Our time in the Dominican Republic is quickly drawing to a close. It has been the most adventuresome of the four mission’s trips our church has engaged in since beginning this outreach in 2002.
Last Saturday night, the church we came to paint as one of our designated projects, held a service. Pastor Adolfo Perez of the Redwood City Communidad Christiana La Puerta de Abierta (Christian Community of the Open Door), a Free Methodist Church, was asked to preach. He and his wife, Maria, both from Baja California, Mexico, are members of our mission team. Their fluency in Spanish has been most valuable! Pastor Adolfo is a very animated and fiery preacher. It was quite an evening.
The next day I was asked to preach in the traditional Sunday service. I chose a passage from Matthew 19 where Jesus had an encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Pastor Eduardo Paulino of our San Francisco Free Methodist Church was my translator since my ability to converse in Spanish is limited to greetings and asking where the “facilities” are located. Pastor Ed is originally from the Dominican Republic and had accompanied us on our mission’s trip to Peru last year. He does a great job of translating so it made my job easier in preaching to these folks there in the heart of Santo Domingo (abbreviated Sto Dgo), the capital.
On Monday the nine men on our team headed for the hills. Pastor Ed was taking us into the mountains northwest of Santo Domingo. The drive took several hours, partly on paved roads, and the rest on dirt and mud. We found ourselves being drenched by a continuous rainstorm that stayed for several days, making our travel on muddy uphill roads very challenging. We spent the next few days helping build a retreat center. On our first mission’s trip four years ago, we traveled to Ethiopia. One of the places we visited was a town called Arbegona which our team decided was at the end of the world. Well, in the Dominican we found the next closest town to the end of the world. Only there was no town – just this acreage on a mountain where Pastor Ed had a vision for a retreat site for families and ministers.
This retreat site is in rugged country with little having been done to the land because Pastor Ed and his family are the ones doing all the work when they can. We didn’t get to the camp until just about dinner time, so we ate traditional Dominican food prepared by the secretary of one of the churches. This was all done over open fires with big pots. We wolfed it down!
The next day we started in on several projects before breakfast was even served. Several of the men took rolls of barbed wire to finish erecting the last of the fencing along the property line. Why did we need barbed wire fencing when we were so far removed from any human population? Cows. The government owns cows that freely graze in the mountains and were a constant nuisance, nibbling off the vegetable plants that Pastor Ed was trying to grow.
Another project was to build an outhouse. The frame was there along with a wooden floor. Jake Bakke was assigned to complete this much needed facility. He labored for two days getting all the wooden siding up and a roof on top. A sheet of canvas served as the door. A porcelain toilet was precariously placed over a hole in the floor. It was comical because there is no such thing as running water and probably won’t be until the next century, if then. We all celebrated the completion of the outside john and dubbed it “Jacob’s John.” In particular the ladies were thrilled because they could bath in there using collected rain water instead of walking to the creek which was a fair distance away from the camp. This made Jake very popular with the fairer sex!
The main building was the center of attention for most of the workers. Siding on the frame, and the installation of windows was the order of the day. This was nothing more than hammer and nails work for hour after hour. The men attacked it with a vengeance, accomplishing far more than was expected in the amount of time we had.
As our time on this island came to an end, an island where Columbus first set foot on December 5, 1492, we were gratified to have accomplished several projects. But more importantly, we met some of the most gracious people on earth, who had little enough of their own, but freely shared with their American brothers and sisters in Christ.
In a closing service on our last night I shared with our Dominican friends these words: “We may never meet again in this life. But this much I know – we’ll meet again around the throne of God in heaven.”
Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Jesus).”