My beautiful morning view.
The Dominican Republic Vision Team is just that. It is a team of about 20 - some families with children of all ages, some couples, and some individuals. Some of them are native Dominicans, some of them are missionaries from the United States. But they all have a common goal, and that is to see the people of the Dominican Republic come to know the Lord, and live to serve Him. The team has many different branches. There is, of course, the church, and the Christian school, there is a Baseball ministry (because in the Dominican, "Baseball is LIFE"), there is a ministry to rescue women and help them to learn a reputable trade, there are mission teams, there is a youth ministry, there are people who take care of the mission teams that come to them (bus drivers, cooks, translators, etc.), and many other things I am sure I am missing. Everyone works together to get it all done. It really is amazing and inspiring to see. I explain this so you can understand that we had many different people doing many different things with us for the next few days. It was all very well organized and well planned out.
At 8:20, we met in the lobby and the bus was soon there. It took us to The Palms Christian school. The kids who went last year were very excited to see some of the kids that they had made friends with the year before. At The Palms, the children learn to speak English, and many of the teachers are from the United States, so there is not so much of a language barrier there. We split into groups, and some of us went to the Preschool classes to help them do a craft and to sing for them. After that, we would give them sunglasses, go out and take a group picture, and then start all over again with a different class. Our other group hung out and played with the different groups of children who were having recess at that particular time. There were games of basketball, volleyball, soccer, four square, and other games I did not recognize going on...children and balls going every which way. It was a hub of activity.
A, giving us our instructions for the day.
Helping the little ones make their crafts.
A picture of some of the kids in their sunglasses.
A little picture of the recess happenings.
At one point in a soccer game, I looked up to see the Young Prince going over the top of the wall between the school yard and the property next door. As he went over the top of the wall, every child on the soccer field moved away from the wall. It was a mass exodus of children who did not want to be guilty by association. I got the feeling that the Young Prince had just done something he was not supposed to do. My brain was going a million different directions while I am hoping that I will see my son again. In just a few seconds, he comes back over the wall, with the soccer ball. The ball had been kicked over the wall. The Young Prince did what came natural to him, and went over the wall to get the ball. Little did he know he was entering "enemy" territory. The property on the other side of the fence is another school. They are not fond of The Palms being their neighbor, so the kids at The Palms have been told to steer clear of the property, and not to cause any undo trouble. Thankfully everything, and everyone was okay, and the soccer game continued without any more incidents.
The soccer game, and the wall/fence that The Young Prince went over.
On another note, T did almost everything in those flip flops without losing them, even played soccer in them.We were greatly impressed.
One of the fourth grade classes had won a pool party during spirit week (they have a pool on their school property - how awesome is that!), and it was scheduled for that afternoon. We were recruited to help with the games. We pulled out a few of the carnival games from the day before and let them play a while before they got into the pool. Our kids swam with them for a few minutes before it was time for us to go.
Playing games at the pool party.
Finally - Swim time!
We went back to the church for lunch. Lunch was chicken, rice, beans, and salad. We later learned that this popular Dominican meal is called "the flag".
After lunch we met with Pastor G. He talked to us a little about how the ministry there works. He shared a quick thought using his keyring as an example. His keyring had many keys on it, but every key does not unlock every lock he encounters. There are specific keys that fit specific locks, and no other key will work. It is the same way with our hearts. We all have "keys" that unlock our hearts and open us up to the possibility of accepting and serving the Lord. Their goal is to find the key that unlocks the hearts of the Dominican people within their sphere of influence. They each use their separate talents to make that happen. For example, "In the Dominican, Baseball is LIFE", so they have built a strong baseball ministry. They minister to people through baseball that might not normally ever darken the door of a church. They have a strong ministry to Dominican women who would not feel worthy to come to church on Sunday morning, but they meet them where they are and teach them who they are in Christ, and that through Christ, they can be pure and whole again. Pastor G encouraged us to use our talent - whatever it may be - as the key to help unlock someone's heart for Christ.
We then loaded the bus and went to the property that the ministry owns, affectionately known as "Vision Land". Last year, our team had gone out and spent some time praying for a pavilion that the DR team had hoped to have built soon. The girls said that at that time, there were only stakes in the ground where they hoped to build it. This time, we stood under the completed pavilion, as Pastor G pointed out where they hoped to build each part of the ministry. The ultimate goal is to bring all of the "legs" of the ministry together at this one spot. The pavilion has been built, and while we were there, there were men working on the foundation of what will be The Mercy Center, a home used in the women's ministry. We were able to walk over and spend time praying over the building as the work was being done. The next time we go, it will be completed, and hopefully we will be able to pray around a baseball field in the works. At least that is my prayer now. More about that later though.
Pastor G, sharing the vision of "Vision Land" with us, under the very pavilion they prayed for last year on their trip.
The ground work for the Mercy Center. Yes, he is doing that work by hand.
Praying for the Mercy Center construction and the lives that will be touched through this ministry.
More of the ground work for the Mercy Center.
We left Vision Land, and made a quick run to Jumbo (the Dominican version of Wal-Mart) so the kids could grab a new supply of snacks.
The Oldest Princess doing a remake of her Jumbo picture from last year's trip.
Then it was back to the church for what they called the Dominican Experience. It was a slideshow taught by D. She taught us different aspects of Dominican culture, so that we might better minister to (and less likely offend) the people. One of the things that stood out to me and made sense because it seems that everyone everywhere is trying to sell something, was the average income, and the cost of living and how they are nowhere close to each other. They have to supplement their income in some way in order to survive. There are small stores all over the place. She explained that they go to the small stores and buy what they can, with what money they have, for that day. They can't afford to go and buy a week's worth of groceries like we do. But despite their poverty, they are a warm, happy, loving people. She explained that there are several items that you would find in every Dominican home. A pot for cooking rice, a coffee pot (it's definitely not a Keurig), and a pilon (a tool used to grind spices), to name a few. She told us that in the Dominican, "Baseball is LIFE", and the boys are pressured to play and do well, because they see it as a way out of their poverty. She also told us what I already knew...Dominican's do not have "personal space". The whole lesson was very interesting to me, and I think that the kids really enjoyed it as well. When it was over, D explained that we had several tasks to complete using the information that she had just taught us. Eeekkkk!!! We were going to split up into groups and take public transportation (and pay for it) to a neighborhood, where we would talk to people, buy something from one of the little stores, ask a homeowner to show us one of the items that would be found in every Dominican home and take a picture of them with it, ask a child to tell us their name, etc. All the while we would pass out tracts to people we met. I was nervous and excited at the same time. It worked out that we all pretty much went together, until we got to the neighborhood, where we split up and went different ways and then met back together at a certain time. Each group had a leader. D was our group leader, and two of the team member's older children were the leaders of the other groups, so each group had someone who was fluent in Spanish...just in case. How I wish that I could transport you all back to the Dominican with me, so that you could walk with us and see, hear, feel, and smell, exactly what we experienced on that afternoon...but the closest I can come to doing that is to share pictures so that is what I will do.
The beginning of the slide show in our class about Dominican culture.
Our list of things to do.
Our first public transportation ride. I was one of the last ones in because I was trying to get this picture. That turned out to be a mistake.
The only spot left was the edge of A and Mrs. S's bench. Right in front of the missing side door, and the little Dominican man hanging out the side. I held on the the seat behind us, braced myself with one foot behind the passenger side seat, and A wrapped her arm around me and acted as my seatbelt. Oh, the memories!
These were the children that we "talked" to and asked them their names. The little boy in the gray shorts was Christian. The striped bags that they were playing with were kites made out of plastic bags and string. The children were very kind and friendly. They talked with us and answered our questions without a bit of fear.
When we walked up to this home, several people were sitting outside in plastic chairs. We greeted them the best we could, and they immediately got up and offered us their chairs. C asked the lady if she had any of the items we were supposed to ask for, and she gladly went inside and brought back out her caldero that she uses to cook rice for her family.
Right to the right of C and the lady in the picture above, was this. It was a shoe shop. The man was working to hand sew the soles on a pair of shoes as we visited.
The green building in the background is the colmado (small store) where we made our purchase of several bottles of water.
One of the other groups were invited into a home, to see the items on the list that we were supposed to ask for.
One of the homes.
Another group making their purchases from a different colmado.
Public transportation take two. Notice it was much better this time, and I was sure to be one of the first ones in.
With our tasks completed, we met back together and again took public transportation (a much newer, nicer version of it this time) to a different neighborhood closer to where we would hold a children's Bible club on Saturday morning. This time we all stuck together, but we passed out tracts and invitations to our Bible club. It was just as interesting, and touching as the first neighborhood. We went until we ran out of time and had to return to the church for dinner.
Passing out tracts, candy, and invitations to our Bible club in the second neighborhood.
We came across some little boys playing basketball (with a flat basketball and a home made goal - check it out). S joined in and played with them for a minute. I didn't see it, but I was told after the group walked on, that the Young Prince picked up the little boys and let them "dunk" the ball.
How do you leave this, and not leave a piece of your heart there.
You don't. You just don't.
On the walk back to the church D pointed out the first three story building built in the country (she had told us about it in her lesson before we left). Even in ruins, it was beautiful. As we continued, there was an American man on his second story porch. He noticed us and came down to talk. He had just moved back to the country (he had to return to the US because of health issues) to reopen his barbecue restaurant. We asked him if he went to church. He knew of IBEM. Said he had been there when he had lived in the Dominican before. We invited him to come on Sunday. He said he might.
This is the first 3 story building that was built in the country. The bottom floor was a store, the top two floors were home to the family who owned the store. It was beautiful. So sad that it is empty and in disrepair now.
We had spaghetti for dinner that night, and then headed back to the hotel. We all gathered in the lobby to take advantage of the wifi and post our pictures and attempt to talk to our loved ones at home. At this point, I still had not talked to my Prince, and I was about to loose it. We were able to message each other a little through Facebook that night, but it just was not the same as actually talking to him.
At one point the Oldest Princess and I were alone in the lobby and just outside of the hotel fence there was a loud bang and a huge flash of light. Some sort of small explosion. We found out later that it was a cable that had snapped. After we went to our room, some of the people in our group said that another cable snapped. I was glad that was all it was. Grammy found out for us by asking the man at the hotel desk. His name was Mariano, but Grammy could never remember that, so like Dory in "Finding Nemo", she called him Juan, or José, or whatever name came to her mind, and he would answer her. We thought it was amusing.
It was getting late, and we headed to our rooms to call it a night. We had precious little time to get some sleep and be back in the lobby by 7:20 the next morning. Day 5 was coming fast...
Once again, I have borrowed some pictures from E, and Mrs. B and Mrs. S as well this time. Thank you all so much for taking great pictures and allowing me to use them!