Today is our first full day in the Dominican Republic.  It started with going to the Iglesia Comunitaria Cristiana church.  We were greeted by the elderly and infirm that they house and feed in what used to be a parking lot, in what we might consider a dead end alley way between buildings.  Here, they take nothing for granted and what we might see as an eye sore has become a beautiful and very clean environment for the most in need of clean place to live and sleep.  That was followed by meeting with Pastor Raphael Hernandez who shared about all that this small church of 100 does in this community.  It was astounding to hear what they do, including a soup kitchen, caring for the elderly/infirm, drug rehabilitation programs that have served over 500 and much, much more.  And again, that is with only around 100 congregants serving.  Even though we are here to serve, our fellow believer in the Dominican Republic are here to serve us too.

In Dominican Republic, garbage and the related pollution are a problem.  Many people throw away items into the river that then flow down to the sea.  One of those items are one-gallon plastic jugs.  A new project that the church is working on in partnership with an agronomist is to work with those who are in recovery for drug addiction, or those who have lived on t the streets, to gather some of those jugs from the river and to cut them open to use for planting fruits and vegetables.  The parallel of using that which was thrown away, whether a gallon jug or a life, and is now redeemed is obviously poignant, and moving,

This afternoon we enjoyed a fantastic chicken lunch at a restaurant that has become a favorite of the Hillside team, followed by time in the Colonial City.  The Colonial City is the first location that was colonized by Christopher Columbus in the Americas.  It also has the first church built in the Americas.  While some of us went shopping, others visited the Palace that was built for Columbus’s son, who was the first governor of the Dominican Republic.  This country, which has problems with poverty and crime, is also rich in historical world culture. 

Tonight’s activities include a visit to the church services at Vision Celestial in Los Alcarrizos, where our own Jeff Reed spoke.   

A key and essential dynamic of this ministry is working in partnership with other people and Christian organizations, (as seen in the church’s partnership with an agronomist to take what was once waste and create a productive garden).  Our fearless leader, (and I do mean fearless), Tom Yaccino encourages and helps develop partnerships.  This is a long-term relationship focused approach, and in his leading he is also encouraging us as a team to get to know each other better and share our life stories and develop a vision that is based upon knowing one another intimately.  It is amazing that as we open up and share ourselves, we find so much in common.  That is what this ministry is about, and because of that, the Father can be more effective in His working through us.  What a beautiful picture of how much our Father loves and cherishes us, and how He has made us to be most effective when we are in deep, intimate fellowship with one another.  “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.”  (1John 4:15-19

And again, even though there is so much to see and do here, we continuously speak of you, our brothers and sisters at home and remember you in our prayers.  We pray that what we learn here can be brought home and share at Hillside to help our church on the hill grow in our understanding of how we can best serve our local communities.