Navas is a community which stretches out along the main street and is home for about 9000 people. The road slopes steadily from the East and is a comfortable walk going west but more of a challenge climbing east. From the eastern tip there are houses along both sides and just before approaching bridge there are two small corner stores. In these stores you cannot go in between the aisles and pick out what you want. The store is very small – there will be a cooler which holds pop etc. and perhaps another for cheese and salami. To purchase something you go up to a window and ask for what you want. The owner can reach everything in the store with no more than four or five steps.
As you continue west, on your right you pass homes and stores, a government building with a guard sitting outside a lane leading to a school and another to a clinic, a hairdressing salon and finally a church. On the left on a corner you will set a lot of motorcycles and several men sitting on a bench or leaning against a tree. They are the motorcycles taxi drivers who are busiest at the hour of opening and closing of classes in the school. Next to this area is a restaurant now no longer open and then you come to the corner to turn off left and to the property of the church construction site. There are no gas stations, no hardware store, no bake shop, no bank, nowhere to make photo copies etc. You can’t buy a diet coke, a birthday cake, some of your prescriptions. Unlike a town back in Canada, there are men on donkeys or groups of cattle moving down the street.
Yet Navas is a community I like to visit. There is a great church, wonderful friends, lots of green grass and flowers and slightly cooler temperatures than many parts of the Dominican Republic. We are enjoying wonderful hospitality, great meals, fresh pineapple and mandarins and good but strong Dominican coffee.
In the last couple of years when we went to the Dominican Republic as missionaries, Pastora Gladys opened her door early in the morning signaling that coffee was ready. She had already made a quick trip to the local store for fresh bread. Along with this breakfast, Gladys shared smiles and great stories about the ministry in her church in Hatico Mao. We have known Gladys for several years and she has always been gracious. She is willing to store things for us when we are home in Canada and to do laundry and prepare food and to pray for us both when we are there and at home. As she leaves her home, she always looks across the street and up to the roof to wave to us. It was from the same roof that we could check and see if coffee was ready.
Gladys has been pastor in Hatico Mao for 10 years. We have watched the church grow and mature during those ten years. The congregation has changed from being mostly children to now having more adults than children. For several years, we have visited Hatico for services, for craft classes, street evangelism and children’s ministry. The physical structure is small and has few rows of block for walls and then wood on the walls up to the roof line. The roof is of tin and the wiring is visible as it is strung between bulbs and fans. A dream for Gladys and her congregation has been to enlarge the building and make it more secure with concrete walls, a new entrance set back from the sidewalk and more space inside. A gallon jug sits by the pulpit and has the name galon de fe – a gallon of faith – and people dropped coins and bills in the jar as one initiative to raise funds for construction.
Pastor Gladys has prayed for construction and the new structure will be a reality soon. We are spending five days with Gladys and the congregation this month, teaching, visiting a neighbourhood school and participating in services. Gladys’s prayer for Hatico is that the congregation becomes a totally committed congregation. Please join her in her prayer.
We are coming to Tulum – four of us. In fact, by the time you read this we will already be at the Grand Bahia Principe in Tulum, Mexico. Tulum is 99 kilometres from the Cancun airport and we, Lloyd and I and Vicki and Dave plan to spend a week in Tulum.
What am most I looking forward to? There will be Latino music, palm trees, swimming pools (one with a swim up bar). Relax, I’ll be ordering diet coke while relaxing in the sun by the pool. There will be swimming in the Caribbean, in the beautiful clear water with the fish or climbing the concrete rocks and having the water and waves splash over us, viewing the dolphin swim area or seeing the sea turtle area.
Will my favourite be the buffet, or the specialty restaurants like the Tortuga (Turtle) or Las Olas (the Waves) at the beach or Las Caracolas (the Shells) by the smaller pool? I am looking forward to some typical Mexican food like enchiladas or chicken in mole. Will I go on an excursion to the Tulum national park to see the ruins?
I know I will enjoy relaxing, not cooking, not answering the phone. I will enjoy being with my family and I will enjoy being in Mexico again and listening to Spanish. Tulum, Tulum, I come.
Simplicity is a spiritual discipline with both outward and inward aspects and it is impossible to live a life of outward simplicity if there is not simplicity in the spirit. Inward simplicity is a very freeing feeling and comes with letting go of a variety of attachments or concerns and worries. Trying to keep up with the Jones, consumerism, credit card debt, desire for temporary pleasure, trying to please others etc. robs us of the contentment that simplicity can bring us. Simplicity frees the mind to focus more on God. Outward simplicity increases with the giving away of things and the letting go of attachments to toys, electronics and having everything new – new clothes, new car, and new furniture. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also Luke 12:34.”
Less than two years ago, my husband and I moved from a house to an apartment and it was an opportunity to reduce the things we have. I really did not need three sets of dishes nor did Lloyd need 80 + frames for his photography. We have seen others who have spent days and days getting ready to move because of the quantity of things they own. Questions like “What will I do with this? “Where did that come from?” and “Do I really need this?” take away from us our peace. How can I justify several pairs of shoes in my closet when I see a leader in the Dominican church wearing shoes with holes in soles of his only pair of shoes?
Richard Byrd, explorer to the Arctic and Antarctic, wrote,” I am learning that a man can live profoundly without a mass of things.” His lesson is one that today’s society desperately needs. How can we make our lives more simple: giving away things, not buying on credit and learning to rely on God as a God who provides for our needs. One of the blessings of being in the Dominican Republic is experiencing the simplicity of life.
A much loved hymn states, “I love to tell the story of unseen things above.” The story of Jesus and his love is described in the hymn as wonderful, true, a story of love and glory and of a story with power to change lives. Several residents in retirement homes love to hear and sing that hymn and many others and most of them know the story of Jesus. They come with delight to the Sunday afternoon service in the residence. Last week, Esther, Lloyd and I loved being part of telling the story.
The story is found in the first few verses of John 7. Jesus talks about a place he is preparing – a room for us in heaven and he promises to come back and take us there even though he assures us we know how to get there. In Fairwinds Residence where we visited, there are many rooms but not everyone gets in. There is a waiting list, people have to complete papers and make a payment in advance. They can bring some things with them to the residence, a favourite chair, or a painting for the wall. They can bring some clothing and shoes photographs and other personal items.
We can’t bring anything to the room Jesus is preparing for us in heaven. Our place there is a gift and Jesus paid the price; He is the only way to that beautiful residence but not everyone gets in to one of those prepared rooms. We have to accept the gift of eternal life and a room in heaven by accepting Christ as Saviour. What a joy there was for us in singing and telling the story because as the hymn states some have never heard it and the ones who have heard want to hear it again and again.
Currently one automobile company is using the idea of being inspired as part of its advertising campaign. One example they use tells the story of a man who has retired, bought one of their company’s trucks and uses it to pick up and deliver food etc. to needy families or people located is more isolated spots. The vehicle company says its design was inspired by people like the gentleman who uses his vehicle to helps others.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, he entered riding a colt that had never been ridden. I wonder if the owner of the colt felt inspired when he was told the Lord needs it. An unridden colt emphasizes the colt as being set apart for a specific purpose; a purpose prophesied In Zecharias 9:9 of a righteous and victorious king riding on a colt. Clearly there was an intended or God inspired purpose for the colt.
How many times does God direct or intend a specific purpose for a vehicle? A purpose that people neither see nor pay attention to? In a period of ten days, we have received calls that led to using our vehicle to get a family to Toronto airport, London airport and on a series of errands to get important papers and pay bills. Was God in these trips? I think so. I remember situations in the Dominican Republic where a pastor’s car has been put in service getting people home from church after evening service or as an ambulance driving to the clinic. Was God in those trips? Yes, I believe very much so.
Has God called you to use your vehicle for getting people to a hospital, a doctor’s office, a regular food delivery, a grocery store or a ride to church? Are you looking for opportunities to serve using your car? Would you, like the owner of the colt, allow your vehicle to be used as God needs?
Sixteen months ago, I sat in a meeting with about 8 pastors and the leader asked each one of us to dream a bit about what we would like to see accomplished in ministry that year. Some mentioned spiritual growth, knowing God’s plans for the future etc. When my turn came, I spoke about three church sites in the Dominican which were under construction or in need of construction to be completed. Recently in his time God has answered prayers. While none of the three sites are or will soon be complete, significant progress has been made.
Hatico Mao church has struggled for many years but had reached the point where more space, a more secure structure and a more attractive entrance which was not directly on the side walk were necessary, in fact overdue. Work began to enable the church to move his front door back from the sidewalk, and to make the building wider and longer. The walls of the new structure would be concrete block and the windows aluminum, thus making the building much more secure against damage and theft. The walls are up but the extended space needs roofing and the doors and windows are yet to be put in. Pastor Gladys reminds us that God works in His perfect timing.
In Maizal, a concrete roof has been poured and a stairway to the roof level is in place. There is still much work to be done here but praise God for the generous efforts of a church in Ontario, there is a roof and services can continue when there is rain. I remember standing with plastic lawn chairs being held over my head during a baby dedication service.
Navas has also been able to lay the concrete floor for its new sanctuary. Reaching this stage has been a great encouragement for the congregation. God does answer prayer and we continue to pray for the resources to advance or finish each sanctuary.