And what a beautiful day it was!
We all got up and got moving. I was anticipating breakfast, because I had seen pictures from last year, and had heard that it was wonderful. So we went down to breakfast, and Grammy helped us order. I went the safe route with scrambled eggs, cheese, toast and fresh fruit. Some people were more adventurous than me. The Oldest Princess ordered a different kind of toast and did not like it at all. But I am proud of her for trying. While we were eating, the same person who shall remain nameless (from dinner the night before) was sitting next to C. They were both sitting across from me. All of a sudden, C sits straight up and freezes that way. I looked at her to see what was wrong. Not moving her face, she gestures with her hand to her face. There stuck to her cheek was a watermelon seed. She finally said, "What?!?" I don't really remember what exactly happened next, because we were laughing SO hard, but after we all calmed down, we figured it out...C had watermelon herself. She was trying to get a seed out of the piece she wanted to eat when she felt something hit her face. She thought it was the seed she was working on, but then she realized her seed was still there. The person sitting next to her was also eating watermelon. She had cut into her watermelon with her fork and sent a seed flying. That seed landed on C's cheek. I am not sure that C ever sat by the Oldest Princess, I mean the person who shall remain nameless, during another meal for the rest of the trip. And really, who can blame her?
Our breakfast spot
We finished our breakfast and gathered to wait for our bus. While we waited, we put air into some of the balls that we had brought to use, and then we got a game of four-square going, then a little volleyball, and then we wandered around a little. There was a small pond with a bridge over it, and we took some pictures of the kids playing on the bridge. There were turtles in the pond, and the kids named the turtles things like Sunny (because he was sunning on a rock), Little Louie (the smallest one), and Medium Marty (because he was, well, medium). All this time, we are waiting on our bus. It finally came, and we were pretty late with a lot yet to do.
In the school where we were, the older kids come in the morning hours. Then they all go home for lunch, and the younger children come in the afternoon. So when we got there, the older children were outside playing. They were so excited to see us...especially the ones on our team that they knew from last year. Our girls were excited to see that many of them were wearing the t-shirts that they gave them last year. They were surprised and happy that so many of the children still had their t-shirts. Some quickly fell into a game of basketball, and some circled up and bumped the volleyball around.
Last year, the kids tried to play basketball, but they couldn't. The concrete was all broken and missing. They could not bounce the ball, because the ball would go off in crazy directions. Our team came home with a heart to do something about that. They began to raise money for a new slab of concrete for these children to play on. The concrete in the picture above is nice and smooth. It is the answer to the prayers and hard work of some of our kids raising money. They were all very excited to see that their work and prayers had helped to bring about a nice new playing surface for these children that they love. If you gave to help this project, thank you very much! It was money well spent.
Almost as soon as we got there, an older man came to the fence and tried to talk to me. I tried to tell him that I could not speak Spanish, but he just kept on. One of the little boys came over and tried to help me out by telling the man something in Spanish, but the only word I understood was "Americana". It was very humbling to me, not to be able to speak enough to help him, or to explain what we were doing. It left me feeling pretty helpless, and that would not be the last time I felt that way on this trip. The little boy that came to my rescue turned out to be quite something. The Young Prince nicknamed him "Bad Bean". It turned out to be pretty fitting. But maybe he stands out to me, because God wants me to pray for him. God laid children on people's hearts last year, and we saw fruits from prayers prayed for those people this year. So this little boy will be prayed for many times over, because he stands out, and I know it is for a reason.
After Mrs. M met with the teachers and the kids had had some time to play and get reacquainted, we went upstairs, and our kids performed their white glove/black light song for the Dominican children. We then passed out a pair of gloves to each of them, and taught the song to them. It was pretty neat to see how it all worked out. We had trouble getting one of the groups of boys to get their mountain right, but otherwise, it went well.
We then moved to another room, where we had a craft waiting for them. We traced their hands on a canvas bag, and then let them decorate the bags as they wished. It was heartwarming that some of the kids wrote the names of some of our kids on their bags. I loved watching them all work together and form friendships so quickly. They were all so welcoming and loving.
Then we gave them the new shirts that we had brought for them this year (that our wonderful youth pastor and his wife screen printed for us). We then found out that they used the shirts that we gave them last year as their P.E. uniforms. That is why so many of them still had theirs. They plan to do that again with the shirts that we gave them this year.
They also practiced their song that Mrs. M had sent for them to work on, and they blew us away with how well prepared they were. They sang beautifully.
The older kids went home, and we all walked to Pastor M's house for lunch. At one point on our trip we passed a place selling some sort of food, and there were huge bags of something covered in flies. I looked at C because she was walking near me and I wanted to see if she had seen it too, or if I was just seeing things. She nodded that she had seen it too.
Walking to Pastor M's home
A beautiful little stream we passed filled with trash.
After lunch, the kids grabbed a few balls and went out to the street to play. Well, some of them played. Others seemed bent on setting off the alarm on Pastor M's truck. Isn't that right, C? Despite the many alarms going off, several of the neighborhood children slowly came out and joined them. The adults watched and took pictures from the balcony. Pastor M got tired of C setting off his alarm, so he went out and moved his truck. I love you, C!
Now you see it (truck in bottom left corner).
Now you don't (truck has been moved).
I think ball is universal in every language.
One little girl really wanted to get out there and play but despite prompts from many of the kids, she would stay on the sidewalk. Finally A just went over and lightly tossed her a ball. She smiled, picked up the ball, and she was hooked. Way to go, A!
After playing for a little while, it was time to go back to the school for round two, but this time with the little ones. I was excited, because I love the little ones. I was not prepared for the fact that they would not all understand that we could not speak Spanish, so they would just rattle on, telling us all kinds of things, and we could not understand them. But a smile and a hug is pretty much as universal as a ball, and we made it work. First we practiced the song Mrs. M prepared for them to do for the program that night. They were too young to do the gloves, so she had prepared items like a sun, moon, stars, fish, people, etc. out of bright poster board, and put them on sticks. So the children just held up their item when it was their part of the song. It was adorable!
Then we split into two groups. Some of us went with the younger group, others with the older group. We did a craft and game/music time with each group.
At one point, I looked out the window of the school and watched two little boys go through the trash in an empty lot and then leave with their "treasures". I don't know what they were picking up, or what they were going to do with it, but it broke my heart to watch them rummage through the trash.
Back inside the walls of the school, we gave the little ones their t-shirts and sent them home to get ready for their program that night. Mrs. M's Home Economics class had been working on little dresses, and Mrs. M brought the finished ones to give to some of the little girls. They loved them. Nice work, Mrs. M and the Home Ec. class!
One of the teachers let me know that two of the little girls were her daughters. I, then of course had to introduce her to my children. We, despite the language barrier became friends. I loved her daughters. They were precious. The one on the end with the blue and white dress was my little buddy.
After the little ones left, we rushed back to our villas and quickly changed and ate sandwiches so we could get back for the evening service. The evening service was so that the older kids could do their black light routine, and the song they had been working on, and the younger kids could do their little black light song. All of the parents were invited to see the program, and of course to hear Pastor M preach. The kids did a great job in their little program, and then the pastor got up to preach. Of course it was in Spanish. Grammy, Mrs. S and I were on one side of the church. Mrs. M, Mrs. B and the rest of the kids were on the other side of the church. Mrs. M translated for our kids, and Grammy understood of course, but Mrs. S and I were pretty much in the dark as to what was happening. At one point, I looked around and realized that everyone had their heads bowed, because we were praying, and I didn't even know it! I do try to pick out words that I recognize, so I can kind of get the main idea of what is being said, but I was clueless to the fact that we were praying. I whispered for Grammy to poke me next time we prayed, so I could at least bow my head. We sang "At the Cross" as the invitation song, and I sang in English, even though the words were on the screen. I was not sure how to pronounce them, and I didn't want to be singing something that I shouldn't be singing in the middle of an invitation song, so English it was. And because I could not understand everything that was going on, I did not know until later that during that invitation, 10 people came forward to start a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior! And two of those who came forward were the parents of one of the little girl that stole the hearts of many of the team members last year. We were all thrilled!
I have to give a shout out to the Oldest Princess who jumped in and took the place of one of the Dominican children in the white glove routine, because someone did not show up that night. I am proud of her for helping out so that that mountain would have a peak. Well, at least it was supposed to be a mountain.
After the service, we returned to our villas, where we had a quick "intervention" circle meeting as N called it, to go over our day and discuss our highs and lows, and get the schedule for the next day. Then we hiked back up that hill to our villas. I was at this point beginning to get irritated because I was having trouble connecting with home, and I badly wanted to talk to my Prince and the Youngest Princess. But it was not to be that night.
When we got into bed, two (or more) dogs were trying to get the roosters back for crowing and waking them up, so they were having a barking contest in order to keep the roosters awake. It didn't matter to me. I was too tired to stay awake and see who won. I fell asleep in spite of their barking.
After all...we had just begun. There was much more to be done. But we'll save that for tomorrow...