of our team and daughter of Howard.  Work "day" was 2 hours in the morning scraping old cement off the ceiling and re-cementing.  There were also broken tile pieces covering the floor that needed to be pushed into a pile and shoveled into bags.  It was hot, dusty work.  

Back at the Compassion site, we played bingo with the older kids and made sock puppets with the younger kids.  The sock puppets were a big success.  We saw several kids walking home with the socks puppets on their arms.  

While doing these things, we would spend time getting to know each other and building friendships.  As we discussed tonight after dinner, the ordinary things in the day helped us to connect:  serving and eating lunch together, singing together, chatting about our lives -- our homes, our children, our work.  But it was our faith in Christ that connects us with love for each other.  Christ brings us together beyond our lives into a place where we are one in Him.  

As quoted from Dee Yaccino from Red del Camino, “We come to experience what writing a check cannot do." Some of what we have learned in the DR has inspired and informed our local ministry. Second, when focused on rebuilding relational power dynamics across distance and difference, it is worth every minute and every dime we spend. We begin to relate to each other as friends, family, and colleagues, which implies a different level of trust. As trust increases, we become more acutely aware of how to break down barriers, how to open doors of opportunity, and to think more profoundly about long-term, root solutions to issues and people we all care about."  This is why we come to the DR. 


Hello from the Dominican Republic!

We all arrived safely, and have settled in at the home of Tom and Dee Jacinto, founders of the Red del Camino Network. 13 of us are very happy and comfortable in their home.


Sunday

Upon arriving for Sunday morning services at Visión Celestial, we were greeted with the warmth of being close friends. Pastor Ernesto introduced us to the congregation, and Pastor Jeff delivered the sermon with Alberto translating.  After the service, there were smiles all around as we greeted and hugged each other as one community in Christ.

Lunch was served in the "upper room" (a multi-purpose room), with Pastor Ernesto and his wife Altagracia and their staff, and the team.  It was a wonderful time of sharing about who we are and what we do in our churches. 

On Sunday evening, we attended a church in the Network, Iglesias Communidad Christiano, or Christian Community Church. This church is held in what looks like a theatre where the worship music rises to the heavens.  Pastor Raphael and his congregation are passionate about serving their neighborhood in this dense city, including the homeless and forgotten.  


Monday

Up and at it, the men plus Jessica went over to the bakery to check out the building behind the bakery that will become a storage place. They cleaned out the space of stuff and heavy 150 lb. bags of sand. Wednesday is planned as an "intense" work day.   Pastor Ernesto has extraordinary vision for seeing this bakery as much more than it is.  An incredible man working tirelessly for Christ.  

The other women stayed at the Compassion site at the church, preparing and then creating decorated crosses with 3 classes of children -  3 to 8 years old.  It was chaotic and so, so much fun!!  These kids are adorable and precious.

After dinner, we gathered up on the balcony patio for song, reflection, words from God, more song, and prayer.   It is also a time to share a bit and tell stories, a time to laugh and sing.   

I was thinking tonight of a verse: Matt. 6: 33 -- Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all shall be given on to you . .  When we seek the kingdom of God, He will send us anywhere, in His time.  It is amazing grace that He has brought our churches and the Red Del Camino Network together, and the caring people of Endeavor.  We were greeted, loved and hugged by strangers yesterday and today, knowing they are family.  It's amazing when we seek Him first, the wonders that appear in our lives.